Category Archives: Media & Outreach

‘On the Hunt’ for Cherry Blossoms With a Japanese Film Crew

Japan’s TBS network aired an hour-long program March 18 in its  “Mystery Hunter” series in which I discussed Eliza Scidmore’s role in bringing cherry trees to Washington. I was interviewed for the show last month.

From left, reporter Nakada Asumi, assistant director Hoshuyama Aki, me, production coordinator Keiji Jinn Nishimura (in glasses, center), director Suzuki Yohei, audio man Sakuma Toshimi and camera man Fukumoto Noriyuki.

I spent several hours with the film crew on the weekend of February 4. What a hard-working bunch they were. They arrived at our house in Falls Church, Va., just a few hours after flying in from Japan–then did four hours of taping, including translations! Our yellow sun room felt cozy. Birds at the feeder outside the picture window made a nice touch in the film.

The group was thrilled I had a first-edition copy of Scidmore’s 1892 book Jinrikisha Days in Japan.” I found it on eBay a few years ago for fifty bucks, and though it’s fragile and crumbly, it’s wonderful to see in the original form.

For the TV program — a mix of game show and field adventure — I discussed Eliza Scidmore’s vision of creating a “Mukojima on the Potomac,” inspired by a mile-long avenue of cherry trees in Tokyo a century ago. I visited Mukojima in 2013.

We met again on a chilly Sunday in Potomac Park, where the original cherry trees donated from Japan were planted in March 1912.

Potomac Park in mid-winter was bleak. And the weather was especially cold for Washington. Fortunately, as production coordinator Keiji “Jinn” Nishimura (back center) told me, they also filmed the cherry trees in bloom last spring, so they have footage of the peak blooming season.

It was a joy to meet and work with such talented professionals.

After leaving me at mid-afternoon on Sunday, they headed off across town to film … the famous Ben’s Chili Bowl!

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Filed under Biography, Cherry Trees, D.C. History, Eliza Scidmore, Japan, Media & Outreach, Research

Eliza Scidmore, Jokichi Takamine and ‘Homecoming Trees’

Plaque describing the role of Jokichi Takamine and Eliza Scidmore in Japan’s cherry tree gift to Washington (Photo: D. Parsell)

Eliza Scidmore is popping up all over the place here in Japan. Her cameo appears on plaques marking the presence of cherry trees grafted from trees in Potomac Park — scions of the 3,000 trees Japan sent to Washington a hundred years ago. A couple hundred saplings of these “homecoming cherry trees” are being planted around Japan.

It’s one of many U.S.-Japanese projects celebrating last year’s centennial of Washington’s cherry trees. Japan is also planting 3,000 dogwood trees that were a gift from the United States.

On the plaques, Eliza Scidmore is paired with a famous Japanese chemist named Jokichi Takamine. It recognizes their dual effort in bringing flowering cherry trees to Washington. Eliza had come up with the idea many years earlier but failed to win the support of park supervisors. Dr. Takamine had similarly tried in vain to have cherry trees planted in a park in New York City, where he lived.

Jokichi Takamine

A fortuitous moment came when Eliza encountered Dr. Takamine and his travel companion, the Japanese consul in New York, at social events in Washington in the spring of 1909. When she informed them of Mrs. Taft’s plans to have some flowering cherry trees planted in Potomac Park — a move Mrs. Taft took up at Eliza’s suggestion — Dr. Takamine offered to personally buy a couple thousand trees for the project. Continue reading

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Filed under Cherry Trees, D.C. History, Eliza Scidmore, Japan, Media & Outreach

Off to Japan, in Eliza Scidmore’s Footsteps

By the Tidal Basin in Washington with reporter Miki Ebara, in front of the first two cherry trees from Japan planted on March 27, 1912, and a 300-year-old lantern from Japan (Source: NHK TV)

A busy Saturday. I just spent five hours with a film crew from the New York bureau of Japan’s NHK television, talking about my research on Eliza Scidmore.

Miki Ebara, the chief correspondent in New York,  first contacted me a year ago not long after I launched this blog. She covers disasters as part of her duties and was familiar with Eliza Scidmore’s reporting on the great tsunami on the northeast coast of Japan in 1896.

Miki and I reconnected several weeks ago when I started thinking about making a trip to Japan for some necessary research. Cherry blossom season seemed the best time to go, so things have moved along very quickly. I’m off early next week. First trip to Japan.

Because she shares my fascination with Eliza, Miki decided to do a news feature on the cherry trees in Washington with a segment on my research and what I’ve learned about Eliza’s life. The show is scheduled to air on March 30, when the trees in Japan should be at peak bloom.

Eliza has become increasingly well known in Japan because of her book Jinrikisha Days in Japan and her role in bringing cherry trees to Washington, so there’s much curiosity about her. There’s even an information sign about her posted outside one of Yokohama’s metro stations, near the cemetery where she’s buried. Continue reading

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Filed under Biography, Cherry Trees, D.C. History, Eliza Scidmore, Japan, Media & Outreach, Research, Women's History