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Cherry blossom trees along the Hockhocking Adena Bikeway at Ohio University, Athens, March 21, 2024.

Cherry blossom season blooms at OU

Ohio and Chubu University celebrated their 50th year of partnership this past fall. Over the years, the partnership has created opportunities for faculty and student exchanges as well as a strong appreciation for the cherry blossom trees planted along the Hockhocking Adena Bikeway. 

According to Ohio University, the cherry blossoms “symbolize the arrival of spring in Athens,” creating anticipation for warmer weather and sunny days. However, the trees do not just symbolize spring, they also illustrate the strong connection between OU and Chubu. 

The partnership was formed in 1973 and in 1979, Chubu donated 175 cherry blossom trees in recognition of OU’s 175th anniversary. In light of the 30-40-year lifespan of the trees, OU has been fortunate enough to receive donations in 2003 and 2023 as well. 

Sara ViseHolman, a sophomore studying marketing and entrepreneurship, said it was important to acknowledge the cherry blossom trees donated to OU. 

“It’s important to recognize Japanese culture and just appreciate anybody’s culture in general,” Viseholman said. “They’re just beautiful.” 

In addition to their beauty, ViseHolman said they better the environment by helping pollinators produce fertilization and fruit production.

There are several places around campus where students can see the trees. Dr. Gillian Ice, interim associate provost for Global Affairs, discussed how OU is one of the best places to see the trees in bloom.

“We’ve been named by different institutions as being one of the best spots to see cherry trees in the country,” Ice said. “ I just think, of course, the cherry trees are gorgeous, but having them line the river, it’s just a really nice spot.”

The cherry trees are just one of the partnership's benefits. Throughout the years, both universities have had the opportunity for faculty and student exchanges. Dr. Gerry Krzic, director of the Ohio Program of Intensive English, discussed his faculty exchange to Chubu in the 1980s. 

“I was teaching English to a select group of students my first two years,” said Krzic. “These were elective English classes so students who wanted to go above and beyond the general English classes at the university there, and then I would also do some faculty classes.” 

Apart from teaching, Krzic discussed what he learned about the significance of the cherry trees on the exchange. 

“I think it was a time, not so much history, but the importance culturally,” said Krzic. “For Japan, the cherries were central, I think to the culture, very delicate. A delicate flower doesn't last long, it's like the impermanence of life and beauty and it just reminds you of that.” 

Krzic said his time as a Peace Corps volunteer in Korea made him realize how central the cherry trees were to Japanese culture and he and his friends would always have picnics under the trees to spend time together and show their gratitude. 

Chubu not only has connections with OU, but also with the Athens community. Ice discussed how her children attended the Child Development Center by The Ridges and would interact with the trees during the season.

“I don’t know if they still do it, but they had a tradition of bringing the kids down for a picnic when they were blooming,” said Ice. “So that’s how sort of Chubu first came into my awareness is just from my kids going to the cherry trees.” 

As cherry blossom season approaches, students, faculty and the Athens community show gratitude for the trees. ViseHolman discussed some of her favorite things to do while the trees are in bloom. 

“I actually try to walk as much as I can up and down the path around there,” said ViseHolman. “My birthday is around the time that they come up so I think it’s really cute and special. Last year I took some pictures with them.” 

Krzic discussed how he has formed a sense of gratitude for both universities through his job. 

“My job is to make intercultural connections and to have students from other countries understand American culture,” said Krzic. “In this case when I see the OU students and the Chubu students becoming friends, it’s very gratifying for me because it allows me to see that we can be successful in making these intercultural connections … so it helps me do my job and it also makes that partnership or friendship between Chubu and OU just be alive every day.”


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