Hanami (Japanese, literally, hana = flower and mi = look … “flower viewing”) is the Japanese traditional custom of enjoying the beauty of flowers; “flower” in this case almost always means cherry blossoms.
In Japan, the flowering cherry tree, or “Sakura,” is an exalted flowering plant.
On the continent, the plantings of cherry blossom trees originated in 1912, as a gift of friendship to the People of the United States from the People of Japan.
Over three-thousand cherry blossom trees were planted along the Tidal Basin of the reclaimed Potomac waterfront in Washington, DC. Today, the National Cherry Blossom Festival is a DC spring celebration.
Cherry blossom trees are very temperamental. They grow in cold climates and require a lot of sunshine, space, rain and breeze. The flowers bloom when a cold spell is followed by a warm spell.
Waimea on the Big Island meets the criteria and today marks the 20th Annual Waimea Cherry Blossom Heritage Festival – with a bunch of activities and programs, focusing on the “Viewing of the Flowers in Springtime.”
The cherry trees in Waimea are in rows fronting Church Row Park. The first trees (there were initially only three) were planted in 1953 in honor of Fred Makino. These trees are the Formosan cherry trees from Taiwan, which produce flowers but no fruit.
In 1912, Fred Makino founded and edited the Japanese language newspaper Hawaii Hochi, which flourished through the Great Depression, two World Wars, dock strikes and political changes. After Makino’s death in 1953, his wife decided to plant cherry trees in his memory.
From these, Parker Ranch gardener Isami Ishihara later propagated more trees. Ishihara then approached Pachin Onodera of the Waimea Lions Club to suggest the trees be used to promote community beautification.
In 1972, led by President Frank Fuchino, the Waimea Lions Club started what was to become a cherry tree park at the County-owned Church Row by planting 20-trees donated by Ishihara.
In 1975, 50-more trees were added in a tree planting commemorating the visit of Emperor Hirohito and Empress Nagako to Hawaiʻi and to honor the first Japanese immigrants who settled in Waimea.
For two decades, Waimea’s free community festival has showcased the 60-year-old cherry trees planted at Waimea’s historic Church Row Park. The event also celebrates this community’s rich Japanese cultural heritage and traditions at venues throughout town.
Look for pink banners identifying sites — from the Parker Ranch Historic Homes on Māmalahoa to the Hawaiian Homestead Farmer’s Market.
Everyone is invited to spend the day enjoying a lineup of Japanese and multi-cultural performing arts, plus hands-on demonstrations of bonsai, origami, traditional tea ceremony, mochi pounding and a host of colorful craft fairs and delicious foods.
Festivities begin at 9 am in the parking lot behind Parker Ranch Center with special guests, honorees and performances, including bon dancing.
Highlights this year will be an anniversary exhibit honoring some of the festival’s first performers and commemorating its founders – most notably the memory of the late Anne Field-Gomes, whose volunteerism benefited many Waimea organizations and events, including the festival.
Anne Field-Gomes died October 23, 2012 at the age of 84. She brought the AARP’s Tax Aid program to Waimea, served on the Waimea Community Association Board, and was treasurer for the Friends of Thelma Parker Library and the South Kohala Traffic Safety Committee. She was a member of the Waimea Outdoor Circle, St. James’ Church and Imiola Congregational Church and the Waimea Pupule Papale Red Hat Club.
The image is this year’s event poster. In addition, I have added other related images in a folder of like name in the Photos section on my Facebook and Google+ pages.