Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival of Greater Philadelphia
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The annual Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival of Greater Philadelphia is a spring celebration commemorating Japan’s 1926 gift of 1,600 flowering trees to the City of Philadelphia as a gesture of goodwill. The festival is a series of events spread over two months, with the centerpiece culture fair celebration “Sakura Sunday” taking place in Fairmount Park at the site of the historic cherry blossom tree plantings.
In honor of the 150th anniversary of American independence and as a gesture of goodwill, the Japanese government donated 1,600 cherry trees and other flowering trees to the City of Philadelphia in 1926.
In 1998, continuing the legacy of the original gift of trees, the Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia made a 10-year pledge to plant 1,000 new cherry blossom trees in Philadelphia. About 250 people attended a dinner at Fairmount Park’s Memorial Hall to help fund the costs of buying and planting the first 100 of Philadelphia’s new cherry trees. Following that, there was a tree planting ceremony to celebrate the installation of the new cherry trees.
The cherry tree planting and fundraising continued for a few years at the same modest level, staying mostly within the Japanese and Japanese-American community in Philadelphia. The celebrations were lively but intimate, as the cherry tree planting project had not yet entered the public’s awareness.
As the number of cherry blossom trees grew and the tree planting project began to attract more attention, Philadelphia started to become recognized a suitable venue for a Japanese style celebration of spring. In 2003, Subaru of America, Inc., located just across the river in Cherry Hill, NJ, increased its support of the cherry tree planting project with title sponsorship, and the Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival of Greater Philadelphia was born. Two days of events expanded to one full week, and grew again in 2005 to two whole weeks of Japanese cultural festivities.
Having completed the ten-year goal of 1,000 tree plantings in 2007, the Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia created a new 5-year plan to bring cherry blossom trees to 10 community parks throughout the City of Philadelphia. The Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival of Greater Philadelphia, now featuring more than 45 events attended by over 20,000 people, continues as a means of supporting the ongoing tree planting project, and moreover honoring and celebrating the Japanese government’s 1926 gift of goodwill and springtime festivity.
The Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival of Greater Philadelphia now features over 45 events inspired by the food, drink, dance, music, art, and culture of Japan.
The Annual Gala is the fundraiser for the festival, with proceeds supporting the planting and maintenance of Philadelphia’s cherry blossom trees.
Sakura Sunday, an outdoor Japanese cultural fair that takes place at the Horticulture Center in Fairmount Park, is the festival’s largest event. Family and friends come together under the blossoms to experience performances, meet visitors from Japan, and watch the Festival tree planting ceremony.