Cherry Blossom Viewing at ‘Mukojima’ in Tokyo

On Saturday I literally walked in Eliza Scidmore’s footsteps when I went to Tokyo to see the cherry tree viewing (hanami) at Mukojima. The original mile-long stretch of cherry trees lining the Sumida River was the chief inspiration for Scidmore’s idea of planting Japanese cherry trees in Washington. She envisioned, she wrote many times, a “Mukojima on the Potomac.”

Picnicking and cherry tree viewing at Mukojima in Tokyo, an inspiration for Eliza Scidmore in the late 19th century (Photos: Diana Parsell)

It wasn’t just the blossoms that Scidmore wanted to import. She loved the celebrations when the Japanese turned out in droves to see the trees in peak bloom.

The most festive place was Mukojima. It was like the “people’s park,” where Japanese from all walks of life mingled in a carnival atmosphere. There were jugglers, acrobats, orators and vendors. And lots of saké drinking and picnicking.

The place is much changed today, of course. Most of the original trees were destroyed in the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 and had to be replanted. The Sumida River today is wider. Tall buildings tower above one side of the riverbank, and the other has a raised freeway running parallel to a stretch of cherry trees. But the display is still glorious, and the spirit of hanami remains the same.

It was a joy to be there and experience it. The trees bloomed about two weeks earlier than expected here in Japan, so my timing was perfect!

Office colleagues from EdiSon, a computer engineering firm that develops software for waste management, spent the day together at Mukojima, along with the company’s founder and president, Hiroki Sunaga (second from right, in neck scarf).

A stretch of trees at Mukojima, where lanterns line the path for night viewing and crowds gravitate to outdoor stands offering fried noodles, grilled meat, sweets and cotton candy.


I’m told this band of merrymakers I posed with was reenacting a traditional form of “advertising” in Japan, when costumed messengers roamed the streets with announcements. (Photo: Kyoko Tanitsu)


A hot pastime this year at Mukojima was photographing the traditional cherry trees juxtaposed with Tokyo’s modern new tower known as the “Sky Tree.”


A tasty introduction to cherry tree celebration at Mukojima


Kyoko Tanitsu, left, and Michiko Okubo were my companions and guides at Mukojima. Michiko lives in Tokyo’s Adachi Ward, where the 3,000 cherry tree saplings sent to Washington and planted in 1912 were cultivated. (Photo: Wakako Hisaeda)


Filed under Biography, Cherry Trees, D.C. History, Eliza Scidmore, Historical Travel, Japan, Photos

7 Responses to Cherry Blossom Viewing at ‘Mukojima’ in Tokyo

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  5. Ann McClellan

    How very fun — loved the photos and glad to see the cherry blossoms are doing their thing somewhere. It’s snowing as I write in Washington, DC, and the trees here are still in tight buds, except for the Okame.

  6. Peg Christoff

    This was amazing Diana! Great, great work!

  7. Rumi

    Lovely pictures!! You are so lucky that the sakura blooming in Tokyo this year is much earlier than usual years so that you are just in time to view them. If you came a week later, maybe they should have gone already! So, the blossom viewing, Hanami, is a little different from usual years: usually, we do Hanami as welcome parties for new staff and freshmen at companies as our year at offices and schools starts in April. Though, this year the occasion is to farewell people leaving offices and schools as it is the end of the year. You are here in a special year!!

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