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Cherry blossoms bloom near the library at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Wednesday, March 28, 2018.
Cherry blossoms bloom near the library at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Wednesday, March 28, 2018. (Leon Cook/Stars and Stripes)
Cherry blossoms bloom near the library at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Wednesday, March 28, 2018.
Cherry blossoms bloom near the library at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Wednesday, March 28, 2018. (Leon Cook/Stars and Stripes)
Cherry blossoms bloom near the library at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Wednesday, March 28, 2018.
Cherry blossoms bloom near the library at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Wednesday, March 28, 2018. (Leon Cook/Stars and Stripes)
Street lamps light up cherry blossoms at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Tuesday, March 27, 2018.
Street lamps light up cherry blossoms at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Tuesday, March 27, 2018. (Courtesy of Sayuri Kidd)
Sakura blossom at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Tuesday, March 27, 2018.
Sakura blossom at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Tuesday, March 27, 2018. (Courtesy of Sayuri Kidd)
Sakura bloom on the east side of Yokota Air Base, Japan, Tuesday, March 27, 2018.
Sakura bloom on the east side of Yokota Air Base, Japan, Tuesday, March 27, 2018. (Courtesy of Sayuri Kidd)
Blooming cherry blossom trees line a roadway at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Thursday, March 29, 2018.
Blooming cherry blossom trees line a roadway at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Thursday, March 29, 2018. (Leon Cook/Stars and Stripes)

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.

cook.leon@stripes.com Twitter: @LeonCook12

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