This has been one of the most unusual springs in the centuries-long history of Ohio University. The COVID-19 pandemic has cleared the great majority of OU students from campus, and most of the students from the neighborhoods surrounding the university. But one tradition that no virus can stop is the blossoming of the Sakura 桜 (cherry trees) along the Hocking River near the Convocation Center and Peden Stadium.
Over the weekend, with temperatures nearing 80 in Athens, many local residents and students showed up along the bike path to view and photograph the blossoming sakura. Most kept proper social distancing, though not all by any means.
Every year, Ohio University lights up the grove of cherry trees near the Convocation Center, usually in early to mid April, just as happens in Japan. This year, according to OU spokesperson Carly Leatherwood, the traditional tree lighting took place this past Friday, though with no public gathering of any kind.
OU was given a bulk number of cherry trees as a gift from Chubu University, the university’s longtime partner university in Kasugai, Japan, according to an article on OU's website. The trees were first planted in 1979 under the direction of then OU President Charles Ping and President Kazuo Yamada of Chubu University. Chubu gave OU the cherry blossom trees to represent its relationship with Ohio University and later brought the grove’s total to 200 trees after another gift for OU's bicentennial. Some trees have been lost due to extreme cold in recent years, though OU continues to plant new ones on occasion, in order to keep a variation of age within the groves of trees.