Bethany College to Complete Japanese Cherry Tree Project in April

BETHANY, W.Va. — The Bethany College Japan Outreach will complete the planting of 170 Japanese Yoshino and Kwanzan cherry trees in April to commemorate the 170th anniversary of Bethany College and to help promote awareness and understanding of the Japanese culture. The Sakura 170 Project (“Sakura” is the Japanese word for “cherry blossom”) was initiated during the summer of 2008.

A project completion celebration is scheduled for April 13 at 1 p.m. in Bethany’s historic Commencement Hall. The event, open to the public, will feature Japanese drumming and singing. Japanese taiko drummers Takumi Kato, Ryo Shiobara, Kazumi Aren and Kei Uzuki will perform. Kato and Shiobara are world-renowned drummers who won first place and received the highest honor in the Tokyo International Taiko Competition. Master African drummer Elie Kihonia will also join the performance. The Bethany College drum group will host the drum session.
“We are delighted that Bethany’s rich history will be commemorated with such a beautiful and lasting impression on the College’s campus,” stated Dr. Scott D. Miller, Bethany College President. “As the trees bloom each spring, they offer a living reminder not only of Bethany’s long and vibrant journey as West Virginia’s oldest college, but also of a culture that enriches our community.”

The Sakura 170 Project was initiated and coordinated by Sachiko Wood, Lecturer in World Languages and Cultures, and Fujiko Sawtarie, Professor of Computer Science. Wood and Sawtarie head the Japan Outreach program.

Through Bethany’s Japan Outreach, the College has been providing classes, events and symposiums since 1988, thanks to a generous endowment funded by the Nisshin Steel Corporation.

Japan Outreach members include Sawtarie, Wood, Robert Brown, Steven Carelli (Assistant Professor of History) and Melanee Sinclair (Assistant Professor of Social Work). Precision Tree Service of Wellsburg, W.Va., the Bethany College Buildings and Grounds Department and the Town of Bethany have actively participated in the Sakura 170 Project.

For more information on the Sakura 170 Project, contact Fujiko Sawtarie, Bethany College Japan Outreach, at 304.829.7767 or

Bethany College is a small college of national distinction located on a picturesque and historic 1,300-acre campus in the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia. Founded in 1840, Bethany is the state’s oldest private college.