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On March 27, 1912, Cherry Blossom (Sakura) trees were planted along the Tidal Basin in Washington DC. They were a gift of Friendship and Goodwill from the Japanese Government. The Japanese were thankful for the role the United States played in brokering The Treaty of Portsmouth which formally ended the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–05.

But the original idea for bringing the beautiful Sakura to Washington DC came from Eliza Scidmore. She worked as a travel writer and photographer. In 1885, she fell in love with the Cherry Blossom trees while visiting her diplomat brother in Japan and thought they would look lovely around the marshy area that had yet to be developed (later to be the National Mall and Tidal Basin). It took her almost 20 years to have her dream realized.

It wasn’t until she caught the attention of Dr. David Fairchild that the plan starting to take shape. He was a plant explorer and an official at the Department of Agriculture. In 1906, he personally imported seventy-five flowering cherry trees from Japan and planted these on his property in Chevy Chase, Maryland to test their survivability this area. By 1907, encouraged by the success of their own trees, the Fairchilds began to promote the idea of importing Cherry Blossoms for Washington DC. By 1909, First Lady Helen Taft was involved which meant the White House was on-board and it all came to fruition within a few years.

I’m not a fan of introducing plants or animals into an area where they aren’t indigenous. There have been too many destructive results from both intentional and unintentional introductions. As an example from a very long list, Fireweed (also known as Madagascar Fireweed) was discovered in the 1980s in Kohala’s cattle pastures on the Big Island (Hawaii). Many believe it was brought in via ground cover seeds from Australia where it is also invasive. The weed is toxic to cattle and is estimated to cost the Australian government and cattle industry over $2 million a year.

Even the beloved Cherry Blossom trees were not without incident. The original two thousand trees had to be burned once they arrived due to heavy bug infestations. Despite the possibility of a diplomatic disaster, the risk to the native trees, plants and crops was too high to be ignored. Thankfully, another 3,020 Cherry Blossom trees were sent and haven’t had any negative side-effects on the local environment ~ unless you count too many visiting blossom stalkers.

This is what the Tidal Basin in Washington DC looks without the blooms…
Tidal Basin Cherry Blossom Trees

Waiting for the Cherry Blossoms

but in a few weeks it will look more like this (these were taken at the end of the bloom period in 2012):

Jefferson Memorial and Cherry Blossoms

Cherry Blossoms and a pagoda

Cherry Blossoms and Washington Monument

Cherry Blossoms in Bloom

The 2015 Peak Blooms Prediction is April 11-14 which mean the blooming period will start a few days prior and can go for up to 14 days past the peak times. I’m excited I’ll be running in the Cherry Blossom 5K which is on April 12 this year ~ and hopefully the prediction is correct.

The National Park Service provides much more historic details and information about the trees as well an event list for the Cherry Blossom Festival at their website. For those unable to visit Washington DC during the Cherry Blossom season, there’s a webcam for your viewing here. The live feed isn’t active yet but will be in a couple of weeks. Enjoy!

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Hello to Springtime
Bright Sakura from Japan
Brief but beautiful

Predicting the peak Cherry Blossom bloom time in Washington DC is a “no win” situation just like those embattled school officials deciding whether or not to call a snow day. We’ve had visitors ask us when they should plan their vacations to see the Cherry Blossoms but there’s never a guarantee. The Cherry Blossoms are beautiful but extremely fickle. We felt very lucky when we visited Tokyo for a week in 2007 and the Sakura were still in bloom:

Cherry Blossom Tree
Japanese Park with beautiful Cherry Blossom Trees and a bicycling policeman

Cherry Blossom and Logan
Enjoying the view of the lake and Cherry Blossoms

Cherry blossom tree Japan
Cherry Blossom Tree and Japanese Temple

View from New Sanno Hotel, overlooking French Embassy
View of a Cherry Blossom tree from our hotel room

As we anticipate the 2015 Cherry Blossom season here in Washington DC this year, I’ve got my camera at the ready!

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A Day at Tokyo Disneyland (Day Five)


We mastered the Tokyo metro ~ we rode the subway to and from Disneyland with minimal effort. The metro station (Hiro-o) is about a 5-10 minute walk from The New Sanno and is on the Hibiya Line. We had one connection and travel time was about 30 minutes. The cost was 4.20 yen each way which a little under $4.00.

This was my daughter’s first visit to a Disneyland but, I found out yesterday, it was also my husband’s FIRST Disneyland trip as well! After 13 years together, I’m still learning new things about that man. We rode most of the the rides but passed on the shows because they were all in Japanese.

It didn’t matter that the narration on the rides are in Japanese, it’s easy enough to get the gist of what’s going on and I remembered most from my visits to Disneyland in California. The only ride I let be a surprise was the big ‘drop’ at the beginning of “Pirates of the Caribbean” ~ I loved their reactions!

It was a chilly day and it poured at the end of the day but we’re so glad to get the chance to experience Disneyland Tokyo.

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Mt. Fuji

We got up early, braved the cold and made a trip to Mt. Fuji and the Hakone area. We decided the easiest way to see the countryside would be by tour bus. Not my favorite mode of transportation ~ I prefer to explore on my own but, like I said, this was “easy”.

There are 10 stations on Mt. Fuji with the 10th being the summit. During the summer months, you can drive as far as the 5th station but we were only able to go to the 2nd station. It was very cold and windy so I’m glad I packed our hat and gloves. FM and I are weather wimps but FG LOVED it. Guess we’ll toughen up in upstate NY next winter.

After the Mt. Fuji visit, we went to Hanoke Lake for lunch, took a sky gondola and saw beautiful views of the volcanic Hakone mountains.
The cable car let us off at the FREEZING Owakudani Valley a.k.a. Valley of Hell. There are sulphur springs brewing all over and it’s very desolate looking.

We then drove to Ashi Lake and took a “pirate” ship cruise around the lake.

It was a good diversion to get out of the city and see the countryside. Tomorrow is FG’s day as we are heading to Disneyland. This will be her first visit to any Disneyland.

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Spring in Tokyo

Tokyo Tower

We arrived last night in Tokyo! We’re loving all the sights and sounds the big city of 12 million has to offer.

It was an hour and 15 minute drive from Narita Airport to The New Sanno Hotel ~ FG was sleeping on the bus before we left the terminal. The New Sanno is an Armed Forces Recreation Center run by the Navy. It’s a good deal if you’re an ID card holder. Great location and inexpensive. They were sold out for tonight so we moved to the ANA Intercontinental Hotel which is especially luxurious. It’s a fun one night splurge. We’re back to the New Sanno tomororw.We managed to get in a full day of sight seeing. We walked from The New Sanno to a beautiful park named Arisugawa. The cherry blossom trees are blooming everywhere in Tokyo and the park was no exception.

After we moved to ANA Intercontinental, we walked around the Roppongi area. Lots of shops and restaurants. We then went to the top of the Tokyo Tower which is the tallest free standing iron structure in the world. It’s 13m higher then the Eiffel Tower. The view from the top was spectacular but we couldn’t see Mt. Fugi due to low lying clouds. The tower opened in 1958 and is lit up in orange lights in the winter/spring and then in incandescent white lights in summer. We have a direct view of the tower from our room at the ANA hotel. Perhaps that’s why the beer at the rooftop bar on the 36th floor is $10.00 a bottle.

FG got to choose the dinner location and she went with ~ Hard Rock Tokyo. She added yet another HR t-shirt to her collection. After dinner, we stumbled on to a Lush store. Very expensive but I was running low so I couldn’t resist a bath bomb or three. For those who don’t know, Lush is an all-natural soap/body care company. They smell wonderful so I stock up when ever I’m in a location that has a Lush store.

Tomorrow is Easter and we think we found an English speaking mass. After mass, we’re heading to the New Sanno Easter Brunch extravaganza and we might even see the Easter Bunny.

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