A Friendship Sealed With A... Tree!
The friendship between US and Japan has endured more than a century. While leaders have come and gone and despite the horrors of the World Wars, the association between the two nations have stood the test of time.
This friendship was symbolized in 1912 by an incredible gift of 3000 cherry blossom trees that was given to Washington, DC by Tokyo, Japan. When the cherry blossom trees burst with flowers in spring each year, Washington DC celebrates the spectacular event annually as the National Cherry Blossom Festival. This year marks the centenary of the gift to the US by Japan. In reciprocation of the generous gesture by Japan, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presented Japan with 3000 dogwood trees to be planted in a Tokyo Park.
Dogwoods are native species of the North American continent with different species thriving in different areas. They bloom in early spring and begin to show spectacular autumn colors early in the fall. The flowers produce seeds in berries - also known as dog berries, that are a favorite of many birds. The dogwood saplings gifted to Japan have been specially developed to thrive in Japan.
Heads of states have always exchanged gifts since the beginning of recorded time. At various times they have been symbols of cooperation, agreement, solidarity and peace. While many gifts have been precious artifacts that are special in their own lands, gifts such as trees and statues have endured many generations. The most famous gift among them all is the Statue of Liberty – a gift by France to the people of United States.
Gifts of doves and planting an olive branch have been immortalized as symbols of peace offerings between nations from early mythology. The pharaohs of ancient Egypt would present emblazoned stone vessels with the royal cartouche -- a kind of monogram, to the neighboring kingdoms in the second millennium BC. Gift exchange had become a ritualized part of diplomatic contact by the Middle Ages.
During the Third Crusade, an emissary of Richard the Lionheart presented a flock of birds to the representative of Saladin by formally noting, "It is the custom of princes when they camp close to one another to exchange gifts".
The famous Panda Diplomacy is China’s use of Giant Pandas as diplomatic gifts to other countries. The practice existed as far back as the Tang Dynasty in the 700 AD, when a pair of pandas was sent to Japan.
Today gift-giving between heads of state is an important part of modern-day international relations. Though gifts from foreign leaders bear a symbolic meaning, they also resonate with the variety and vibrancy of all the nations of the world.