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Sakura Project

Concept Paper

March 2000

1. Introduction

The Japanese flowering cherry, or "Sakura", is a symbol of Japan. For centuries Japanese people have appreciated and praised the elegance and beauty of Sakura and expressed their delight in poems like Waka and Haiku, diaries, essays and stories. Sakura shows us the real arrival of spring, and it is a great joy for all Japanese to get together and appreciate it while and eating, drinking and chatting under the full blossom of Sakura.

Relations between Japan and Canada have flourished in recent years. Both countries share democratic values, embrace the free market economy, and care about society and the conservation of the global environment. Together, they jointly promote international organizations like the UN, OECD, APEC, and G7. Japan and Canada are also keen to maintain and promote international peace and play an active role in peacekeeping and preventive diplomacy. The visit of Team Canada to Japan in September 1999 was the most recent demonstration of the closeness of ties between the two countries.

Over the last decades, the numbers of business, cultural and academic exchanges, as well as individual exchanges, have grown at a tremendous rate between Ontario - the gravitational centre of Canada - and Japan. These exchanges have been promoted by trade, investment such as in the automotive field, sister-city relations, tourism, the Japan Teaching and Exchange Program (JET), youth exchanges like the working holiday visa program, and the exploration of high-tech collaborations. Moreover, there are a large number of Japanese-Canadian, Japanese and Canadian organisations and associations which have been very active in deepening the mutual understanding between the two countries' different cultures.

It is against this background that the Consulate General of Japan in Toronto wishes to take an initiative to donate Sakura trees and seeds to a number of locations in Ontario by raising funds from those who share such sentiment and wish in Ontario. We believe sincerely that Sakura trees will surely add to the beauty of the Province and serve as a symbol of the friendship and goodwill between Ontario and Japan.

In Japan, organisations and individuals donate Sakura to their friends abroad. Somei-yoshino, the most popular type of Sakura blooming beautifully every year in Toronto's High Park, is one of the examples. It was donated by the City of Tokyo to the City of Toronto about 40 years ago in appreciation of Toronto accepting re-located Japanese-Canadians following the Second World War.

2. Sakura as an Instrument of Goodwill

One of the best known donations of Sakura occurred in 1911 when Japanese a doctor, Jokichi Takamine, and the City of Tokyo donated 3,020 cherry trees to Washington, D.C. The Sakura, which were planted along the banks of the Potomac River and on the grounds of the White House, include the varieties Somei-yoshino, Kwanzan, Ichiyo, Shirayuki, Ariake, and Fugenzo. To celebrate the donation of the trees, Washington has a two-week Cherry Blossom Festival every spring. The event attracts over 100,000 people and includes a parade, exhibits, musical performances, sporting events, and high profile Gala.

The Embassy of Japan in Ottawa and the Consulate General of Japan in Toronto have also been involved previous donations of Sakura. The Sakura Committee in Ottawa was set up at the initiative of the Embassy, and donated Sakura to the National Capital Region in 1992, first to see if Sakura could survive the cold climate. After ensuring their health, a second donation took place in 1999. In southern Ontario, the Consulate General was briefly involved with the donation of Sakura to Port Dover in the late 1980s. All the Sakura donated by these two missions were purchased from within Canada because the country's quarantine regulations made the importation of Japanese Sakura difficult.

As we plan to make donated Sakura a symbol of goodwill and friendship, a key to success for this project is how much personal sentiment and attachment we will be able to mobilise from the local public. The experience in Ottawa shows that if funds are raised from the local individuals, namely, Japanese, Japanese-Canadian and Canadian friends of Japan, they will feel as if the trees partly belong to them and cherish both the project and the donated Sakura. This also guarantees the project will be long lasting.

3. Proposed Project

We hereby propose to donate Sakura to a number of public locations in Ontario so that they will be recognised as a symbol of goodwill and friendship between Japan and Ontario and best enjoyed by the general public of Ontario.

The funds required for such a donation will be raised through a fundraising campaign in Ontario.

The first donation of Sakura should take place either this year or in 2001, depending on the progress of fundraising.

To undertake this Project, a Sakura Committee was set up. The Committee will continue its activities for the initial period until 2005, after which time the Committee shall review its operations and decide whether to continue the Project.

The Committee consists of a Chair, Deputy Chair, and other portfolios as necessary. An external Auditor will also be appointed. The Committee will decide all the important matters relating to the Project. Technical and minor matters may be decided at the discretion of the Committee Chair. The Consulate General will be the Secretariat of the Committee.

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