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Cultural Values and Political Change: Cherry Gardening in Ancient Japan

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Abstract

Cherry blossom has become a symbol of nationalism in Japan. This chapter explains the power politics and horticulture of flowering cherries in medieval and early modern Japan; it shows how humans and nature interacted to generate such an inflated meaning of flowers.
Wybe Kuitert (2007)
Cultural Values and Political Change:
Cherry Gardening in Ancient Japan
in: Conan M and Kress W J, (eds.)
Botanical Progress, Horticultural
Innovations and Cultural Changes
Dumbarton Oaks Colloquium on the History of Landscape Architecture XXVIII
Dumbarton Oaks Research Library,
Harvard University Press, Washington DC. 2007, pp.128-145
ISBN 978-0-88402-327-3
Botanical Progress,
Horticultural Innovations
and Cultural Changes
Botanical Progress,
Horticultural Innovations
and Cultural Changes
Botanical Progress,
Horticultural Innovations
and Cultural Changes
Botanical Progress,
Horticultural Innovations
and Cultural Changes
Cultural Values and Political Change:
Cherry Gardening in Ancient Japan
Wybe Kuitert
Japan has a young and volcanic geology, also the erosion of slopes is always high, due to significant precipitation. This generates
a dynamic and intricate topography that formed a setting for primary forests where differing patterns of vegetation evolved in
isolated areas. One and the same cherry species could develop separate varieties in regions that were isolated, but actually not so
far removed from each other. In its isolation, any cherry variety remained quite variable, and ready to hybridize whenever it
was brought together again with another variety. With human occupation, the cherry became a follower of civilization.
Specific cultural values became attached to flowering cherries as a desirable plant, and man started to transport them in ancient
Japan. For political reasons, hitherto isolated varieties of Prunus serrulata Lindley were brought together, finally inducing
hybridizations leading to cherished garden forms. In the early seventeenth century, collections of such cherries were assembled,
forming the start of a second phase of cherry gardening on an even wider scale. Some ancient, singular garden forms circulate
at present as narrowly defined clonal cultivars. This later history is not treated here.
Records are not generous with facts when it comes to such details as gardening with cherry hybrids. Portraying
circumstances this case study nevertheless intends to show how political change and cultural values provided foundations for
hybridization and gardening with cherries in ancient Japan.
Varieties of Flowering Cherries
Three varieties of Prunus serrulata are introduced here as leading characters of the following pages.1
The Japanese Mountain Cherry (P. serrulata var. spontanea (Maximoxicz) Wilson), is found in the southern half of Japan. It is
a tree of the more open forests of the foothills where it comes up with a rather ascending tree shape. It is quite variable:
peculiar specimens of the Japanese Mountain Cherry can be found among its seedlings in the wild. Above all, the deep red
coloring of young sprouts and all parts of the flower, except the white or pinkish petals, can be spectacular in the blossom
season. Flowers are not, or just slightly, fragrant; double-flowered forms have been found (Fig. 1).
The ¯
Oshima Cherry (P. serrulata var. speciosa (Koidzumi) Koehne) is found on the island ¯Oshima and neighboring islets and
coasts of eastern Japan. Adapted to the young and volcanic geology of the region, it matches an easy germination of the seeds
to an even greater variability than the variety above. It has a broad and spreading tree shape, adapting to the island forests.
Typical are the bristled leaves and large, white flowers. In the wild, one may find double flowering forms, even with a pink
shade. Flowers of the average ¯
Oshima Cherry are fragrant.
cultural values and political change: cherry gardening in ancient japan
130
A third cherry dealt with here is the Korean Mountain Cherry (P.
serrulata var. pubescens (Nakai) Wilson). Westerners, knowing this cherry
only from Korea, have given it this confusing English name. It is also
native to a wide region of Japan. It typically has hairs on details like leaf
and flower stalk; fall colors can be striking. The Korean Mountain Cherry
shows variability in its native habitat; indeed, double-flowered forms may
be found; flowers are not, or hardly, fragrant (Fig. 2).
In untouched nature, flowering cherries, whatever species or variety,
are trees from the open forest edge or from clearings. A clearing appears
when an old, big tree falls, or when man comes in and starts felling trees.
Japan’s colonization by a fifth-century wave of immigrants from the
continent went together with large-scale clearing of the shady primary
forests, giving new opportunities for cherries. They increased in number
inevitably as a follower of civilization.
Cherry Appreciation in the Nara Period (710-784)
In the early eighth century, a stable political system led to the flourishing
of the capital Heij¯oky¯o, the modern city of Nara that gave its name to the
Nara period (710-784) (Fig. 3). An urban society came to flourish around
the imperial court that was set up after Chinese models. Court culture was steeped in the Chinese example, so that we find a
continental vision of the cherry as well. Cherries, when combined with the willow, served to assure the coming of spring, seen
in association with the firm ruling of an emperor. In fact, the spring show of pinkish cherries and fresh green willows was one
of the pointers demonstrating the Chinese emperor’s mandate of heaven to rule the empire.
But poetry of the Nara period, as can be seen in the Man’osh¯u (a compilation of poetry done in ca. 770), gives a far more
complex image of the cherry. The complexity arises from the free and whole-hearted approach of the Man’y¯osh¯u. It compiled
basically everything from previous centuries that was considered poetry, taking folk songs alongside poems that are instant
scribbles or serious compositions. In any case, the cherry is associated with brightness and cheerful beauty. Some poems
describe the cherry in the landscape where it is seen from a distance in or at the hills, simply describing the landscape.2But in
many a case such a serene landscape evokes memories of some beloved or beautiful person. Then the cherry comes to stand as
a parallel, acting almost as a representative of the one beloved. An example is the poem by Harima no Otome. She is awaiting
her lover, the minister of Ishikawa who after many years will return to the capital now. On the occasion she presented her
poem; it is spring in the year 719 and cherries are in bloom on mount Tayuraki:
Tayuraki no yamano onohe no sakurabana
sakamu haruhe ha kimishi shinohamu
Cherries in bloom on mount Tayuraki,
Every spring they blossom, I think of you dearly in love.
1. Distribution of Prunus sargentii and P. serrulata var. spontanea.
o= P. sargentii. = P. serrulata var. spontanea. Adapted from the
Flower Association of Japan, Manual of Japanese Flowering
Cherries (Tokyo: Nihon Hana no Kai, 1982).
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131
Other poems of the Man’y¯osh¯u follow similar imagery, matching the sight of cherries on a hillside to a memory of
something beautiful, like a beloved.3In the landscape, a secondary forest had replaced the primeval forest, and the cherry was
increasingly seen on the mountains surrounding a valley where humans lived. Together with the cry of the deer in autumn or
other seasonal details it assured that the world was simply beautiful and right.4
We come across the cherry not only in poetry but also in plain records. There is clear evidence that a double-flowered
cherry tree was presented several times to the temple K¯ofuku-ji in Nara city. This simple fact is repeated in abundance in later
history, where fact and fiction often interplay to form a most exciting legend. It tells of the historic emperor Sh¯omu (in power
724-749) who left the city in spring for an outing to nearby Mount Mikasa. In a valley at the side of a path, he was struck by
the splendid beauty of a peculiar double-flowered cherry just in bloom. Having returned home he told his wife empress
omy¯o about it.5The emperor’s account excited her and she let it be known that she wished to have a branch of the tree, so
that she also could enjoy this unusual beauty. Servants were sent out to fetch a branch. But finding the tree, they dug it up,
root and all, and brought it back, planted it in the palace garden to be a joy in spring for every year to come. But not for long.
In the reign of K¯oken (in power 749-758), daughter of Sh¯omu and K¯omy¯o, Nara culture was flourishing and the big temples,
such as K¯ofuku-ji, were indeed at the zenith of their power. K¯ofuku-ji was the family temple of the Fujiwara clan, always
entangled in intricate intrigues of power and political marriages with the imperial court. The priests of K¯ofuku-ji, knowing that
the court had taken a cherry from mount Mikasa, were not amused. They simply took it back and planted it in front of one of
their temple halls, to become a famous cherry and the pride of the priests for years to come. Whether the story is true up to
2. Distribution of P. serrulata var. pubescens and P. serrulata var.
speciosa. =P.serrulata var. pubescens. =P. serrulata var.
speciosa. Adapted from the Flower Association of Japan, Manual
of Japanese Flowering Cherries (Tokyo: Nihon Hana no Kai,
1982).
3. Map of Japan with selected cities and islands important in
cherry ecology and history.
cultural values and political change: cherry gardening in ancient japan
132
the last detail is not so important at this point. It
is at least the first time in history that cherry
beauty was the object of jealousy and greed in
circles of the highest power. We will return in
detail to the double-flowered cherry from Nara
later.
Cherries for a Courtly Capital
After the Nara period had come to an end, the
court was moved to a new city, about seventy
kilometers to the north in 794 A.D. The new
capital was known as Heianky¯o, the modern
city Kyoto, a name we will use here. Kyoto
functioned as a capital for the almost four
centuries of the Heian Period (794-1185). A
stable political structure with tributary
agricultural provinces again ensured a
flourishing of urban culture.
The Nara Chinese models were slowly molded into highly refined, truly Japanese expressions; also the status of the cherry
was elevated from straight poetic to an even stronger symbolic meaning. Somewhere between 834 and 848 A.D. the plum tree
(Prunus mume Sieb. & Zucc.), traditionally planted together with a citrus tree in front of the main hall of the imperial palace,
was replaced by a cherry. When the palace buildings were destroyed by fire in 960, the tree perished. At the rebuilding a new
cherry was planted, this time clearly documented as a tree brought from the Yoshino mountains close to Nara.6Yoshino has a
seminatural forest with dominant presence of the Japanese Mountain Cherry. Ever since the seventh century the trees were
considered holy therefore forbidden to be cut. Apart from a few large-scale planting actions, pilgrims used to plant cherry
saplings that were sold year in and year out by villagers. It made for a small-scale but steady management in keeping the cherry
woods up (Fig. 4). There are no reasons to believe that the botanic identity of the present cherries differs from these early
centuries. We can therefore safely assume that it was the same Japanese Mountain Cherry (P. serrulata var. spontanea) that entered
the capital Kyoto after its founding.
The arrival of a Yoshino cherry to the imperial court went together with a growing appreciation: poems about the cherry
increase in number. Memories of the glorious days of uncomplicated life in Nara became associated with the city’s cherries,
adding an air of nostalgia or even melancholy.7Although hardly scented, its fragrance entered the poetic mind to be enlarged as
a nominator for glorious brilliance. The role of women inventing a native script that had the potential to express such subtle
emotions is clear. Such a woman was J¯ot¯o Mon’in Sh¯oshi (988-1074), one of the emperor’s wives. Concerned about the
double-flowered cherry of the Nara period, J¯ot¯o Mon’in took pity on the famed cherry, still in the uncertain hands of K¯ofuku-
ji’s priests in the now deserted old capital Nara.8In private, a meeting was held with the official at court responsible for
4. The cherry woods at Yoshino were kept up by continuous planting of cherry saplings
by pilgrims. WazakuraYoshinoyama sh¯okeizu, 1713. (Collection of Kyoto University).
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ofuku-ji, where it was decided that the cherry was to be moved to the
imperial palace in Kyoto. Servants were sent out with an oxen-pulled cart
to uproot and fetch the tree. They managed to root-ball and load it; but
then priests and monks of Nara became alarmed and clamor and protest
sprang up. Nothing else could be done than unload and replant the cherry
to its old position in front of the T¯oeno, a hall of K¯ofuku-ji. When the
report of this happening reached J¯ot¯o Mon’in, her reaction was
unexpected. Rather than being angry, she seemed happily surprised about
the priests being so sincere in their love of the cherry.
Supported by other historic records we know that she decided to
dispatch a yearly guardsmen service for the seven days that the tree was in
flower, to protect it even better. As guardsmen she appointed the villagers
of Yono (now in Ueno city, Mie prefecture), over the hills about twenty-
five kilometers to the east of Nara. A strange move it seems at first, but
ot¯o Mon’in must have been well informed: it was the villagers from
Yono who had presented double-flowered cherries to the temple of
ofuku-ji several times in the course of the Nara period. In 746 they even
wanted to donate the double-flowered cherry to the emperor Sh¯omu
himself. The village records state that the eighth-century emperor had
rejected such a lowly present and returning home the villagers had just
planted it at mount Mikasa.9It can hardly be a coincidence that the
emperor “discovered” the cherry in the wild, so shortly after. Anyhow, three centuries later, in circles around J¯ot¯o Mon’in,
there was excitement about her strategic decision to appoint the villagers as guardsmen. A young woman named Ise-no-Taifu,
in service of J¯ot¯o Mon’in, was aspiring to a post as courtesan; for her approval, she wrote the following historic poem:
Inishieno Narano miyakono yahezakura
kefu kokonoheni nihohi nurukana
Old capital Nara’s double cherry
Now in the court of Kyoto:
brilliantly it blossoms
Ise-no-Taifu’s poem is a beautiful and rhythmical play of words employing such tensions as between “old” and “new,” a
beauty of language hard to show in an English translation.10 The poem suggests that the double-flowered cherry had arrived in
the capital. It is likely that the villagers of Yono had brought it once more to the palace, this time in Kyoto. In centuries to
follow, more records and poems refer to this double-flowered cherry in the capital.
Speaking of botany, the double-flowering cherry of Nara is a form of the Korean Mountain Cherry, P. serrulata var.
pubescens. In its native habitat indeed double-flowered specimens are found, and apparently these are so stable that the double-
flowered form of P. serrulata var. pubescens is well established in the wild, close to, exactly, the village Yono in Mie Prefecture.
5. ‘Nara-no-yae-zakura’ is a double form of P. serrulata var.
pubescens, photo by author, cherry in author’s collection
Netherlands, 4/25/2004.
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134
There is hardly any doubt now that the villagers
donated this double-flowered cherry. The
stability in the wild backs up the history that we
are dealing with the same form found in the
eighth century. It has small flowers with about
thirty deeply bifid petals tightly set together,
giving a precisely regular fringe of the flower
(Fig. 5). At least three clones have been
identified that in their botanic details are hard to
distinguish.11 The flower season is rather short,
and also two weeks later than the Japanese
Mountain Cherry, making chances for a natural
hybridization very small.
In centuries to follow, cherries became the
object of a wider interest of court nobles such
as, for example, Fujiwara Teika (1162-1241). He is known as a literary man, commissioned by the emperor to help in
compiling an important poetry collection of the days. But his personal diary is of even more interest: it speaks of cherries in
quite some detail. We find remarks on an early cherry that flowered even before the plums (P. mume), and another late-
flowering, pink, double cherry. He records the planting of cherry trees, including double-flowered ones, in gardens of various
noblemen. Notes on propagation are found in 1226 on the twenty-seventh day of the first month. The weather is fine and the
diary gives a short remark on dividing with a knife or scissors a branch of a double flowering cherry from a small tree,
apparently to propagate. The scene takes place in the garden in front of a main hall. The twenty-seventh day of the first month
would be late February in our modern calendar. Buds would already be out of their winter rest, therefore too late for preparing
a graft, but for propagation by layering, late February should work.12
Cherries are fully used as garden plant in fashionable circles of the court entering the fourteenth century. A comment from
about 1330 states:
. . . Trees to plant at the house are pine and cherry. As pine the five-needled one is preferred (Pinus parviflora Sieb.
& Zucc.) and for cherries single-flowered ones. Originally, double cherries were only found in the city of Nara,
but recently these are found everywhere. However, of old, the cherries from Yoshino and the cherry in front of
the main hall of the Imperial Palace were all single-flowered. Double cherries are grotesque, badly misshapen and
distorted. Therefore it is better not to plant them. They are late in flowering, present a disastrous sight, and
because of the bugs they are not to be preferred . . .
Conservative on the point of its appreciation of double-flowered cherries, this comment nevertheless shows us that the triumph
of the cherry as a garden plant had taken a start. Double cherries are to be understood in this quote as the one from Nara but it
also points to other cherries. The one from Nara is not particularly attacked by bugs.13
6. In the wild one may come across specimens of P. serrulata var. sportarea with particularily
deep-red coloring of young sprouts, photo by Kense Kuitert, cherry in Kyoto, Japan,
4/1/1997.
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Political Symbolism: Ōshima Cherries Enter Kyoto
Political winds were turning worse and worse for the emperor and his court in the course of the twelfth and thirteenth
centuries. Warlords, already largely in control of the country for more than a century from their government seat in eastern
Japan, occupied the capital in 1336. Led by the shogun, they asserted power by choosing their own emperor. The displaced
emperor fled to Yoshino, a place seen as an original homeland full of wistful memories for the imperial family, dramatically felt
when Yoshino’s cherries were in bloom. Also the shogun was well aware of the cultural values of the cherry. Urged by the
clergy of the new Zen buddhism he founded a temple at Arashiyama in 1339 to soothe the soul of the exiled emperor who
died in that year. Again cherries were brought from Yoshino, the emperor’s last place of living, to be added to cherries planted
earlier as part of an imperial garden.14 Arashiyama had held the palaces of important court nobles such as Fujiwara Teika and
several emperors. Therefore, it is obvious that not only were souls soothed here but also a claim to power was asserted.
What about the cherries coming in? Cherries were brought from the Nara region, like the double flowered one from
Yono; single cherries came from Nara’s Yoshino mountains. There, the villagers must have selected particularly nice specimens
for cherry orders from the capital. But because of transport problems, trees would have been young and could only show their
beauty at a young age. A young plant of the Japanese Mountain Cherry starts to flower after several years at a size when it is
already more difficult to transport. Therefore, in selecting young cherry plants, the villagers of Yoshino would have chosen nice
foliage colors rather than finding a particular beauty in flowers.15 Sprouts of specimens in the wild at Yoshino are mostly
brownish, few have yellowish, green, or red tints. The red ones are rare, but conspicuous and can develop their color most
spectacularly (Fig. 6). At present, the Arashiyama-area in Kyoto is known for its red-sprouted cherries. The area brought such
garden cherries as ‘Arashiyama’ and ‘Tagui-arashi’; these are single-flowered forms that show a remarkably red coloring of leaf
sprouts, but also of bud scales, bracts, calyx and sepals. A semidouble form ‘H¯orinji’ from this area has the same deep coloring.
All are clearly selections from the Japanese Mountain Cherry (P. serrulata var. spontanea), and not hybrids.16 Whether red sprouts
were required in the capital or, on the contrary, promoted by Yoshino, we do not know, but the spectacular contrast of white
blossom and deep red sprouts became the beauty standard for single-flowered cherries.
The planting of Yoshino’s cherries at Arashiyama was a clear statement of power. But an even more evident cherry planting
came in 1357 when the warlords put their own cherry in front of the main hall of the imperial palace in Kyoto.17 Enforcing
the symbolism of the deed, this new imperial cherry was brought from their native land, Kamakura in the east. Off the coast at
Kamakura lie the Oshima Islands, the new cherry was in fact a form of the Oshima Cherry (P. serrulata var. speciosa). It has been
identified as the cherry ‘Kirigaya.’18 It comes so close to the native Oshima Cherry that it is judged as just a superb selection
from the wild. ‘Kirigaya’ is a healthy form with single flowers, fragrant, and quite large. They measure up to five centimeters in
diameter or even more when well manured and maintained. Indeed, from this basic quality as a garden plant, it is highly valued
over just any wild specimen of the Oshima Cherry.
Overt testimony to the symbolism of the cherry comes about a century later. The mid-fifteenth century is a time of
political unrest and small skirmishes, leading to the ten-year Onin Wars (1467-1477). Most precise accounts of historical fact
that include cherries are now found in diaries of priests in Kyoto. They had their temples sponsored by the military rulers. At
the time a cherry ‘Fugenz¯o,’ famous from a tree in a Kamakura temple, had arrived in Kyoto as recorded by a Buddhist priest
¯
¯
¯
¯
¯
of the Zen sect, Osen Keisan (1429-1493). Keisan used to take his guests to the cherry when it was in flower. It stood close by
his residence in the temple Sokoku-ji, just north of the imperial palace. During the warfare he could not visit it, and when he
returned to enjoy the spring show for the first time again, he felt as if ten-year-old buds were bursting into bloom. The
intensity of the experience after a period of political stress made him rush to a remarkable conclusion. Although hardly an
established nation when compared with neighboring China he noted:
Our country is the country of the cherry (sakura). However, one rather simply says “the flowers” (hana in Japanese)
rather than saying cherries. It has the same precious meaning as the Peony has for Chinese Loyang, or the Crab
Apple for Szechuan in China.
Then he turns to ‘Fugenz¯o’:
People say that there is a temple hall in Kamakura where the saint Fugen is enshrined, but there is also a cherry in
the compound and it is called therefore ‘Fugend¯o’ (as the name of the hall (o), for Fugen). Others call this cherry
‘Fugenz¯o,’ (meaning Fugen’s elephant (o), because the words for “flowers” and for “nose” in Japanese both have
the same pronunciation (hana for both). The big and white flowers resemble the nose of the white elephant on
which Fugen rides. Both explanations are correct. This cherry is now found in the west of Kyoto, and it really is
an excellent flowering cherry.19
This Kamakura cherry is even more spectacular, having all the qualities of ‘Kirigaya,’ but on top of that, the flowers are
double, and stay much longer on the tree. Also, for a double-flowered cherry the tree’s height is impressive, reaching up to
eighteen meters with proper care. Since the planting of ‘Kirigaya’ in the sacred palace grounds a second spectacular garden
cherry ‘Fugenz¯o’ had arrived from the eastern provinces of Kamakura, about four hundred kilometers to the east of Kyoto.
Cherries were therefore moved about the country over long distances. Hitherto isolated plant material of the highly variable
Oshima Cherry was brought to Kyoto, whereas Japanese Mountain Cherries had been brought to the city ever since the
centuries of its founding. Cherry populations that had developed separate identities in the course of their evolution were
brought together and could start to hybridize, a process that would lead to a number of distinctly different forms in the
following centuries. Contrary to the double flowered cherry from Nara, which is a form of the Korean Mountain Cherry, the
Oshima Cherry and the Japanese Mountain Cherry flower at the same time, giving full and free play to the variabilities
inherent to both. But before turning to the hybrids, it should be explained how the cherries were used in the gardens of the
period. Named forms of the cherry can only be understood from the way they were discovered and enjoyed as garden plants.
Cherry Aesthetics in Garden Design
Cherries form a part of the garden world in literature of the time. Setting the tone is The Tale of Genji, written in the years
around 1000 A.D., and a famous classic in courtly circles ever since. The Tale describes to us the fictional world of a courtly
prince engaged in endless love affairs in a setting of palaces and gardens. One garden designed as an arrangement of lakes and
hills is the stage for a boating party with music: “ . . . the hills were high in the south-east quarter, where cherry trees were
planted in large numbers. The pond was most attractively designed. Among the plantings in the forward parts of the garden
were cinquefoil pine, red plum, cherry, wisteria, Kerria, and rock azalea, most of them trees and shrubs that are enjoyed in
spring.” Or in a later section: “ . . . The branches caught in mists from either side were like a tapestry, and far away in
cultural values and political change: cherry gardening in ancient japan
136
¯
¯
¯
Murasaki’s private gardens a willow trailed its branches in a deepening green and cherry blossoms were rich and sensuous . . .”20
The distinction between the forward planting and the background is described impressionistic and convincing. The forward
part of the garden is in fact the open area just in front of the veranda of the main hall of a typical nobleman’s mansion. The
usual “forward garden” (senzai) could have solitary plants, including a cherry. The hills in the south-east are likely to be situated
at the far end of the garden, these have cherries in large numbers as a background scenery to the pond that lies in front of it
when seen from the main hall. The second quote has cherries and willows as background, a combination that heralds a virtuous
ruler in the classic, Chinese manner. The cherries here were probably even standing outside in other gardens.
TheTale of Genji inspired many a courtly garden, even up to the design of cherry planting. For example, an emperor’s
residence known as Kameyama-dono was laid out on the site of Fujiwara Teika’s retreat at Arashiyama. Work started in 1255.
A spacious garden was made with a pond fed with water from the ¯
Oi River that runs between the hills of Arashiyama. In front
of the hall of Kameyama-dono stood a cherry, the opening of its flower buds were the reason for an imperial visit in the spring
of 1263, the sight was more beautiful than ever, as a source mentions. Outside the residence, large numbers of cherries brought
from Yoshino were planted on the foothills of Arashiyama. Seen from the imperial pond garden, the cherries on the hillside
opposite the estate formed a visual background beyond the garden.21 In close-up, by contrast, it is the beauty of the botanical
details of the budding blossom that forms the joy of the cherry in front of the residence itself. Cherries are employed in
foreground and in background design.
Apart from such aesthetics, the cherry was also used in a more formal design. From records but also sources such as The Tale
of Genji we know that a cherry was typically found in the small yard used for imperial football (kemari); it was either planted on
one, or on all four corners of the field as a corner tree.22
Strikingly, the eleventh-century famous garden text Sakuteiki does not mention principles of cherry planting, although in
poetry, fiction, and historic fact it is clearly part of the garden world. On the whole, the Sakuteiki is remarkably scarce on
aesthetic principles of planting design, mentioning only twenty or so names. Hardly any of the woody plants in the above
quotations from The Tale of Genji features in this garden text. Only when treating various styles of setting stones, or designing
islands it gives some scattered comments on what kind of plant would associate best with certain rock styles; these are mostly
perennial rather than woody plants. Only at the section on tree planting is there mention of “flowering trees,” to be
understood as cherries. These should be planted in the east, whereas trees with fall colors must be in the west. Referring to the
classic zodiac the Sakuteiki actually repeats what is said in the orthodox Chinese theory of the Five Elements. It resembles the
planting design in the four quarters of the football field. As such it is stating a fact, rather than giving advice or an idea on
garden design.
The Sakuteiki was written by a nobleman to present a personal statement to his public. Given the overt indications and
symbolism of plants in poetry and literature, it is obvious that advice on plant design could only repeat things that had been said
already many times before. It would be so plain and blatant in a treatise specializing on gardens that it would turn the whole
effort into just one banal demonstration of writing down what any noble knew already. So the reason for absence of advice on
the design of planting is obvious; at one point the writer indeed condemns superficial garden wisdom.23
Centuries later a division in appreciating cherries in the fore- and background is found in a second treatise on gardens, this
time by gardeners who were not very well versed in classic literature. Nevertheless, they were well aware of the proper
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aesthetic of cherries in the garden, and had even developed a design
strategy to reproduce it as a man-made work of art. From olden times in
Kyoto, gardeners are living above all in the north-western parts of the
city. At the founding of the capital it was here that naturalized Koreans
and Chinese settled. These men had come as civil engineers, architects,
and craftsmen to help build the new capital. Civil engineering meant
placing foundation rocks for buildings, arranging the water system,
building ponds, or making gardens. In the course of time, a temple in the
area, Ninna-ji, close to Arashiyama, became the center of professional
gardening: it forms the origin of the fame that gardeners of this part of
Kyoto still have. Ninna-ji itself was organized as a temple compound
sponsored by the imperial court from the end of the ninth century
onwards. In fact it was a residential area in which courtly residences were
developed as small temples, all belonging to the Ninna-ji compound.
From the end of the ninth century until the late twelfth, the area had
about seventy of such courtly temple residences.24 In the course of these
centuries, the typical residence came to have one main hall (shinden), that
was styled after the imperial palace itself. It faced a garden or yard to the
south of it, and one may imagine that many a hall had its cherry as in the
palace. Entering the fifteenth century, fashions in architecture changed.
Instead of one main hall, a less rigid arrangement of smaller buildings had
the most luxurious room to receive guests as the center piece of the
temple residence. Again, this main room faced a garden south of it. The
area around Ninna-ji remained upper-class residential and had still more
than sixty temple residences at the outbreak of the ¯
Onin Wars in 1467.
The gardeners of Ninna-ji were well aware of the courtly appreciation of the cherry, which is clear from a text that stems
from their circles. The manuscript Sansui narabini yakeizu (dated 1448 as well as 1466) is a manual, written and compiled by
low-ranking priests of esoteric buddhism as it was practiced in Ninna-ji. The rather unpolished text must have served as an
instruction manual, listing all possible information on the subject as an aid to the memory when teaching others that probably
could not read. It holds a wealth of practical hints and technical ideas that makes this source into a veritable gold mine on
medieval gardening. The manual’s advice is quite detailed on the planting design of cherries, for which it gives a separate
section (Fig. 7). Departing from the typical situation of the main room of a residence, facing south, it describes an advanced
planting principle:
Cherries may be found on peaks and deep in the mountains, but only if the countryside is beyond, and that is
what you have to keep in mind. Thus, it is interesting to plant cherries in between the deep, dark green (garden)
hills, keeping in mind that the main room (zashiki) has south as its direction. To give the impression of deep
cultural values and political change: cherry gardening in ancient japan
138
7. A detailed design strategy for cherry planting appeared
in the fifteenth century handwritten manual Sansui narabini
yakeizu. The rather unpolished text and writing betray the
practical purpose of the text (reproduced from facsimile,
Sonkeikaku S¯okan, Tokyo: Ikutokuzaidan, 1930).
mountains to the garden hills at the south, you may plant one or two cherries in the shade of the trees, giving the
illusion that beyond the mountains there is a countryside village. Also, the cherry has a poetic feeling as a tree, and
can be planted just about anywhere without problems. As said above, at the main room you plant (only) one
cherry, some others could be elsewhere, that it is no problem. Somebody who was not given instructions on the
traditions would plant perhaps two, or three in front of the main room, certainly to be disapproved by someone
who has received traditional instructions. In any case, you have to do it in the same way.25
Although perhaps a little cryptic at first reading, the idea is clear. It departs from the mental image of cherries in the
landscape that everybody knew. In the natural landscape, cherries inevitably betrayed the secondary forest of a village in the
countryside (sato). They were to be planted in between the garden hills at the far back of the garden, where they would stand
in the shadow of higher trees at the back. With the sunlight shining through from the back, they would glow when in
blossom. There, in the far background, high trees would suggest the deep and dark green hills; the cherries, planted in between
the sloping lines of hillocks would suggest the entry of a mountain valley where a gentle countryside would be. Thus, the
garden intended to recreate a reference to the domesticated landscape bordered by cherries where the primeval forest began.
In earlier and greater gardens, such as at Arashiyama, cherries functioned as a backdrop to man’s cultured environment;
there they were planted even outside the garden. Clouds of cherry blossom as a background to a village scenery must for the
noblemen have been a nostalgic landscape imagery as found in the earlier poems where far cherries attracted the attention of
the poet. The Ninna-ji manual makes clear that cherries recalled the homely countryside where man was comfortable with
himself. On a smaller scale the archetype was recreated in the planting design of their private gardens as an indicator for the
landscape under human control, psychologically a safe and friendly place to be.
The quote continues in the tradition of the main hall of the imperial palace facing south, where one cherry was to be
planted close to the hall, providing a foreground. Also for the best room, two or three are too much, you should keep to one
cherry. Here the best of its poetic qualities found in botanic details, such as budding, fragrance, or the shedding of its petals,
could be appreciated at best.26 Later in the manual, the cherry is mentioned once more where it is listed as one of the plants in
design of deep mountains. At this point the manual speaks of yama-zakura; we can interpret this as Japanese Mountain Cherries
(P. serrulata var. spontanea).
Without much doubt gardeners were growing cherries for their clients. Cherries are rather easily grown from seed, at that time
likely collected at nearby Arashiyama or from garden trees. An even easier method is simply digging up young plants found as
seedling. Seeds in a bird dropping easily germinate and such seedlings are often found under places where birds rest, like big trees or
along a garden fence. The parentage of such cherry finds is not traceable: they could be wild or random hybrids, adding expectation
and surprise to the joy of growing cherries in the nursery and pride to the owner of a unique specimen.27
Although the manual speaks of cherries, and later more precisely of Mountain Cherries, it does not prove the existence of
garden hybrids at this point. But we may imagine that better seedling specimens were reserved for better clients. Gardeners
must have planted them in the gardens of the upper-class living in the area around Ninna-ji, where the best cherry went to the
best position in the garden, such as the solitary position at the veranda of the main room. The admonition to refrain from
planting more than one could point to such an awareness of unique specimens. From the manual we must conclude that
gardeners were well aware of the feelings that properly planted and maintained cherries could evoke in the garden. In these
wybe kuitert
139
days, ‘Kirigaya’ and ‘Fugenz¯o’ were clearly identified, not only as one peculiar garden tree but also as a garden form. Singular,
proper names attached to cherries, came to identify in extension the propagated offspring as well. The role of gardeners is clear.
Later Cherry History of the Ninna-Ji Area
Several cherry gardens and collections still exist in the Ninna-ji area.28 How do these relate to this earlier cherry history?
Ninna-ji, as well as the residences around it, were not spared from the Onin Wars with its disastrous fires that broke out
shortly after the last date at the end of the manual. Many a cherry must have perished in the fires as well. After this period of
serious trouble Ninna-ji was not rebuilt, although religious services continued in a nearby retreat. Only in the seventeenth
century was it set up again. The role in cherry history of a neighboring temple compound My¯oshin-ji has yet to be established.
In the late fifteenth century, just after the Onin Wars were over, My¯oshin-ji was made to flourish again by priest Sekk¯o S¯ojin
(1408-1486). At that time many cherries were planted on the “banks” of the temple, probably to be understood as a planting
on the surrounding slopes after grading the site.29 It is a guess that these cherries were planted by Ninna-ji gardeners, and that
these were propagated or transplanted garden trees, previous cherry prides of courtly residences now destroyed.
Ninna-ji is found along a road that led to the center of the city. Along a similar route connecting Arashiyama and the inner
city of Kyoto lies the Hirano Shrine of the Shinto religion, known at present for its splendid cherry garden. An early
thirteenth-century record speaks of Ninna-ji gardeners working in this shrine. Anyhow, Hirano Shrine was also devastated in
the Onin Wars; it became a place known for infestations of termites, and human bones lying around. Only in the early
seventeenth century was its main hall rebuilt. The head of the shrine became a court noble Nishi-no-t¯oin Tokiyoshi (1552-
1639). He was an aesthete and leading poet of the emperor’s salon. In quite some detail he records the assembling and planting
of cherries in his logbook; in 1629 and 1630 more than thirty trees are brought in. The planting starts only a few years after the
rebuilding works had begun; trees must have been nursed for some years for preparation, showing that it was a well-planned
project. Rather than speaking of “trees” in a general sense, the text speaks of “propagations,” suggesting that one wanted to
preserve existing specimens.30 Indeed, some well-known garden forms are coming in: ‘Kirigaya,’ a name that relates to the
cherry that had been planted in the imperial palace in 1357, comes to the Hirano Shrine in 1629. The cherry ‘Fugenz¯o’ is in
full flower in 1638, suggesting that it was already a tree of quite some size. It had entered Kyoto in the mid-fifteenth century,
so that it had survived about two centuries by now. This means several generations, for instance ten or so, of propagated trees.
‘Fugenz¯o’ is not fertile, having a completely deformed pistil and ovary, so vegetative propagation is indeed the only way of
keeping it. No doubt the clone was preserved exactly because it had caught the attention of the literati and had appeared in the
writings of well-known men.31 Once the cherry garden was established, Tokiyoshi’s logbook mentions that cherry twigs in
flower were presented to the empress, for instance in spring 1637 and 1638.32 The garden must have been of quite some
standing and scale, clearly documented in his diary. Nevertheless, no mention of it is made in any of the official Kyoto
chronicles until the mid-eighteenth century. The timing of court noble Tokiyoshi’s activities to assemble an off-the-record
collection seems significant in light of the political situation of the time.
Japan had since the early years of the seventeenth century entered a period of centralized rule under shogun Tokugawa’s
government now residing in Edo. For the first time in its long history, political power was drained from Kyoto completely,
shifting cultural hegemony to Edo as well. The central government of the shogun took measures intended to curtail the power
cultural values and political change: cherry gardening in ancient japan
140
¯
¯
¯
and engage the loyalty of the imperial court, with the extended intention
to consolidate control over Kyoto. From 1613 on, for instance, the
shogunate began to require its approval in the old right that the imperial
court could bestow ranks on the buddhist temple clergy. This affected
not only the political power of the court, but in fact also its income, as
the priesthood paid substantially for getting such titles. Even the emperor
himself became involved in political intrigues. Against his will, emperor
Go Mizunoo (1596-1680) was forced to marry a shogun’s daughter
Tokugawa Masako (1607-1678). The marriage took place in 1620, after
which she became an official empress in 1624. The shogun was thus, in
the traditional way, ensured of family ties with the court. Self-determined
and probably already angered by the increasing pressure of the shogun’s
government, the emperor bestowed high clergy ranks on some priests of
the temples Moshin-ji and Daitoku-ji in 1627. These titles were
immediately pronounced invalid by the shogunate. Some persons were
exiled and emperor Go Mizunoo abdicated angrily in favor of his five-
year-old daughter, first child of Masako. In 1629, this little girl became
the first reigning female since the eighth century; this was the year in
which the cherry planting in Hirano Shrine starts. Apart from the
personal diary of the shrine’s head, no records are found elsewhere of his
planting of ‘Kirigaya’ and ‘Fugenz¯o,’ two cherries that had such an overt
symbolic role in asserting the power of the shogun in centuries before.
One gets the impression that the court wanted to secretly preserve a
political and cultural heritage familiar to the cultured elite of Kyoto, but hardly known to the new shogun and his men.33 At
the same time, however, Tokiyoshi presented flowering twigs of these cherries not only to empress Masako, the shogun’s
daughter, but also to the shogun’s deputy Itakura Shigemune (1586-1656), perhaps to mitigate the deed. Cherries entering
Hirano Shrine could have been propagated from the collection that was standing in My¯oshin-ji, now also victim of political
intrigue. But Tokiyoshi’s logbook gives only three names of garden forms: ‘Kirigaya,’ ‘Fugenz¯o,’ and ‘Beni-zakura.’ 34
Ninna-ji only came to flourish again in the 1640s. Works were financed by the third Tokugawa shogun Iemitsu (1604-
1651). He was the older brother of Masako, forcefully married to Go Mizunoo in 1620, giving him reasons for a shogunal
donation of 1634. In the 1660s a large number of cherries, without a clear date, nor a documented origin of the planting
material, were planted in Ninna-ji. It attracted the attention of several scribes from the 1680s on; they mention double-
flowering cherries as well.35
There is no information on names of garden forms at Ninna-ji for the next century or so to come. We have to wait until
1793 for a first detailed list of names that gives: ‘Kirigaya,’ ‘Edo,’ ‘Shiogama,’ ‘Roma,’ ‘Shibayama,’ ‘Akebono,’ followed by an
“et cetera.” ‘Goma-zakura’ and a ‘Shidare-ito-zakura’ are standing at the main hall.36 Interestingly, ‘Kirigaya,’ ‘Roma,’ and
wybe kuitert
141
8. ‘Kirigaya’ became one of the standards in cherry botany
after publication of Matsuoka Gentatsu’s Igansai ¯
Ohin, where
it plays a major role as a bench mark in comparing cherries
(1758, facs. reprint Tokyo: Bunky¯ud¯o, 1891).
‘Akebono’ have a relation with emperor Go Mizunoo. ‘Roma,’ according to one source, was grown by the emperor himself
from a seed of ‘Kirigaya.’ These cherries must have been among the seven that the emperor had commemorated by imperial
order. This imperial order has to be understood as the selecting and naming of new garden forms to be retained by
propagation, for which the emperor clearly sets a pattern.37 We can only wonder where the Ninna-ji cherries had come from,
and guess that some of them were originally courtly plants, perhaps propagated from trees in Hirano Shrine. Anyhow, it is
significant that with increasing stability and nationwide peace, cherished cherries could also come to the public and become
named garden forms to be preserved and propagated. At present, ‘Kirigaya’ is still around, but most of the names of 1793 are
no longer found.38 (Fig. 8.)
One can not conclude that cherry hybrids in this area are all garden trees from previous gardens of the nobility. Later
cherry collectors have been, and are still active in this area. But some spectacular forms in the collections at Ninna-ji and
Hirano Shrine are still found only here, as a unique specimen with only some duplicates in modern research collections. Others
that are wider spread as a clone are clearly traced to a parent tree in Hirano Shrine or Ninna-ji temple. These peculiar forms
could be old, above all if they have a typical beauty or unique characteristic, and of course if they are not too difficult to grow.
Hirano Shrine has quite a few of these, such as ‘Tsukubane,’ ‘Imose,’ ‘Kinugasa,’ or ‘Nezame.’39 Ninna-ji also has such peculiar
forms, like its ‘Kuruma-gaeshi’ and ‘Ariake.’ Records from the late eighteenth century on Ninna-ji mention the yellow and
greenish flowered forms ‘Asagi,’ ‘Ukon,’ and ‘Kizakura,’ all three still present in the temple’s cherry garden.40
When it comes to the botany of these peculiar cherries in both gardens, it is mostly hybrids of the Japanese Mountain
Cherry (P. serrulata var. spontanea) with a rather strong influence of the ¯
Oshima Cherry (P. serrulata var. speciosa). But also Korean
Mountain Cherry (P. serrulata var. pubescens) influence is seen in Hirano’s ‘Shibayama.’
Much still remains unclear and the only thing we can do is pose a hypothesis. The region of Ninna-ji and Hirano Shrine,
in between the Mountain Cherries from Yoshino at Arashiyama and the center of the city, with its gardeners living close by,
must have been an increasingly interesting cherry-hybrid area from the fourteenth century when ¯
Oshima Cherries were planted
in the imperial palace. The hybrids’ parents were not simple wild plants, but were selected in their natural habitats, Yoshino
and Kamakura, to serve a courtly taste and gain heavy cultural values in the capital. They were already of an extreme aesthetic
quality, and most of them very fertile as well, easily leading to spectacular offspring. Hybrids enter the nearby Ninna-ji and
Hirano Shrine from the seventeenth century to be preserved as named forms. They must have been found, selected or
generated by gardeners working around Ninna-ji, catering to the tastes of a courtly and military elite. Indeed, they are
spectacular garden plants that have stood the ages.
cultural values and political change: cherry gardening in ancient japan
142
NOTES
1. On the botany and wider cultural context of Japan’s cherries, see Wybe Kuitert, Japanese Flowering Cherries (Portland, Ore.: Timber Press, 1999) with
bibliography and further references.
2. See, for example, Man’osh¯u, 1872: Miwataseba Kasuga no nohe ni kasumitachi sakinihoheru ha sakura bana kamo. As far as the eye can see, the fields along
Mount Kasuga are as in mist: can it be the brightly blossoming flowers of the cherry blossom? Transcriptions here follow Sadake Akihiro, et al. (ed.),
Man’y¯osh¯u honbunhen (Tokyo: Hanawa Shob¯o, 1993).
3. Man’osh¯u,1776, with comment in Yamada Takamitsu and Nakajima Shintaro, Man’y¯o shokubutsu jiten (Tokyo: Hokury¯ukan, 1995), 254–261.
4. For example Man’y¯osh¯u, 1047. In my previous Japanese Flowering Cherries, I have overstressed this assuring quality of the cherry, proposing that it was felt as
a “protective belt”; rightly criticized by Robin D. Gill in a personal message.
5. Here the story follows Nara meisho yae-zakura, a source on local geography dated 1678, written by ¯¯¯Okubo Hidefusa and Motobayashi Koresachi, and
illustrated by Hishigawa Moronobu; see Koshimizu Takuji, Meizakura-Nara yaezakura in Sakura (Ky¯oto: Ky¯oto Engei Kurabu, 1968), 27–29. Of olden times
mount Mikasa is owned by the nearby Kasuga Shrine, and not by K¯ofuku-ji; the story has fictional points.
6. Emperor Ninmei, had a cherry planted in front of the palace hall in stead of the usual plum in the J¯owa period (834–848). See: Kojidan (1212–1215), by
Minamoto Akikane (1160–1215), quoted in Yamada Takao, Oshi, ch¯uko no maki, in Sakura, no. 3. (Tokyo: Sakura-no-kwai, 1920), 30. According to Sato
Taihei, Sakura to Nihonminzoku (Tokyo: Daio shuppansha, 1937), 44–45, 121, and 123 a cherry was planted in stead of a plum already at the founding of
the capital by emperor Kanmu in 794, pointing to a source Hana-tachibana no ki, written in 869 by a priest Shuno.
7. Basic is a series of earlier Man’y¯osu poems (1044–1049) that describe the desertion, overlooking the once so flourishing valley and city of Nara. These
were perhaps written by persons that had to flee the city after political troubles, rather than after the 784 moving of the capital. See also: Niels Gülberg,
“Japanische Kirschblüten duften nicht,” (Bochum/Heidelberg: Hefte für Ostasiatische Literatur, 12, März 1992), 99–106, seeing a change of “paradigm” in the
treatment of plum and cherry in poetry around the same time. I thank Ivo Smits for bringing this source to my attention.
8. ot¯o Mon’in Sh¯oshi was a consort and later empress of emperor Ichij¯o. She was the eldest daughter of powerful politician Fujiwara Michinaga (966–1027).
The story is given in Shasekish¯u, by Muj¯u D¯oko compiled in 1279–1283. See: Watanabe Tsunaya, Shasekish¯u, (Nihon koten bungaku taikei, Vol. 85, Tokyo:
Iwanami Shoten, 1966), 376–377.
9. See: Mieken chimei daijiten, (Tokyo: Nihon chimei daijiten, vol. 24 Kadogawa shoten, 1993) 1111–1112. See also: Koshimizu Takuji, Meizakura-Nara
yaezakura in Sakura, (Ky¯oto: Ky¯oto Engei Kurabu, 1968), 27–29; the records of the village studied by Yoshizumi Kangen, a local historian, even give a
name of an eighth-century village headman. The village temple dedicated to Kannon had a double-flowered cherry standing in front of it.
10. See Muogaku Tosho (ed.) Hyakunin isshu no tech¯o (Tokyo: Shogakkan 1989) 122–123. The poem was published in: Shikawakash¯u (compiled 1151–1154)
by Akisuke Fujiwara and became a classic. “Nihohi” (nioi) not to be translated as “fragrance” as Niels Gülberg rightly remarks, but rather as “brilliance,” or
“glory.”
11. The clonal cultivar ‘Nara-no-yae-zakura’ from the temple Chisoku-in, Nara, was described as Prunus antiqua by Miyoshi Manabu in Shokubutsugaku
zasshi, Vol. 36, 1922. It is given as Prunus leveilleana Koehne cv. Nara-zakura, in Idenken no sakura (Mishima: Kokuritsu Idengaku Kenky¯ujo, 1995), 58; and
as Prunus verecunda cv. Antiqua in Kawasaki Tetsuya, Nihon no sakura (Tokyo: Yama to keikokusha, 1993), 204. A selection with an excellent, erect tree
shape, is known as the clone ‘Yono-no-yae-zakura’ classified as Prunus leveilleana Koehne cv. Nara-zakura in Idenken no sakura, 82 where a third clone and
some history are shortly discussed as well.
12. The two Chinese characters that Teika uses for propagation are ZOKU and KEI. “ZOKU” also reads as tsuzu(ku/keru), and stands for the verb to
continue (intr./tr.). “KEI,” or tsu(gu), means: succeed to, inherit; follow; patch, join. The latter could be interpreted as grafting, close to the presently used
character “SETSU,” or tsu(gu) join; graft. Since “SETSU” had been used as the Chinese term for grafting from the eighth century (see communication by
Georges Métailié in this volume) it should have been known by Teika, but he does not use it. It is very questionable that Teika speaks about grafting as is
usually assumed, when reconstructing the time of the year. He must be speaking of propagation by layering, probably of a side branch sitting on the stem of
a tree with moss as substrate, as I have seen farmers doing to preserve precious village cherries in Japan’s countryside. It is a simple and sure method, hardly
requiring the dexterity needed for grafting. The character “KEI” reads therefore rather as tsugu in uetsugu: to plant a propagation, and not as grafting. Teika’s
diary Meigetsuki, edition Hayakawa Junsar¯o, 1912. Later records like the one by Tachibana Narisue in his Kokon chomonj¯u, Vol. 19 are often taken as
confirmation that Teika speaks of grafting, but again dates are too late for grafting, and perfect for layering.
13. Yoshida Kenk¯o in his scribbles of a literary man, Tsurezure gusa, the section translated here from the edition with annotations: Inamura Toku, Tsurezure
gusa y¯okai, (Tokyo: Y¯useid¯o Shuppan, 1981). Sato Taihei, Sakura to Nihonminzoku (Tokyo: Daio shuppansha, 1937), 207–208 mentions that Kenk¯o was a
lover of cherries and selected garden trees himself. He built a small retreat (muj¯ojo) at Narabiga-oka, close to Ninna-ji, and planted a cherry next to it.
14. A thousand cherries from Yoshino were planted, adding a small shrine for Za¯o Gongen, the cherry god of Yoshino. See Toyama Eisaku, Muromachi jidai
teienshi (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1934; reprint Ky¯oto: Shibunkaku, 1973), 403, referring to sources as Niwatakeki. See also note 21.
15. On the nursery, a young Japanese Mountain Cherry typically gives its first hesitating flowers one or two years later than the ¯Oshima Cherry. Any young
cherry’s first flowers are few and not very well developed, because of strong growth. With slower growth on older trees, flowers develop better. Double-
flowering specimens have the habit of showing more petals per flower with increasing age, up to a record in chrysanthemum-forms of 360 counted in
flowers of an old ‘Kenrokuen-kiku-zakura.’
16. At the time when Nagaoka-ky¯o (close to Kyoto) had served as capital from 784–794 A.D., cherries had also been brought from Yoshino and planted on
Oshio-no-yama Mountain a few kilometers south of Arashiyama, to ban evil spirits. See Kayama Masuhiko, Koto no Sakura, daiissh¯u (Koto: Koto engei
kurabu, 1938), 75–77, referring to local temple records. A cultivar ‘Koshioyama’ (written with the same characters as Oshio-no-yama but in a different 143
wybe kuitert
¯
pronunciation) resembles ‘Tagui-arashi’ and can be understood as another good selection from the wild material at Oshio-no-yama. See Kawasaki Tetsuya,
Nihon no sakura, (Tokyo: Yama to keikokusha, 1993), 222.
17. See Entairyaku, a logbook of historical records from 1308–1360, quoted in: Yamada Takao, ¯Oshi, (Tokyo: Sakura shob¯o, 1941), 121. The imperial palace
was the Tsuchi-mikado-dono palace, largely at the site of the present imperial palace, see Hayashiya Tatsusabur¯o, ed., Koto no rekishi ((Ky¯oto: Ky¯oto-
shihen, 1971, vol.2, and 3).
18. See Kayama Masuhiko, Koto no Sakura,daiissu (Ky¯oto: Ky¯oto engei kurabu, 1938), 6, and 16. ‘Kirigaya’ reappears in fifteenth century records of priests;
see Yamada Takao, Oshi (Tokyo: Sakura shoo, 1941), 122–123 with some quotes. The Inry¯oken-nichiroku a fifteenth-century log kept by priests of one of
the subtemples of the monastery Sokokuji gives ‘Kirigaya’ alongside ‘Fugenz¯o,’ and an otherwise unknown ‘Shinsh¯u-zakura’; see Hida Norio, Nihon teien
no shokusaishi (Tokyo: Randosuke-pu kenky¯u, 68/1, 44–51, 2004), 47. ‘Mikuruma-gaeshi’ is a synonym for ‘Kirigaya.’
19. ¯Osen Keisan’s poem quoted in: Yamada Takao, ¯Oshi (Tokyo: Sakura shob¯o, 1941), 137. ¯Osen Keisan could visit the cherry in the spring of 1474, about
the date of his recording. His idea of the cherry as Japan’s flower was taken up with the same comparisons with China in Matsuoka Gentatsu, Igansai ¯ohin
(1758, facs. reprint Tokyo: Bunky¯ud¯o, 1891), laying foundations for later nationalistic symbolism. Records in the Hekizan-nichi-roku by a fifteenth-century
priest Taikyoku suggest the presence in Kyoto of ‘Fugenz¯o’ already in 1459.
20. TheTale of Genji was written by a courtly lady Murasaki Shikibu. She was in service of J¯ot¯o Mon’in and is known to have associated with the poetess Ise-
no-Taifu. The English quote largely follows Seidensticker, E.G. Murasaki Shikibu,The Tale of Genji (Tokyo: Rutland, 1982), 384, and 418–419; checked on
Yamagishi Tokuhei, Genji monogatari II (Nihon koten bungaku taikei, Vol. 15, Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1959), 322, and 396.
21. The cherry party of 1263 was held at Kameyama-dono, the palace of emperor Go Saga (1220–1272). The main hall of Kameyama-dono faced south, in
front of it was a pond. Over the pond one could see the river in front of the north-east facing foothill of Arashiyama. A terrace (sajiki) was provided to
overlook the garden and the landscape beyond. See Hisatsune Sh¯¯uji, Koto meienki gekan (Tokyo: Seibund¯o Shink¯osha, 1969), 59, referring to Masu-kagami, a
fourteenth-century compilation of historical records, and Godai teo monogatari, a late fourteenth century history book. About eighty years after this cherry
party, shogun Ashikaga Takauji would add his cherries on the same hill. A similar planting of one cherry in front of the main hall, and mass planting in the
background was envisioned at Kitayama-dono (now Kinkaku-ji) Toyama Eisaku, Muromachi jidai teienshi (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1934; reprint Ky¯oto:
Shibunkaku, 1973), 508–511.
22. A football party under a shower of cherry petals shed in Kitayama-dono is described in Yamada Takao, ¯Oshi, ch¯uko no maki, in Sakura, no. 4. (Tokyo:
Sakura-no-kwai, 1921), 44–45, with a quote from Masu-kagami. As a standard, a willow was planted in the south-east, a maple in the south-west, a pine
tree in the north-west, and a cherry in the north-east corner of the field. See Yamada Takao, ¯
Oshi,kinko no maki, in Sakura, no. 4. (Tokyo: Sakura-no-kwai,
1921), 41–45.
23. See also my Themes in the history of Japanese Garden Art, 51, 52 on principles of design in this period. Sakuteiki’s author makes fun of people who want to
judge the setting of stones according to a certain style. See Michel Vieillard-Baron , De La Création Des Jardins—Traduction du Sakuteiki (Tokyo: Maison
Franco-Japonaise, 1997), 32; or Takei Jir¯o., and Marc Peter Keane, Sakuteiki,Visions of the Japanese Garden (Boston: Tuttle, 2001), 166, though mistakenly
speaking of garden styles, whereas it only concerns the stones.
24. Murayama Sh¯uichi. Heianko, Kugekizoku no seikatsu to bunka (Tokyo: Shibund¯o, 1957), 14-26. The descent of the gardeners living around Ninna-ji can
be traced in the records to lineages and names found in the eleventh-century Sakuteiki. Other evidence shows that monks of this temple were engaged in
garden works in the thirteenth century. See also Naka Takahiro, Ninna-ji shinden teien,inNihon teien kenky¯u (Ky¯oto: Nihon teien kenky¯u senta-, 2002),
59–63. See also Kotofu no chimei, vol..26, Nihon chimei daijiten (Tokyo: Kadogawa shoten, 1991).
25. See the text edition Egami Yasushi. “oji kudensho tsuki sansui narabini yakeizu—k¯okan ge” (Bijutsu kenky¯u 250, 1967), 25. The English translation in
David A. Slawson, Secret Teachings in the Art of Japanese Gardens (Tokyo, New York, London: Kodansha, 1987), unnumbered page 164, misses the point,
unforgivably translating zashiki as “home site,” suggesting the native habitat of the cherry. Zashiki is the best room of a residence, where guests were
received, often with a garden in front. Slawson’s translation does not catch the idea of depth of perspective, missing muk¯o, “beyond.”
26. For example, the falling of petals of the cherry at the main hall was the highlight of a day with poetry and music at Kitayama-dono in 1259, see Toyama
Eisaku, Muromachi jidai teienshi (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1934; reprint Ky¯oto: Shibunkaku, 1973), 510–511 after Sh¯oka san’nen kitayama gok¯o waka by
Fujiwara Michiyoshi. A party was held at the budding of the same cherry in 1263, see Toyama Eisaku, Muromachi jidai teienshi (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten,
1934; reprint Koto: Shibunkaku, 1973), 390 after Masu-kagami Vol. 8 Yama-no-momijiba.
27. The forests surrounding Kyoto are still stripped from seedlings, not only cherries, for use as garden plant. Sano T¯oeimon V, famous Kyoto cherry lover,
having his nursery close to Ninna-ji, told me once that cherries should not be preserved as fixed cultivars under a given name: “cherries are not like that”
(sakura ha soiu mono ja nai). Given the extreme variability and the unusually high chance to get an improved cherry from your random seedlings, his words
show what the gardeners of Japan have done for centuries: just enjoy playing with the gorgeous and fickle genes of cherries.
28. Apart from cherry gardens at Ninna-ji and Hirano-jinja, one may find cherry collections at the nearby nursery Uet¯o of Sano T¯oemon and at the Utano
Hospital.
29. See Tsuneo Kaj¯uji Ky¯oto no sakura in Sakura, no. 8. (Tokyo: Sakura-no-kwai, 1925). Cherry connoisseur Tsuneo Kaj¯uji (1882–1936) was a prominent
nobleman who prepared an illustrated cherry catalogue Koto-meibokuki, 1925. Such planting on banks is seen in Ninna-ji in later history, for example
illustrated in Miyako miyage (1677); see Kayama Masuhiko, Koto no Sakura,daiissu (Ky¯oto: Ky¯oto engei kurabu, 1938), 4–5, and 8.
30. See Kayama Masuhiko, Hirano no sakura (Ky¯oto: Hirano-jinja Samusho, 1933), 2 and 3, quoting Nishi-no-t¯oin Tokiyoshi’s log Tokiyoshi ky¯oki, kept in the
shrine. I thank Machida Kaori for helping me with reading the text. Again the character “KEI” is used for planting a propagation. It concerns duplicated
plants, see also the way the character KEI is used in Kayama Masuhiko, Hirano no sakura (Ky¯oto: Hirano-jinja Samusho, 1933), 36 and 123. Neighboring
Kitano Shrine is also known as a medieval center of gardeners.
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31. A most complete treatment of the history of the cultivar ‘Fugenz¯o’ given in Kayama Masuhiko, Ky¯oto no Sakura,daiissu (Ky¯oto: Ky¯oto engei kurabu,
1938), 122–148, leaving no doubt that the present cultivar ‘Fugenz¯o’ is the same as the fifteenth-century one on a clonal level.
32. Flowering twigs were presented to Masako (1607–1678), second wife of Emperor Go Mizunoo, daughter of second Tokugawa shogun Hidetada.
Empress Meish¯o (1623–1696, r. 1629–1643) was the eldest daughter of Masako and Go Mizunoo.
33. See for similar cultural expressions, negating shogun culture, my Themes in the history of Japanese Garden Art, 166–168, 204.
34. Tokiyoshi gives ‘Fugend¯o,’ synonym for ‘Fugenz¯o.’ See on its deformed pistils my Japanese Flowering Cherries, 236–244, with photo 121. In 1639 the
logbook mentions a beni-zakura, a name often used for the deep pink P. sargentii, but too vague here to draw conclusions.
35. Kurokawa D¯oy¯u’s osu fushi (1682) mentions that large amounts of cherries had been planted in recent years in Ninna-ji, making it a cherry site
comparable to some other famous sites, see Kayama Masuhiko, Omuro no sakura (Ky¯oto: Dai-honzan Ninnaji, 1931), 5 with other evidence that the
planting must have taken place around the 1660s. In front of the temple a horse-racing course was laid out, decorated with cherries, planted on the earthen
embankment on which the gate still stands.
36. Akisato Rit¯o, Miyako kagetsu meisho (1793) gives the list, quoted in Kayama Masuhiko, Omuro no sakura (Ky¯oto: Dai-honzan Ninnaji, 1931), 7.
37. Emperor Go Mizunoo grew ‘Roma-zakura’ from a seed of ‘Kirigaya.’ ‘Roma’ derives from the place where it was growing: the room (ma) of one of the
pavilions (ro) in the garden of the palace for the retired emperor (Sento Gosho). It must have been one of the cherries he recommended by imperial order
(chokumei), like the ‘Akatsuki-zakura’ (named ‘My¯oj¯o-zakura’ by the emperor) with remarkably large, single flowers, over six centimeters in diameter; see
on both cherries Matsuoka Gentatsu, Igansai ¯ohin (1758; Tokyo: Bunky¯ud¯o, reprint 1891). ‘Akebono-zakura,’ originally in the imperial palace, was later a
famous cherry in Kanga-an and was also recommended by Go Mizunoo (KokonY¯orank¯o after Rokuroku sakura shurui). On Go Mizunoo recommending
seven cherries: see Hirose Kain Sanjuroku-¯ofu (1824). ‘Edo-zakura’ stood in Ninna-ji according to Matsuoka Gentatsu, Igansai ¯ohin (1758; Tokyo: Bunkud¯o,
reprint 1891) an important source for cherry botany, written in 1711–1716, and published in 1758. See also Hiroe Minosuke, Sakura to jinsei (Tokyo:
Meigen Shobo, 1976), 16, 56, 240, 241, 243.
38. ‘Kirigaya’ became one of the standards in Japanese cherry botany and was used as a benchmark for comparing other cherries in Matsuoka Gentatsu,
Igansai ¯ohin (1758; Tokyo: Bunky¯ud¯o, reprint 1891), and later sources. The plant that Carrière received and used as a type specimen to describe Prunus
lannesiana (1872) was likely a potted ‘Kirigaya’(syn. ‘Mikuruma-gaeshi’); see my Japanese Flowering Cherries, 87, 88.
39. ‘Imose’ is a clone with its parent tree in Hirano Shrine. Other cherries in Hirano are now famous but known here under different names and also could
have originated here. ‘Sh¯ogetsu’ is found as ‘Nadeshiko,’ and a form that appears to be ‘Kanzan’ is called ‘Okame’ in Hirano Shrine.
40. ‘Kuruma-gaeshi’ and ‘Ariake’ (in Ninna-ji) are not very original names. The Ninna-ji collections are less convincingly preserved than at Hirano Shrine.
But the green or cream-flowered cherries at Ninna-ji, such as ‘Ukon,’ ‘Gyoik¯o,’ and ‘Asagi’ appear in a description of Ninna-ji in Akisato Rit¯o, Miyako
meisho zue (Takehara Shunch¯osai, 1780). That there are three of such greenish/cream forms in the 1780s points to a rather long variability history already at
that time.
wybe kuitert
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... It fostered a rivalry in supremacy that could be won by the court only in art and culture by securing, first of all, cultural expressions not familiar to the military. Part of this effort is the secret collection of Kyoto cherry trees that was set up in those days (Kuitert 2007). Similar to this 'European-style' flowerbed garden, both initiatives were expressions of an independent cultural stance in the soft and malleable world of horticulture and gardens. ...
Conference Paper
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Exchange of ideas on landscape gardening between Europe and Japan in the seventeenth century was mutual: phantasm brought from the East turned to fact in the West, and fancy from the West advanced fabrication in the East. Treating an illustrative example of both Europe and Japan shows how context is crucial in transfer of ideas to a remote culture. Only if the recipient context is fertile to foreign thinking, then are new ideas accepted. Even so, expression is still another question. The German gardener Georg Meister brought information on Japanese gardens back to Europe; his discoveries were framed in the context of booming garden developments in Germany. In Kyoto, the retired Empress Meishō had a garden in geometric flower bed design in her palace; the design can be understood as a European inspiration in the contemporary political context. Although the context of receiving in both cases was fertile, the expression, meaning and representation were-of course-quite different from the original culture in which ideas came up.
1872: Miwataseba Kasuga no nohe ni kasumitachi sakinihoheru ha sakura bana kamo. As far as the eye can see, the fields along Mount Kasuga are as in mist: can it be the brightly blossoming flowers of the cherry blossom? Transcriptions here follow Sadake Akihiro
  • See
See, for example, Man'yōshū, 1872: Miwataseba Kasuga no nohe ni kasumitachi sakinihoheru ha sakura bana kamo. As far as the eye can see, the fields along Mount Kasuga are as in mist: can it be the brightly blossoming flowers of the cherry blossom? Transcriptions here follow Sadake Akihiro, et al. (ed.), Man'yōshū honbunhen (Tokyo: Hanawa Shobō, 1993).
1044-1049) that describe the desertion, overlooking the once so flourishing valley and city of Nara. These were perhaps written by persons that had to flee the city after political troubles, rather than after the 784 moving of the capital. See also: Niels Gülberg
Basic is a series of earlier Man'y¯ osh¯ u poems (1044-1049) that describe the desertion, overlooking the once so flourishing valley and city of Nara. These were perhaps written by persons that had to flee the city after political troubles, rather than after the 784 moving of the capital. See also: Niels Gülberg, "Japanische Kirschblüten duften nicht," (Bochum/Heidelberg: Hefte für Ostasiatische Literatur, 12, März 1992), 99-106, seeing a change of "paradigm" in the treatment of plum and cherry in poetry around the same time. I thank Ivo Smits for bringing this source to my attention.
Sakura shob¯ o, 1941), 121. The imperial palace was the Tsuchi-mikado-dono palace, largely at the site of the present imperial palace, see Hayashiya Tatsusabur¯ o
  • See Entairyaku
See Entairyaku, a logbook of historical records from 1308-1360, quoted in: Yamada Takao, ¯ Oshi, (Tokyo: Sakura shob¯ o, 1941), 121. The imperial palace was the Tsuchi-mikado-dono palace, largely at the site of the present imperial palace, see Hayashiya Tatsusabur¯ o, ed., Ky¯ oto no rekishi ((Ky¯ oto: Ky¯ otoshihen, 1971, vol.2, and 3).
She was in service of Jōtō Mon'in and is known to have associated with the poetess Iseno-Taifu. The English quote largely follows Seidensticker
  • E G Shikibu
The Tale of Genji was written by a courtly lady Murasaki Shikibu. She was in service of Jōtō Mon'in and is known to have associated with the poetess Iseno-Taifu. The English quote largely follows Seidensticker, E.G. Murasaki Shikibu,The Tale of Genji (Tokyo: Rutland, 1982), 384, and 418-419; checked on Yamagishi Tokuhei, Genji monogatari II (Nihon koten bungaku taikei, Vol. 15, Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1959), 322, and 396.
and 123 a cherry was planted in stead of a plum already at the founding of the capital by emperor Kanmu in 794, pointing to a source Hana-tachibana no ki
  • Emperor Ninmei
Emperor Ninmei, had a cherry planted in front of the palace hall in stead of the usual plum in the Jōwa period (834-848). See: Kojidan (1212-1215), by Minamoto Akikane (1160-1215), quoted in Yamada Takao, Oshi, chūko no maki, in Sakura, no. 3. (Tokyo: Sakura-no-kwai, 1920), 30. According to Sato Taihei, Sakura to Nihonminzoku (Tokyo: Daitō shuppansha, 1937), 44-45, 121, and 123 a cherry was planted in stead of a plum already at the founding of the capital by emperor Kanmu in 794, pointing to a source Hana-tachibana no ki, written in 869 by a priest Shuntō.
A thousand cherries from Yoshino were planted, adding a small shrine for Zaō Gongen, the cherry god of
A thousand cherries from Yoshino were planted, adding a small shrine for Zaō Gongen, the cherry god of Yoshino. See Toyama Eisaku, Muromachi jidai teienshi (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1934; reprint Kyōto: Shibunkaku, 1973), 403, referring to sources as Niwatakeki. See also note 21.
A cultivar 'Koshioyama' (written with the same characters as Oshio-no-yama but in a different pronunciation) resembles 'Tagui-arashi' and can be understood as another good selection from the wild material at Oshio-no-yama
At the time when Nagaoka-kyō (close to Kyoto) had served as capital from 784-794 A.D., cherries had also been brought from Yoshino and planted on Oshio-no-yama Mountain a few kilometers south of Arashiyama, to ban evil spirits. See Kayama Masuhiko, Kyōto no Sakura, daiisshū (Kyōto: Kyōto engei kurabu, 1938), 75-77, referring to local temple records. A cultivar 'Koshioyama' (written with the same characters as Oshio-no-yama but in a different pronunciation) resembles 'Tagui-arashi' and can be understood as another good selection from the wild material at Oshio-no-yama. See Kawasaki Tetsuya, Nihon no sakura, (Tokyo: Yama to keikokusha, 1993), 222.
Kyōto no Sakura, daiisshū (Kyōto: Kyōto engei kurabu, 1938), 6, and 16. 'Kirigaya' reappears in fifteenth century records of priests
  • See Kayama Masuhiko
See Kayama Masuhiko, Kyōto no Sakura, daiisshū (Kyōto: Kyōto engei kurabu, 1938), 6, and 16. 'Kirigaya' reappears in fifteenth century records of priests;