Two of Japan's best-selling pop acts will play in Washington to mark the centennial of the capital's cherry blossoms and offer thanks for U.S. support after last year's tsunami, organizers said Monday.
Misia, Japan's best-known R&B singer who has sold more than 30 million albums, will perform on March 25 at a ceremony to celebrate 100 years since Japan gifted the celebrated pink-flowering trees to the United States.
AKB48, an all-girls J-Pop band named after Tokyo's geek culture neighborhood Akihabara who dance in school uniforms, will perform two free concerts on March 27 and also visit a local school, the Japanese embassy said.
"This is one of the examples of 'Cool Japan,'" Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki told reporters. "I think people will enjoy it -- the traditional and modern Japan, both sides of that."
Other performers will include Hideki Togi, who revived the gagaku classical music of Japan's imperial court, and a jazz orchestra from Miyagi, one of the prefectures worst hit by the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster.
Fujisaki said that Japan wanted to use the cherry blossom centennial "to show that we are recovering from this huge disaster and, second, to show how much the Japanese are grateful" for US assistance.
Japan has also been running television and newspaper advertisements to thank the United States for its round-the-clock support following last year's disaster, which killed more than 19,000 people and set off a nuclear crisis.
The Japanese have for centuries celebrated the annual blooming of the cherry blossoms, whose short-lived beauty has inspired generations of poets and each year is celebrated nationwide in picnics with copious amounts of drink.
Japan sent 3,020 cherry trees in 1912 as a symbol of friendship with the United States and -- even though the two countries went to war three decades later -- the annual festival remains one of Washington's major tourist draws.
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