APRIL 25, 2014
In appreciation for the millions of dollars in relief following the east Japan earthquake, Motohiko Kato, Consul General of Japan in Nashville, along with a Japanese delegation, demonstrated their appreciation to Memphis by offering a gift of three Somei Yoshino Cherry Trees from Japan. In an Arbor Day celebration like no other, the trees were planted as a symbol of friendship between Japan and Memphis in a ceremony at Elvis Presley’s Graceland this morning. This tree planting is supported by the Japan Commerce Association of Washington, D.C., Inc. and JCAW Foundation, Inc. See photos of the special planting ceremony.
“As you may know, cherry blossoms have long been symbols in Japan of the fragility of life; life that we must at the same time cherish to the fullest,” said Kato. “Furthermore, spring is the season of a fresh start in Japan, and cherry blossoms give us joy and hope at each turning point of our lives.”
The trees represent Japan’s appreciation for Memphis relief efforts after the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011. Ties between Japan and Memphis run deep, and when disaster struck, many Memphis businesses, such as members of the Japanese Traders and Manufacturers Association of Memphis, combined efforts to provide millions of dollars in relief.
Dignitaries at the event also included Mr. Masaya Koizumi (brother of former Prime Minister of Japan Junichiro Koizumi); music artist Ms. Reiko Yukawa; Shelby County, TN Mayor Mark Luttrell; Congressman Steve Cohen; City of Memphis Chief Administrative Officer George Little (representing Mayor A.C. Wharton); Tennessee State Senator Mark Norris; Memphis City Councilman Harold Collins; Consul General of Canada Stephen Brereton; and Leigh Shockey, Chairman of the Board for the Greater Memphis Chamber.
As many as 3,000 trees were presented from Tokyo to Washington D.C. in 1912. Those trees have subsequently become symbols of the friendship felt between Japan and the United States, and like the blossoms that appear every spring this commitment is renewed year after year.
“Japan is the largest foreign investor in the state of Tennessee, with many of those companies located in Memphis,” said Ernest Strickland, director of economic development at the Greater Memphis Chamber. “We have been successful in creating an ecosystem that celebrates Japanese culture, education and business and planting these trees is another way to nourish and strengthen this relationship.”
Graceland was chosen as the destination for the trees because of its worldwide recognition and Elvis’ popularity among the Japanese leaders.
“We are tremendously honored that Graceland was selected by the Japanese delegation and Memphis Chamber as the site for these cherry trees,” said Jack Soden, CEO of Elvis Presley Enterprises. “We look forward to caring for them on the lawn of Graceland and welcoming visitors from around the world who will see them thrive.”
Kato added, “I hope that the cherry blossom trees at Graceland will become living reminders of our thanks and also symbolize the continued growth of the friendship between Memphis and Japan just like the cherry blossom trees in Washington D.C.”