To the delight of sakura (cherry blossom) lovers everywhere, botanists at Kyoto University have discovered a way to make cherry trees flower more than once a year and plans are already afoot to introduce pink to the autumnal palette.
By manipulating the
sakura’s genetic markers, researchers say they have essentially tricked
Mother Nature into reproducing spring’s bounty again in the fall.
Like so many great scientific discoveries, the breakthrough was a bit of a fluke.
to boost Japan’s rice production, the university researchers had been
hard at work studying the genome of a fast-growing strain of Vietnamese
rice that can be harvested up to four times a year.
“We’ve not yet
been able to crack that nut,” head researcher Kohei Yoshimoto said.
“Yes, we’ve produced a similar strain, which we’ve named Chumpa, that
can be harvested more than once, but it really didn’t pass the team’s
On a lark, the researchers decided to turn their attention to Japan’s most cherished tree.
“Call it self-serving, but our lab’s hanami (cherry
blossom viewing) parties are legendary,” Yoshimoto said with a wink.
“We thought it was a shame that we can only let our hair down once
Though still in its initial stages, the promise of the project — code-named Sakura AF (short for aki (autumn) flower) — has excited both the tourism industry and Japan Inc.’s retail sector.
really is too good to be true,” said JTB spokesperson Mei Naito. “We’ve
seen a steady increase in tourists during the cherry blossom-viewing
season, so doubling that with more hanami tourism is an auspicious
accomplishment. We couldn’t be happier.”
confectionery makers are especially keen to release new lines of aki
sakura drinks and sweets to complement the festivities.
the scale and location of the genetically modified trees has yet to be
decided, Yoshimoto said there have been talks of starting with the
Tohoku region to help revitalize the area’s flagging tourism numbers.
The idea, however, has not been welcomed by everyone.
a group has been formed to oppose the implementation of the project.
Named Hanami no Dentou wo Zettai ni Mamoru Kai (the People Who Will do
Anything to Protect the Tradition of Hanami), the group has threatened
to cut down the biannual sakura trees if the plan ever comes to
“These are mutant species, a blight on the soul of
Japan,” said group leader Kenji Yamato. “The thought of these symbols of
ephemeral beauty being programmed to pop open at will makes my blood
boil. It’s a perversion of this nation’s unique four seasons.
you know, they’ll be making them bloom rainbows.”