National Cherry Blossom Festival Returns ‘Live’ with Grand Opening Ceremony (photos)

The 2022 National Cherry Blossom Festival kicked off in splendid fashion with its traditional opening ceremony before a full house at the Warner Theatre in Washington D.C. on Sunday, March 20, the first day of Spring.

The festival commemorates the 1912 gift of 3,000 cherry trees from Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo to the city of Washington, D.C,, and celebrates the enduring friendship between the people of the United States and Japan.

The National Cherry Blossom Festival last November had announced plans to return to “live and in-person” events in 2022, scheduled to run through April 17.  Two years ago, the opening ceremony had to be cancelled quite suddenly — it would be one of the first casualties of the emerging Covid crisis. The last in-person opening event took place in 2019. Attendees to Sunday’s ceremony were required to produce proof of vaccination or a recent negative test, and masks were mandatory inside the theater with the exception of when eating and drinking. 

Festival opening ceremonies have traditionally provided a showcase of diverse American and Japanese talent. This year’s roster included Samurai sword performers Kamui; world-renowned musicians Keisho Ohno (Shamisen player) and Wadaiko drummer Toshihiro Yuta; the internationally known musical group Minyo Crusaders; and Washington D.C.’s Unstoppables Steppers.

First lady of the United States and Honorary Chair of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, Dr. Jill Biden delivered video remarks. U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Deb Haaland; D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Japanese ambassador to the United States, Koji Tomitas performed a ceremonial ribbon-cutting on stage followed by a memorable cherry blossom shaped confetti drop. WJLA-TV, Stormwatch7 Meteorologist Veronica Johnson and actor and comedian Yoshi Amao were masters of ceremony.

“Cherry blossom season is officially here, and we want everyone to know that D.C. is open,” said Mayor Bowser in her prepared remarks launching the festival. “We have trees blooming and events happening across D.C., [and] across all eight wards. Spring is here, we have some beautiful days ahead of us, and there is no better time to celebrate these symbols of hope and renewal. We look forward to seeing everyone out and enjoying all D.C. has to offer.” 

View a slideshow of Jeff Malet’s photos from the 2020 Cherry Blossom Festival opening ceremony by clicking on the photo icons below.



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