Portsmouth Peace Treaty Living Memorial Cherry Tree Project
Click here for a map of the cherry tree locations.
Each May, towns across New Hampshire blossom with historical connections to some of the most famous flowering trees in America – the cherry trees in Washington DC.
Most prominent among New Hampshire’s cherry trees are the ones surrounding South Mill Pond and City Hall in Portsmouth (above). They were planted in 1985, thanks to a gift from Nichinan, Japan – Portsmouth’s Sister City and the hometown of Baron Jutaro Komura, the lead Japanese diplomat at the 1905 peace conference that led to the Portsmouth Peace Treaty ending the Russo-Japanese War.
In 2012, on the 100th anniversary of the planting of the Washington cherry trees, the Japan-America Society of New Hampshire learned that the gift was a direct result of the Portsmouth Peace Treaty. The Japanese Ambassador the US, commented on the history in an op-ed for the Washington Post.
Yukio Ozaki, Mayor of Tokyo organized the gift and wrote in his autobiography that his motivation was he “always wanted to thank the US for their help during the Russo-Japanese War.” The most significant aid, provided by President Theodore Roosevelt, was orchestrating the peace conference in Portsmouth that ended the war with the 1905 Treaty.
Because Portsmouth was so central to the original gift, the Foreign Ministry of Japan arranged for the Japan-America Society to receive a number of cherry trees descended from the Washington trees as part of the distribution of trees across America to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the diplomatic gift. The Society decided to plant those trees at key sites related to the Treaty history, creating a Living Memorial to the Portsmouth Peace Treaty and the citizen diplomacy involved in reaching the successful conclusion.
Each tree has a granite plaque explaining its history. Since then, dozens of trees have been placed. Some were planted by Portsmouth Middle School students in front of their school and around the South Mill Pond at City Hall. Every Portsmouth public school has a tree (high school, middle school, Little Harbour, New Franklin and Dondero elementary), as do sites connected to the Treaty summer:
Wentworth By the Sea Hotel where the delegates stayed;
Portsmouth Naval Shipyard where the Treaty was signed;
Strawbery Banke Museum and Temple Israel in honor of local citizens who provided the hospitality that created “an atmosphere for peace,” including the Russian Jewish emigres who spoke the language of the Russian diplomats.
John Paul Jones House Museum (Portmouth Historical Society) where the Portsmouth Peace Treaty exhibit is located.
Christ Episcopal Church (Lafayette Road, Portsmouth) rebulit in its new location after a fire destroyed the old church where a service of Thanksgiving was held immediately after the Treaty was signed.
Other groups and towns who enthusiastically welcomed cherry trees and the idea of celebrating citizen diplomacy include:
• The Town of Hanover, Sister City to Nihonmatsu, Japan, the hometown of Dartmouth student Kan’ichi Asakawa who wrote The Causes of the Russo-Japanese War and traveled to Portsmouth in 1905 to observe the peace conference.
• The Dublin Historical Society who placed a tree outside their Schoolhouse Museum where a bench with the autograph of Japanese Baron Kentaro Kaneko is displayed. Kaneko, the public affairs representative in the US during the war and negotiations, was friends through Roosevelt with Dublin residents Joseph Smith, a prominent artist, and his wife Corinna.
• The Friends of Stark Park in Manchester who added a Living Memorial Cherry Tree to their arboretum. Baron Komura and Japanese newspapermen traveled to Manchester during the peace conference to tour the mills as the guests of local businessmen and other dignitaries.
• The Weeks Public Library and Lancaster Historical Society who planted a tree in Cross Park in honor of Henry Willard Denison. Denison grew up in Lancaster, worked at the Coos County Democrat and became the chief legal counsel to the Japanese Foreign Ministry accompanying the Japanese delegation to Portsmouth in 1905.
• The Greater Meredith Program/Town of Meredith, who planted a tree on the bank of Lake Winnipesaukee near the Town Landing to remember Komura, who spent a summer between semesters at Harvard “rusticating” on a local farm.
• The Grafton County Senior Citizens Council is one of the additional sites who agreed to plant and care for a tree at the Littleton Area Senior Center after hearing the NH Humanities Council program, “Teddy Roosevelt’s Nobel Peace Prize” by NH Humanities council scholar Charles B. Doleac.
All of the Portsmouth Peace Treaty Living Memorial Cherry Tree sites also commemorate Portsmouth Peace Treaty Day on September 5th by ringing bells at 3:47 pm, the moment the Treaty was signed.
On May 11, 2013, JASNH hosted a Cherry Tree Tea with Ann McClellan, author of The Cherry Blossom Festival: Sakura Celebration, at Wentworth By the Sea Hotel. In welcoming her, JASNH President Charles Doleac reminded the audience that Ann made the connection between Portsmouth and Washington and the cherry trees that led to the additional research and the cherry tree living memorial plan. May 11th is also the birthday of Henry Willard Denison, son of Lancaster, New Hampshire and legal advisor to the Japanese Foreign Ministry from 1870-1914, who accompanied the Japanese delegation back to New Hampshire in 1905.