I went to Hanami for the first time in my life on April 7 of this year. The place was Yoyogi Park, somewhere I usually visit in the later hours of the night to have a few drinks and hang out with friends. But I had never visited in a season when blossoms are in full bloom. The Yoyogi Park during Hanami was nothing like that of the late hours hangouts. In this blog, I researched about the beautiful cherry blossom that annually gathers hundreds of people, diverse age groups, tourists and locals alike for a perfect Hanami.
Getting to know Yoshino Cherry
This cherry blossom is widely known as the Yoshino Cherry. It’s scientific name, is Prunus x yedoensis, ソメイヨシノ (prnounced: somei-yoshino). They typically bloom from late march to mid April, and the broad leaves flush right after flowering season. They have a pale pink complexion and are usually clustered together.
The origin has been a fuzzy mystery for many historians and researchers. It is believed that back in Edo, in a region called Somei, people called these trees yoshinozakura. Scientists have been puzzled as to whether Yoshino Cherry is the result of natural hybridization or human intervention.
One researcher hypothesized that the Yoshino Cherry is a hybrid of Japanese and Korean cherries, others have speculated that it is a natural hybridization of two Japanese cherries. By 1995, DNA fingerprinting was able to discover that Yoshino Cherry is a hybrid that was man-made in the 18th to 19th century people of the Kanto region. By early 20th century, Japan generously gave out 3000 Yoshino Cherries to the U.S. Since then, places like Washington D.C. has been able to hold annual cherry blossom viewing festivals. Read more about Yoshino Cherry History HERE
Connection to Environment & Humans
The Yoshino Cherry is one of the most famous cherries that bloom in Japan. The aesthetics of this cherry blossom tree has made it obvious that this plant is an ornamental tree. In early 1900s, the tree once became a problem for America because the Yoshino Cherries donated by Japan carried a disease. The US Department of Agriculture ordered for all trees donated to be destroyed. Despite its beauty, the Yoshino Cherry does not carry a significant purpose to sustain life in foreign areas such as the United States. In Japan, many people hold a more symbolic connection to Yoshino Cherry trees. Many believe that this cherry blossom is a representative flower of Japan. It is evident that if the Yoshino Cherries go extinct or is endangered by invasive species, the Japanese people will not let it slide and will make action to protect such a life that holds culturally symbolic meaning of Japan. The Yoshino Cherry in Yoyogi Park was the first cherry blossom that I experienced Hanami. As a nature photographer, the Yoshino Cherry Tree was some plant I took photos of because I recognized it to be the stereotypical representation of a Japanese Cherry Blossom. After some research, I discover this tree to be more loving, important, and mysterious. Yoshino Cherry has the beauty of mystery as nobody knows the exact origin. Until some ancient artifacts are found that reveals the true origin of this plant, I shall continue visiting Yoyogi Park for annual Hanami to purely enjoy its ornamental purpose.