By Stevie Riepe – Reporter
The 27th annual Sakura Festival on April 19 celebrated the arrival of spring and blossoming of Clark’s cherry trees from 1-2:30 p.m. outside O’Connell Sports Center with a performance by the Clark College Women’s Choir.
Guest speaker and President of America Kotobuki Electronics, Inc. John Kageyama lives in Japan, but comes to Clark’s Sakura Festival each year to be honored for gifting Vancouver its 200 cherry blossom trees in 1991 for Washington’s 100-year anniversary of statehood.
Kageyama said he gave the trees to Vancouver because he was amazed by how kind its people are to Japanese people. “I wanted to show my appreciation to the people here,” Kageyama said. “I wanted to pay the people back.”
Former Vancouver Mayor from 1987 to 1995 Bruce Hagensen decided on Clark as the location for the 8 year old cherry blossom trees.“I chatted with the people in our parks department and it seemed like the perfect venue,” he said.
Hagensen said he signed an agreement between Joyo, Japan and Vancouver to become sister cities in 1995. Clark currently offers a study abroad program for Japanese language students to visit a women’s school in Joyo for six weeks.
Kageyama said this year is his last attending the Clark Sakura Festival, 92 years is too old to travel so far from Joyo.
“He said that last year, too.” Vice President of Student Affairs Bill Belden said later with a laugh.
Both Belden and Clark President Bob Knight said they were grateful for the sunny weather during the celebration and that the event went well.
Sakura Festivals in Japan welcome spring and the blooming of cherry blossom trees symbolize new beginnings. Kageyama wanted to share this tradition with his sister city of Vancouver.