No matter what time of year, it’s always appropriate to celebrate the close ties connecting Japan to Georgia. A simple ceremony at the Millennium Gate Museum on Thursday afternoon was just another indication of the profound relationship that has blossomed between the two over the years.
Japan’s consul general, Takashi Shinozuka, joined Rodney Cook Jr., founder and president of the National Monuments Foundation; Chris Smith, the honorary consul of Denmark, and Mr. Smith’s mother, Teresa Dawn Smith,in the Millennium Gate at Atlantic Station in Atlanta, to present a painting by Mrs. Smith that is to be on display at the museum.
The painting is of Yoshino cherry trees in full bloom framing a profile of the Millennium Gate, a structure inspired by the Arc de Triomphe in Paris that was designed and constructed by the National Monuments Foundation.
Although the cherry blossom season has been over for a few months, Mrs. Smith wanted to present her painting at the Millennium Gate in appreciation of the foundation’s initiative to plant 40 cherry trees near the arch in honor of the 40-year presence of a Japanese consulate in Georgia.
Both Mr. Smith and his mother live in Macon, which has hosted the Middle Georgia city’s International Cherry Blossom Festival since the early 1970s. The annual event in March and April draws hundreds of thousands of visitors to the city to enjoy the explosion of color displayed by the tens of thousands of cherry trees that have been planted there over the years.
Mr. Cook extended in 2014 Macon’s tradition to Atlanta in a celebration highlighted with the planting of 40 Yoshino cherry trees around the Millennium Gate to represent Georgia’s longstanding relationship with Japan.
A native of Anchorage, Alaska, Mrs. Smith moved to Georgia in the 1960s to attend Wesleyan College in Macon where she met her husband, Bobby Lee Smith. A former Miss Alaska, their romance began, she told Global Atlanta, when Mr. Smith sang to her a version of Miss America at a Wesleyan social event.