The National Cherry Blossom Festival is officially back.

The festival’s opening ceremony took place Sunday at the Warner Theatre in downtown Washington, which was live for the first time since 2019 after the coronavirus pandemic nixed the festival’s in-person events for the past two years.

The ceremony was co-presented with the Japan Foundation as an artistic celebration commemorating the 110 years of the 1912 gift of trees from Tokyo to the District with an annual tribute to the longstanding friendship between the U.S. and Japan.

First lady Jill Biden, who serves as the honorary chair of the festival, said in pre-recorded video remarks during the event, “Since receiving them more than a century ago, Japan’s cherry trees have become so much more than a gift of diplomacy.”

“Like the ‘yuj ou’ — or friendship — they represent, the roots of the cherry blossom trees have grown deep, and today, they are a part of who we are, adding to the unique and beautiful character of our capital,” Biden said. “Today’s ceremony is just the beginning of this festival and I hope you will continue to explore all that spring in Washington, D.C., has to offer.”

Special guests attending the ceremony included Japanese Ambassador Koji Tomita, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, D.C. Council member Brooke Pinto (D-Ward 2), and Secretary of the District of Columbia Kimberly Bassett. Others attending included outgoing Events DC President Greg O’Dell and Patrick Phillippi, head of community engagement for Amazon HQ2.

Jeff Reingold, superintendent of the National Mall and Memorial Parks sent a special video message.

The event was co-hosted by WJLA-TV (Channel 7) meteorologist Veronica Johnson and entertainer Yoshi Amao. The ceremony featured performances from the Samurai sword performers Kamui, musician Keisho Ohno, drummer Toshihiro Yuta, musical group Minyo Crusaders, the District’s Unstoppable Steppers, and DJ Heat of the NBA’s Washington Wizards and WNBA’s Washington Mystics.  

“Like springtime and the cherry trees themselves, symbolizes hope, renewal and new beginnings,” said Diana Mayhew, president of the festival.

“The trees, a gesture of goodwill from Tokyo to Washington, D.C., now more than ever serve as a reminder of the importance of unifying communities and sharing in the celebration of peace and international friendship,” Mayhew said. “We are proud to continue to honor the roots and history of this festival with tonight’s opening ceremony.”

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