The first Japanese cherry trees were presented to the City of Washington, DC as a gesture of friendship and goodwill by the city of Tokyo, Japan and to celebrate the continued close relationship between the two nations at that time. The first two trees were planted in a ceremony on March 27th 1912 by, then First Lady, Helen Herron Taft and Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese ambassador, on the north bank of the Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park. At the conclusion of the ceremony, the first lady presented a bouquet of "American Beauty" roses to Viscountess Chinda.
Washington's renowned National Cherry Blossom Festival grew from this simple ceremony, witnessed by just a few persons. These two original trees still stand several hundred yards west of the John Paul Jones Memorial, located at the terminus of 17th Street, SW. Situated near the bases of the trees is a large bronze plaque which commemorates the occasion. By 1915, the United States government had responded with a gift of flowering dogwood trees to the people of Japan.
I took the photos below last Friday, a perfect bluebird day, when the 2010 cherry blossoms (and Japanese magnolias and flowering crabapples) were at peak ~ 98 years and 6 days later! Enjoy!