In early April, we were in Japan for cherry blossom season. Once upon a time, many varieties of cherry blossom flourished in the land of the rising sun. But like everything else the coveted tree was subject to change. Diversity gave way to a preference for one variety and a neglect for all the rest. By the 1880s, cities were already showing a marked dominance for that kind of pretty pink tree, absent early green foliage. Japan planted millions upon millions of them and monoculture took hold. These are those fabulous branches of blossoms that frame quintessential photos of Mt. Fuji or geishas on bridges. And they captivated me, too. After all, we had seen tulips in Holland and lavender in Provence…
In Japanese culture, cherry blossom season marks the beginning of new life, new starts, and all new things. School children start new term, promotions and new jobs begin, nature springs forth. It makes sense. Families take blankets into parks and spread them under the cherry trees to have picnics. The blooming season for most trees is short, eight days. A reminder that human life is short too, don’t waste it. As we traveled to various regions, we would catch the trees in different parts of the life cycle. And although monoculture has left its imprint, we did spot some different varieties in botanic gardens and wild places. On one mountainside, my husband thought he spied low-lying clouds only to be delighted by a wild plot of white, cherry trees mimicking clouds. And I fell in love with the wispy, weeping cherry form.
FOR MORE, CHECK OUT THESE BOOKS:
The Sakura Obsession: The Incredible Story of the Plant Hunter Who Saved Japan’s Cherry Blossoms by Naoko Abe (story of Collingwood Ingram, an Englishman who became a leader in saving cherry trees and assuring species diversity by sending specimens throughout the world.)
Cherry Blossoms in Japan by Partha Protim Hazarika (photos)
Cherry Blossoms of Kyoto: A Seasonal Portfolio by Kodansha International (editor), Hidehiko Mizuno, Kayu Mizuno
To find my books, click below: