|Secretary Kempthorne joined His Excellency Ryozo Kato, Ambassador of Japan, and other dignitaries at the annual stone lighting ceremony of the National Cherry Blossom Festival held at the Tidal Basin on Sunday, April 8.|
WASHINGTON—Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne today joined His Excellency Ryozo Kato, Ambassador of Japan, and other dignitaries at the annual stone lighting ceremony of the National Cherry Blossom Festival.
Secretary Kempthorne noted that millions of people from nations all over the world have come to the Tidal Basin to enjoy the beauty of the lantern and the trees, which symbolize friendship and peace between Japan and the United States. “These cherry blossoms are not just for us. They are for the people of the world,” he said.
Mrs. Yukika Sohma, 95-year-old daughter of the late Mayor Yukiko Ozaki of Tokyo, who presented the first gift of 3,000 cherry trees to the city of Washington in 1912, was specially honored at Sunday’s event. The National Cherry Blossom Festival celebrates the abundance of natural beauty in the nation's capital represented by the 1912 gift and subsequent tree exchanges.
As part of the festival, the National Park Service and the National Conference of State Societies have jointly sponsored the ceremonial lighting of the Japanese Stone Lantern on the Tidal Basin since 1954.
The Japanese Stone Lantern was carved 356 years ago and first lit in 1651 to honor the Third Shogun of the Tokugawa period. The lantern is lit only once each year during the Cherry Blossom Festival. It weighs two-tons and stands 8 ½ feet tall.
In addition to Secretary Kempthorne and Ambassador Kato, speakers included Joseph M. Lawler, Regional Director, National Park Service, National Capital Region; Mr. Egils Milbergs, Illinois State Society of Washington, D.C.; Dr. Stephanie Scott, Secretary of the District of Columbia; Tim Schlack, President, National Conference of States Societies; Sue Porter, President, National Cherry Blossom Festival, Inc.; and Phil Mendelson, D.C. City Council Member.
For further information and a schedule of upcoming National Cherry Blossom Festival events, call the National Park Service, National Capital Region, Office of Communications at 202-619-7222.