A new grove of 40 cherry-blossom trees was planted as a tribute to Cal graduates of Japanese ancestry. Photo: Tracey Taylor

On Saturday, UC Berkeley held a dedication ceremony for a grove of 40 cherry blossom trees which have been planted to honor university alumni of Japanese ancestry.

The idea for the Cherry Tree Project was formed several years ago, at a California Japanese American Alumni Associated dinner following the Big Game, when George Matsumoto suggested planting a row of flowering Japanese cherry trees along Crescent Drive at the west entrance of the campus off Oxford Street.

A total of $350,000 was eventually raised to complete the project, which includes new landscaping, planting, long-term maintenance, and a stone-mounted bronze plaque.

The flowering cherry trees in the new grove are Prunus Yedoenis “Akebono”, a tree with a single, light pink or nearly white blossoms, and graceful curving branches. Photo: Tracey Taylor

At the ceremony on April 6, Michael Omi, Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies at Cal, spoke of the history of Japanese students at the university, including the creation at one point of Japanese-only dorms, the students who were incarcerated during WW2, and the launch, in 2002, of the Nikkei Student Union.

“The recurring flowering of the cherry blossoms makes these trees a fitting, living, and vibrant memorial to those students,” he said.

Edward J. Denton, UC Berkeley Vice Chancellor for Facilities Services, remarked that although much of his work revolved around buildings, the grove of trees had its own special meaning. “It’s not always about buildings. These trees define the first moment of truth for visitors to the campus and defines who we are.”

Read more about the background and creation of the Cherry Blossom Project.

The dedication ceremony on Saturday April 7 at West Circle was attended by many Japanese Cal graduates. Photo: Tracey Taylor

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Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...