Penn State University

Space and Culture Under the Cherry Trees

Ron Henderson delivered a lecture at the International House of Japan culminating his fellowship as 2012 U.S.-Japan Friendship Commission Creative Artist. Henderson, head of the Penn State Department of Landscape Architecture and  Chair in Integrative Design in the H. Campbell and Eleanor R. Stuckeman School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, traveled the country to research the unique phenomena of the Japanese cherry blossoms. His spring 2012 lecture, “The Gravity of Desire: Space and Culture Under the Cherry Trees,” included an exhibition of sketchbooks in which his research in Japan was recorded.

A highlight of that book is his sketch of Miharu Takizakura, the waterfall cherry tree in Miharu, Fukushima. Arguably the most revered tree in Japan, it was designated a national treasure in 1922. The tree, a weeping Higan cherry or Prunus pendula, is more than 1,000 years old. Some 300,000 visitors see the tree during the blooming period that lasts about two weeks.

"In recent years, it is evident that a series of paths and overlooks have been constructed - a landscape theater to view the tree," Henderson reported. "On the ridge behind Miharu Takizakura is a grove of cherry trees with a matching 'grove' of upright stones with commemorative inscriptions that define a path to a small shrine. The grove is like a group of backup singers with the lead singer, the Takizakura, in centerstage."