Lots of Blossoms, but still Lots of Buds

My blog has been filled with nothing but cherry blossoms for the past week or so, because for the last week or so most cherry trees around here have been hitting their blossom peak. The timing of blooming, though, is certainly not coordinated among Japan's cherry trees.

According to Julia's Kitakami Photoblog, the blossoms aren't even close to making their appearance there. Kitakami is a town about 415 miles north-east of Kyoto, and can be quite a bit colder than here.

Even locally, the cherry-blossom season varies considerably. The other day we drove a bit north into the mountains, and just 12km (8 miles) away found that the cherry blossoms hadn't yet started to bloom. I did find some blossoms in what looks to be a plum tree...

Late Plum(?) Buds and a Few Blossoms -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2007 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D200 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm — 1/320 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Late Plum(?) Buds and a Few Blossoms

Of course, much depends on the species of tree, but if these are indeed plum trees, they're quite behind some we saw in the city two months ago. One reason for the delay, of course, is that it's colder in the mountains, and perhaps also because of the reduced sunlight. The mountains aren't very tall, but are steep and the roads/towns are deep in the valleys. (The next picture is taken from the same spot as the one above, but facing the opposite direction.)

Typical Mountainside in Central Japan -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2007 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D200 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 70mm — 1/320 sec, f/5, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Typical Mountainside in Central Japan

Going a further six miles into the mountains (not far from Kyoto's Road to Nowhere), we came across a cherry tree with its own name (“100-Year Cherry Tree”), that had not the slightest hint of a blossom. It had huge buds that were still a good two weeks away from blooming.

Buds on the “100-Year Cherry Tree” -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2007 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D200 + Nikkor 17-55 f/2.8 @ 55mm — 1/60 sec, f/8, ISO 250 — map & image datanearby photos
Buds on the “100-Year Cherry Tree”

This is the same day, mind you, that we earlier enjoyed the Amazing Cherry Blossoms in North-East Kyoto back in the city.

As an aside to those who read Japanese, I noticed that they used an odd form of the kanji for “sakura”...

"100-Year Cherry Tree" written in Japanese with an odd form of the kanji for "Cherry Tree"
Nikon D200 + Nikkor 17-55 f/2.8 @ 55mm — 1/100 sec, f/8, ISO 250 — map & image datanearby photos
Odd way to write “Cherry Tree”

I checked Henshall and Halpern and didn't find anything to indicate that this form was archaic or anything. Fumie thinks that perhaps they wrote it this way just to be fun. Anyone have any ideas? I'm just curious....

(By the way, a cherry tree 100 years old is not really anything to boast about. Most trees in Kyoto, I believe, were brought here 150-ish years ago from Tokyo, as I mentioned in a previous post.)

So anyway, I understand that the discrepancy in when blossoms bloom can be explained by location, climate, sun, species, but at times it also seems to vary wildly across different branches of the same tree. The next shot is from the aforementioned “Amazing Cherry Blossoms” trip, showing one branch that's mostly unbloomed among many fully-engulfed branches. Maybe it has to do with how water is distributed within the tree?

Different Branches for Different Rates of Advances -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2007 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D200 + Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 200mm — 1/750 sec, f/8, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Different Branches for Different Rates of Advances

This can be seen quite often.

Today I returned to the same bench area featured in the previous post to try my hand at macro photography for the first time. Among the results are these two from the same tree....

Buds Waiting to Bloom -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2007 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D200 + Nikkor 70-200mm with 68mm extension tube — 1/180 sec, f/13, ISO 320 — map & image datanearby photos
Buds Waiting to Bloom
Way Past Prime -- Kyoto, Japan -- Copyright 2007 Jeffrey Eric Francis Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D200 + Nikkor 70-200mm with 68mm extension tube — 1/90 sec, f/11, ISO 320 — map & image datanearby photos
Way Past Prime

All 2 comments so far, oldest first...

Hi Jeffrey,

As always, I thoroughly enjoy your posts.

I agree with Fumie, that kanji for “cherry tree” is probably just a charming calligraphic corruption by someone having fun.

The entire kanji compound on that wooden post is rather interesting.

黒田十景 百年櫻 (くろだじゅうけい ひゃくねんさくら)

It looks like the first two kanji indicate a place name: 京都府北桑田郡京北町黒田 (きょうとふきたくわたぐんけいほくちょうくろだ) or Kuroda Area of Keihoku Town, Kita-Kuwata District, Kyoto Prefecture

If so, the first four kanji 黒田十景(くろだじゅうけい) or “Kuroda Jukei” might mean something like the “Ten Beautiful Sights of Kuroda.”

The three-character compound at the end, 百年櫻(ひゃくねんさくら), looks like one of the ten scenic spots.

Here is a Japanese link: http://web.kyoto-inet.or.jp/people/kuroda-v/

Next, there is something weird about the unaging cherry tree: 百年櫻(ひゃくねんさくら)

Apparently, this tree was planted in Meiji 6 (1873) after a typhoon had uprooted a venerable old giant of a cherry tree at the same spot.

Initially, local folk thought they had planted a double-blossomed cherry tree (八重桜->やえざくら). After a few years, though, everyone was amazed to see the tree budding both single and double blossoms.

In 1967 this rare tree was named “Kuroda Centennial Cherry Tree” (黒田百年櫻) in celebration of the hundredth anniversary since the founding of the Meiji Era.

You can read a brief description in Japanese at the following link: http://www.city.kyoto.jp/ukyo/keihoku/chiiki/kanko_07.html

Here’s a related English link: http://www.mint.go.jp/eng/sakura/chart02b.html

Back to the corrupted kanji for cherry tree. I looked, without success, for this character in Daijigen (大字源) by Kadokawa, which has 12,300 characters, and Konjaku Mojikyo (今昔文字鏡) by Mojikyo Institute, which has over 100,000 characters.

The “あ” on the bottom right of the corrupted kanji is, of course, the first character in the hiragana syllabary. It is derived from the character 安(あん), composed of an upper part that means roof and a bottom part that means woman: A woman relaxes at home.

The “嬰” that forms the right side of the classic kanji for cherry tree (櫻) means “baby girl.” It is composed of two shells (貝) on top and and woman (女) below: A young girl wears a necklace.

The writing looks too beautiful to be a mistake. There must be some method to this merriment.

— comment by Andy on April 13th, 2007 at 11:11pm JST (10 years, 8 months ago) comment permalink

Andy is really a kanji expert. Interesting!

— comment by Anne on September 5th, 2012 at 6:14am JST (5 years, 3 months ago) comment permalink
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