One of the most enduring rituals of American tourism is the springtime visit to view the delicate blossoms that bloom on the cherry trees surrounding the Tidal Basin along the Potomac River in Washington, D.C. Each year, some 1.5 million arrive to stroll the narrow pathway beneath the pink and white canopy of flower petals.
The National Park Service is expecting peak bloom early this year on March 21 to 24, following an unusually warm winter, and though the park remains open during the COVID-19 crisis, the expectation of crowds means that visitors will need to take precautions to practice social distancing and to follow other CDC guidelines.
Just in time for this year’s bloom, Smithsonian Books presents a delightful new offering Cherry Blossoms: Sakura Collections from the Library of Congress. Written by the Library’s Mari Nakahara, curator of architecture, design and engineering, and Katherine Blood, curator of fine prints, the book is chockful of revealing details about the time-honored trees that came as a gift from Japan to the United States in 1912, along with rich imagery and stories about dozens of artifacts from the Library’s collections.
The beauty of the delicate sakura, or blossoms, and their role in connecting Japanese tradition to American culture can be seen in other locations throughout the city. Carla D. Hayden, the Librarian of Congress, notes in the book’s forward that two trees have stood on the Library’s grounds for almost a century after having been moved from the Tidal Basin in 1922. “These aged specimens,” she writes, “continue to welcome spring each year with an abundant display of delicate blossoms.”
Experience the splendor of the annual spring viewing of the nation’s sakura (cherry blossoms) with this stunning keepsake book. Original artwork, photographs, and objects from the Library of Congress collections illuminate the story of these landmark trees and how they came to the nation’s capital as a symbol of friendship with Japan.
Within the pages of the book lies a hidden gem; a collection of 11 scientifically accurate Cherry Blossom illustrations completed in 1921 by artist Kōkichi Tsunoi. Cherry tree grower Seisaku Funatsu commissioned the drawings in 1913 to capture the 57 tree varieties along Japan’s Arakawa River embankment—the original source of the Cherry Blossoms planted in Washington.
U.S. Department of Agriculture botanist Walter Tennyson Swingle then also requested that Tsunoi make illustrations of the cherry tree blossom varieties presented to the United States in the 1912 gift. Of the 12 in total, 11 illustrations were categorized and included in the Library collections. Smithsonian magazine in collaboration with Smithsonian Books presents Kōkichi Tsunoi’s spectacular botanical illustrations for your viewing pleasure.