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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Japan in Washington

Japanese Embassy, DCワシントンにある日本

In the American capital Japan’s hard and soft power can be found in many places and ways. The most obvious example of the former is the embassy on Massachusetts Avenue, about five blocks from Dupont Circle.
The main building, which is closer to the street, is a concrete block that is imposing and unattractive. The building at the rear (pictured at right), behind a high fence, is more in keeping with the elegant character of the French-influenced boulevard of three- and four-story mansions that have become embassies over the years.
Japan’s influence can be found in other ways as well.
Book stores are full ofmanga and >anime selections; college students sport tattoos of odd combinations of Chinese characters.
Moreover, sushi bars and Japanese restaurants are ubiquitous. Many are run by Koreans and other “Japanese” staff, but are popular nonetheless.

Washington RestaurantPerhaps the premier event on the Japanese expatriate calendar in Washington is the annual cherry blossom festival.

The cherry trees were a gift from
Japan to the United States in 1912. They are now found mainly around the Jefferson Memorial near the Tidal Basin, and number about 3,700, most of which are the Yoshino species.

The festival this year is scheduled for April 1 – 15. As of March 21, the cherries had yet to bud. Magnolias and other early-blooming species are out, but no cherry trees.
This year’s festival has a full lineup of events: tea ceremony by the Potomac, a gallery display of kimono, “cherry blossom soccer” tournament, a lantern walk at night, river tours, etc.

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