In honor of the 100th anniversary of Japan's gift of cherry blossom trees to Washington D.C in 1912, under the initiative of the Japanese Government, cherry trees are being gifted to public and private organizations throughout the United States. The Japanese Bell of Peace and Friendship on the south grounds of the Iowa Capitol in Des Moines has been selected to receive 20 of the Sakura Centennial trees.
A Sakura Ceremony hosted by Iowa Sister States (ISS) will be held at the Japanese Bell on Saturday, May 12 from 2-3 p.m., as one of the activities within the larger CelebrAsian festival. A procession led by Governor Branstad will depart from the festival site at 1:30pm and walk to the Bell for the ceremony. Remarks will be made by Governor Branstad, Consul General of Japan at Chicago Mr. Yoshifumi Okamura, Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie. Included will be a ceremonial tree planting of one of the cherry blossom trees and ringing of the Japanese temple bell.
"We are honored to have been selected as one of the recipients of the commemorative cherry blossom trees," said Carol Grant, Executive Director of Iowa Sister States. "It is a perfect finale to the 50th Anniversary Celebrations of relationships between Iowa and Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan, and Des Moines and Kofu, the Capitol city of Yamanashi."
Girl Scout Cadette Troop 661 from Des Moines will assist with planting the trees prior to the day of the ceremony, as part of their community service goal of planting 100 trees in Des Moines in honor of the 100th anniversary of Girl Scouting.
The sister state relationship between Iowa and Yamanashi is the oldest of the eight international partner state agreements, dating back to the Iowa Hog Lift in 1960 when 36 Iowa hogs were airlifted to Yamanashi after two devastating typhoons left the countryside in ruins. In gratitude, Yamanashi presented Iowans with a bronze temple bell that was placed on the south grounds of the state capitol in 1962. Iowa Sister States led a campaign to restore the bell's structure and gardens to commemorate the 50th anniversary celebrations in August of 2011.
Note: Under the initiative of the Government of Japan and Embassy of Japan in Washington DC, 2012 Japan-U.S. Cherry Blossom Centennial Nationwide Tree Planting Initiative was sponsored by Pfizer, the Japan Commerce Association of Washington DC, the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of New York. The trees were provided by American Forests.