Gift of cherry trees celebrates cultural friendship between Chichester College and Japanese students

A special tree planting ceremony celebrated the spirit of friendship and brought together cultures at Chichester College earlier this month.

The Chichester College Group (CCG) was gifted six Sakura cherry trees by the Japanese government in 2019, although the global Covid-19 pandemic caused a delay in the delivery of the trees.

Andrew Green, Chief Executive at CCG, and Julie Kapsalis, Managing Director at CCG, led the planting of two Tai-Haku cherry trees at the front of Chichester College on Thursday 10 March.

Julie, who read a haiku to open the ceremony, said: “No tree is more significant to Japan than the ornamental cherry or Sakura, so it a true honour for CCG to have been gifted these important trees by the Japanese government.

“It was with immense pride that we planted these wonderful gifts to celebrate 25 years of friendship and study with Japan.

“For many years now, we have been welcoming Japanese students to our colleges, many of whom stay with us for two years to complete their A-levels alongside developing their English language skills.”

The Tai-Haku - or ‘great white’ - cherry tree is often depicted in ancient Japanese artworks and historical drawings. Sadly, this species of cherry tree became extinct in Japan. However, one was located by chance in a garden in Sussex and then reintroduced to Japan.

Julie added: “These two special Tai-Haku give meaning and symbolism to the friendship and closeness of our relationship.

“There is an added sentimental element, given the history of the tree and the significance of Sussex in its story, so it feels very apt to have these stunning trees which have such beautiful blossoms at the front of Chichester College – greeting students, staff and visitors.”

Julie and Andrew were joined by a number Japanese students at the tree planting ceremony.

Wakana Hino, from Kyoto Gakuen, said: “Cherry blossoms are very fleeting for me. I remember when I was little, I picked my handfuls of cherry blossoms, but they always wilted the next day, and I felt very strange about it.

“That’s why the cherry blossoms look even more beautiful to me, and I’m so glad because of today’s tree planting. I never thought I’d be able to see cherry blossoms at the college!”

A further two trees will be planted at locations around Chichester College, while the remaining two trees will be planted by horticulture students at Brinsbury College – CCG’s land-based college which is situated near Pulborough on the edge of the South Downs. 

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