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The Hibaru Cherry Trees: A Testament to the Will of the People of Fukuoka

There is a widely known story about the famous Hibaru cherry blossoms in Minami Ward. Until the early 1980s, the area was inconvenient for traffic because of its narrow, winding streets. In 1984, the city began work to widen the streets. Along one of the streets slated for construction, there were nine cherry trees that were about 50 years old, which were loved by the local residents, but they had to be cut down. 

At the beginning of March, when the cherry trees were full of buds and about ready to bloom, one of them was finally cut down. The next morning, the following poem was hung on the remaining trees:
「花あわれ せめては あと二旬 ついの開花を 許し給え」
“Woe is the flower, at least allow it to bloom for twenty more days.”

The citizens who loved the Hibaru cherry trees asked the workers to let them bloom for at least another 20 days.

After that, subsequent poems were hung on the trees, including the following:
「桜花(はな)惜しむ 大和心の うるわしや とわに匂わん 花の心は」
“Beautiful is the soul of the Japanese who long for flowers, and long shall it last”

This was a response from the mayor at the time, Kazuma Shindo, who learned about how the citizens felt about the cherry trees. This event moved the hearts of many people, and eventually the construction plan was changed to keep the remaining eight cherry trees. The area was developed into the Hibaru Sakura Park, and it is now home to 13 cherry trees that bloom beautifully every season.

The story of the Hibaru cherry blossoms became famous when the composer Ikuma Dan introduced it in his essay series entitled “Pipe Smoke”, which was reprinted in the magazine Reader’s Digest and became known worldwide. It was also included in elementary school textbooks. A monument engraved with the poems was erected at the Hibaru Sakura Park, and today, the Hibaru Cherry Blossom Prize, a contest where citizens submit their own tanka poems about cherry blossoms, and the Hibaru Cherry Blossom Photo Contest are held.

Published: Mar 24, 2022 / Last Updated: Mar 24, 2022

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