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Uomi Zakura Cherry Tree

Photography/TAKEUCHI Yasunori

Portending the Fishing Season

 Facing Beppu Bay where the spring tides come in is a south-facing slope bathed in sunlight. On that high ground among yellow lines of rape blossoms is an exceptionally bright and tall cherry tree. Uomi Zakura cherry tree has bloomed magnificently.
 Its location is in Toyooka, Hiji. Gentle slopes sprawl in the foothills of Kanagoe Pass, introduced in “The Road Francis Xavier Walked.” This environment, blessed with water and sunlight, has been developed for housing in recent years, creating the Tsujima Housing Complex and more. There is a cherry tree near the center of what was once the village of Tsujima.
 More than 400 years old, this Mountain Cherry blooms 10 to 14 days earlier than the Yoshino Cherry. Blooming between the plum and cherry seasons, this tree heralds the true arrival of spring on the coast of Beppu Bay. For fishing communities, the blooming of this cherry tree signaled the fishing season, and it is said that they measured when to drop nets based on how its blossoms were blooming. This is where its name Uomi (“fish watching”) comes from.
 It is also called “Cherry of Village Chief.” This is because it is on the grounds of the descendants of the Kiuchi clan, who served the chief of the village of Tsujima during the Edo Period. In Hiji Town Hunt, a book published in 2007, it was introduced the following way: “Legend has it that long ago, when Chikateru Okami, the adopted son of the Tsujima clan, was killed by Yoshiaki Otomo along with his master on suspicion of rebellion, the Tsujima clan planted the cherry tree that was at Chikateru Okami’s grave in its current location to mourn his death.”
 This cherry tree, built over hundreds of springs, is currently withering. It was damaged by Typhoon 19 (1991), which felled cedar forests in the prefecture, killing part of the tree. For this reason it has been branched and a second one is being grown, which blooms commendably. Nearby to the east is Yatsushima Shrine, said to be built during the Tenpyou Era, passing down the prefecturally designated Intangible Folk Cultural Properties of Tsushima Kagura and Tsushima Gaku.

Uomi Zakura Cherry Tree, heralding the arrival of spring in Beppu Bay.