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Washington museums join celebration of cherry trees’ centennial

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Look to your left, look to your right: Cherry blossom season is upon all of Washington. The city’s museums have added major shows to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the cherished cherry trees.

Some art that is rarely seen outside of Japan has emerged as the specialty of the shows.

The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery has already introduced us to the epic series on the lives of Buddha’s 500 disciples painted by the renowned Kano Kazunobu. “Masters of Mercy: Buddha’s Amazing Disciples” contains 56 paintings that have never before been exhibited in the United States. The show, which also includes 19 paintings on the same subjects from the Freer Gallery of Art, is on view through July 8.

The beauty and delicacy of Japanese art continues as a strong theme in another show at the Sackler and in one at the National Gallery of Art.

Beginning on Saturday, the Sackler is featuring “Hokusai: 36 Views of Mount Fuji” along with examples of other works from the artist’s famous print series. The Sackler will display 46 prints. This prime exhibition complements the paintings and screens of Hokusai already on view at the Freer.

Unprecedented is the National Gallery’s “Colorful Realm: Japanese Bird-and-Flower Paintings by Ito Jakuchu,” opening March 30. The month-long exhibit is the first time all 30 ancient scrolls by the Japanese master of nature painting will be shown in this country. The paintings, including “Peonies and Butterflies,” are on loan by the imperial household.

Combining a number of media, “Sakura: Cherry Blossoms as Living Symbols of Friendship” at the Library of Congress’s Thomas Jefferson Building opens Tuesday. The library has gone through its collections and selected 54 items that cover almost a century of drawings, photographs and books. Included are watercolors of the original trees drawn by K. Tsunoi from 1918 to 1921.

Samurai: The Warrior Transformed” at the National Geographic Museum, which opened earlier this month, has a collection of swords and armor from the samurai. Some were gifts to Presidents Ulysses S. Grant, Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt, presented as diplomatic gestures.

The Kennedy Center is also joining the celebration. Tokyo’s Shadow Puppet Theatre Tsunobue is performing “Princess of Kaguya” for schoolchildren Thursday to Saturday. . On Friday, Bando Kotoji and six dancers will perform the traditional Kabuki dances.

And even though there is not a cherry blossom-specific exhibit inside, the Newseum has hung a gigantic pink banner on its exterior advertising the festival. An act of civic involvement.

The National Cherry Blossom Festival begins Tuesday and runs through April 27.

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