The Cherry Blossom Garden is one of the most secluded and beautiful spots on the University of Nevada, Reno campus, which is a bit of a surprise, given that traffic from Virginia Street beckons only a few hundred feet away.
The garden, located just west of the Parking Services building, is a contemplative mix of ornamental grasses, cherry blossom trees and azaleas, with creek bedding and a decomposed granite foot trail.
It is part of a campus beautification effort that dates back many years, as the University realized one of its most attractive points was, well, its attractiveness. In 1985, the Nevada Legislature agreed, and designated the University a State Arboretum.
On Thursday, dignitaries from Japan and the University gathered for a ceremony that not only brought a welcome spotlight to the garden, it also brought into clear focus how northern Nevada, like the garden itself, is a place where beauty can come from goodwill and shared vision.
The University welcomed Consul General Hiroshi Inomata, with the Japanese Consulate in San Francisco, in recognition of the Japan-U.S. Cherry Blossom Centennial celebration. As part of the centennial commemoration of Japan's original 1912 gift of 3,000 cherry blossom trees to the U.S., Inomata, courtesy of his country, donated a cherry blossom tree to the University.
"The cherry blossom trees are near and dear to the hearts of people, particularly the Japanese people," Inomata explained to the gathering that included University Arboretum Board members, Japanese students, and University officials, including representatives of the Office of International Students and Scholars and the University Studies Abroad Consortium.
Inomata pointed to the place, securely surrounded by wood chips, where the cherry blossom tree had recently been planted.
"This is a perfect spot for a cherry blossom tree," he said, his words as gentle as the quiet garden. "This must be one of the major places in Reno for people to enjoy cherry blossom trees."
University President Marc Johnson introduced Inomata, noting that it was "a beautiful fall day to be thinking about the beautiful spring cherry blossoms of Washington, D.C."
It was the gift of 3,000 cherry blossom trees 100 years ago from Japan that helped created one of the world's most-photographed spots - Washington, D.C.'s Tidal Basin. Along with the Statue of Liberty, event organizers on Thursday said the 3,000 cherry blossoms are the largest foreign gift ever made to the United States.
Said Raymond Needham, University Arboretum Board chair, "I think any tree we plant on campus demonstrates our optimism that the University will be serving students, our community, and our state long after those of us serving the University are gone."
Johnson, who grew up on a farm in rural Kansas, said the University's cherry blossoms are a "beautiful" way to teach students about this particular type of flowering plant, noting that the cherry blossom trees "do OK in this area" in terms of their adaptability to northern Nevada's arid climate.
Johnson added that the University has always had a strong connection with Japan and Japanese students, whether it was through the University's foreign language minor in Japanese, studies abroad opportunities, reciprocal scholar and student agreements between Nevada and Japan, or, simply, a good number of Japanese citizens "flowing" through Reno either as visitors or as students.
Inomata estimated the Japanese consul in the Bay Area, which approves visas for U.S. students going to Japan from the Reno area and provides support to Japanese students at the University, had provided 10 cherry blossom trees to the state of Nevada as part of the centennial celebration.
The Japanese government's effort to provide the U.S. with new cherry blossom trees has meant that about 1,000 new trees have been planted throughout the country, he said.
Inomata added with a smile that the odds were good that visitors to the University's Cherry Blossom Garden would soon see the results of Thursday's ceremony.
The youthful tree that was planted was only a couple of feet tall, but that, Inomata said, would change soon.
"Even next year," he said, speaking of cherry blossoms but no doubt also speaking more generally of the goodwill engendered by the planting of a tree, "you will see the blossoms. It's a symbol of friendship, you see - a symbol of our friendship with the U.S."