April 10, 13 | Shizuko Kosuna
"Cherry Trees Lining the 20-Ken Roads of Shizunai" - Shinhidaka Town - The 13th entry in our Hokkaido Heritage Series.
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Around 3,000 cherry trees have been planted along the "20-Ken Roads of Shizunai," (I'll explain the name later on) making this the largest Sakura viewing spot in Japan! These trees usually flower during Golden Week (a Japanese holiday season at the beginning of May) drawing nearly 200,000 visitors each year.
So how did this area come about? Well that answer needs a bit of historic context. The "20-Ken Roads" are located very close to the modern day "Niikkappu Ranch Livestock Reform Center" which once served as the Imperial Family ranch, under the name "Goryo Ranch."
In 1872, Vice-Minister of Reclamation Kuroda Kiyotaka first opened the ranch to reform wild horses. The area had little snow and many wild plants for grazing, making it the perfect place for a ranch.
In 1889 the ranch was put under direct control of the Imperial Household Agency, and the name was changed to "Goryo Niikappu Ranch."
The "Ryuun Pavilion," a lodging house for noble visitors, was built on-site and both Emperor Showa and Emperor Taisho stayed there in their Crown Prince days.
Several items are still preserved in this house, including "Book of Speechless Poems" which is said to be the last writing of Ito Hirobumi, an "Illustration of Cattle" folding screen, and horse-riding equipment and dishes left by noble guests.
The Ryuun Pavillion is only open during the Shizunai Cherry Blossom Festival in early May.
In 1903, 14 years after Goryo Ranch opened, the "20-Ken Roads of Shizunai" were developed to serve as a place of beauty fit for royalty.
In 1916, the staff began to plant local "Ezo Mountain Cherry Trees" along the roads. After three years of cultivation the cherry tree lined roads were completed.
The Ezo mountain cherry trees are characterized by their dark color and unique blooming pattern, unlike other cherry trees all the blossoms open at once. Naturally they are also resistant to harsh cold weather. This sturdy tree is a wonderful representation of Hokkaido beauty.
The name "20-Ken Roads of Shizunai" is derived from an old unit of measure, the "ata," which is about 18 centimeters. 20-Ken comes out to be about 36 meters in modern day measure, which is the width between cherry trees along the roads. With a width of 36 meters and a length of 7 kilometers the scale of this Sakura viewing area is gigantic.
There is one more unique feature of the "20-Ken Roads" area.
Vegetation has been planted behind the cherry trees to act as a windbreak, and when the green of this vegetation is set behind the pink of the cherry blossoms, the beauty is profound.
Although these cherry trees may lack the beauty of Yoshino or Shidare Sakura, their unique history is quite impressive.
In addition, the blooming season occurs at the same time as the birth of local foals. So Sakura viewers can also enjoy the sight of newborn horses interacting with their parents when they come out to visit!
Website: http://www.hokkaidoisan.org/ (Japanese)
On Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/hokkaidoisan (Japanese)
Sakura Lined Roads Website
(Hokkaido Likers Writer - Kosuna)
Photographs provided by 北海道遺産協議会.