Japanese folk dance troop Urara Minbu-kai perform traditional village dances at the Scarboro Missions headquarters

The gift of cherry blossoms to ‘grow along with Japan’

By 
  • June 15, 2011

Within days of a violent storm that tore limbs from dozens of mature trees and uprooted others, the Scarboro Missions celebrated a gift of 15 new cherry blossom trees on their property.

The gift from the Sakura Project brought out Toronto’s Japanese Catholic community and a Japanese folk dance group in a show of solidarity with Japan June 12, three months after a devastating 9.0 earthquake and tsunami killed more than 15,000 and pushed the Fukushima nuclear power plant into a meltdown.

“These trees, in a sense, mark this disaster. But also, these trees will grow along with Japan,” said Masaya Otsuka of the consulate general of Japan’s office, which supports the Sakura Project.

The Scarboro Missions headquarters on Kingston Road was chosen as one of 55 sites in 18 municipalities across southern Ontario where the Japanese consulate has planted trees.

Since the Second World War the Scarboros have sent 40 missionaries to Japan. Several Scarboros served over 50 years in Japan and six are buried there.

Former missionaries to Japan are chaplains to the Japanese community in Toronto, and Japanese Catholics have met monthly at the Scarboro Missions for Mass and some social time since 1979.

The troop danced to celebrate the gift of 15 cherry blossom trees from the Sakura Project in Toronto.The prunus akebono is one of the most revered trees in Japan, called sakura in Japanese.

The sakura have a special meaning in Japanese culture,” said Otsaka.

“They flower for just a short time. They symbolize the transience of all things. But because they flower in spring time, they also symbolize rejuvenation.”

Japanese folk dance troop Urara Minbu-kai welcomed the new trees with village dances that date from the 16th and 17th centuries.

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