Kishida delights Washington with promise of 250 cherry trees as independence gift

By Reuters   April 11, 2024 | 11:01 pm PT
Kishida delights Washington with promise of 250 cherry trees as independence gift
U.S. President Joe Biden (left) and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at a state banquet at the White House on April 10, 2024. Photo by AFP
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida drew cheers and applause from U.S. lawmakers on Thursday when he announced a plan to donate 250 cherry trees to the U.S. capital to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the U.S. independence.

In a speech to the U.S. Congress in Washington underscoring close ties between the United States and Japan, Kishida referred to work the U.S. National Park Service is undertaking to spruce up the Tidal Basin, an area of parkland in Washington that is home to national monuments such as the Lincoln Memorial.

"As a gesture of friendship, Japan will provide 250 cherry that will be planted in anticipation of the 250th anniversary of your independence," Kishida said, drawing one of several standing ovations during his speech, which he delivered in English.

The Japanese embassy said it is still working on the specifics of the gift. The 250th anniversary of U.S. independence from Britain falls on July 4, 2026.

Cherry blossoms have become a beloved annual spectacle in Washington for both residents and visitors alike since Japan donated cherry trees to the city in 1912 as a symbol of friendship.

The U.S.-Japan relationship collapsed into catastrophic war between 1941 and 1945, but the two countries have been allies for decades since and say their relationship is now closer than it has ever been.

Kishida was only the second Japanese prime minister ever to address a joint meeting of the U.S. House and Senate, after Shinzo Abe, his assassinated predecessor, on April 29, 2015. It is a privilege generally reserved for the closest of U.S. allies and followed a summit with U.S. President Joe Biden.

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