Views Japan’s Ancient Giants of the Forest
Venerable Blossoms: Miharu Takizakura in Fukushima

Takahashi Hiroshi [Profile]


In the central Fukushima town of Miharu stands the 1,000-year-old Takizakura, or “waterfall cherry,” whose drooping branches seem to send rivers of pink blossoms flowing toward the ground each spring. The largest shidarezakura (weeping cherry) in the country is considered one of the “three great cherry trees” of Japan.

Variety: Shidarezakura (Cerasus spachiana f. spachiana)
Location: Ōaza-taki, Aza-sakurakubo 296, Miharu, Tamura-gun, Fukushima Prefecture 963-7714
Trunk circumference: 7.9 m; height: 19 m; age: 1,000 years
Designated a national natural monument
Size ★★★★★
Vigor ★★★★
Shape ★★★★★
Crown spread ★★★★
Grandeur ★★★★★

Come spring, the small town of Miharu in central Fukushima Prefecture puts on a spectacular flowering display as plum, peach, and cherry blossoms burst into bloom all at once—the town’s name, which means “three springs,” is said to derive from this trio of blossoms. Standing out amid this flurry of flowers is the millennium-old Takizakura, which together with the Usuzumizakura in Gifu Prefecture and Jindaizakura in Yamanashi Prefecture make up the “three great cherry trees” of Japan.

True to its title as the largest specimen of shidarezakura, or weeping cherry tree, in Japan, the Takizakura—literally “waterfall cherry”—features broad branches and light pink blossoms that appear to flow earthward. This particularly beautiful feature has along with its age made the tree legendary among sakura lovers, and each year in mid-April more than 200,000 people come to enjoy the blossoms. The tree is spectacular during the daytime hours, but those who make the trek to see the Takizakura lit up at night are treated to a different, dreamlike vision.

The Takizakura sits in what is known as sakura hollow, an area that affords shelter from strong winds while providing excellent drainage, abundant sunshine, and nutrients from surrounding fields. The tree is ringed by a footpath allowing visitors to enjoy the blooms from every angle. However, the general consensus is that the uphill view of the elegantly flowing branches of the sakura is the best.

The ancient tree has weathered tribulations during its lifetime, most recently losing several limbs during a typhoon in 2002 and a snowstorm in 2005. Fortunately, the damage was not extensive enough to permanently mar the breathtaking beauty of the Takizakura.

Visitors to Miharu can also enjoy the town’s 10,000 other cherry trees, 2,000 of which are shidarezakura said to be descendents of the Takizakura. Miharu’s numerous weeping cherries are in fact its second biggest claim to fame, earning it in 1990 the title of one of Japan’s 100 most famous hanami spots. Despite abundant opportunites for blossom viewing, though, many tours only make a stop at the Takizakura, a regretable situation considering the profusion of blossoms that blanket the town each spring.

(Originally published in Japanese on March 21, 2017. Photo and text by Takahashi Hiroshi.)

  • [2017.03.28]

Photographer of old-growth trees. Born in Yamagata Prefecture and grew up in Hokkaidō. Began photographing ancient trees in 1988 and has shot over 3,300 to date. His works include Kamisama no ki ni ai ni iku (Meetings with Trees of the Gods), Nihon no kyoju (Japan’s Giant Trees), and Sennen no inochi: Kyoju, kyoboku o meguru (A Thousand Years of Life: A Pilgrimage to Ancient Trees). Works as a guide at the Okutamamachi Forest Center, manages the Ministry of the Environment’s database on old-growth trees, and heads an association of large-tree lovers in Tokyo.

Related articles
Other articles in this report
  • Wind and Rain: Three Ancient Trees in Typhoon SeasonAutumn brings stunning shades of foliage. But it is also the bearer of typhoons, those age-old and ruthless scourges of the forest. Ancient trees in regions where storms frequently pass have over the centuries girded themselves against the tempests by sending their roots out broad and deep and strengthening their limbs against the wind and rain. In our ongoing series on old-growth trees, we visit three venerable specimens that have been shaped by typhoons.
  • Islands Apart: Three Ancient Woodland “Castaways”Japan’s far-flung islands are home to an impressive number of kyoju, or old-growth trees. Like the famed Jōmon Sugi on Yakushima, these sentinels of the forest have flourished in the warm climate and fresh ocean air, spreading root and limb over centuries to become burly giants. Below we visit three of these ancient titans.
  • Deepening Summer: Ancient Trees in the Season of HeatAs the summer sun beats down, the broad crowns of Japan’s old-growth trees cast long, cooling shadows across the forest floor. The shade of kyoju offer a welcome respite from the season’s heat, soothing the body and spirit. Below we visit three woodland titans during the peak of summertime.
  • Early Summer Dew: Three Ancient Trees in the Season of RainIn our ongoing series on Japanese old-growth trees, naturalist Takahashi Hiroshi visits three kyoju at the height of the rainy season. Tsuyu is an important time for these ancient plants, bringing respite after spring’s exacting renewal and nurturing rainfall ahead of the heat of summer.
  • Spring Immemorial: Ancient Trees in a New Season of GreenAs the pale pink hues of cherry blossom season pass, spring deepens as wooded areas come alive with newly sprouted foliage. In a timeless ritual, ancient kyoju—Japan’s venerable old-growth trees—return to life, adorning their aged limbs in youthful coats of leaves. Standing beneath these giants, one is filled with eagerness for the coming days and months.

Video highlights

New series

  • From our columnists
  • In the news