Ambassador Kennedy at Ise for Dogwood Planting Ceremony

AMBASSADOR KENNEDY: Good afternoon and thank you for welcoming me to Ise Shrine, Japan’s most sacred place. I would especially like to thank Governor Suzuki, Mayor Suzuki, and Chairman Doi of Gakudokofu, which does so much to support the memory of former Tokyo Mayor Yukio Ozaki. I’m so grateful that all of you are able to take time from your important work for this ceremony of friendship.

I’d also like to thank Mr. and Mrs. Toshihiro Hagiwara, the tree doctor team that has cared for our dogwood trees since they arrived from the United States. Hagiwara-san and his wife have been vital to success of the Friendship Blossoms Dogwood Initiative.

And I’m also so pleased that the children are here and will be joining us later because they are the future ambassadors of friendship between our two nations.

I’m honored to present this North American dogwood tree as a gift from the people of America to the people of Ise and Japan. This tree and the other 31 trees that we are planting in Ise represent our appreciation for Japan’s gift of cherry trees to the United States more than a century ago.

The man who donated those trees, Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo, is very special to Ise, and I think he worked for peace all his life, and I hope this tree will carry the spirit of peace and bloom here in Ise.

In March 1912, the First Lady of the United States, Ellen Taft, and Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese Ambassador, planted two cherry trees in Washington, D.C. They were the first of more than 3,000 sakura that soon filled our capital city. Every year ever since, the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C. has brought joy to generations of Americans and Japanese and people from around the world. It’s a living symbol of United States-Japan friendship, and it will continue to do so for hundreds of years to come.

One of my very early memories is being taken by my mother to walk around the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. when the cherry trees were in bloom. I was only 3 years old, but I remember it very well because it was so beautiful, and because I had new red shoes and it was very far to walk.

But I can think of no better symbol of the friendship between our countries than these beautiful trees. Like us, they will grow and strengthen over the years, and ties between our countries will deepen and broaden.

They remind us that the United States-Japan Alliance is a living partnership that needs continued stewardship and care. It falls upon each generation to tend and renew the commitment to peace. And now it’s our turn.

Once again I would like to thank you, Governor Suzuki, Mayor Suzuki, and the City of Ise, for this meaningful and lasting initiative, and thank you for leading the way toward a world of mutual understanding, and I look forward to deepening the respect and friendship between our nations over the coming years.

Thank you so much.