Tokyo: The cherry blossoms of Chidori-ga-fuchi moat, Tokyo Imperial Palace
A profusion of cherry blossoms entice visitors into a fantasy world.
One of Tōkyō’s most renowned cherry blossom viewing sites is the Chidori-ga-fuchi moat in the park-like grounds of Tokyo Imperial Palace, an oasis in the heart of one of the world’s largest cities. Located on the northwestern edge of the palace grounds, Chidori-ga-fuchi moat was constructed at the same time as the former Edo Castle, fortress of the Tokugawa shoguns, utilising an existing stream that flowed south towards Hibiya. In spring, as the water in the moat warms up and the sun’s rays sparkle across the surface, two hundred and sixty cherry trees burst into bloom, enticing visitors into a fantasy world of pale pink.
This annual spectacle attracts visitors from all over Tōkyō and beyond. Some choose to take a leisurely stroll along the Chidori-ga-fuchi Ryokudō greenway beside the moat, which transforms into a cherry blossom tunnel in spring. Meanwhile, down on the water itself, others wobble about in rowboats, revelling in the spring scene amid cherry blossom petals that flutter down from the ‘Somei-yoshino’ cherry trees lining both sides of the moat.
The Somei-yoshino, known in English as the ‘Yoshino Flowering Cherry’, is a natural hybrid of the weeping ‘Edo Higan’ cherry and the upright ‘Ōshima-zakura’. It originated during the late Edo Period (1603-1868) in Somei Village, which at that time was a centre for the horticulture industry in what is now Kagome, in Toshima Ku, Tōkyō. It is a sturdy, quick-growing tree, famous around the world for its spectacular pale pink blossoms, which measure about four centimetres across and are borne on bare branches before the leaves appear. As many as four blossoms burst forth from each flower bud, giving the Somei-yoshino its characteristic exuberant appearance when in full bloom.
[Botanical Names] Somei-yoshino cherry: Prunus x yedoensis / Edo Higan cherry: Prunus pendula / Ōshima-zakura: Prunus lannesiana var. speciosa
Chidori-ga-fuchi moat is a five-minute walk from Kudanshita Subway Station, accessed via the Tōkyō Metro Tōzai and Hanzōmon lines, or via the Tōei Shinjuku Line.
Yūji Fujinuma works as a freelance editor and journalist. His main subject matter is plants and animals, nature, history and culture.
Judy Evans is a high school teacher of English and Japanese, and a Japanese-English translator. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Japanese and Art History and has studied production horticulture and landscape design. Judy has a keen interest in the internet environment and has administered websites for a number of organisations. She lives on a small farm in rural New Zealand and is a frequent visitor to Japan.