Cherry Blossom fests will focus on helping Japanese earthquake victims

By Keith Still

The tragedy of the massive earthquake, ensuing tsunami and volatile nuclear situation that continues to unfold across the Pacific in Japan has wrenched the hearts of sympathetic Americans. It is difficult to imagine the devastation and loss already, let alone begin to conceive a return to normal – especially as a nuclear threat still looms.

With that said, Delta Air Lines resumed its normal flight schedule to Tokyo on Monday after canceling flights over the weekend. Even as threats of radiation leaks grew higher yesterday, Delta and American Airlines said normal operations would continue.

Other than those involved with relief efforts, I wonder how many will be traveling as normal to Tokyo or the rest of Japan. The U.S. government has issued a travel alert, urging Americans to avoid travel to Japan over the next month. On Monday, however, Delta said it continues to see strong bookings.

For those who heed the government’s travel warnings, but who want to show their support for the Japanese people, there are ways to help out from this side of the Pacific. In addition to the American Red Cross and the many other service organizations that are focusing on relief efforts, cherry blossom festivals in the U.S. are about to get underway.

The national celebration honoring U.S.-Japanese relations will be held in Washington, D.C. starting next week. The National Cherry Blossom Festival, which has long drawn travelers to the nation’s capital to witness the beauty of the blossoming cherry trees along the Tidal Basin that were Japan’s gift to the U.S., will take on a special meaning this year, as organizers urge Americans and other visitors to donate to earthquake relief efforts. In this report, a spokeswoman for the festival says organizers will recognize the tragedy during the two-weeklong event, which begins March 26.

Performers for the Japanese street fest that is part of the event are still expected to travel to D.C. from Japan, and the Japan-America Society of Washington is expected to appeal for donations for relief efforts as well.

On the other side of the country, the Japanese Friendship Garden in San Diego will dedicate its own Cherry Blossom Festival this weekend to Japanese earthquake and tsunami victims. The event on Saturday, March 19 begins at 10 a.m. with a moment of silence. Visitors can write messages to the people of Japan’s Sendai region, as well as make donations and get the latest news from the Japanese Consul General.

For more information on how to help, a list of organizations and websites can be found in this Associated Press article.

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