Remembrances of Spirit of Spring, Epitome of Renewed Life Captured in National Cherry Blossom Stamp

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following article is courtesy of Ms. Joan Newcomb, an avid stamp collecter and resident of Tampa, Fl. The article has been submitted for forthcoming publication in an issue of the Americana Philatelic Newsletter. The Cherry Blossom Stamp was dedicated during the 2012 National Cherry Blossom Festival (see: http://www.festivaldc.com/blog/archives/3957). We appreciate Joan for giving our readers the opportunity to read it as the National Cherry Blossom gets underway in our Nation’s Capital and as the cherry blossoms get ready to display their beauty once again.

I remember visiting the Tidal Basin on the mall in our nation’s capital, in the springtime when the cherry trees were in full bloom.  A photograph of my sister and niece standing in front of the cherry blossoms has prominently hung in my living room since then. That trip was very memorable for me.  It’s difficult to forget the explosion of pink blossoms which are so very fragrant.  Now the cherry blossoms are forever in bloom on the 100th anniversary commemorative stamps issued by the U.S. Postal Service on Saturday, March 27, 2012 in Washington, D.C.

In 1912 the city of Tokyo gave 3,000 cherry trees to the United States which were planted around the TidalBasin. The first two trees were planted by First Lady Helen Herron Taft and Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese Ambassador.  In 1927 the first Cherry Blossom Festival was held to celebrate the splendiferous blooming of the Sukura Ornamental Cherry trees.

In the recent centennial stamps, artist Paul Rogers’s vision for the se-tenent stamps features colorful imagery which celebrates the friendship of Japan and the United States.  On the left, blossoming trees arch over a Japanese family on a stroll with two girls dressed in bright kimonos with the WashingtonMonument in the background. In the stamp on the right, there are two American sightseers under a canopy of pink blossoms with the Jefferson Memorial in the backdrop.

This “forever” stamp was printed in an initial edition of 100,000,000 copies.  These were sold out in the first two weeks of release, prompting the postal service to print 50,000,000 more, making it one of the top three best-selling U.S. postage stamps in decades.

On the backing paper for each set of twenty stamps is a translation by Emiko Miyashita and Michael Dylan Welch, from the 2008 artbook, 100 Poets: Passions of the Imperial Court (PIE Books, Tokyo). The poem by Ki no Tomonori from ninth-century Japan is in the waka form, now known as tanka.

the light filling the air

is so mild this spring day

only the cherry blossoms

keep falling in haste—

why is that so?

 This pastoral commemorative befittingly illustrates the enduring friendship between the Japanese and American people. In this unusual design, the two stamps form the left and right halves of a single, panoramic view of cherry trees blooming around the TidalBasin in the nation’s capital.  What started as a modest tree planting has grown into a major springtime celebration in our nation’s capital.  Each year over a million people attend the myriad of activities, which include concerts, exhibits, parades and many more festivities.  Now for the first time we have a stamp that captures the spirit of spring, the epitome of a renewed life.

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