ChapterPDF Available

Japanese cherry pride on foreign ground


Abstract and Figures

ABSTRACT Flowering cherries have a natural and cultural history of perhaps two millennia in Japan, while feelings that accompany the blossoms are profound and complex. Blossom beauty has been used in Japan for political purposes from early ages on. Cherries are known as sakura in Japan and although today not perceived as such by a large majority, for some patriotic Japanese sakura do represent the nation. Be that as it may, when brought outside the country without their intimate context, for just about any Japanese the blossoms are quickly understood as representing the home country with all its fond memories. It is this cherry culturalism that encourages all kind of planting activities outside Japan, often with a role for a particular horticultural variety, the Tokyo Cherry that was the Nation’s Flower of Dainippon imperialism. This chapter explores species and varieties of Japanese cherries in public space for mechanisms of botany, aesthetics, patriotism and nationalist politics in Japan, the US, the streets of Germany, and a mountain trail in Tanzania.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Wybe Kuitert
"Japanese cherry pride on foreign ground"
in: Jan Woudstra and Camilla Allen (eds.)
The Politics of Street Trees : 135-148
Routledge, University of Sheffield, 2022
ISBN 9780367516284
photo: der Tagesspiegel
DOI: 10.4324/9781003054672-12
Wybe Kuitert
Flowering cherries can be spectacular. When smothered in blossoms, planted en masse they
exhilarate the public. Add to this the Broadway confetti-like shattering of petals or their blazing
autumn colour, it is clear that cherries are unrivalled beauties. Although not exclusively native
to Japan, cherry excitement is particularly high among the Japanese, which is something hardly
seen elsewhere in the world. With a natural and cultural histor y of perhaps two millennia,
cherry feelings evolved from a ower accompanying the opening up of the dark forests bringing
life to rice farming, through the centuries that it was a precious garden plant of the elite lauded
in terse poetry, into mass cherry picnics soothing the minds of salaried persons and business-
men, beggars, priests, ocials and shopkeepers in the metropolis and country villages as well.
With such a wide impact cherry beauty has been used for political purposes for ages as a tool
to advertise the good intentions of administrators of the state. About one and a half centuries
ago wild cherries, which were used for that purpose, were replaced in Tokyo by a horticultural
product, the now-iconic Tokyo Cher ry that became the National Flower. At the time it was
called ‘Yoshino’ and enhanced nationalist messages of Dainippon militar ism, while when the
Pacic War was over it touted peace in the USA. Such American handling of its national ower
bolstered Japan’s pride in cherries overseas.
Cherries are known as sakura in Japan and although they are not perceived as such by a large
majority even today, for some patriotic Japanese sakura do still represent the nation. Be that as
it may, when brought outside the country without their intimate context, for just about any
Japanese the blossoms are quickly understood as representing the home country with al l its fond
memories. It is this cherry culturalism that encourages all kinds of planting activities outside
Japan, often with a role for the Tokyo cherry. The following pages explore species and vari-
eties of Japanese cherries in public space for mechanisms of botany, aesthetics, patriotism, and
nationalist politics in Japan, the US, the streets of Germany, and a mountain trail in Tanzania.
Feudal cherries
Cherries are plants of the secondar y forest; they accompanied the advance of human civilisation
all over the Japanese archipelago where primeval forests were cleared. Naturally, cherries tur ned
into a symbol of human life, vitality and progress, cherished by farmers and villagers. Cherry
136 Wybe Kuitert
planting in ancient Japan became an ocial action symbolically claiming culture since the ninth
century when the emperor replaced a Chinese style plum in his palace with a cherr y. Even when
in later centuries the power structure shifted as a result of internal warfare from emperors to
shoguns the practice of cherr y planting remained. The rst shogun to take over from the em-
peror re-planted novel cherries in the area of the imperial palace in the capital Kyoto, obviously
asserting not only cultural but also territorial claims as he had brought in cherries from his home
provinces in Kamakura to the east. Later, a medieval Buddhist priest was overwhelmed, not
only by the beauty of such a rare cherry but also by the new author ity: strikingly he proposed
cherries as a symbol of Japan. But as new power had come with the collapse of the old, cherries
came also to express sadness and notions of death when shedding blossom. Thus, foundations
were laid for a vast variety of denotative meanings for cherries.1
With power struggles and civil strife put aside, Japan united under a dierent dynasty of
shoguns in 1603. Their new capital was named Edo and the dynasty is often referred to as the
Edo Period. Urban Edo expanded fast and uncontrolled and many settlers ended up in shabby
quarters along the banks of the city’s rivers where no taxes were levied. Here the poor and
unemployed gathered, and some riverside quarters became famous as districts of prostitution,
gambling, and certain politically sensitive, liberal forms of theatre. As a policy of control, the
shogun planted masses of cherries along the Sumida River. Similar ornamental planting was
provided along important water ducts that brought clean household water to the city. Such
planting xed and reinforced water edges because cherries like to bring their roots to the water,
but the choice for cherries had this added function of sanitising not only places but also the
mind. Cherries in public space as at Sumida provided the opportunity for a free blossom party
on a shogun-sponsored picnic site, a simple joy that served as an ocially encouraged release.
It permitted an outlet of the tensions that came with the strict and numerous rules which
everyone was subjected to and would lead to harsh punishments, including beheading when
breaking these. Surely, blossoms improved the public’s perception of a great state in the forma-
tion enhanced by beauty, an ephemerality that easily overpowered citizens with little cost for
the government. ‘Viewing the owers’ (hanami), with accompanying side-businesses of selling
tea, sake wine, snacks and a wide variety of personal performances, became a national spring
obsession, soothing the day-to-day frustrations of just any Japanese, from beggar to aristocrat.
Plants used were Japanese mountain cherries (Prunus serrulata var. spontanea) that enjoy fresh
and open soil with groundwater nearby. By the mid-nineteenth century, these cherries were
venerable, centuries-old trees as we can see in some of the rst photographs taken in the city
around that time.2 Aesthetics of such a mountain cherry in bloom are complex: depending on
the individual tree, young leaf sprouts can be red, green or brownish and appear together with
the usually pink buds, with white or pinkish single owers. As each tree is genetically unique,
some exceptional trees became famed, named and celebrated simply because of such intricate
botanic details. With modern plant science moving in, many of these received respectable Latin
names gaining a modern scientic status.3
The Nation’s ower
The feudal world of Edo had been closed to foreigners since the early seventeenth century. But
Japan and its shogun had to face reality when American ships appeared in Japanese waters in
1853 demanding free access to the ports. Powerful magnates managed to expel the shogun and
fearing colonial occupation by Western powers, began to construct an imperialist nation-state
with a modern military to control aairs. Edo became known as the ‘East-Capital,’ Tō-kyō,
in 1868, and Japan entered a period of dramatic cultural change where ‘modern’ usually meant
Japanese cherry pride on foreignground 137
‘Western.’ Health care and medicine were modelled after the Germans and motorised trans-
portation was inuenced by the English. England had its rose and France its lily, while Japan’s
ower was the cherry. Inevitably, the cherry became an optimistic symbol for the modern
nation that was quickly modernising after European models. Even the cherry itself was mod-
ernised, as the Japanese Mountain Cherr y lost popularity as an urban tree and was replaced by
a new horticultural for m.
A Tokyo gardener had been planting this novel domesticated cherry, in temple grounds
north-east of the shogun’s palace instead of the mountain cherries that had been there ever since
the founding of the previous dynasty.4 With modern insights on urban planning, this area was
turned into a public park and in a survey of 1884 this unfamiliar, pink-owered cherr y form
showed up. Unlike the Japanese Mountain Cherry that blossoms together with the unfolding
green, reddish or brownish leaf sprouts, this novel form gave its single owers before the foliage
appeared. On top of that, it was propagated as a clone. A set of full-grown trees provided with
their spectacular bare clouds of owers a clonal-monotone, a sterile-pink ceiling that easily
dazed the most simple-minded crowds. As an eect cherry symbolism was in fact bolstered by a
snobbish attitude of a conservative elite of aesthetes for whom the real Japanese cherry remained
the Japanese mountain cherr y, while they condemned this new cherry as having no taste.5 But
the novel Tokyo cherry was easily propagated, even from root cuttings by just about any farmer
and it quickly became a commercial success. More than 50,000 had been planted in Tokyo
alone, according to a 1916 report. At the time this cherry was known as ‘Yoshino-zakura,’
‘Yoshino cherry’ a name we will use on these pages.6 Local government ocials began to pro-
mote the public case with its blossoms in their own province or town, throughout the country.
The novel European colonial architecture of halls of cities, towns and villages, schools, banks,
and later almost all railway stations, brought the modern state in a tangible form to the other-
wise unchanged countryside. And all these buildings had their Yoshino cherries. Even Tokyo’s
highest high street, the Ginza, was lined with them, set exactly on the edge of the sidewalk to
receive as much rainwater as possible (Figure 10.1). The Yoshino cherr y became a symbol par
excellence of Japan’s progress and optimism: the new Nation’s ower (Kokka).
Friendship cherries
After its victories in wars with China and Russia, Japan was a major player in world politics,
and cherry messages came along. Planting Japanese cherries in the US had been a long-time
dream of Eliza Scidmore, a well-known Amer ican author who had visited Japan many times and
inspired the planting of Japanese cherry trees in Washington. Practical experience was gained
by her supporter David Fairchild, a plant explorer and administrator with the US Department
of Agriculture (USDA) who ordered cherries from the Yokohama Nurser y in Japan for an
Arbor Day celebration; in March 1908 each public school in Washington DC could receive its
Japanese cherry to be planted in the schoolyard. Years earlier US President William Taft and
his wife Helen had visited Japan, during its war with Russia; since then the First Lady had been
working on plans to beautify Washington’s Potomac Park with Japanese cherries inspired by
Scidmore’s enthusiasm. For the Potomac project 90 cherry trees were purchased, this time from
an American nursery in the spring of 1909. The New York expat Japanese community heard
of the project and reacted. Its leader, a wealthy chemist Jōkichi Takamine and the Japanese US
consul Kōkichi Mizuno approached Scidmore and joined in to donate an additional set of trees.
This initiative was quickly inated by the Japanese Embassy to an ocial project of friendship
between the two nations. Soon it was announced that the city of Tokyo desired to donate 2,000
cherries for the Potomac Park.7 It is the rst time that Japanese ocials felt compelled to export
138 Wybe Kuitert
live cherries as a strateg y of cultural policy and it is striking to see how eagerly they responded
to this cherry enthusiasm that in its essence was American. Without hesitation, in November of
the very same year, Tokyo shipped 2,000 large trees of ten varieties, including the Tokyo cherry,
to Washington. That a gift of the country’s ower with such a profound cultural meaning could
be made to a great western power was without doubt enthusiastically welcomed by any Japanese
sponsoring or cooperating in the donation.
In the meantime, in the United States, the increasing import of plant material had aroused a
growing concern. The USDA had started to inspect imported plants for insect pests and diseases
and now there was a splendid case to test policies and administrative authority. Naturally, USDA
ocials must have felt conrmed in their responsibilities when the shipment from Tokyo proved
to be severely infested. With great diplomatic sensitivity, the Japanese side was informed that
no other measures could be taken than to burn the trees which was a matter of regret for both
parties. In Tokyo however, a second shipment of trees was prepared. The second shipment of
not two, but this time 6,000 young trees arrived in Seattle in January 1912 and passed severe in-
spections without any problem because all the trees had been thoroughly fumigated with hydro-
cyanic acid gas. Three thousand trees were meant as a donation for New York. The other half
of the shipment went to Washington DC, where almost 2,000 Yoshino cher ries, the Nation’s
ower, were planted along the shores of the Tidal Basin in Potomac Park.8 Of all the countries
in the world, the United States now had a public cherry park on a scale that resembled the best
sites in Japan (see Figure 10.3). Every spring the blossom in Potomac Park revived a nationwide
FI G UR E 10.1 Tokyo’s highest high street, the Ginza, was lined with Yoshino cherries, set exactly on
the edge of the sidewalk to receive as much rainwater as possible.
Source: print "Tokyo Ginzagai Nipposha" by Kiyochik a Kobayashi, 1876, National Diet Library, Japan.
Japanese cherry pride on foreignground 139
cherry awareness, something that was hardly seen on this scale outside Washington in the US or
in Europe at the time. Elsewhere in the world, Yoshino cherries were planted on a larger scale
in public space some decades later (Figure 10.2).
Sinister cherries
Japan was now a prospering, modern nation with ambitions. More and more resources needed
to be procured, as well as increased self-condence about territory and goodness of the larger
cause. As any other imperialist nation in its urry of the industrial revolution, Japan also was
quickly rereading its own histor y while inventing new traditions. Just as ever ything Germanic
became an ideology for the Germans moving towards World War Two, Yamato became an
ideology for the Dainippon Japanese. The Yamato land, roughly east of Osaka, was with the
Yamato people as the main, almost prehistoric clan thought as having formed the origin of
Japan. Pioneering the frontier in the primary forests of the archipelago had departed, indeed,
from Yamato. The spirit of Yamato represented the ‘pure-blood’ nationalist attitude, including
the samurai ghting spirit, all adorned by the natural beauty of cherries. The Yamato Province
had its ancient sacred temple at the village Yoshino, famous because of the massive planting of
mountain cherries by pilgrims. It had been this village that had served as a godparent for the
FIG URE 10.2 Tokyo cherries are perceived by modern city managers as threatening because of their
roots which may cause damage to paving, as in Abbeydale Park R ise, Sheeld, UK.
These trees, planted in the early 1930s, were then still known as ‘Yoshino Cherry.’
Source: Fran Halsal l, 2019.
140 Wybe Kuitert
cherry ‘Yoshino’ that we know today as the Tokyo cherry. Besides, there was an old proverb,
Hana ha sakura, hito ha bushi, claiming that cherry owers were the best owers, just as the samu-
rai class was the highest class in the Edo period. Thus the cherr y was an emblem in almost all
military insignia, and many Yoshino cherries with their quickly shedding petals were planted
later as a memorial to repose the souls of those who had died for the fatherland Yamato.
After adventurous militarists entered Chinese Manchuria in 1931, these actions became more
and more supported by the government, in the end spreading colonial control further beyond
the Korean peninsula deeply into Manchuria. Japan’s frontier spirit was rmly set with tens
of thousands of cherr ies planted on the continent. Plans for an astonishing 1 million ‘Yoshino
Cherries’ were set up with a Kyoto cherry nursery in the 1930s for the purpose of planting the
glory of the Empire of Japan all over China and Russia along the Siberian Railroad.9 Perhaps
not all of these cherries were actually grown and planted after all. But most prominently one of
the major palaces of the Korean kings in Seoul, to give just one example, was transformed into a
botanical garden, zoo and cherr y viewing site. Propaganda photos taken by Japanese photogra-
phers illustrate how Koreans and Japanese, both in their own traditional dress, are harmoniously
celebrating Spring under the massive blossom clouds of Yoshino, enhanced by electric illumina-
tion after dusk.10 Since 1933 primar y-school textbooks teaching the national language al l over
imperial Japan had on the rst page a seemingly innocent text: ‘It blooms, it blooms, the cherry
it blooms’ (Saita, saita, sakura ga saita). The slogan was part of a conscious propaganda campaign
to propagate the cherry as a symbol of Great Japan with all its aspirations. Textbooks were ed-
ited by the Ministry of Education, while all school buildings were built and maintained by the
central government. Each school had one or more Yoshino cherries, now majestic trees as most
were planted around the turn of the centur y. Japanese educational programmes start in April,
and as a rule of thumb this cherry blossoms in mid-Japan in the rst week of April. Therefore,
the average school child began the new school year under a blaze of Yoshino pink. Teachings in
reading and writing started with the cherry and even secondar y school biology lessons would
begin with the anatomy of cherries. In the late 1930s soldiers’ songs began to include imagery
and aesthetics of cherry petals scattered as human life, but at the close of the World War Two,
a generation of youngsters appeared at the lines of battle even more thoroughly brainwashed
on the point of cherries. The infantrymen in their uniforms with dark-pink collars sang the
following song:
Ten thousand ower sprigs,
pink as the collar of a soldier’s uniform,
are blown in the storm of Yoshino.
Being born as a son of Great Japan
is to die in the turmoil of battle,
scattered as a petal wind.11
This was no cynical soldiers’ humour. The ocial war propaganda was so perfectly organised
that this sinister song was intensely sung by soldiers convinced that this was the only, and
greatest honour left while their soul would later be consoled by live cherries in the homeland.
The association of a hero’s death with cherry blossoms scattered by wind, which could be
divine for the kamikaze pilots, was coupled with the image of a cher ry. It is the Tokyo cherry
that shows such a sudden and dramatic scattering of petals. Any Japanese knew from school
days that cherries were glor ious and magnicent in bloom, but that they shed their blossoms
abruptly, all at the same time and without mercy. It hardly comes as a surprise that the suicide
planes of Japan’s kamikaze pilots prominently had a cherry logo mark and were named Ohka,
Cherry Flower.
Japanese cherry pride on foreignground 141
Cherries of Peace for the World
After Japan’s defeat, the country was in ruin and its spiritual world in a profound state of trauma,
a mood that lingered during the occupation by the US forces in the following years. Cherries
were no longer felt as a proud symbol of the nation and numerous famous cherry sites entered
a state of decay. However, some immediate eorts were made to replant Tokyo cherries.12
Strikingly, Washington’s annual cherry frenzy at Potomac Park had continued during the war
mostly without any trace of hatred or spite (Figure 10.3).
As early as 1948, the multi-day cherry blossom festival in Washington included Cherry
Blossom Pr incesses selected from many states. This yearly event must be seen as a calculated
eort to consolidate Pax Americana by nourishing the Japanese morale. A timely commemora-
tion of the 100th anniversary of the rst treaty to promote mutual understanding and goodwill
between the two nations reconrmed such strategies. The memorial 4-cent stamp issued
on 28 September 1960 prominently illustrates a blossom sprig of the Tokyo cherry with the
Washington Monument in the background.
By then within Japan, self-condence was boosted by the prospect of the 1964 Tokyo
Olympic Games and the mood had turned to optimism now that the ‘post-war years’ had ended.
Naturally, enthusiasm for cherries revived and, embedded in the mood of the day they had
turned – as if by a godly wind – into an inoensive symbol of peace and universal understanding,
FIG URE 10.3 Thousands of sightseers beneath a canopy of ‘Yoshino cherries’ in bloom, presented as
‘Oriental cherry trees’ to prevent vandalism in Potomac Park, Tidal Basin, Washing-
ton DC, USA, 9 April 1944.
Source: Washington Post Archives.
142 Wybe Kuitert
strikingly as one of the many innocent expressions of Japanese beauty like kimonos or the tea
ceremony. Cherry clubs were founded, including a group of breeders and researchers that found
their home in the Flower Association of Japan (Nihon Hana no Kai), formed in 1962 and spon-
sored by the Komatsu power-shovel company. Ever since, this Association actively supports the
setting up of new cherry sites by local government bodies. Over the years it has sent more than
2.5 million cherry saplings, including 2 million Tokyo cherries to locations across Japan, and
to several western European countries.13 A second association, not to be confused with this
one, was set up two years later by a few Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) members of Parlia-
ment. It is the Japan Sakura Association (Nihon Sakura no Kai) that carries a policy of promoting
cherry plantings through diplomatic eorts. It has sent more than 2.2 million trees throughout
Japan but most prominently made eorts to spread the message worldwide. Between 1967 and
1991 this second Association supported the planting of cher ries in Afghanistan, Argentina,
Armenia, Australia, Belgium, Bhutan, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Denmark, Ecuador,
Egypt, Finland, former Czechoslovakia, former East Germany, former West Germany, former
Soviet Union, France, Denmark, Greece, Hungary, India, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan,
Lebanon, Lithuania, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Neth-
erlands, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines,
Poland, Portugal, Rwanda, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Syria, Taiwan, Tajikistan,
Tanzania, Thailand, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela
and Vietnam.14 It appears that the more political Japan Sakura Association is often supported
practically by the nurseries of the Flower Association of Japan in this global strategy.
Cherry Queens
Japan’s post-war cherry diplomacy with its previous ally and axis power Germany was at rst
most prominent in Hamburg where Consul General Nori Tanimori was one of the actors.
Unlike earlier politicians in the pre-war Washington project, he visited nurserymen and
gardeners in the Tokyo area in person to prepare a cherry planting project.15 Shedding light on
his motivations he recalled in 1968:
If we would plant owering cherries, the symbol of Japan in Hamburg’s most prominent
Alster Park, not only the Japanese but also the people of Hamburg would be delighted;
moreover, it would continue to be a living symbol of friendship between Japan and
Germany... the almost 1,200 Japanese people living in Hamburg, worrying that their
expat Japanese community would become isolated from the local community, expressed
their gratitude to the city which had formed the foundation of their daily life and business
activities, by presenting the cherries...
A cherry blossom festival was hosted in 1968 and reworks were set o for the rst time in
spring at the Alster River warming up Hamburg citizens to the project. At the time a thousand
cherries had been donated by the Japanese community, planted at the Elbe River, the Alster-
park, the Stadtpark, and the Hagenbeck Zoo.16 In the late 1970s, 5,000 more were donated via
the Flower Association of Japan. Other Japanese cherries were planted later at the War Memorial
at Fontenay and in the Japanese gardens at Planten un Blomen in Hamburg. Japanese cherries
were now fully acceptable as city decoration.
In Bonn, the capital city of Germany during the Cold War, a large Japanese Garden was
sponsored by the Japanese government at the federal horticultural show in 1979. The much-
admired garden had become the event’s main advertising icon.17 In this mood, administrators
Japanese cherry pride on foreignground 143
decided to plant cherries as street trees in the inner city. For this project, double-owering
‘Kanzan’ was selected, and it was grafted on a European cherry, the roots of which can stand
the harsh conditions of the city’s concrete jungle (Figure 10.4). Speaking of ‘Kanzan,’ although
often used in the Tokyo area, it has no symbolic meaning in Japan. With a histor y shrouded in
clouds, it could very well have been brought in from Korea or China some centuries ago.
Following the US in the meantime, also the Japan Sakura Association started its Cherry
Princess and Queen contests within Japan. Nationwide from among communities with active
cherry planting policies, female volunteers – ‘rich in spirit’ according to the requirements – can
apply. The chance to become Japan’s national Cherry Queen is alluring because it includes an
overseas trip to meet the foreign Queens and Princesses, who in the US are selected from among
‘women leaders’ aged 19 to 24. Encouraged, Hamburg has also joined in: once ever y two years
a Princess had been elected from among young women with aspirations in the eld, a status that
was recently elevated by the Japan Sakura Association to Cherry Blossom Queen. Today only
Hawaii, Washington and Hamburg are ocially entitled to nominate a Cherry Queen under
the umbrella of the Association; they are oered a trip to Japan and some may even have met
with LDP Prime Minister Shinzō Abe in person. Ostensibly, cherries can even support such
old-fashioned male chauvinism as if nothing has changed since 1948.
Coffee and cherries
While Hamburg embarked on a path to successful cherry diplomacy, Tanzania came in with a dif-
ferent rationale. Because it illustrates the wide range of mechanisms and emotions when it comes
FIG URE 10.4 Early in the morning on Breite Straβe, Altstadt, Bonn, Germany, when most people
are still asleep, ‘Kanzan’ can be enjoyed before the sele crowds arrive.
Source: Sir James, ( Rai ner Henkel), Wikimedia Commons, 2009
144 Wybe Kuiter t
to cherry pride outside Japan, the cherries planted on the slopes of the Kilimanjaro are included
here as a telling example. Julius Kambarage Nyerere as president in the rst decades of indepen-
dent Tanzania managed to stabilise and unify the country in spite of uncertainty and the political
dynamics of the time. By the late 1970s, various regional programmes assisted by multilateral and
bilateral donor support could be implemented, among which was the Kilimanjaro region, with
Japan as collaborating foreign partner. It has been one of the more successful projects with legacies
that are still expanding.18 Remarkably, Nyerere increasingly criticised the imperialist nations for
their unfair economic policies, for example in a speech in Tokyo in 1981.19 In spite of that, and
also due to diplomatic eorts from the Japanese side, the project continued. The Japanese may have
various interests, but the very mountain of Kilimanjaro with its striking snow-capped cone appears
to have somehow resembled the almost sacred Mount Fuji in the motherland.20 And when it comes
to Tanzanian coee, Japan is after Ger many, the largest importing country mostly because of a
cherished, mild arabica blend marketed in Japan as Kilimanjaro Coee. In fact, it evolved into the
one and only global Tanzanian brand – all of which strengthens mutual interest.
Coee is auctioned at the Coee Exchange in Moshi, the town that with its airport serves
all major connections to the K ilimanjaro region. Japanese ocials visiting the town have valued
the spectacular blossom season of the Jacaranda trees as especially impressive. In fact, the Jaca-
randa is an invasive species from the Americas, but seeing them ower all at once in the distance
reminds one of the springtime blossoms of the sakura in the home country.21 Is it a surprise then
that cherry planting was undertaken in Tanzania? In 1977 cherry trees were planted by Presi-
dent Nyerere along a mountain trail on the slopes of Kilimanjaro close to Moshi with help from
the young men and women of the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers who were dispatched
to Tanzania as part of international cooperation policies. A hundred trees were sent from Japan
under the auspices of the Japan Sakura Association.22 However, the planting did not generate a
lasting cherry enthusiasm as is seen in the US or Germany that share with Japan a histor y of war.
Rather the Kilimanjaro site is visited now and then by chauvinist Japanese bringing business to
local guides. According to recent visitor reports, the trees have become a bit overgrown by the
lush native plants while the blossom colour of the straggling cherries is remarkably deep pink.23
Matching the subtropical abundance of the Kilimanjaro mountainsides, the only suitable cherry
from Japan must be the Taiwan Cherry or one of its hybrids. Indigenous to Taiwan it is now and
then planted as an ornamental in Tokyo as well. This cherry is deep pink in bloom and it can
stand climates warmer than Japan, the reason that it is often used by members of the Japanese
diaspora in subtropical regions, for example in South America.
Cherry pride revived in Tanzania in recent years when the Sakura Girls Secondary School
was founded by Japanese sponsors, not far from Moshi; of course, real sakura was brought in
to teach the girls about the beauty of the owers. For this project, 350 trees were sent by a re-
markable Japanese club, the ‘Yōkō Sakura for the Repose of the Souls of the Dead and Peace Exchange
Association.’24 The cherr y ‘Yōkō’ is remarkable not only because of its biology but also because of
its history. Yōkō is a recent cher ry variety, popular in Japan where it is also known as the Cherry
of Peace, or the Queen of Cherries. It was bred by Masaaki Takaoka who in his t wenties was a
‘Youth School’ teacher. Such schools were set up by the Ministries of Army and Education in
the 1930s and were meant to prepare youngsters for service in war – who mostly did not return.
Out of remorse Takaoka had spent many years of amateur breeding to nd a cherry that would
commemorate his war-dead students and it was ‘Yōkō’ that passed all tests. It has the Taiwan
Cherry as one of its parents, therefore it can stand warmer climates; in fact it is now spreading
over Japan as a new star plant replacing the Tokyo Cherry that suers from climate change-
related weakness and disease.25 Apart from a remarkable eort for the repose of souls of the war
dead in Tanzania, the success of ‘Yōkō’ leaves the impression that cherries need to be clonal and
take advantage of some heavy symbolism to become star plants in Japan.
Japanese cherry pride on foreignground 145
Unifying cherries
The pre-war Nazi regime’s sumptuous scheme to rebuild Berlin into a grand capital called
Germania included the rebuilding of both the Italian and Japanese embassies. Most of this mega-
alomaniac project was never realised, but the diplomatic missions of the Axis Powers became
restyled in the last years of war as magnicent city palaces, exhibiting alliances on a scale too
large to be practical. At the invasion of the armies of victory, both buildings in the Tiergarten
quarter escaped devastating air raids but were looted and left unattended until the fall of the
Berlin Wall in 1989.
So far, politically it had not been correct, if not impossible to invest in cherry diplomacy in
the divided capital, either in East or West Berlin, although the Japan Sakura Association had its
activities elsewhere in divided Germany. But with the fall of the Wall, this position changed.
Historic events were followed in detail in Japan, as it was perceived that nally the War had
come to an end. The wish to celebrate peace and commemorate the passing of history with
cherry planting was strongly felt among the Japanese, but unied Berlin was not ready for that.
Tetsuo Terasaki, a correspondent for the Asahi television company and for many years based
in Berlin was aware of the problem and cleverly managed the planting of two commemorative
cherries at the Glienicker Brücke.26 The acumen of his strategy was that on the one hand, the
bridge had a profound historical meaning as it had been the only hole in the Wall that fenced the
West o from the East: it was the bridge over which Russian and Allied forces had exchanged
prisoners and mutually arrested spies during hostilities and anxieties of the Cold War. On the
other hand, the land at the bridge on which cherries were to be planted was not Berlin but
owned by the city of Potsdam in former East Germany (Figure 10.5).
FIG URE 10.5 A Japanese mountain cherr y from northern Japan in ower at the Glienicker Brücke,
Potsdam, Germany.
Source: Ono Yūji, from Katei Gahō, April 2016.
146 Wybe Kuiter t
For East Germans, Japan was an imaginar y world of cosmopolitan freedom and a cherry
donation must have been an attractive project.27 In the East moreover, tree activism had proved
the power of plants in fostering citizens’ opposition against dictatorship.28 This all helped to
smoothen decision-making. One year after the Berlin Wall fell, in November 1990, these rst
two Japanese cherries could already be planted. To be in tune with Germany’s climate, but
perhaps also because of too pregnant symbolism, the cherries selected were not Tokyo cherries,
but wild Prunus serrulata var. sargentii. It grows into a sturdy tree, native to northern Japan with
owers usually more pink than the Japanese Mountain Cherry. The modest project established
Terasaki’s position as a cherry activist, and over the following decades, he would be at the centre
of large-scale planting actions all along the former line of division, the Berlin Wall. But for the
site of the Wall, the land ownership in many cases was not clear. Moreover, Eastern and Western
politicians had more impor tant things to do, while administrators of the newly formed Berlin
Park Oce were not attuned to cooperation – for which this exotic planting in its dierent
perspective provided an attractive testing ground (Figure 10.6).
In Japan itself in the meantime, Terasaki’s employer, the TV Asahi was increasingly criti-
cising the ruling Liberal Democrats of the country’s one-party democracy. Perhaps this too is
behind the enthusiasm of the viewers of the channel of whom an estimated 20,000 individuals
over the ve years of a cher ry campaign donated 140 million yen – roughly amounting to 1
million euro – for which almost 9,000 trees could be planted. The rst set of 3,000 was supplied
by the Flower Association of Japan in 1991. Besides a wide range of less current varieties, most
of the cherries were again ‘Kanzan’ along with a smaller number of Tokyo Cherries. Behind
this decision is the diculty Terasaki had to convince Berlin administrators, many of them with
FIG URE 10.6 The TV Asahi owering cherr y avenue of ‘Kanzan’ follows the former site of the Ber-
lin Wall with its security corridors, today along the border of Brandenburg and Berlin City.
Source: photo "TV Asahi Mauerweg", by PNN Ottmar Winter, April 2019, Tagesspiegel.
Japanese cherry pride on foreignground 147
academic degrees, that European fruiting cherries do not carry the intimate feelings of beauty
that the Japanese feel for their own blossom trees. Correct feelings were not fully acquired by
the Berliners, and the Japanese became convinced that Germans like double-owered cherries:
about 70% planted in the TV Asahi campaign is ‘Kanzan.’29
Over the years the huge Berlin Japanese Embassy building was repaired and refurbished
celebrating the unication; it now stands proudly along the Hiroshimastraβe, the street not
lined with cherries, but with horse chestnuts, while only one European double owering
cherry stands in the Embassy’s front garden. When Susumu Hasumi, Liberal Democratic Party
Congress member and Managing Director of the Japan Sakura Association visited Berlin in
November 2011 accompanied by the Cherr y Blossom Queen, they could only feel impressed by
the large building of the Embassy. What surprises most is that their blog does not report on any
cherries for Berlin,30 perhaps as these were planted by rival TV Asahi. Yes, deeply embedded in
cultural nationalism Japanese cherries are a source of pride when standing on foreign ground,
but sometimes not.
I would like to thank two anonymous referees for their critical reading and co-reader Christian
Tagsold for valuable advice and suggestions.
1 On cherry histor y in Japan see: Wybe Kuitert, Japanese Flowering Cherries (Portland Oregon: Timber
Press, 1999), 34–100; Wybe Kuitert, ‘Cultural Values and Political Change: Cher ry Gardening in
Ancient Japan,’ in Michel Conan and John W. Kress, eds., Botanical Progress, Horticultural Innovations
and Cultural Changes (Washing ton, DC: Harvard University Press, 2007); Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney,
Kamikaze, Cherry Blossoms, and Nationalisms: The Militarization of Aesthetics in Japanese History (Chicago,
London: The University of Chicago Press, 2002), 27–153.
2 Centuries-old Japanese Mountain Cherries at Koganei in Tokyo are seen on a photo by Kimbei
Kusabe in Kakuzo Okakura and Frank Brinkley, Japan, Described and Illustrated by the Japanese Vol. lll
(Boston & Tokyo, 1898), facing p.108.
3 Manabu Myoshi, ‘Japan ische Bergkirschen, ihre Wi ldfor men und Kultur rassen’, Journal of the College
of Science of the Imperial University of Tokyo, 34 (10 March 1916), art. 1, introduces the rows planted
at Koganei as selections from the wild (Wildformen, pp. 10–11) and gives the 38 forma of his wild P.
mutabilis a spectacular Latin name ( pp. 41–73).
4 See Wybe Kuitert, ‘A Cherry Gardener in Tokyo’s Ueno Park’ forthcoming, on the early history of
this clonal variet y.
5 The Sakura-no-Kwai was a club of elite cher ry lovers in the 1920s where Miyoshi Manabu elaborated
aesthetics from botanical details, see Manabu Miyoshi, ‘Kag akujō yori mitaru Nihon no sakura,’
Sakura, 1, 3 (1920): 2–12; cf. note 3 above.
6 See Er nest Henry Wilson, The Cherries of Japan (Publications of the Arnold Arboretum 7), (Ca mbr idge:
Cambr idge Universit y Press, 1916), 15–17, who gives Yoshino-zakura and Somei-yoshino-zakura as
vernacular names. ‘Yoshino’ in quotation marks indicates here that the name is of historic interest, not
used today in plant science. See for this: Iketani Hiroyuki, Katsuki Toshio, and Kawahara Takayuki,
Prunus × yedoensis ‘Somei-yoshino’, a Correct Cultivar Name for Yoshino Cher ry,’ The Journal of
Japanese Botany, 81, 2 (2006): 123–125.Tokyo cherry is the correct name in English for 'Somei-yoshino';
see Wybe Kuitert, ‘Observations on the Tokyo Cherry’, Shakkei, 28/3 (Winter 2021/2022), pp. 2-8
7 Ichirō Fujisak i, ‘Ga ikōkan to sakura,’ Kasumi-gaseki kai, 5 Apr il 2013.
8 Roland M. Jeerson and Alan E. Fusoni, The Japanese Flowering Cherry Trees of Washington, D.C.: A
living Symbol of Friendship National Arboretum Contribut ion no. 4 (Washington, DC: U.S. Department
of Agriculture, 1977); Margaret R. Pooler, ‘Preser vation and DNA Fingerpr inting of the Historic
Tidal Basin Cherries,’ Journal of Environmental Horticulture, 17, 4 (1999): 185–189; Fujisaki, 2013.
9 Tōeimon Sano, Sakura no inochi niwa no kokoro (Tōkyō: Sōshisha, 1998), 54.
10 Jung-hwa Kim, ‘The Origin and Evolution of Botanical Gardens in Korea’ (PhD Diss., Seoul National
University, 2017), 180–184.
148 Wybe Kuiter t
11 Munemutsu Yamada, Hana no bunkashi (Tōkyō: Yomiuri Shinbunsha, 1977), 115–116.
12 Akihito Hiratsuka, ‘Sakura wo sukue ‘someiyoshino jumyō 60-nen-setsu’ ni idomu otoko-tachi,’
Bungei shunjū, March 2001, 158–159.
13 According to the website of this Association:
sakura-area1/. Accessed 1 August 2019.
14 According to the website of this Association: Accessed
1 August 2019.
15 Fujisaki, 2013, op. cit.
16 Tosh iyuki Kawakam i, ‘Hanburugu no akura matsuri,’ Keizai to gaikō – Gaimushō 585, no.43 (1971):
17 Christian Tagsold, Spaces in Translation: Japanese Gardens and the West (Phi ladelphia: University of
Pennsylvania Press, 2017), 122–124.
18 Aleck Humphrey Che-Mponda, ‘Aspects of Nyerere’s Economic Thought,’ African Study Monographs,
no. 6 (1986): 45–55; Hisatsugu Toyoda, ‘Tanzania – kirimanjaroshū nōgyōkaihatsu,’ Journal of the
Japanese Society of Irrigation, Drainage and Reclamation Engineering, 52, 9 (September 1984): 842–851; see
also numerous Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) reports, for example Tanzania rengo
kyōwakoku kirimanjaro nōgyōkaihatsu keikaku tanki senmonka hōkokusho of March 1988.
19 Che-Mponda, ‘Aspects of Nyerere’s Econom ic Thought’ 53–54.
20 Blog by Yurato-s an ‘Kir imanja ro kokurit su kōen shūhen ryokō-k i’ posted Oc tober 2011 https://4travel .
jp/travelogue/10618011. Accessed 14 July 2019.
21 Toyoda 1984, 850, op. cit.
22 Relying on Yurato-san 2011, and a blog posted June, 2014 by Dōsoshin ‘Kirimanjaro no sakura’ y-blossom/. Accessed 14 July 2019.
23 Yurato-san 2011, op. cit.
24 See the post also
the website of the Yōkō Sakura for the Repose of the Souls of the Dead and Peace Exchange Association id=325. Both accessed 30 July 2020.
25 Ritsuko Mōri, ‘Kanposu do jorudon ‘yōkōsakura’ hiwa = sakura ni kometa nihonjin no omoi’ Jornal
Nikkey Shimbun (Sao Paolo), 1 April 2016. Also Wybe Kuitert, ‘Developments in Japanese Flowering
Ch er r ies,’ The Plantsman, Royal Horticultural Society, 15, 1 (2016): 33 on botanical deta ils.
26 Hideko Kawauchi (ed.), ‘Berur in ni saku heiwa no sakura,’ Katei Gahō, April 2016, 86–103.
27 Perceptions of Japan in Eastern Europe behind the Iron Curtain had this added position opposing
suocating communism, as expla ined by Piotr Splawski in a 2014 lecture at the Sainsbury Institute,
Norwich, UK.
28 See Chapter 18 in the present volume ‘Occupying Public Space, Generating Public Spheres: Street
Tree Art and Activ ism in East and West Berlin’ by Sonja Dümpelman n.
29 Tetsuo Terasaki, ‘Berur in no kabe kara sakura he, dō yatte reisen no isan wo uketome kaete ittaka,’
Sakura no Kagaku, 8 (2001): 82–86.
30 Accessed 25 July 2019. The visit to the
Japanese Embassy on 6 November 2011 was to report on the Hamburg Cherry Queen.
... The rest of the world followed soon. In Sheffield for example, the Tokyo Cherry was planted as a roadside tree in the 1930s (Kuitert 2022a). But its triumph faced a minor flaw at the village Koganei along a major waterduct bringing household water to the capital. ...
... Flowering cherries are highly valued by the Japanese. Wherever they are settling in the world, almost inevitably the sakura will follow (Kuitert 2022a). By now, Japanese cherries are found all over the world, numerous collection gardens can be visited, raising an awareness about the intricacies of cherry blossom. ...
Full-text available
The most popular cherry in Japan is without any doubt the ‘Somei-yoshino’ or Tokyo Cherry. The masses of Japanese one may see celebrating the end of winter under massive clouds of pink, will usually have spread their picnic sheets under a stand of Tokyo Cherries. In spite of its fame, there is still some confusion over the exact origin and identity of this cherry. It is around as a true clone, but the crossbreed seedlings grown from fruits of the Tokyo Cherry bring in ambiguity. Also, its naming is a source of confusion as we find several uncertain synonyms, such as “Yoshino Cherry”. This paper is an in depth study, sorting out origin and identity against a historical background with detailed photography of botanical and growth characteristics of the Tokyo Cherry. // Published in “Shakkei" The journal of the Japanese Garden Society (UK) Society, Vol. 28, No.3 (Winter 2021-2022): 2-8
Full-text available
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.
The historic Japanese flowering cherry trees planted around the Tidal Basin in Washington, DC, were given to the United States in 1912 as a gift from Japan, yet only a small portion of the original trees remain. In cooperation with the National Park Service, the U.S. National Arboretum clonally propagated a portion of these trees. DNA from these and other P. x yedoensis plants obtained from domestic commercial nurseries were compared using RAPD markers. Twenty-one 10-nucleotide primers yielded 80 repeatable bands that were used to assess genetic distances among the accessions. The genetic distances ranged from 0.65 to 1.0, with thirteen accessions identical at all loci tested. The most genetically dissimilar trees were P. x yedoensis accessions that were collected as seed in Japan. Accessions obtained from commercial nurseries including ‘Afterglow’, ‘Akebono’, and Yoshino were also dissimilar to the Tidal Basin trees. This study indicated that most of the older trees planted around the Tidal Basin are genetically very similar, but that variability in P. x yedoensis exists, especially in accessions collected as seed from Japan.
African independence challenged the new nations of Africa with how best to bring about the betterment of life. Before independence, Africans were subordinated and given a low priority in the sharing of their countries' economic blessings. Therefore, with the withering away of colonialism, African leaders had to think of how best to bring about development for their respective countries. Developmental strategies that ensued ranged from trial and error to dogmatic. However, imperialism did not leave them alone. Many leaders were overthrown regardless of the endearment of their nationals. And, the resulting economic situation was in shambles. Natural disasters did not spare the African new states. Then again, Africans' own warrings retarded their economic growth. This paper looks into the ways and means of one of Africa's leaders, Julius Kambarage Nyerere of Tanzania, as for over two decades he struggled toward making Tanzania an economically viable nation-state.
) and gives the 38 forma of his wild P. mutabilis a spectacular Latin name
  • Manabu Myoshi
  • Japanische Bergkirschen
  • Ihre Wildformen Und Kulturrassen
Manabu Myoshi, 'Japanische Bergkirschen, ihre Wildformen und Kulturrassen', Journal of the College of Science of the Imperial University of Tokyo, 34 (10 March 1916), art. 1, introduces the rows planted at Koganei as selections from the wild (Wildformen, pp. 10-11) and gives the 38 forma of his wild P. mutabilis a spectacular Latin name (pp. 41-73).
A Cherry Gardener in Tokyo's Ueno Park' forthcoming, on the early history of this clonal variety
  • See Wybe Kuitert
See Wybe Kuitert, 'A Cherry Gardener in Tokyo's Ueno Park' forthcoming, on the early history of this clonal variety.
Yoshino' in quotation marks indicates here that the name is of historic interest, not used today in plant science. See for this: Iketani Hiroyuki, Katsuki Toshio, and Kawahara Takayuki, 'Prunus × yedoensis 'Somei-yoshino', a Correct Cultivar Name for Yoshino Cherry
  • Henry Wilson
See Ernest Henry Wilson, The Cherries of Japan (Publications of the Arnold Arboretum 7), (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1916), 15-17, who gives Yoshino-zakura and Somei-yoshino-zakura as vernacular names. 'Yoshino' in quotation marks indicates here that the name is of historic interest, not used today in plant science. See for this: Iketani Hiroyuki, Katsuki Toshio, and Kawahara Takayuki, 'Prunus × yedoensis 'Somei-yoshino', a Correct Cultivar Name for Yoshino Cherry,' The Journal of Japanese Botany, 81, 2 (2006): 123-125.Tokyo cherry is the correct name in English for 'Somei-yoshino'; see Wybe Kuitert, 'Observations on the Tokyo Cherry', Shakkei, 28/3 (Winter 2021/2022), pp. 2-8
The Japanese Flowering Cherry Trees of
  • M Roland
  • Alan E Jefferson
  • Fusoni
Roland M. Jefferson and Alan E. Fusoni, The Japanese Flowering Cherry Trees of Washington, D.C.: A living Symbol of Friendship National Arboretum Contribution no. 4 (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1977);
The Origin and Evolution of Botanical Gardens in Korea
  • Jung-Hwa Kim
Jung-hwa Kim, 'The Origin and Evolution of Botanical Gardens in Korea' (PhD Diss., Seoul National University, 2017), 180-184.
Sakura wo sukue 'someiyoshino jumyō 60-nen-setsu' ni idomu otoko-tachi
  • Akihito Hiratsuka
Akihito Hiratsuka, 'Sakura wo sukue 'someiyoshino jumyō 60-nen-setsu' ni idomu otoko-tachi,' Bungei shunjū, March 2001, 158-159.
Hanburugu no akura matsuri
  • Toshiyuki Kawakami
Toshiyuki Kawakami, 'Hanburugu no akura matsuri,' Keizai to gaikō -Gaimushō 585, no.43 (1971): 76-79.