Tokyo Park Inspired Washington’s Cherry Trees

Ramble Under Cherry Trees, Takashima 1897

“No other flower in all the world is so beloved, so exalted, so worshipped, as sakura-no-hana, the cherry-blossom of Japan.” — Eliza Scidmore, The Century Magazine, May 1910 It’s now blooming season in Washington. That means cherry tree fever along the Tidal Basin in Potomac Park. The display offers our own “Mukojima on the Potomac,”…

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Eliza Scidmore, ‘Downton Abbey’ and a Debutante

OK, fellow “Downtown Abbey” addicts. I managed to find a connection between the TV series and Eliza Scidmore, the subject of my book. The line runs through Cora Grantham, the American-born mistress of Downton Abbey. Julian Fellowes, the show’s writer, has said Cora represents American heiresses of the late 19th century who married into the…

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Robert Caro Stresses ‘Sense of Place’ in Biography

Robert Caro

There’s no greater master of biography writing today than Robert Caro. I recall being mightily impressed with his keynote speech at the 2011 conference of Biographers International Organization (BIO). So I’m grateful to Steve Weinberg, a journalist and biographer (and one of my former journalism profs at the University of Missouri), for flagging this article…

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Marking the Anniversary of Eliza Scidmore’s Death

Eliza Scidmore Gravesite

November 3 was the anniversary of Eliza Scidmore‘s death. Today I received photos from Mina Ozawa and Kaoro Onji, who paid a visit to Scidmore’s gravesite in Yokohama. I met both woman last spring during a research trip to Japan. Together, they work to keep the memory of Eliza Scidmore alive through an annual memorial…

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Eliza Scidmore Slept Here … and Here

Club Hotel Yokohama

In my research for a biography of Eliza Scidmore, I’ve tracked down various places where she stayed. She was quite a vagabond, so there were many. Some are pictured here (most are now demolished).   Atwood-Buck House, Madison, Wisconsin   Georgetown Visitation, Washington, D.C.   Steamer “Idaho,” Juneau, Alaska, 1887   Club Hotel, Yokohama, Japan…

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New York’s Sakura Park, and Hop to Brooklyn

In New York recently for the annual Biographers International Organization conference, I followed some research leads for my biography of Eliza Scidmore. One morning I went to the Brooklyn Museum with a writing colleague to track down an important document. Another day I took a very long walk — 80 blocks, in fact — from my…

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‘Homecoming Trees’ Honor Takamine and Scidmore

Diana Parsell Homecoming Trees Japan

Eliza Scidmore is popping up all over the place here in Japan. Her cameo appears on plaques marking the presence of cherry tree saplings grafted from trees in Potomac Park — scions of the 3,000 flowering cherry trees that Japan sent to Washington a hundred years ago. Japan is getting a couple hundred of these…

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Group in Japan Keeps Scidmore Memory Alive

Scidmore grave site memorial

When I started this blog a year ago (in an earlier version, titled A Great Blooming), my first post showed a photo of Eliza Scidmore‘s grave in Yokohama. A Japanese friend of mine in America, Miho Kinnas, sent the picture after visiting the site on a trip to Japan. Scidmore is buried in the Foreign…

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During Research in Japan, a Gift of ‘Sakura’

Last Saturday (March 30), NHK television in Japan aired a 15-minute evening news special on cherry blossoms in which I was interviewed about my research on Eliza Scidmore. The footage included scenes of me strolling beneath cherry blossoms at Mukojima in Tokyo and visiting Eliza Scidmore’s grave in Yokohama. Among the viewers who responded was…

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Yokohama Nursery Co., a Century Later

That coat. I knew it at first glance. In Yokohama to do research for my book on Eliza Scidmore, I took a bus across town Friday morning to attend a ceremonial planting of dogwood trees at Honmoku Sanchou Park. The trees were among 3,000 dogwood saplings that America gave to Japan last year in exchange…

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