Japan-U.S. Cherry Tree Promenade Planting

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The Japan-America Society of Indiana was thrilled to welcome 150 enthusiastic guests for the planting of the Japan-U.S. Cherry Tree Promenade at White River State Park on Saturday, April 9th.   The energetic and hard-working volunteers planted 50 somei-yoshino trees on the slope alongside the west bank of the river.   The weather contributed to the volunteer’s sense of achievement, with cold temperatures in the morning followed by a clear and crisp sunny day.  It was gratifying to stand back on the bridge and look out at the planted promenade, hopefully a source of enjoyment and meaning for many years to come. 

The promenade was planted in commemoration of the famous Japanese cherry trees at the Tidal Basin in Washington D.C., a gift from the people of Japan to Washington D.C. in 1912, and to celebrate the ever-blossoming friendship between Japan and Indiana.  The planting of the signature grove, designated as the “Japan-U.S. Cherry Tree Promenade in Indiana,” was organized and hosted by the Japan-America Society of Indiana, White River State Park, and Keep Indianapolis Beautiful.    

Thanks to the wonderful team of Ocean World and Sakura Restaurants, the guests enjoyed a delicious luncheon of Japanese curry rice, tonkatsu, and yakitori on the old Washington Street Bridge overlooking the promenade.  Musician Garret Uyeno performed the koto and Yuji Oda gave magic demonstrations.  It was a perfect way to start the day “warming up” above the scenic White River.

A highlight of the program was the speech by Indiana First Lady Karen Pence who concluded her remarks by singing the “Sukiyaki” song in Japanese, which she learned from her sister who was an exchange student in Japan many years ago.

Along with First Lady Karen Pence, remarks were given by Consul Hisao Inagaki of the Consulate-General of Japan in Chicago, Dawn Tabler, Chairperson of the White River State Park Development Commission, Bob Reynolds, Honorary Consul-General Emeritus of Japan in Indianapolis, Robert Whitt, Executive Director of White River State Park, and Theresa Kulczak, Executive Director of the Japan-America Society of Indiana. 

Then began the work of planting the trees . . . volunteers lifted shovels and tools, pruned the roots of the trees, dug large holes, lowered the trees, and finished it all off with a bucket of mulch.  It was hard work made fun by the energy and camaraderie of the guests.  Our heartfelt thanks to Keep Indianapolis Beautiful whose “tree-mendous” representatives guided the planting. 

The activities concluded with a victory dessert of sakura mochi, a traditional Japanese sweet eaten at hanami (cherry-blossom viewing) in Japan, with green tea lattes.  It was an extraordinary day of smiles and bright spirits, old and new friends coming together, and digging and heavy-lifting.  The volunteers pulled it off, creating a signature promenade in the heart of downtown Indianapolis. The trees will bloom annually between late March and early April.     

“The Cherry-Tree Promenade will provide a new destination within the park and give us something very special to look forward to every spring.  The trees represent the partnership between Japanese and Hoosiers and our lasting relationship.  It is an honor for the park to host the Promenade and to welcome the First Lady for the planting,” said Dawn Tabler, Chairperson of the White River State Park Development Commission. 

“The Waterfront Walkway at White River State Park provides the perfect setting, reflecting similar locations in Japan in which cherry trees are planted along the river with strolling paths.  We are grateful for the partnership of White River State Park in enthusiastically welcoming the trees and for supporting the vision of the sakura promenade,” said Theresa Kulczak, Executive Director of the Japan-America Society of Indiana.  “The trees represent the many cultural and educational connections between Indiana and Japan, as well as the important economic ties.”

The Japan-U.S. Cherry Tree Promenade was established by the Japan-America Society of Indiana and White River State Park, with the support of Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, the Consulate-General of Japan at Chicago, and the Honorary Consul of Japan at Indianapolis.