Once a year, the old stone lantern by the tidal basin is lit. The illumination of this oft forgotten memorial, a gift to Washington in celebration of 100th anniversary of the American/Japanese Treaty of Peace, Amity and Commerce, is an annual Cherry Blossom Festival tradition -- and the first time the state society princess are introduced.
"I feel sorry for the cherry blossoms," Japanese Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki, "not because they are falling, but because they are outshined by the beautiful princesses this year -- and by the way, I'm not saying this every year!"
The Ambassador, who speaks at Cherry Blossom Festival events nearly every day for two weeks, joked he got a language lesson this year from Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, with whom he shared the stage.
"[With his family] we listened to real country music and he taught me to speak in the Appalachian way, like ... 'Well, I reckon,'" and other phrases, he quipped.
Japan's Cherry Blossom Queen, on the other hand, remained mum as she lit the 359-year old ceremonial lantern.