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Sakura lighting underway on Athens Campus


Ohio University’s cherry trees have bloomed and will be illuminated from 8 to 10 p.m. every evening this week.

One of the landmarks of Ohio University’s Athens Campus is the grove of cherry trees near the Hocking River and the Convocation Center. Over the years, the flowering trees have become a symbol of spring’s arrival in Athens, featured in local publications and Ohio University websites, and have given generations of OHIO students one of the most endearing memories of the city and the campus.

Ohio University was given cherry trees as a gift from Chubu University, its longtime partner university in Nagoya, Japan. The trees were first planted in 1979 under the direction of OHIO President Charles Ping and President Kazuo Yamada of Chubu University. Chubu gifted the cherry blossom trees to represent its relationship with Ohio University and later brought the grove’s total to 200 trees after another gift for the Ohio University’s bicentennial.

Each year when the trees bloom, Ohio University lights them up as they do in Japan. (See sidebar)

Ohio University’s Office of Global Affairs and International Studies hopes many of you will be able to enjoy the Sakura this week, which fittingly is also International Week on campus. For more information on the trees, please visit this website, which is managed by the Ohio University Japanese Student Association.

This article was provided by Ohio University’s Office of Global Affairs and International Studies.

Sakura celebration background

Sakura is the Japanese word for cherry blossom, and each year in Japan (and many other places around the world) people watch the cherry trees (and weather forecast) in anticipation of the blooms. The blooms are very short lived, but the trees look amazing when in full bloom. People will have picnics under the trees during the day and parties at night. The celebration of the flowers is actually called Hanami (“flower party”).

Sakura originally was used to divine the year's harvest as well as announce the rice-planting season.

Emperor Saga of the Heian Period adopted this practice and held flower-viewing parties with sake and feasts underneath the blossoming boughs of Sakura trees in the Imperial Court in Kyoto. Poems would be written praising the delicate flowers, which were seen as a metaphor for life itself, luminous and beautiful, yet fleeting and ephemeral. This was said to be the origin of Hanami in Japan.