The Japanese Stone Lantern stands nestled among the cherry blossoms at the Tidal Basin near the spot of the first Japanese cherry tree planting in 1912. Gifted to the city of Washington in 1954 by the governor of Tokyo to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first treaty between the United States and Japan, the Stone Lantern symbolizes friendship and peace between the two countries. It is the oldest freestanding man-made stone structure in the District (that is not part of a museum) – quite a bit older than the city itself.
The Stone Lantern was one of an original pair carved in 1651 in Japan and was first lit in that year to mark the death of Tokugawa Iemitsu, third shogun of the Tokugawa Dynasty. It was he who closed Japan’s borders to foreigners, a policy that was to last for 200 years. The Stone Lantern had originally stood in the ancient city of Edo, present-day Tokyo, in Ueno Park, a place famous for its cherry blossoms. Its twin stands there to this day.
Eight and a half feet tall, the lantern is made of solid granite and weighs six tones. It is traditionally lit just once a year in a formal ceremony during the National Cherry Blossom Festival, a joint production of the National Conference of States Societies and the National Park Service, National Capital Region. Because of the Covid emergency, the last lighting ceremony took place three years ago.
The April 3, 2022 ceremony included remarks by top US officials and Japanese diplomats as well as traditional songs and music performed by the Japanese Choral Society of Washington. This year’s honored guest was Japan’s Ambassador to the United States Koji Tomita. The actual lantern lighting duties were carried out by Mizuki Sugai, the 2022 Japan Cherry Blossom Princess, while the state Cherry Blossom princesses sat in attendance. The National Park Service was represented by Jeffrey P Reinbold, Superintendent of the National Mall and Memorial Parks.
View a slidehsow of Jeff Malet’s photos of the Japanese Stone Lighting Ceremony from the Tidal Basin in Washington DC by clicking on the photo icons below.