Cherry Blossom Viewing at ‘Mukojima’ in Tokyo

Picnicking and cherry tree viewing at Mukojima in Tokyo (Photos: D. Parsell)

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

It wasn’t just the trees that Eliza wanted to import. She found herself captivated by the spirit of cherry tree viewing, and it was that experience she wanted to see re-created in Washington. She described, in the late 19th century, the Japanese turning out in many parks to see the trees at 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 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)

6 Comments

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

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

  1. Pingback: The Tokyo Park Behind D.C.’s Cherry Trees | A Great Blooming

  2. Pingback: In Japan for My Research on Eliza Scidmore, a Gift of 'Sakura'A Great Blooming

  3. Pingback: A Gift of 'Sakura' | A Great Blooming

  4. 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.

  5. Peg Christoff

    This was amazing Diana! Great, great work!

  6. Rumi

    Diana,
    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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