BERKELEY — The University of California Cherry Tree Project will dedicate the Japanese American Alumni Cherry Tree Grove on Saturday, April 6, at 11 a.m. at UC Berkeley’s West Gate entrance.

The goal of planting Japanese cherry trees on the Berkeley campus is to commemorate the Japanese American alumni. Covering decades of time, the Japanese American graduates have contributed to all sectors of society, and as a legacy and continuing recognition of Japanese Americans in the University of California system, the flowering cherry tree was selected.

The sakura, with its delicate blossoms, is celebrated throughout Japan, in Washington D.C. and many other cities in the U.S., and is part of the Japanese culture and heritage with a spirit of unity.

The project was conceived many years ago by George Matsumoto and later Bill Fujita. It lay dormant for years until 2009, when Asa Hanamoto and Kaz Abey, retired landscape architects, and Harold Kobayashi, principal with the firm of Royston Hanamoto Alley & Abey, volunteered to help. Jim Horner, campus landscape architect was contacted to discuss potential tree planting sites.

Since then, a site was secured, the design was finalized, and more than $200,000 was raised. The project became a reality through the efforts of UC Berkeley, the California Japanese American Alumni Association, and the Japanese American Women Alumnae of UC Berkeley.

Many individuals worked on the wording of the plaque, including Horner, Matsumoto, Hanamoto, Abey, Ted Ono, Frank Inami, Chizu Iiyama, Sara Ishikawa and Mas Riusaki. The result: “This grove of cherry trees stands as a legacy to the graduates of Japanese ancestry in recognition of their contribution to our society and as a tribute to the educational excellence of the University of California. — April 6, 2013, California Japanese American Alumni Association.”

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  1. My wife and I attended the ceremony and agree fully with the previous comment on the performance by Shirley Muramoto Wong and the speech by Dr. Pete Domoto. The ceremony was entirely appropriate and fitting for the occasion. The monument, comprised of a plaque and a grove of Japanese flowering cherry trees as a living tribute to Nikkei Cal alumni and the academic excellence of the university, was an inspired idea brought to reality by generous contributions from many individuals. It makes me a more proud graduate of an institution which stood by those students whose academic careers were disrupted by the internment. The most prominent example was Chancellor Robert Gordon Sproul personally awarding the University Medal to Harvey Itano as the top student of his class in 1942 after Itano was forced to leave for Tule Lake internment camp. Itano went on to become an outstanding research scientist and educator and the first Japanese-American elected to the National Academy of Sciences.

  2. I just returned from the Cherry Tree dedication ceremony and it was a delightful event. Among the performer was Shirley Muramoto who played the Cal Fighting Song on the Koto and the audience rose to the occasion singing their voices in stirring rendtion; but the most surprise speaker was Pete Domoto of the Cal Bears football fame. I went to Cal during this era and it was delight to see Pete giving the inspirational speech..He included many Cal Nisei students of this era: 1950 and early 1960s; incuded were the two Nikkei Cheer Leaders, Sylvia Taketa and Irene Takei; the two women went on to a spectacular career in education.

    The landscape design should be credited to Asa Hanamoto and Kaz Abey, both landscape architect from Berekeley.

    This event and the landscape which features the Cherry Trees is a tribute to all the Nikkei who attended the University of California at Berkeley. i say the only thing missing is another trip to the Rose Bowl before we make our final passage; Pete Domoto played on the last Rose Bowl team in 1959.