5 Must-see Japanese Cherry Trees
Today, we’re going to talk about the Five Great Cherry Trees (“Sakura”) of Japan. It might be a little confusing, but this is a different selection than the Three Great Cherry Blossom Areas of Japan we wrote about earlier. What made those places special are their reputations for being beautiful locales. However, what we’ll look at today are five sakura that, as individual cherry trees, are held up as examples of natural splendor just as they are. On a note, all five are actually registered as Natural Monuments of Japan. With that said, please enjoy our introduction of these awe-inspiring works of natural art. Ref: https://www.flickr.com
1. Miharu Taki-zakura
Location: Fukushima; species: beni-shidare-zakura (“weeping crimson cherry”); estimated age: 1000+ years; Information: Map
With a height of 13.5 m, an east-west span of its branches 25 m, and a north-south span of 20 m, this truly gargantuan cherry tree spreads its thick branches in every direction, each heavy with countless blossoms come spring. Contrasted with the figures of the people walking around it, you’ll understand just how colossal the dimensions of this tree are.
The name “taki-zakura” has its origins in how this cherry tree’s flowers bloom in a downward cascade, just as you’d expect from a waterfall (“taki”). When night falls, the way the gentle pink of the cherry blossoms glows through the darkness is a sight too beautiful for words alone.
2. Neodani Usuzumi-zakura
Location: Gifu; species: edo-higan-zakura (“Edo solstice cherry” a type of higan-zakura); estimated age: 1500 years; Information: Map
Just as the buds are starting to blossom, http://blog.goo.ne.jp/noriyan8
Found in Usuzumi Park, this huge sakura measures 16 m in height and 10 m in circumference. Said in legend to have been planted by the hands of Emperor Keitai himself, the tree has an aura of the miraculous about it, having prevailed through a number of near-death experiences in bygone years.
Full bloom, http://plaza.rakuten.co.jp/osakeosakeosake/
One of the more interesting things about this sakura is the color changes seen in its petals until they fall. The buds start as a light pink, become white as they bloom, and then take on an almost soot-like shade just as they fall. Don’t miss out on a chance to see this curious and unique entry in the great cherry trees of Japan.
3. Yamataka Jindai-zakura
Location: Yamanashi; species: edo-higan-zakura; estimated age: 1800 to 2000 years; Information: Map
Growing in the precincts of Jissō-ji Temple, this tree is the oldest cherry tree in all of Japan, coming in it at 10.3 m in height and 11.8 m in circumference. It boasts an incredible weight of history, with records in both the Kojiki and the Nihon Shoki stating that it was planted by the legendary prince Yamato Takeru.
We can say with complete confidence that this is a sight to behold—the Yamataka Jindai-zakura, blooming every year of its life for more than two millennia.
*The first three we’ve introduced are the Three Great Sakura of Japan. Including the next two, the grouping becomes the Five Great Sakura of Japan.
4. Ishito Kaba-zakura
Location: Saitama; species: natural hybrid of yama-zakura (“mountain cherry”) and edo-higan-zakura; estimated age: 800 years; Information: Map
Found in the precincts of Tōkō-ji Temple, this famed cherry measures 14 m tall and 7.4 m around at the base. As the very first natural hybrid of the yama-zakura and edo-higan-zakura, it was the only one of its kind in the world when it first sprouted. In the Edo period (1603–1868), it is said that the tree commanded quite a lot of popularity for its beauty.
Its flowers are a shade of pink that verges on white, and when seen before the backdrop of a clear blue sky they make for a gorgeous sight indeed. Unlike the other four sakura introduced in this article, the flowers on the tree come down to a height you can reach with your hands, thus you’ll actually be able to enjoy the luxury of experiencing the blossoms up close.
5. Kariyado Geba-zakura
Location: Shizuoka; species: yama-zakura; estimated age: 800+ years; Information: Map
Though a “mere” eight centuries might seem quite young compared to its fellow entries in this list, this sakura is still easily among the oldest in all of Japan. The origin of its name is found in an episode of the Kamakura era (1185–1333) in which Minamoto no Yoritomo is said to have dismounted (“geba”) beneath during a makigari (a hunting contest used for military training) held to demonstrate the prestige of the shogunate. Truly, it is a tree of august dignity.
Blooming at the foot of Mount Fuji, even the location of this sakura is incredible. That is to say, far more than simply being able to stop by it on the way to visit Mount Fuji, you can check out the truly phenomenal scenery composed with the mountain in the background and the massive blossoming cherry in the foreground.
The Five Great Cherry Trees of Japan may each be only a tree alone, but we’re sure you now understand that doesn’t mean that their grandeur is in any way lesser than what is found in larger groups of sakura. Come, stand beneath the boughs of trees under which countless others before you have stood over the centuries and millennia!
Related: Other sakura articles