Are the Cherry Trees in Washington DC from Korea? Lies Spread by Sloppy Reporting
article by Yasuhiro Watanabe FNN Seoul Branch Chief Reporter
When they fall, the cherry blossoms are still worth celebrating.
The cherry blossoms are even more wonderful because they are falling. In this world of sorrow, nothing lasts forever.
When we sing this beautiful Japanese poem from the Ise Monogatari and look at the falling cherry blossoms, we can have hope for the future, knowing that our current life of suffering from the new coronavirus will not last forever.
Japanese people have been speculating about cherry blossoms since ancient times, and it is precisely because of the current corona vortex that we should enjoy them quietly and without making a fuss. However, an article from South Korea has come out to stir up our peaceful minds.
Are the cherry blossoms in Washington DC native to Korea?
Cherry blossoms in full bloom in Washington DC. Stone lanterns and pagodas have also been set up in the park.
Images from this article (4 images)
Every year in South Korea, articles of the sort “Someiyoshino (cherry blossoms) originated in Korea” appeared as if it were a springtime tradition. In September 2018, however, the National Arboretum of the Korea Forest Service announced the results of a study showing that the cherry trees native to Jeju Island and Someiyoshino are genetically different. “For me, this is a good time to ask myself, “What unusual theories will emerge this year? But the year 2021 was different.
On March 29, Korea’s leading newspaper, JoongAng Ilbo, published an article titled “Cherry blossoms in full bloom in Washington, D.C., could they be from Jeju Island? As the title suggests, the story takes place in Washington DC, the capital of the United States. As is very famous in Japan, there are thousands of cherry trees in Washington that were sent from Japan, and a “cherry blossom festival” is held during the spring blooming season. The festival attracts as many as one million tourists every year, although the crowds will probably be small in 2021 due to the corona vortex. Many Americans enjoy the beautiful cherry blossoms and Japanese culture such as trying on kimonos, symbolizing the close relationship between the U.S. and Japan.
The conclusion of the article in question is that the cherry trees in question “actually came from Jeju Island in South Korea,” and one of the grounds is genetic testing by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. According to the article, the fact that the cherry trees native to Jeju Island and those in Washington have the same base sequence was confirmed. So I looked at the USDA data and found the results of a 2007 study that compared the DNA of Japanese Someiyoshino and Korean native cherry trees.
However, “In conclusion, it appears that the Korean taxon, P.yedoensis, can be considered different from Yoshino cherry hybrids. (In conclusion, it appears that the Korean taxon, P.yedoensis, can be considered different from Yoshino cherry hybrids), denying the “Korean origin of Someiyoshino” theory.
There’s no way they could have gotten all those cherry trees together in such a short period of time!
The article went on to say that all the cherry trees sent by Japan in 1910 were destroyed due to pests, and that 14 months later, Japan sent more than 6,000 cherry trees (3,000 to Washington and 3,000 to New York), saying that “the question is whether it was possible to collect thousands of cherry trees again in a short period of time. This is why the theory that cherry trees collected in Jeju Island were brought to the U.S. is convincing.
So how did it actually happen? I interviewed Kanji Aranishi, a former official of Itami City, Hyogo Prefecture, who is familiar with the process. According to Mr. Aranishi, the first cherry trees sent to the U.S. were prepared in Tokyo, but they were wiped out by insect pests. Therefore, the then Ministry of Agriculture and Commerce formed a project team to find a way to prepare a large number of safe cherry trees in a short period of time, and the idea of increasing the number of cherry trees at once by grafting was adopted.
It was then that Itami City was chosen as the site for the project. At that time, Itami City had been active in the production of base trees for grafting citrus trees, and it also had a special disinfection shed to control insect pests. Therefore, the Ministry of Agriculture and Commerce ordered about 15,000 grafts from a farmer in Itami City. It was a job that could not be allowed to fail, as the prestige of the country was at stake, but the farmers of Itami did a great job. After that, cherry branches collected from the banks of the Arakawa River were grafted and cured for a year at the Ministry of Agriculture and Commerce’s experimental station in Shizuoka Prefecture, and as a result, they were able to send splendid seedlings to the United States in a very short time.
Mr. Aronishi said that he sometimes received calls from Koreans who claimed that the cherry trees in Washington came from Jeju Island. However, there is no information or data that the saplings were ordered from the Korean Peninsula in 1912. “They don’t even know that there is a technology to mass-produce cherry trees by grafting, so they just contact us based on their assumptions,” he said in disgust.
From Mr. Aranishi’s story and various materials, it is certain that Japanese people at that time made a concerted effort to grow cherry trees by utilizing assets in various parts of the country. It is impossible to mass-produce cherry trees in a short period of time,” he said, without any evidence and just based on his assumption. This article insults the Japanese people of that time who struggled to make beautiful cherry blossoms available to the American people.
In the 1930s, Japan also admitted that the cherry trees in Washington came from Korea?
The article also stated that “Japan acknowledged this fact until the 1930s, but changed its position that the cherry trees in Washington and Jeju are different species after the liberation (1945). However, there is no evidence to support the fact that “it was recognized until the 1930s.
When I asked the reporter who wrote the article, he told me that he had quoted from an article written by another reporter in 2014. In 1932, Dr. Koizumi, a botanist at Kyoto University, discovered a native cherry tree at an altitude of 600 meters on Hallasan on Jeju Island. This led to the announcement that the origin of the tree was confirmed as Jeju Island. This statement itself is true, but as mentioned above, subsequent DNA tests have shown that there is no genetic link between the cherry trees of Jeju Island and Someiyoshino. The professor’s statement was wrong.
In addition, the claim that “Japan admitted the fact that cherry trees in Washington and Jeju are the same until the 1930s” based on one university professor’s claim is a transparent attempt to instill in readers the image that “Japan is cowardly” and is almost a fabrication. The “DNA testing by the U.S. Department of Agriculture” was also quoted from the original source, but the basis for the quotation remains unclear.
There is an information board in Potomac Park stating that cherry blossoms are a sign of friendship between Japan and the United States.
In the wake of the Corona vortex, online hanami is being called for in Washington this year.
According to the “History of Cherry Trees” on the website of the U.S. National Park Service, in 1912, the city of Tokyo sent the following types of cherry trees: Someiyoshino, Ariake, Fugen-zou, Fukurokuju, Go-i-ki, Ichiyo, Kamisame, Sekizan The names of cherry trees originating from the Korean Peninsula are not known. There are no names of cherry trees originating from the Korean Peninsula.
Lies being spread
The reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo may have written this article without knowing that the theory of the Korean origin of the Someiyoshino cherry tree is bankrupt. There is also no evidence of any coverage of how cherry trees were exported to the US. There are no words to describe the sloppiness of this article, but the repetition of lies like this will increase the number of Koreans who are hostile to Japan based on falsehoods.
We should not underestimate the importance of cherry blossoms. “Japan has not taken strong action against the persistent campaign by South Korea to call the Sea of Japan the East Sea, but we must not forget that as a result, the media around the world are beginning to refer to the Sea of Japan and the East Sea together.
The waka poem I introduced at the beginning of this article is a response to the famous poem by Narihira Zaihara, which says, “If there are no more cherry blossoms in the world, the heart of spring will be tranquil. The poem is a response to the famous poem by Narihei Zaihara, “If there were no cherry blossoms in the world, people would be able to spend the spring peacefully,” which paradoxically highlights the beauty of cherry blossoms. But reading this article, I don’t feel so peaceful.
I wonder if we will see another article like this in 2022?