Osaka Brand Committee
Biolgical field
Water city
Have a Seat Near the River-- Launching the "Kitahama Terrace" Project (Part 3)
Have a Seat Near the River-- Launching the "Kitahama Terrace" Project (Part 2)
Have a Seat Near the River-- Launching the "Kitahama Terrace" Project (Part 1)
Tourism in the Water Capital--Connecting and Expanding via River Cruises
Cherry Blossom in the Water Capital--A Beauty That Has Returned After a Long Winter of Hardship
Living in the Water Capital--Improving Water Quality to Make Osaka a Better Home (Part 2)
Living in the Water Capital--Improving Water Quality to Make Osaka a Better Home (Part 1)
Enjoy a Cup of Tea at the Water Capital--New Restaurants Transform the Riverfront into a Destination for Fine Dining
Future View of the Water Capital--A Prologue to Revitalization
Osaka Kaleidoscope
Water city
#5 Cherry Blossom in the Water Capital--A Beauty That Has Returned After a Long Winter of Hardship

Cherry Blossom in the Water Capital--A Beauty That Has Returned After a Long Winter of Hardship

 Long, long ago, there was a bay, open to the west. In the bay, there was a long peninsula that extended from south to north. On the tip of the peninsula, people built a canal, opened a port, and established a community. The community, named Naniwa, became an international port town surrounded by water.

Naniwazu-ni Sakuya Konohana Fuyugomori Ima-wa Harube-to Sakuya Konohana

 This old waka poem, written in the fifth century by Wani, applauds the beauty of the cherry blossom*1of Naniwazu as it brightened up the port town of ancient Osaka after a long winter. Believed to have been dedicated to Emperor Nintoku upon his ascension to the throne, this famous poem also conjures up a feeling for nostalgia for his hometown that Wani, who was a scholar from Baekje (ancient Korea), might have felt as he was impressed by the beautiful spring scene in a foreign country.
  Later, as the bay gradually became filled up with sediment, the coastline moved to the west and the town of old Osaka expanded. Today, the port is far away from the center of the city, which is now located in the area called Umeda (a homophone of "reclaimed field"). Although the view of the city has changed dramatically, the beauty of the splendid cherry blossom on the waterfront has not and still attracts people today. They are indeed a true witness of the history of the water capital.

(*1) It has been commonly believed that konohana in the poem indicates plum blossom. However, plums did not originally grow in Japan until they were brought in from abroad in the eighth century, which makes the story somewhat contentious and suggests the strong possibility that the poem actually was referencing the blossom of native cherries.

History of the water capital as a scene of beauty

"A Scene from Sakuranomiya"(from "One Hundred Views of Naniwa") Utagawa Kunikazu, Edo Period,
Osaka Prefectural Nakanoshima Library

 Since the Edo Period, the Sakuranomiya area has been a notable place for the beauty of sakura, or cherry blossom. Splendid cherry blooms have often been depicted in stories of kamigata rakugo*2(Osaka-style comic storytelling) and pictures of nishiki-e (colored woodblock prints). A passage from "Settsu Meisho Zue," a historic series of local guidebooks published in the Edo Period, verifies that enjoying the view of the cherry blossom from a boat was a very popular activity for local people at that time, regardless of their social class.
 On the opposite side of the Okawa River across from the Sakuranomiya area, the collection of yaezakura trees at a kurayashiki (storehouse and residence) of the Tsu Han (feudal domain) became another scenic point for cherry blossom viewing. It is said that the samurai residents of the kurayashiki were inspired by the view of Sakuranomiya and started gathering rare varieties of yaezakura from around the country.

*2Popular stories that feature scenes of cherry blossom on the Okawa River include "Binbo Hanami (a story of poor neighbors going wild while having a hanami (blossom viewing) party)" and "Hyakunenme (the story of a luxurious hanami party on a yakatabune houseboat)."
*3Owned by the Todo Family, the lord of the Tsu region from Ise (today's Mie Prefecture), the kurayashiki was located to the north area of where a Senpukan (historic, western-style mansion) was later built.

Tenma Bridge damaged by the floods of 1885

 When the Japan Mint built its headquarters in the area in 1871 (Meiji 4), the yaezakura trees of the former Tsu Han's kurayashiki were transplanted to its campus to preserve the local seasonal beauty. In 1883, Kinsuke Endo*4, the director of the Mint at that time, began the tradition of the Sakura-no torinuke (cherry blossom avenue) by opening the campus and inviting the public to enjoy the view of the cherry blossom together during the viewing season.
  Since then, the sakura trees along the Okawa have gone through several crises and have survived significant damage. During the Meiji Period, the trees experienced a major flood in 1885 (Meiji 18) and also serious air pollution from the industrialization that gave Osaka its infamous nicknames such as "the city of smoke"and " Manchester of the East." When the trees in the torinuke avenue almost died out at the end of the Taisho Period, the Mint called in some cherry tree specialists to help and transplanted new trees from Saitama. In the Showa Period, the trees suffered because of a series of major air raids during the war and then various sorts of pollution during the nation's rapid economic growth.

*4 Kinsuke Endo (1836–1893) was among the five members of Choshu Goketsu ("Choshu Five"), who were the samurai of the Choshu Han (feudal region) and were secretly sent to Europe during the final years of the Edo Period to study the situation outside of Japan. Endo’s idea of the sakura-no torinuke probably derived from his experiences in London, where public spaces were open to lower class citizens, so all the people, whether they were from the royal family or the general public, all enjoyed the flowers and trees.

 It was through the earnest efforts and enthusiasm of the people who loved Okawa's sakura and worked hard to protect them that helped them to survive these hardships. The tradition of the sakura-no torinuke at the Mint was suspended during the war but soon resumed after the war ended. Construction of the Kema Sakuranomiya Park began in 1967 (Showa 42) and initiated the recovery process of Osaka's best scenic point for cherry blossom.
 Today, many people again look forward to visiting Sakuranomiya to appreciate the seasonal beauty of sakura. During the peak season, a number of houseboats drift by on the Okawa until late at night, bringing a vibrant atmosphere to the area just as it was once depicted in nishiki-e prints and rakugo stories.
 Through continued redevelopment projects, Osaka's waterfront is becoming more attractive, drawing people to the area to enjoy boating, appreciating the seasonal changes, and relaxing near the water even during the seasons when there is no cherry blossom. Time and the steady and patient effort that people have put in to rejuvenate their beloved waterfront community are about to bloom big, bringing the long winter sleep of the capital city to its end.

Cherry blossom at their peak along the Okawa River. The majority of the cherry trees in Sakuranomiya are a common variety called somei-yoshino, whose blooming season usually starts in late March.

About 80 percent of the cherry trees at the Japan Mint campus are yaezakura, a variety whose blooming season comes after that of the common somei-yoshino. In the vicinity of the Okawa River, the views of the cherry blossom can be enjoyed for about three weeks.

April 16, 2008
Takuji Kobayashi
member of the board of directors, Suito Osaka-Mizubenomachi Saisei Project

●Japan Mint

Information about cherry blossom viewing, Mint Museum, operation and history of the Mint, etc.

●Information about cherry blossom viewing boat

Osaka Harumeguri: "Osaka Sakura Cruise" information (Information about water bus and other cruising courses
Osaka Yakatabune
Mikami Yusen(houseboat cruise)

Author Profile
Takuji Kobayash
While working as a landscape designer, Kobayashi participates in various activities to stimulate community development and discover and utilize local attractions at the eye level of citizens. He is a member of the board of directors of the Suito Osaka-Mizubenomachi Saisei Project (Mizube NPO) and also a representative of the Amenicity Osaka Network. Licensed professional engineer (architecture: urban and local development, architectural environment).