Diana Parsell Writer

Diana Parsell Writer

Diana Parsell Writer

Off to Japan, in Eliza Scidmore's Footsteps

By the Tidal Basin in Washington with reporter Miki Ebara, in front of the first two cherry trees from Japan planted on March 27, 1912, and a 300-year-old lantern from Japan (Source: NHK TV)

A busy Saturday. I just spent five hours with a film crew from the New York bureau of Japan’s NHK television, talking about my research on Eliza Scidmore.

Miki Ebara, the chief correspondent in New York,  first contacted me a year ago not long after I launched this blog. She covers disasters as part of her duties and was familiar with Eliza Scidmore’s reporting on the great tsunami on the northeast coast of Japan in 1896.

Miki and I reconnected several weeks ago when I started thinking about making a trip to Japan for some necessary research. Cherry blossom season seemed the best time to go, so things have moved along very quickly. I’m off early next week. First trip to Japan.

Because she shares my fascination with Eliza, Miki decided to do a news feature on the cherry trees in Washington with a segment on my research and what I’ve learned about Eliza’s life. The show is scheduled to air on March 30, when the trees in Japan should be at peak bloom.

Eliza has become increasingly well known in Japan because of her book Jinrikisha Days in Japan and her role in bringing cherry trees to Washington, so there’s much curiosity about her. There’s even an information sign about her posted outside one of Yokohama’s metro stations, near the cemetery where she’s buried.

Miki has been a great go-between, arranging for me to connect with people in Japan who also know something about Eliza. I plan to visit her gravesite and do research at the Yokohama Archives of History, seeking information about her comings and goings in Japan in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The archives has records of several English-language newspapers that were published in Yokohama during that time.

It will be exciting to compare notes with other Eliza-philes and to walk in her footsteps. I’ve discovered, for example, that she and her mother had a home in Yokohama for a while at No. 6 the Bund, which was the main avenue overlooking the harbor.

This trip is going to be very fruitful. Thanks, Miki!



  1. Lois Lukens on March 18, 2013 at 11:34 am

    Hi Diana, I’ve been to Yokohama several times and walked the streets and piers. Beautiful seaport and very underrated. So happy to hear about your work and get a sense of your passion for it! Look forward to reading more about it. Loey

    • Diana on March 18, 2013 at 12:41 pm

      Hi, Lois. What a coincidence! Through my research I’ve gotten a strong sense of the port in the 1880s. I know it’s changed a lot today, of course, so it will be interesting to see it through double vision. Just read a haunting book about the huge earthquake that leveled the city on Sept. 1, 1923. Diana

  2. Andrea on March 20, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    I so happy for you and excited for what you may discover. Have a wonderful, productive trip.

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