In 1912, Tokyo gave the United States a gift of 3,000 cherry trees as a token of friendship between the two nations. Over time, these beautiful trees and their pale pink blossoms that appear each spring have become a symbol of the nation’s capital and a visible reminder of the deep ties between the U.S. and Japan.On Nov. 16, 2012, the “Friendship Blossoms – Dogwood Tree initiative” celebrated the centennial anniversary of Japan’s historic gift with the planting of 100 blooming dogwood trees in Yoyogi Park in Tokyo, the first of 3,000 dogwood trees to be sent as a reciprocal gift to Japan by the people of the United States of America. Over a period of three years, these dogwood trees will be planted in Tokyo and all over Japan, including in the Tohoku region recovering from the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011, as an enduring symbol of our friendship.

The Friendship Blossoms Initiative is a public-private partnership established between the U.S. government and the U.S.- Japan Bridging Foundation that embodies the significant people-to-people, cross- cultural, and educational exchanges between the U.S. and Japan. Secretary Clinton characterized the historic nature of the exchange of trees between the United States and Japan: “We hope that these dogwood trees in Japan will, like the cherry trees here, serve as a symbol of the strong relationship and friendship between our countries.”

a0960_001640The dogwood tree is famous in the Southern region of the United States for its flowering beauty and cool shade. The blossom, a four pointed white blossom tinged with red at each edge, is the state flower of North Carolina. In the fall, the leaves turn brilliant shades of scarlet to reddish purple and bright red fruit appears in small clusters. The fruit is not very tasty for humans, but is usually devoured by birds. Dogwood bark has long been considered to have medicinal properties as a fever reducer. The wood of the dogwood tree is very hard and durable and has been used to make various items including tool handles and golf clubs.

The dogwood trees presented by the U.S. include several varieties, such as the Sweetwater Red and the Appalachian Snow, which bloom in red as well as white. Although the trees are still young and are not expected to bloom for several years, please stop by Yoyogi Park when you’re in the neighborhood to welcome them to Japan and contemplate this living reminder of international friendship.

For more information about the Friendship Blossoms Initiative and how to request trees for planting in Japan, check online here.