The mountains of Japan are full of wild cherry trees, at least where they haven’t been replanted for timber. Most of the year they’re hidden away, but in April suddenly there’s blossom everywhere – some beautiful trees you had no idea of.
One such is just above the entrance to a tunnel on the way back to Nagoya from our country house – a big old cherry that has its moment of glory for a week or two every year. We thought it was our private discovery but a couple of years ago some local friends cleared the trees from the area around it, built some stairs, seats, railings etc and made it into a little park, with an annual hanami party, which we went to a couple of weeks ago.
Apparently this isn’t a wild cherry after all – it has some history. Before that tunnel was built the road used to wind through a pass over some hills above it, right past that tree. There used to be a tea house at the pass, and the cherry was planted outside. It’s now some 300 years old, and the tea house is long gone, but, with a little treatment from a tree doctor, now looks set for a good few years more. From that spot, if it’s a clear day, you can get a beautiful view of Mount Ontake, the holy mountain, so a local politician gave the tree the name Takemi Zakura “mount-viewing cherry” – fair enough, though most people had been calling it the cherry on the pass or something like that…
It’s still a fairly quiet local type of event, but elsewhere in Gifu there are some famous sakura that attract hundreds of visitors, so maybe ours will be one of those some day. Meanwhile they sell beer and yakitori at more or less cost price just so people will come. Weather was less than perfect this year, but on a sunny day it’s a very nice way to spend an afternoon or evening.