Cherry blossom trees (桜 "sakura" in Japanese) are a well-known symbol of
Japan, and are ubiquitous in every town and village there. The blooming of the trees -
peaking for much of the nation in late March or early April - marks the beginning of
the school year for Japanese sudents and the welcome embrace of spring for all.
Sakura are adored as a microcosm of life itself: beautiful but fleeting. When in full
bloom, Japanese people gather in parks, at schools, along rivers, atop mountains -
anywhere and everywhere the trees grow - to picnic under the beautiful pink petals.
In 1997, the city of Tondabayashi gifted the city of Bethlehem sixty cherry trees. Import restrictions, however, forbade transporting trees directly from Japan to the United States. In order to solve this problem, Bethlehem landscape designer Dee Kruschwitz used American-bred cherry trees directly descended from previously imported Japanese sakura. Placed around the Garden of Serenity and the entire perimeter of Payrow Plaza (home of City Hall and the Public Library) are 10 Snow Fountains (which resemble weeping willows with their dangling branches), 20 Yoshinos (with bright white blossoms), and 30 Higan trees (with subtle pink petals). The Higan trees deserve particular mention because they bloom not only during the spring (usually early to mid-April) but again at the end of fall.
To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of our sister city relationship, an additional five (5) cherry blossom trees were planted on the South Side Greenway, near the intersection of New and Mechanic streets. As of the summer of 2018, you can sit underneath our wonderful trees and enjoy free music on Friday at lunchtime, courtesy of the South Side Arts District.
We encourage you to come and see the beauty of our cherry trees during their peak blooming season! If you visit during our annual Cherry Blossom Festival, you will be able to enjoy a variety of traditional Japanese food, music and activities under the blossoms.