“No other flower in all the world is so beloved, so exalted, so worshipped, as sakura-no-hana, the cherry-blossom of Japan.”
— Eliza Scidmore, The Century Magazine, May 1910
It’s blooming time in D.C. That means cherry tree fever along the Tidal Basin. Bruce and I made our annual pilgrimage early Saturday morning, under a clear but chilly sky.
Today is the trees’ official birthday. The first ones donated by Japan were planted in Washington on March 27, 1912. Eliza Scidmore was one of only three special guests of First Lady Helen Taft on hand to witness the small private ceremony.
Eliza, who was the first person to suggest planting flowering cherry trees along the Potomac, said she got the idea while visiting Japan in the 1880s. One cherry-tree park in particular inspired her: Mukojima, a mile-long avenue of trees along the Sumida River in Tokyo.
I had a chance to visit Mukojima during a research trip to Japan. It looks very different today, but the spirit of fellowship and good will that so inspired Eliza is still evident today in the ancient ritual of hanami — cherry-blossom viewing.
Eliza wrote that she wanted to create a “Mukojima on the Potomac.” Here are some historic photos of what Mukojima looked like around the time Eliza went there.