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U.S. and Japan
U.S. Ambassador Hosts Commemorative Tree-planting in Honor of President Barack Obama
March 1, 2023

To commemorate President Barack Obama’s tenure, his commitment to strengthening the U.S.-Japan Alliance, and his historic 2016 visit to Hiroshima, U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel planted and dedicated a Sugar Maple tree in the garden of the U.S. Ambassador’s Residence in Tokyo, along with a commemorative plaque. The tree-planting is part of a unique tradition at the residence to recognize extraordinary service to the U.S.-Japan relationship.

During the tree-planting ceremony, Ambassador Emanuel said, “I am proud to dedicate this tree in honor of President Obama, and to have it join the other presidential trees in this garden that commemorate the contributions of U.S. Presidents to the U.S.-Japan partnership. It was my honor to serve as President Obama’s Chief of Staff, and it’s my honor to serve as President Biden’s ambassador to Japan. And all of my successors in this position, and all of the future visitors to this garden, will be able to see a beautiful reminder of the legacy of these two Presidents.”

Former U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy, who was appointed by President Obama and now serves as U.S. Ambassador to Australia, said, “It was an honor to be part of President Obama’s historic visit to Hiroshima, and to Prime Minister Abe’s visit to Pearl Harbor a few months later. These acts of principled leadership showed the world that reconciliation is possible.” Former U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos, also appointed by President Obama, said “As the first sitting U.S. Ambassador to have attended the Hiroshima ceremony, I am so pleased to see President Obama’s historic visit commemorated at the Ambassador’s official residence. This tree will serve as a lasting reminder that it remains incumbent on all of us to realize President Obama’s vision of a world free of nuclear weapons.”

The plaque inscription reads:

Planted by Ambassador Rahm Emanuel and Ambassador Caroline Kennedy in honor of the visit of President Barack Obama to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial May 27, 2016 and his call for “a peaceful future free of nuclear weapons.”

The U.S. Ambassador’s residence in Tokyo has served 13 ambassadors, the first being W. Cameron Forbes in 1931, and over the years developed a unique tradition of honoring the contributions of senior U.S. leaders to the U.S.-Japan relationship through commemorative donations to the residence garden.

Mrs. Mildred Murphy, the spouse of Ambassador Robert D. Murphy, made the first dedication on April 27, 1953, of roses. Five years later, on April 10, 1958, Douglas MacArthur II planted Dogwood trees presented by the city of Washington, D.C. to the City of Tokyo as a living memorial to Mr. Yukio Ozaki, known as the “father of the Japanese constitution,” who served in the Japanese Diet for 63 years.

In 1974, Dr. Ichiro Nobushima presented Japanese garden lanterns to Ambassador James D. Hodgson to commemorate the visit of President Gerald R. Ford, the first sitting American president to visit Japan. A year later, a tree plaque was placed in the garden in honor of that visit, as well as the Emperor and Empress of Japan’s 1975 visit to the United States. On June 24, 1979, Mrs. Maureen Mansfield, wife of U.S. Ambassador Mike Mansfield, planted Japanese Camellia in commemoration of President Jimmy Carter’s June 1979 visit; President Carter was the second sitting president to visit Japan.

Ambassador Walter Mondale planted a tree presented by the Japan Cherry Blossom Association to commemorate President Bill Clinton’s April 1996 visit to Japan. Ambassador Howard Baker planted flowering plums on February 17, 2002 to commemorate the visit of President George W. Bush. A plaque was added to the residence fountain in 2013 in honor of Senator Daniel K. Inouye, who worked tirelessly to strengthen the bonds of friendship between the U.S. and Japanese people.

The latest additions to the garden were the American Holly tree and two Peach Blossoms, planted on May 21, 2022, by Ambassador Emanuel and Ms. Amy Rule, commemorating the historic visits of President Joseph R. Biden and Dr. Jill Biden.

For this tree-planting, President Obama selected the Sugar Maple, which grows in every county in the state of Illinois and is native to the Chicago region.