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History of the sakura project

On April 1, 1959, Japanese ambassador to Canada, Toru-Hagiwara, presented 2000 Japanese Somei-Yoshino Sakura 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 new 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:

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

April 1, 1959

Plaque commemorating the event located part way down the Cherry Hill 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
and
his Worship, Nathan Phillips, Q.C.,
Mayor of the City of Toronto
on
Wednesday, April 1, 1959

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

October 1984

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

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

Grove of 34 trees planted along Hillside Gardens and Grenadier Pond

April 18, 2001

Plaque commemorating the event reads:

SAKURA
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
and
His Worship Mel LASTMAN
Mayor of the City of Toronto
Wednesday, April 18, 2001

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Sakura Hanami

Sakura Hanami is the Japanese tradition in going to view the cherry blossom bloom and in English translates to "cherry blossom viewing" or "flower viewing".

Sakura is the Japanese translation for "cherry blossom" or "flower". Hanami is broken down into two words - hana means “flower” and mi means “to view”.

The appropriate pronunciation is 'sah–k00-lah' with emphasis on first syllable and the last two parts are said quickly together as if they were one syllable. Most western born people pronounce the ‘R’, but most Japanese and other Asian countries don’t have similar sound letters in their respective language which can sound like an ‘L’ or even ‘W’.

How long does the cherry blossom bloom last?

In High Park the peak bloom could last anywhere from 4 to 10 days. The more idea the weather conditions, the longer the trees will stay in bloom.

Factors like excessive rain & winds can shorten the viewing times by knocking down and blowing off petals prematurely. Extreme cold and hot temperatures can also shorten the life span of the blooming flowers.

How does weather effect the Sakura?

Ideal conditions are warm, sunny days and cool, clear nights with temperatures keeping in range of 5 C on the low end to 15 C on the high end. When temperatures drop below this range for a consistent period, then the progress will slow. Alternatively, when temperatures consistently exceed this range, the development can be greatly accelerated.

A good example was in 2012, when the excessively warm and mild winter accelerated the bloom to occur weeks in advance during the first half of April. Another examples was in 2016, when a sudden deep freeze, i.e. “Polar Vortex”, happed after the buds were near the final stage and killed off the bloom by about 90%.

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

The Sakura - Cherry Blossom is the national flower of Japan and symbolic of spring, a time of renewal, and the fleeting nature of life. Since the life of the cherry blossom bloom is very short, they remind us to take time to truly appreciate the moments we have with people in our lives and all the beauty it has to offer.

This is why so many people come to view them at High Park. It has the most significant number of trees compared to other areas of the GTA which makes it all that more special and beautiful to experience.