Kishida delights Washington with promise of 250 cherry trees as gift

AFP

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida drew cheers and applause from US lawmakers on Thursday when he announced a plan to donate 250 cherry trees to the US capital to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the US independence.

In a speech to the US Congress in Washington underscoring close ties between the United States and Japan, Kishida referred to work the US National Park Service is undertaking to spruce up the Tidal Basin, an area of parkland in Washington that is home to national monuments such as the Lincoln Memorial.

"As a gesture of friendship, Japan will provide 250 cherry trees that will be planted in anticipation of the 250th anniversary of your independence," Kishida said, drawing one of several standing ovations during his speech, which he delivered in English.

The Japanese embassy said it is still working on the specifics of the gift. The 250th anniversary of US independence from Britain falls on July 4, 2026.

Cherry blossoms have become a beloved annual spectacle in Washington for both residents and visitors alike since Japan donated cherry trees to the city in 1912 as a symbol of friendship.

The US-Japan relationship collapsed into catastrophic war between 1941 and 1945, but the two countries have been allies for decades since and say their relationship is now closer than it has ever been.

Kishida was only the second Japanese prime minister ever to address a joint meeting of the US House and Senate, after Shinzo Abe, his assassinated predecessor, on April 29, 2015. It is a privilege generally reserved for the closest of US allies and followed a summit with US President Joe Biden.

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