Cherry blossoms in full bloom at Yokota in western Tokyo
By LEON COOK | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 29, 2018
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Cherry blossom trees at the home of U.S. Forces Japan in western Tokyo have erupted in pinkish-white flowers, giving the base a brilliant splash of color during the first week of spring.
The blossoms — known as “sakura” in Japanese — are especially prominent on the road leading to Yokota’s east gate. That area is the site of the annual Sakura Spring Festival, during which Japanese citizens are invited onto the base to see the flowers. This year’s gathering is scheduled for April 7.
Yokota’s cherry trees are intertwined with the history of the base.
In the 1970s, U.S. Forces handed over many facilities in Tokyo to the Japanese government and consolidated operations at Yokota. In return, Japan paid for large-scale construction and modernization at Yokota and many of the trees on the base were planted at that time.
Cherry blossoms are an important part of Japan’s cultural identity, and the practice of “hanami” — welcoming spring by enjoying the flowers’ transient beauty - has been practiced since at least the late 700s.