A Scidmore Sisterhood, Across Cultures

With Miki Ebara along the banks of the Tidal Basin in Washington, in October 2024. (Photo: Ralf Oberti)

A documentary of Eliza Scidmore is now in the works! Thanks go to Japanese TV reporter Miki Ebara, who produced a 12-minute feature on Scidmore and my first-ever biography of her for Japan’s NHK World (an English-language channel).

The segment aired on March 27, 2024, during cherry blossom season in Washington and Japan. You can view it here.

March 27 is regarded as “Sakura Day” in Japan, acccording to Chiaki Umemoto, representative director of the Eliza Scidmore Cherry Blossom Society in Yokohama. Sakura is Japanese for cherry blossoms. The date is the anniversary of the first cherry trees from Japan that were planted in 1912 along the Tidal Basin.

In October, Miki and I posed by the Tidal Basin, reprising a photo of us taken near the same spot 10 years ago.

Diana Parsell with Miki Ebara of NHK TV

Along the Tidal Basin, at the original cherry tree planting spot, with NHK reporter Miki Ebara in March 2013.

Back then, I was heading to Japan to do research and “walk in the footsteps” of Eliza Scidmore by strolling under the trees at Mukojima and Ueyno Park in Tokyo.

Learning of my plans in 2013, Miki arranged for me to be interviewed for NHK. We did some filming in Washington, before she passed me along to her colleagues in Tokyo, who reported on my research for NHK’s evening news. Many people in Japan know of Scidmore, who is interred at the Foreign General Cemetery in Yokohama.

Miki’s recent TV feature on my now-completed book also describes the efforts of Chiaki and her group to spread the word about Scidmore and her legacy in Japan. The campaign includes visits to schools where children plant saplings propagated from genetic stock of the first cherry trees in Washington.

In frequent encounters over the years, Miki and I were delighted to find a lot of overlap in our lives, as journalists, March birthday girls and former recipients of Rotary international fellowships.

Miki’s first contacted me a decade ago through my former website and blog on Scidmore. It surprised me to learn that Miki KNEW about Scidmore, as most people I encountered drew a blank on the name. An international reporter, Miki knew about Scidmore through her article in National Geographic on a deadly 1896 tsunami on the northeast coast of Japan.

Along with Chiaki, we think of ourselves as an Eliza Scidmore sisterhood, passionate about telling her story.

Other early members of our Scidmore fan girls club: Andrea Zimmerman, author of the 2011 children’s book Eliza’s Cherry Trees, and Ann McClellan, author of Cherry Blossoms and The Cherry Blossom Festival: Sakura Celebration.

NHK World program on Eliza Scidmore, aired on March 27, 2024.

 

Kyoko Tanitsu, left, and Michiko Okubo were my companions and guides when I visited Mukojima in March 2013. (Photo: Wakako Hisaeda)

 

Chiaki Umemoto, next to the gravesite of Eliza Scidmore and her mother and brother in Yokohama’s Foreign General Cemetery.

Share This

Leave a Comment