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St. Paul to get sakura cherry trees as a gift from Japan

Japanese sakura cherry blossom trees will soon be blooming in St. Paul in recognition of a longstanding relationship with the faraway country. 

St. Paul is one of 20 U.S. cities to get 20 cherry trees apiece as a gift from Japan. It marks 100 years since Japan sent 3,000 sakura trees to Washington, D.C., according to city information. The National Cherry Blossom Festival in the capital city, which happens each spring, celebrates the 1912 gift as well.

“The gift and annual celebration honor the lasting friendship between the United States and Japan and the continued close relationship between the two countries,” the festival’s website reads.   

Bill Pesek, who is a landscape architect for St. Paul, says that the number ‘20’ is significant in Japan as a coming-of-age reference. As such, it’ll play a symbolic role in the June 9 ceremony that the city is planning to celebrate the gift.

That day, volunteers will help plant the trees in Como Regional Park. The planting of the 20th tree will be ceremonious, he explains.

In the park, the cherry trees will have a prominent place near the lily pond.  

Usually cherry trees don’t appear in Japanese gardens because they’re only in bloom for a short period, he says. “Sakura refers to this blossoming period,” he adds. However, in this case it makes sense to plant in that spot because of the Japanese gardens already in place nearby. Going forward, the city is also hoping to create a “blossoming corridor,” where the cherry trees will be highlighted, he says.

St. Paul, which is one of two Minnesota cities that were chosen for the gift--Winona is the other--has long had a sister-city cultural exchange with Nagasaki, Japan, he says.

In fact, in 1955, St. Paul was the first U.S. city to join the Sister Cities International program. “There’s a rich history of sharing,” and of “people-to-people relationships,” through its longstanding ties to Japan, he says.  

At the dedication event, representatives of Japan and local politicians who were instrumental in setting up the St. Paul-Nagasaki relationship will give speeches in English and Japanese. Traditional Japanese music and dance are also part of the celebration.  

“We hope this is one of many years that we’ll continue to celebrate this event of the sakura festival,” Pesek says.

Source: Bill Pesek, St. Paul
Writer: Anna Pratt
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