Supervisor Preston Condemns Vandalism of Japantown’s Famous Cherry Blossom Trees

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Paper flowers adorn the vandalized cherry blossom trees in front of the JCCCNC in San Francisco Japantown.

SAN FRANCISCO — In light of the recent destruction of the cherry blossom trees in Japantown, Supervisor Dean Preston introduced a resolution Jan. 13 condemning the vandalism and stating solidarity with the Japanese American community.

The resolution calls for the Board of Supervisors to partner with city agencies and community leaders to promptly replace or rehabilitate the Cherry Blossom trees.

Dean Preston

“I am deeply concerned about what happened, and am committed to ensuring that we develop a plan to bring back the famous cherry blossom trees,” said Preston, whose district includes Japantown. “Now more than ever, we need to come together as a community.”

The cherry blossom trees were found vandalized on Jan. 5, according to the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California. Surveillance camera footage from the center shows the vandalism taking place over three days, beginning Jan. 1, while the center was closed.

“San Francisco has had a deep historical and cultural relationship with Japan for 160 years. Cherry blossom trees represent an important part of that cultural connection, ” said Paul Osaki, executive director of the JCCCNC. “We look forward to working together with everyone to ensure that the cherry blossom trees return.”

The JCCCNC planted the trees to commemorate a historic 1994 visit by Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko of Japan during their two-week tour of the U.S. The cherry blossoms have a symbolic significance in Japanese culture, in which they are often understood to represent life and death.

The Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival, which started in 1968, has historically drawn 200,000 people each year to experience Japanese culture and the diversity of the Japanese American community, will look slightly different this year amidst the pandemic. This year the festival will be virtual, but won’t be short of celebrations.

“Even though the Cherry Blossom Festival will be remote, we still plan to celebrate the rich Japanese culture that exists and look forward to partnering with the city to ensure there is a plan to replace and rehabilitate the cherry blossom trees,” said Eryn Kimura, a local artist and leader with Japantown for Justice.

An online fundraiser to repair or replace the trees (https://charity.gofundme.com/o/en/campaign/replace-cherry-blossom-treet) has raised more than $30,000 as of Wednesday. The goal was $5,000 when the page was created on Jan. 8.

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