Cherry Blossom Festival Opens With Elaborate Ceremony (photos)

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Shodo Girls from the Fukuoka Prefectural Yahata Chuo High School in Japan complete a work of vibrant calligraphy while dancing to music. Photo by Jeff Malet.

The 2018 National Cherry Blossom Festival got underway with an elaborate opening ceremony at the Warner Theatre in Washington, D.C., on Sunday, March 25. The festival celebrates the anniversary of the gift of trees from Japan to the United States through a showcase of American and Japanese talent. The date of this event had to be moved up one day due to the anticipated crowds expected downtown for the March for Our Lives.

Japan’s new ambassador to the United States, Shinsuke Sugiyama, delivered the keynote address with his wife Yoko standing beside him. “As the ambassador appointed by my government, I very much would like to send my best regards to you all here, the people in D.C.,” said Japan’s former vice foreign minister.

The opening ceremony celebrated the season through a showcase of great American and Japanese talent, including the following performers: jazz pianist Akiko Yano; Japanese pop singer Takanori Nishikawa whose stage name is T.M. Revolution; the 6821 Quintet; and the Shado Girls of Fukuoka Prefectural Yahata Chuo High School.

Bill Kelly and Alison Starling, chief meteorologist and anchor, respectively, for ABC7/WJLA, served as emcees. Speakers included Diana Mayhew, president, National Cherry Blossom Festival; Chinyere Hubbard, vice president, communications and marketing, Events DC; Shinichiro Ito, chairman of the board, All Nippon Airways; and Lauren Vaughan, secretary of the District of Columbia.

Bloomia, a direct-to-retail flower company based in King George, Virginia, handed out 4,500 hydroponically grown tulips to attendees as they exited the theater.

A series of Japan-related events such as Japanese art exhibitions and musical performances, kite flying, a lantern lighting ceremony, fireworks and a downtown parade are scheduled for the festival, which runs through April 15. The peak for cherry blossoms is forecast for April 8-12, according to the National Park Service, several weeks after their initial forecast, due to the longer-than-usual winter in the capital.

View Jeff Malet’s photos of the 2018 National Cherry Blossom opening ceremony by clicking on the photo icons below.

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