A Blossoming Relationship
Clark's fifth annual Sakura Festival celebrates
both internationalism and two major gifts
Clark College’s fifth annual Sakura Festival brought together an impressive roster of community members. Pictured here, left to right: former Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard, Clark College President Robert K. Knight, former America Kotobuki President John Kageyama, Vancouver Mayor (and Clark alumnus) Tim Leavitt, and former Vancouver Mayor Bruce Hagensen.
It was a day for the history books, as they say: An afternoon of celebration and the groundbreaking on a major new project, complete with mayors, musicians, and visiting foreign dignitaries. Even the weather decided to get in on the act, turning breezy and sunny just in time for the opening ceremonies that kicked off this year’s Sakura Festival on Thursday, April 22.
Clark College President Robert K. Knight set the tone for the day by thanking attendees for helping to celebrate two major gifts: the 100 Shirofugen cherry trees that adorn the south end of the Main Campus, and a formal Japanese garden to be built in 2011 outside of the Music Building.
Then he picked up a shovel to help break ground on the garden, as did (left to right in the photo above) current Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt; former Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard; Clark College Board of Trustees Chair Addison Jacobs; ASCC President Ashley Schahfer; Parks Foundation Board President Henry Gerhard; and Tatsuo Ito, president of SEH America Inc., which provided funding for the garden.
| Yukiko Vossen of Battle Ground, dressed in a pink kimono, strums
|Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt presents a proclamation of thanks to John Kageyama.|
Afterward, ceremonies moved to the cherry trees outside O’Connell Sports Center, where a musician treated the crowd to a live performance of a traditional Japanese instrument, the koto, and the Clark College Women’s Ensemble sang two songs, one of which was titled “Sakura Matsuri” (“Cherry Blossom Festival”).
The day provided many opportunities to reinforce ties between Vancouver and Japan. Mayor Tim Leavitt presented a plaque recognizing John Kageyama, who presented the cherry trees to the city 20 years ago during his tenure as president of American Kotobuki Electronics, as a “Significant Citizen” of Vancouver. Leavitt also presented a plaque to Shunji Kurisu, deputy mayor of Joyo, Japan, in recognition of Joyo’s and Vancouver’s sister-city relationship.
During his remarks, Ito commended Kageyama for his gift to the city. “These trees are standing landmarks,” he said. “Each spring as the flowers blossom, we are reminded of the close bond between our two countries.” Then he announced the official name of SEH America’s own gift to the city: The Royce Pollard Japanese Friendship Garden.
Students wore beautiful Japanese robes
A traditional Japanese tea
Even after the ceremonies were over, the festival continued, moving to Gaiser Student Center for a demonstration of a tea ceremony, Japanese dancing, informational booths, and blossom-shaped cookies from Culinary Arts.
Student Chris Thompson (seen in the photo above), who was learning to write his name in Japanese calligraphy, said this part of Sakura is a favorite Clark tradition for him. A double major in Japanese and Music, Thompson is the grandson of Clark faculty emeritus Gaydena Thompson, for whom the Clark fitness center is named. Chris Thompson plans to travel to Japan after graduating this spring. “I think it really brings out a powerful spirit in people,” he said of the festival. “I’m so thankful we have this here.”