The cherry trees that light up the tidal basin in Washington DC each spring are in full—if early—bloom, with winter still the official season on the calendar. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the 1912 gift of 3,000 trees from the mayor of Tokyo to America’s capital city. The website for the blossom festival, which attracts thousands of tourists, states that “The gift and annual celebration honor the lasting friendship between the United States and Japan.”
This century of lasting friendship saw the Japanese bomb an American naval base in Pearl Harbor. Allied forces, led by the United States, responded by killing more than 3 million Japanese people, both military and civilian, and fire-bombing wooden cities—destroying half of Tokyo, for instance—before dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. After the war, the US gave Japan millions in aid and occupied the country, helping keep most if not all of its surviving citizens from starving to death. Friendship.