Cherry Blossom Festival Takes Time For Japan

Cherry Blossoms begin to bloom, in Washington March 24, 2011. According to the National Park Service this years peak bloom is March 31 thru April 2. UPI/Kevin Dietsch

Cherry Blossom Festival time is usually celebration time. This year, the 16-day event in the America's capital began with a more somber, humanitarian tone, according to the Washington Post.

Every year, attendees are invited to create origamia shape or animal form made out of delicately folded paper, such as the ubiquitous paper crane. This year, however, organizers are asking for visitors to give theirs up for a cause.

In a way, were encouraging a bit of critical thinking, said Scott Kratz, vice president for education at the National Building Museum. We encourage them to work hard for this paper crane. And then they have to make a choice: to keep them or to donate?

The Bezos Family Foundation in Seattle has agreed to donate $2 to rebuilding efforts in Japan for every paper crane it receives, up to $200,000.

The National Cherry Blossom Festival began as a celebration of friendship between Japan and Washington D.C. The famous cherry trees that line various thoroughfares in the heart of the city were donated as an act of friendship and goodwill by Japanese diplomats almost fifty years ago.

At this year's opening ceremonies, a moment of silence was observed in rememberance of the some 10,000 lost in the earthquake and ensuing tsunami that struck Japan on March 11.

With so many people attending our events, we are a good conduit for people to help, festival spokeswoman Danielle Piacente told the Post. Spring is about renewal and this year, its also about rebuilding.

The event draws about 1 million visitors each year, according to organizers.

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