by: Naoko Abe
Travel in Japan in April and revel in the glorious rainfall of cherry-tree blossoms in hues ranging from snowy white to pink blends and purple. Cherry trees of different varieties have been nurtured and cherished throughout the history of Japan. In fact, the cherry blossom is the official flower of Japan. In this incredible and riveting story, Japanese journalist, Naoko Abe has researched the evolution of this iconic plant along with its symbolic significance and explains how an English traveler in the beginning 1900s became captivated by the vast variety of cherry trees, mostly by the blossoms that he first experienced during his first trip to Japan. Collingham Ingram, a wealthy English noble, forsook his former passion for birds and immediately immersed himself in the study of plants and began one of the world’s most extensive and exquisite Japanese cherry stocks that he planted on his English estate doing most of the grafting and planting himself. Since the English climate is similar to that of Japan, he was able to import plants and develop cherry orchards and new varieties never before seen. Through his resourcefulness, he was able to singlehandedly revive and save the sakura or cherry blossoms, to Japan when their entire stock of indigenous trees had declined or was destroyed by World War II and by devastating disease. One of the most insightful parts is when the author was able to verify that the symbol of the cherry blossom was used to trick young Japanese Kamikaze pilots into suicide mission telling them that “a cherry blossom lives for only 10 days”, they must model their missions on the fact that a cherry blossom must die in glory for their country. As the Kamikaze pilots would take off from the airfield, young and beautiful teenage girls were waving them off with cherry blossoms.