The Japanese Stone Lantern

In 1651, a pair of stone lanterns were created to mark the death of Tokugawa Iemitsu, the third shogun of Japan’s Tokugawa dynasty.  The carved stone lanterns were originally located at the Tōshō-gū temple, and then in Ueno Park in the Ueno district of Taitō, Tokyo, where one of the twin lanterns still remains.  The other lantern was given, by the governor of Tokyo, to the City of Washington as a gift in 1954, to commemorate the signing of the 1854 Japan-US Treaty of Amity and Friendship, and as a post-World War II symbol of friendship and peace between Japan and the people of United States.

The gifted lantern was dedicated on March 30, 1954, and is located among the Somei-Yoshino cherry trees which surround the Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park, which were an earlier gift from Japan.  The stone lantern sits on north side of the Tidal Basin, at the west end of Kutz Bridge at Independence Avenue and 17th Street (MAP).   The lantern is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and serves as the historic centerpiece of the annual Cherry Blossom Festival, an event that attracts more than 1.5 million visitors to experience the blooming of the historic cherry trees and the welcoming of spring in our nation’s capitol.

A landscape enhancement project resulted in the addition of a granite plaza with natural stone boulders, and a memorial plaque commemorating the 1912 gift of the cherry trees, was completed on the grounds surrounding the lantern in 2013 .  It is here that the Japanese Stone Lantern Lighting Ceremony, a formal ceremonial lighting of the lantern, is held during the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival.  The ceremony is free and open to the public, and can be an integral part of the cherry blossom festival experience.  But whether or not you are able to attend the lighting ceremony, the Japanese stone lantern is worth seeking out and visiting as part of the cherry blossom experience.

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