In light of this past weekend's Cherry Blossom Festival kickoff, we're sharing nine fun facts you may not have known about the annual event.
1. After a visit to Japan in 1885, Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore, the first female board member of the National Geographic Society, approached the U.S. Army Superintendent of the Office of Public Buildings and Grounds about planting Japanese cherry blossom trees near the Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park, but her pleas went unheard.
2. Years later, Scidmore employed the help of famed Japanese chemist Dr. Jokichi Takamine and First Lady Helen Herron Taft to coordinate the planting of cherry blossom trees in D.C.
3. The initial batch of 2,000 trees were deemed diseased, but Tokyo Mayor Yukio Ozaki authorized a new bundle of trees—numbering over 3,000 cherry blossoms—to be shipped to America thereafter.
4. 12 different types of cherry blossom trees were donated to Washington, D.C., including hundreds of Ari ake, Ichiyo, and Kwan-zan varieties.
5. First Lady Taft and Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese ambassador, planted the very first two trees from Japan in 1912.
6. The U.S. reciprocated the gift with flowering dogwood trees in 1915.
7. The first Cherry Blossom Festival happened in 1927, and was later expanded in 1935 by various civic groups.
8. Over 4,000 trees remain in the nation's capitol, and have endured over a century of life in D.C.
9. Over 1.5 million people from around the world gather each year to celebrate the friendship between Japan and America over the four-weekend long festival that runs from March to April.
For a listing of Cherry Blossom Festival events, visit nationalcherryblossomfestival.org.