Under fading pink cherry blossoms and a vivid blue sky, Clark College celebrated its 11th Sakura Festival on Thursday afternoon. Although the cherry blossoms were in full bloom two weeks ago, some stubborn blossoms still clung to the 100 cherry trees despite record-setting warm weather this week.
The festival celebrates the legacy of international friendship between Vancouver and its sister city, Joyo, Japan, said Clark College President Bob Knight. That relationship was established in 1995.
“The fleeting beauty of the cherry blossoms also reminds us to enjoy each day and live life to the fullest,” Knight said.
On Earth Day in 1990, John Kageyama, president of America Kotobuki Electronics, presented 100 shirofugen cherry trees to the city of Vancouver. They were planted in the Royce E. Pollard Japanese Friendship Garden.
Knight and former Vancouver Mayor Bruce Hagensen unveiled a bench dedicated to Kageyama, whose donation 26 years ago inspired the Sakura Festival.
Kageyama, now 90 years old, smiled and sat on the bench with Knight and Hagensen.
A plaque on the ground near the bench reads: “John Kageyama, the spirit of Sakura.”
Kageyama mentioned the trees are now 34 years old and have grown considerably from when he presented them to the city.
“I hope the students who are studying here will see the trees growing. I hope they will also grow like these cherry trees,” Kageyama said.
Several other guests had traveled from Joyo to attend the festivities, including Mayor Okuda Toshiharu and Takayuki Hayashi, president of Kyoto Women’s University. Over the weekend, the Japanese guests will be entertained by local Rotarians in their homes and at local restaurants.
“We Japanese have a special affinity for cherry blossoms,” said Kojino Uchiyama, the new Portland consul general. “When we refer to flower, it’s simply ‘sakura.’ Cherry trees have come to symbolize the relationship between Japan and the United States.”
Knight, Mayor Tim Leavitt and former mayors Hagensen and Royce Pollard were part of a Vancouver contingent that traveled to Joyo last fall.
“Our trip demonstrated what our relationship with Joyo is all about,” said Leavitt. “Hospitality. Friendship. Cultural exchange. Educational exchange.”
Knight spoke about future exchanges between students at Clark College and Kyoto Women’s University.
“In Japan, Sakura is a rite of spring,” said Leavitt. “Sakura serves as a poignant reminder of our friendship (with Joyo) and all the opportunity it provides.”
Clad in a kimono, Clark student Yuki Kimura said she studied business administration at university in Japan. Kimura is the recipient of the Dr. Kanagawa Japanese Friendship Scholarship presented by the Clark College Foundation. She said she is attending Clark to perfect her English and further prepare her for her career.
Knight announced that an anonymous donor’s $1,000 gift will provide the seed to create a new scholarship to fully fund an international student to study at Clark each year. He added that it will take at least $15,000 more to fund the new scholarship.
After the music and speeches, the celebration moved into Gaiser Student Center for dances performed by Clark College’s Japanese Club, a rousing performance by the Portland Taiko drum group, Japanese-themed displays and sakura-shaped sugar cookies painted with pink frosting.