Each spring, hundreds of thousands of tourists flock to the town of Miharu, Japan to see a cherry tree known as the Takizakura. Although COVID-19 means that few visitors will lay eyes on it this year, the 1,000 year old cherry tree continues to bloom as a testament to the power and resilience of nature.
Takizakura, which means “waterfall cherry tree”, is supported by tall wooden stakes and has survived famines, earthquakes, storms, and even a nuclear disaster throughout the course of its long life. It’s home in northeastern Japan is located near the site of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster which diverted tourists from the site for many years.
The tree serves as a rallying point for the community as well. Neighbors help pull weeds, fertilize the ground with leaves, and leave offerings of rice, salt, and sake at its base. As a reward, they watch its beautiful blossoms emerge year after year in mid-April.
Even after Japan’s most powerful earthquake to date struck on March 11, 2011, the tree stood its ground and survived to bloom another season.
Japan has declared a national emergency and shut down most of the country to stop the spread of COVID-19, but even without visitors, Takizakura’s blooms are beginning to emerge as they have during many crises before in its 1,000 year lifespan.