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  • Writer's pictureMiyuki Yoshikami

The Kenwood area of Bethesda, Maryland is inundated with visitors, causing traffic jams and nuisance to this swanky neighborhood. Are cherry blossoms the blame? In a koto piece taken from the noh play, Saigyo Zakura, the hermit monk, Saigyo enjoyed his retreat in the Western hills of Kyoto but resented and complained about the cherry that attracted trespassers, disrupting his solitude.  That night he was visited by a spirit of an old cherry tree (like Stumpy) who reprimanded Saigyo for blaming the blossoms. Cherry blossoms cannot help but be what they are, beautiful. Saigyo relented, and the two then listed all the places in Japan celebrated for beautiful cherry blossom. 

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  • Writer's pictureMiyuki Yoshikami

Every spring, the 10th century poet, Ariwara no Narihira’s poem comes to mind. It is the

third poem in the koto piece, Haru no Kyoku by Yoshizawa Kengyo. He said, “If in this world

there were no cherry blossoms, life would be carefree.” I understand that this negative

sentiment was Narihira’s way to complement the beautiful of cherry blossoms. Every spring

in the Washington, DC area, particularly along the Tidal Basin, there are heightened worries

among cherry blossom festival and parade planners, tourists, and merchants. Everyone is

concerned about when the cherry trees will blossom and when will they peak. This year

(2024) we learned that the trees as well as the blossoms are ephemeral. Stumpy (photo) is

over a hundred years old, as are 300 more, and they will be replaced to make room for

younger cherry trees donated by Japan.

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  • Writer's pictureMiyuki Yoshikami

I have a weeping cherry tree in our front yard and each spring it bursts onto strings

of pink delicate blossoms. People stop in the street to admire them. Looking through the

branches of the weeping cherry tree, poet Tanizaki Junichiro asked, “Are they lines of

crimson rain, or a weeping cherry tree, or just a dream? “ The wind eventually scatters the

petals in every direction so that “even a treeless yard is filled with cherry blossoms.” Six of

Tanizaki’s poems are set to music in the koto piece, “Miyako Wasure” by Tomiyama Seikin,


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