<Special Project> How Seattle's Cherry Blossoms Made a Journey into Space
- A joint project between the Seattle Cherry Blossom & Japanese Cultural Festival Committee and the Consulate-General of Japan in Seattle
There are many famous cherry blossoms in Japan and the States. How did Seattle’s become the first cherry blossoms to bloom in space?
You could find the answer by wacthing this video（MOFA Channel (YouTube))
<The copyright of the movie and pictures showing ©JAXA or ©JAXA/NASA on this video belongs to each respective organization. If you would like to use those, please visit JAXA Website ,and see the conditions for using the materials or ask each organization.>
The video is 6 minutes long, and includes: the process of how Seattle's cherry blossoms reached space; how the blossoms were picked in Seattle; how did the astronauts, Naoko Yamazaki and Soichi Noguchi, experienced viewing the Seattle's cherry blossoms on the International Space Station. This video was first viewed by the guests who attended the reception, which was held to introduce our new Consul General Kiyokazu Ota.
（For article on the Event Report page - "Consul General Kiyokazu Ota hosts a reception to introduce himself and his wife" click here" ）
2010 is a 150th anniversary year of the first official delegation, which was sent by the Japan to the US. Cherry blossom is viewed as a symbol of Japan-US exchange, and therefore, the fact that it bloomed for the first time and that the astronauts had a chance to experience the "spring cherry blossom viewing" on the International Space Station, also a symbol of international joint projects including various Japan-US cooperations, signifies the close relationship which exists between the two countries. On behalf of the Seattle Cherry Blossom and Japanese Cultural Festival Committee as well as the the Consulate-General of Japan in Seattle, we hereby express our gratitude to astronaute Yamazaki, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency for their cooperation.
Here are more details of this project in the Q & A style, provided by the Seattle Cherry Blossom Festival Committee:
Q: Why did Astronaut Naoko Yamazaki take Seattle’s cherry blossoms with her to space?
A: 2010 reflects 150 years of US/Japan relations since the signing of the Treaty of Amity and Commerce. The festival committee decided to celebrate this occasion with the cherry tree planted in Seattle by then Crown Prince Akihito commemorating the treaty’s centennial and the bicentennial gift of 1,000 cherry trees which started the Seattle Cherry Blossom Festival. People with the committee thought it very meaningful to have a budding branch sent with Astronaut Yamazaki to enjoy cherry blossom viewing in space with Astronaut Soichi Noguchi already stationed there.
We found out a plant was not permitted in the Station, but fresh food might be. Thus Shiozuke (preservation by salt) for Sakura-yu (cherry blossom in hot water) using Seattle’s cherry blossoms was realized. On April 5, 2010, it made a historic trip on Space Shuttle “Discovery” STS-131 flight.
Q: How were Seattle’s cherry blossoms viewed at International Space Station?
A: At micro-gravity condition, a golf-ball sized sphere of water was sustained in space with cherry blossoms inserted by the astronauts.
Q: Was this the first time cherry blossoms were in space?
A: Previously cherry seeds were brought to space and returned, now growing as trees in Japan. We understand this is the first time any flower in any form was sent.
Q: How did our relationship with the astronauts start?
A: In 2008, astronauts/cosmonauts convened in Seattle. Astronaut Akihiko Hoshide represented Japan and lectured at the University of Washington. Due to schedule constraints, opportunity for Seattle people to meet him was limited. Then Consul General Mitsunori Namba asked JAXA to send him again later that year. Mr. Hoshide did return to Seattle and visited the Japanese School, Seattle Japanese Language School and The Museum of Flight. Thus began our relationship.
In 2009, in line with festival theme “Centuries in Space: Princess Kaguya to Moon Satellite Kaguya”, Consul Akihiro Fujimori contacted JAXA for possibility to teleconference with the astronauts. JAXA offered Ms. Yamazaki in Houston who was scheduled for the next mission. At the festival, students taking Japanese lessons had a chance to ask questions in Japanese to Ms. Yamazaki during a live videoconference. Also guest JAXA scientist, Dr. Sobue lectured about Japan’s moon satellite Kaguya.
Q: Which cherry blossoms in Seattle made the journey?
A: The initial launch schedule was set for March. We felt collecting blossoms during this time would be very limited.
However due to unusual warm weather and subsequent delay of the launch to April made it possible for us to collect enough cherry blossoms from Seward Park, birthplace of the festival and major location of gift from Prime Minister Miki; Seattle Center, current festival site since 1978 and location of Emperor’s cherry tree; and the University of Washington campus.
Q: How was Shiozuke (preservation by salt) done?
A: Normally Yaezakura (multi-layered petals) is used, but only Fuji and Somei-Yoshino blossoms were available.
Master Chef Masahiko Nakashima of I Love Sushi on Lake Bellevue prepared the blend for us.
Q: How do you serve Shiozuke?
A: Add hot water to make Sakura-yu for most occasions including weddings. There are many other uses such as adding to rice or as an accent to confectionary or baked goods. You may make cherry blossom shiozuke and enjoy them long after its short blossom time.
(FYI - brined cherry blossom recepe by Chef Nakashima)
- Mix the harvested cherry blossoms with 20% (of the blossom volume) salt (sea salt was used by Chef Nakashima), place an inner lid and a weight on top of them and refregirate until water comes out - about 3 to 4 days;
- Wring out the water lightly and put the blossoms in the mixture of rice vinegar, lemon juice, and a several "cherry blossom tea" leaves (separately obtained), to tranfer the tea flavor to the brined blossoms. Leave it for about one hour shy;
- Take the blossoms out, wring out the liquid lightly, and place the blossoms on a basket and let them air dry for 3 days;
- Spread salt over the blossoms again and preserve them in a container.