Usuzumi Zakura (淡墨桜) is a famous old cherry tree in the beautiful mountains of Gifu Prefecture. Located in the picturesque Neodani Valley in Neo Village, Motosu about 28 kilometers from Gifu City, Usuzumi Zakura is one of the oldest cherry trees in Japan at over 1,500 years old. The tree is said to have been planted in person by Emperor Keitai (the 26th emperor of Japan) in the 6th century.
The name Usuzumi Zakura means “pale grey cherry blossom,” which describes the very light grey colour of the trees blossoms just as they are about to fall. Usu or usui means pale or weak in Japanese with sumi being the ink used for calligraphy. Zakura comes from sakura and means cherry blossom. This unique cherry tree offers three very distinct appearances. It initially sprouts pale pink flowers, which become pure white in full bloom, finally changing to pale grey before falling to the ground.
You can find the tree at Usuzumi Park which is nestled in a valley surrounded by mountains near Tarumi Station. The park is a short walk up a small hill which is lined with food and souvenir shops. The approach has its own charm with all kinds of festival food available as well as local cherry blossom inspired goodies ranging from cherry blossom senbei (rice crackers) to cherry blossom mochi.
Usuzumi Zakura or the Grand Old Lady as I like to call her looks remarkably good for her age. She is propped up by several wooden poles, but I hope I look that good at 1,500 years old. The tree has a special aura about it and this hits you as she comes into view as you pass the last corner of souvenir shops. The tree must have seen so many things in its lifetime. Can you image how different the world was back then when this tree was just planted? I bet it could tell some amazing stories.
There are plenty of wide open spaces in the park around the tree where you can put down a blue plastic sheet and enjoy that great Japanese tradition of hanami (花見) cherry blossom viewing. They also have a night-time illumination which is very spectacular, and is a modern way of viewing this ancient tree.
Usuzumi Zakura is recognised as a National Natural Treasure of Japan and is known as one of the “Three Great Cherry Trees of Japan.” The others are Miharu Takizakura in Fukushima Prefecture and Jindaizakura in Yamanashi Prefecture.
You can reach Usuzumi Park by taking the JR Tokaido Line from Nagoya to Ogaki. The journey takes around 30 minutes. From Ogaki get on a local train on the Tarumi Railway to Tarumi Station (around 1 hour). The park is about a 20 minute walk from Tarumi Station.
995 Aza-jodan, Neo-itasho, Motosu City, Gifu Prefecture