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Originally published Wednesday, April 11, 2012 at 7:02 PM

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Celebrate our cherry trees, sample Japanese culture this weekend

Seattle Cherry Blossom & Japanese Cultural Festival, April 13-15, Seattle Center.

Seattle Times staff

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The Seattle Cherry Blossom and Japanese Cultural Festival this weekend honors Seattle's connections with Japan and the blooming cherry trees that are one of Seattle's favorite signs of spring.

Seattle's long history of flowering trees from Japan dates back to the arrival in Seattle 100 years ago of cherry trees sent on to Washington, D.C., and gifts for Seattle's parks and open spaces of 3,500 trees in 1929 and 1,000 trees in celebration of the 1976 U.S. bicentennial.

Festival opening ceremonies at 4 p.m. Friday will feature the gift of a cherry tree presented by Japanese astronaut Naoko Yamazaki, who took blossoms from a Seattle cherry into space in 2010 as a symbol of American/Japanese unity. The gift tree is to commemorate Seattle Center's Next 50 celebration and honor the enduring friendship between Seattle and Japan.

Exhibits and displays include calligraphy, origami, art, ikebana flower arrangements and demonstrations, martial-arts demonstrations and kids' activities. Entertainment will feature Taiko groups and Japanese string-music traditions, including a "Harps: East Meets West" concert 4 p.m. Saturday at Fisher Pavilion.

Speakers and videos will include updates on Japan's recovery efforts from the earthquake and tsunami of 2011; readings commemorating the 70th anniversary of Japanese-American internment during World War II, and a Sci-Tech symposium. Sushi, sweet treats, yakisoba and green tea will be among food choices in a Japanese marketplace.

Festival activities continue through Sunday at Seattle Center.

The details

Time: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday, Saturday, Sunday; some events close at 5 p.m. Friday.

Cost: Free.

Location: Center House, Fisher Pavilion and Seattle Center Pavilion, Seattle Center.

Getting there: Metro Transit service, 206-553-3000 or tripplanner.kingcounty.gov/; Sound Transit Link light-rail information, 206-398-5000 or soundtransit.org; Seattle Center Monorail, 206-905-2620 or www.seattlemonorail.com.

More information: 206-684-7200 or www.seattlecenter.com.

Madeline McKenzie: 206-464-8245 or mmckenzie@seattletimes.com

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