150 Cherry Trees mark 150th Anniversary of Japanese visit

Breathtaking annual bloom to draw thousands to Japantown

December 2, 2010 — To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the voyage of the first official delegation from Japan to the United States, Friends of the Urban Forest will plant 150 Flowering Cherry Trees in San Francisco’s Japantown in several phases beginning this Saturday, December 4.

The Kanrin Maru, Japan’s first sail and screw-driven steam corvette, arrived in San Francisco on March 17, 1860 after a 37-day voyage.  The main purpose of the mission was to ratify the new treaty of Friendship, Commerce, and Navigation between the United States and Japan.

Flowering Cherry Trees are indigenous to Japan, where they are known as Sakura.  Their annual blossoming is the occasion for festivals throughout Japan.

The tree planting was organized by the Sakura 150 Project, headed by Allen Okamoto, who is Co-Chair of the Kanrin Maru 150th Anniversary Celebration Committee and owner of a real estate and insurance brokerage agency in Japantown.  The Project has raised over $40,000 to finance the planting, including a $20,000 grant through San Francisco’s Community Challenge Grants Program.

“These trees will be a new, living landmark that honors the culture and heritage of Japan and the ties of friendship between the people of the United States and Japan,” Okamoto said.

Friends of the Urban Forest (FUF), a non-profit organization that plants and cares for street trees in San Francisco, will plant the Flowering Cherry Trees along Post Street in Japantown.  During Saturday’s kickoff planting, FUF’s staff and community volunteers will plant the first 35 of those trees.  Consul General Hiroshi Inomata, who assumed his post at the Consulate-General of Japan in San Francisco in September, will meet with the organizers at 8:00 a.m. at the Union Bank Hospitality Room on the first floor of the Miyako Mall of the Japan Center.

“The breathtaking annual show of blossoms on these trees will draw thousands of new visitors to Japantown,” said FUF executive director Dan Flanagan.  “We hope this inspires the city’s other neighborhoods to plant more trees.”

About Friends Of The Urban Forest

Friends of the Urban Forest is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that helps individuals and neighborhood groups to plant and care for street trees and sidewalk gardens in San Francisco.  By greening the streets of San Francisco, we support the health and livability of the urban environment.  Since 1981, FUF has planted over 44,000 trees (more than all the trees in Golden Gate Park), and is responsible for over 40% of San Francisco’s street tree canopy.