History of the ‘Sakura Project’

On April 1, 1959, Japanese ambassador to Canada, Toru-Hagiwara, presented 2000 Japanese Somei-Yoshino Sakurathe on behalf of the citizens of Tokyo, Japan as a gift to the citizens of Toronto for their support of Japanese-Canadian refugees after the Second World War. Many of the trees were planted along High Park Trail and around Grenadier Pond which to this day stands as the most impressive grove of sakura // cherry blossom trees in the park and city.

Since then, the city of Toronto in conjunction with the Consulate General of Japan, created the “Sakura Project” which has continued to plant additional Sakura // Cherry Blossom trees in High Park and throughout the city in the spirit of continued friendship between Toronto and the people of Japan.

In High Park, there are currently three (3) plaques commemorating the various donated plantings over the years – see examples below:

April 1, 1959

April 1, 1959

Largest grove of 50+ trees planted along the High Park Trail near Grenadier Pond

Plaque commemorating the event loacted part way down the walking path reads:

THIS JAPANESE CHERRY TREE (Someiyoshino Prunus Yedoensis Matsum)
One of 2000, presented to the citizens of Toronto by the citizens of metropolitan Tokyo was planted by
His Excellency Toru Hagiwara,
Japanese Ambassador to Canada
his Worship, Nathan Phillips, Q.C.,
Mayor of the City of Toronto
Wednesday, April 1, 1959

October 1984

October 1984

Grove of 20 trees planted across from Children’s Adventure Playground

Plaque (embedded in a large rock between the walking path and creek) commemorating the event reads:

Sakura // Cherry Blossoms plaque commemorating donation in 1984 to High Park The Japanese Cherry Trees planted in this grove are a special gift to the people of Toronto from Yoriki and Midori Iwasaki

The Cherry Tree is a joyful symbol of life

The City of Toronto gratefully acknowledges this gift and the spirit of community and friendship in which it was given

October 1984

April 18, 2001

April 18, 2001

Grove of 34 trees planted along Hillside Gardens and Grenadier Pond

Plaque commemorating the event reads:

Sakura // Cherry Blossom plaque in High Park - April 18, 2001SAKURA
A Japanese Flowering Cherry Tree One of 34 Prunus xyedoensis ‘Akebono’ and Prunus ‘Fugenzo’ varietes presented to the City of Toronto by the Sakura Committee on behalf of the MANY GENEROUS DONORS to the SAKURA PROJECT as a symbol of friendship and good will between JAPAN AND CANADA was planted by
Sakura Committee Chair HARA Satoshi
Consul General of Japan in Toronto
His Worship Mel LASTMAN
Mayor of the City of Toronto
Wednesday, April 18, 2001

Tradition of Sakura Hanami

Sakura // Cherry Blossoms in High Park - April 17-18, 2012

Sakura Hanami is the Japanese translation for “cherry blossom viewing” or “flower viewing”.

Sakura is the Japanese translation for “cherry blossom” or “flower”.

The appropriate pronunciation is ‘sah–k00-rah‘ with emphasis on first syllable and the last two parts are said quickly together as if they were one syllable.

Every year the Sakura blossom for a brief period in early spring with the length of the blooms vary from 1-2 weeks, depending on weather conditions.

How does weather effect the Sakura?

Extreme cold and hot temperatures can shorten the life span of the blooming flowers. Heavy rain and strong winds can force the petals to fall from the tree prematurely as well.

Sakura bloom best when the weather is sunny, warm and can be enjoyed to view for up to 2 weeks!

In 2012, the unusually mild and warm winter had pushed the blooms much earlier into early April. In the last 10 years previous the Sakura would usually bloom in late April to early May (give or take a few days) as the longer, colder winter of 2013 proved to push the bloom into the first weekend of May.

Why is the significance of the  Sakura // Cherry Blossoms and what do they symbolize?

The Sakura – Cherry Blossom is the national flower of Japan.  The significance of the cherry blossom tree in Japanese culture represents the fragility and the beauty of life. The brief bloom period of the blossoms act as a reminder that life can be incredibly beautiful but that it is also tragically short.

It’s in this spirit that we all should take the time to cherish and appreciate the people in our lives and be grateful to all the wonderful moments gifted to us each and every day.