Nashville Celebrates Strong Japan Ties with Tenth Annual Cherry Blossom Festival

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by James Holloway
Cherry blossoms line the streets in Nashville, Tennessee. [Image: Panoramio]

Nashville, Tennessee will hold its 10th annual Cherry Blossom Festival this weekend as the city prepares to welcome the arrival of spring.

The festival, which will take place at Nashville Public Square on April 14th, is a chance to celebrate Tennessee and Japan’s deep friendship and partnership, according to Ichiro Fujisaki, former Japanese Ambassador to the United States and current President of the Japan-America Society.

Activities on the day will include a cherry blossom walk along the Cumberland River Greenway, a dog show, sumo suit wrestling, and a cosplay contest.

Tennessee’s friendship with Japan has a long history, with three US Ambassadors to Japan hailing from Tennessee, including the current Ambassador William F. Hagerty – a native of Nashville.

Nashville is one of three cities in Tennessee to be gifted with cherry blossoms from Japan alongside Memphis and Georgetown. Nashville is also home to the Japan-America Society of Tennessee.

But ties between the two regions extend beyond cultural connections, and include a strong economic relationship, with Japan being Tennessee’s second largest export market in Asia. In 2017, $2 billion worth of goods and services were exported from Tennessee to Japan, directly and indirectly supporting over 16,000 jobs. There are 88 Japanese majority owned firms operating within the state, supporting 34,000 American workers. 

Japanese tourists to Nashville contribute around $73 million to the Nashville economy annually, with Japanese students contributing around $5 million to the state economy as well. Tennessee also boasts 8 sister city relationships with cities in Japan.

Cherry blossom festivals will be taking place in cities all over the country this spring, including Washington, D.C., Macon, Georgia, and Salem, Oregon. 

James Holloway is an intern at the East-West Center in Washington D.C. and a student at the University of Sydney in Australia.