Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Cherry Blossoms: the PD gift that keeps on giving

Spring in Washington brings cherry blossoms. The Mayor of Tokyo, Yukio Ozaki gave the first trees to the city in March 1912. For Mayor Ozaki, the trees were a gift to celebrate a continued close relationship between the U.S. and Japan. When Japan became an enemy in WWII, the festival was cancelled (1942-1947). The cherry blossom (sakura in Japanese) even became a nationalist symbol in Japan. Years after the war, in 1965, Japan gave an additional gift of 3,800 trees to America. Today, the National Cherry Blossom Festival has become a major tourist destination—with more than a million visitors each year. This is a fascinating example of PD—a Japanese gift that continues to be an attraction for families in America. Really, what better than pretty pink blossoms to reach Japan’s audiences in the United States? The festival is largely coordinated by the Japanese embassy and celebrates Japanese culture. It is is an excellent example of forward-thinking PD. Well done Mayor Ozaki.

Click here to read yesterday's Post article on the festival.


  1. Allison made a great point about the cherry blossom trees and their continuation in Japanese PD in the United States. But I wanted to point out that, in exchange for the cherry trees, the United States gave Japan dogwood trees later. Not many know that there was a mutual gift exchange. My point is that, for PD that involves gift exchanges, it might work better for some countries and not for others. Then again, it depends on the country's brand. Pandas represent China and cherry blossom trees represent Japan because they are part of the countries' respective brands.

  2. It is interesting that the giving of trees can be an act of public diplomacy, which, in this case, it is. To me, it seems a lot like a country sending its artwork overseas to be showed in exhibitions. Yet, one cannot argue with the results. It was certainly prudent move on Japan’s part. While I knew the details regarding the gift of cherry blossom trees from Japan, I was unaware of the U.S.’s gift of dogwoods to Japan. But I think that might point to, what I think is, a significant characteristic of public diplomacy. Citizens of a particular country that is engaging in public diplomacy may not be completely aware of its policies. This doesn’t necessarily denote success or failure, but citizens of a target country in which another country’s public diplomacy efforts are in action not knowing about those efforts could be constituted as a failure. This may not be entirely accurate, but it is just an observation.

  3. Article from American Today about the cherry tree link between SIS and South Korea.


    Basically, the cherry trees beside the SIS building were given to AU in 1943 by Syngman Rhee and the South Korean ambassador traditionally visits the trees every year.