Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

‘Cherry’ Ingram’s Message
ABE Naoko / Journalist

February 27, 2020
Since the publication of my first English book, ‘Cherry Ingram, The Englishman Who Saved Japan’s Blossoms,’ last spring by Penguin Random House, I have been overwhelmed by the positive feedback. The book was published in the U.K., the U.S. and other English- language countries.

The book was chosen as BBC Radio 4’s ‘Book of the Week’ in March 2019 and was read out every morning for 15 minutes. It received extensive book reviews by newspapers and magazines such as the Economist, the Guardian, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times. It was also quoted in the New York Times. This spring, the Italian, German and Dutch editions will be published and it is also being translated into Polish, Spanish and Chinese. (The Chinese version will be translated from the original edition in Japanese) I am still getting requests for lectures and media interviews.

The English edition was made possible after I won the prestigious Nihon Essayist Club Award in Japan for the original book, which was published in Japanese in March 2016. For the English version, I spent three more years conducting further research and interviews and rewrote the entire book.

Why did the book draw so much attention in international communities? Here are some thoughts:

The hero of the book is an English horticulturist, Collingwood Ingram (1880-1981), who fell in love with Japanese cherry blossoms at the beginning of the 20th century and introduced them to the U.K. and Europe. He was born into a wealthy English family during the Victorian era, and was a typical upperclass gentleman who had the time and money to indulge in his passion.

For Ingram, that passion was cherry blossoms. Ingram was an extremely captivating eccentric, which made him a fascinating person to write about. He had a stubborn streak, particularly in regards to the research style in cherries, but he also had a pure and charming personality. He wanted everyone to love cherry blossoms as much as he did.

‘Cherry’ Ingram’s lifetime coincided with significant and turbulent times in both the U.K. and Japan. When he was born, in 1880, the British Empire was at its peak. By World War II, its importance had diminished considerably. Japan, meanwhile, experienced fervent modernization and militarism in the 20th century, which led to disaster. As a consequence, following Ingram’s footsteps turned into a dramatic story of the two countries’ modern histories. After the Meiji Restoration, Japan’s leaders were under pressure to create a “nation state” quickly, and they used cherry blossoms as a means to plant loyalty among the people for the state, or the emperor. They used cherry blossoms as a symbol of dedication and sacrifice as the flower was deeply embedded in people’s psyche.

The descriptions in the book of how that happened were of particular interest to Western readers. Outside Japan, very few people knew that during the war the notion of “falling blossoms” was glorified by the military or that Kamikaze pilots were brainwashed to fall like cherry blossoms.

Even among Japanese, it is not well known that one cherry variety -- the Somei-yoshino variety – became dominant in modern Japan at the expense of traditional cherry varieties. Or that this coincided with the spread of totalitarianism. This became apparent to Ingram during a 1926 visit to Japan, when he warned Japan’s leaders that the nation was losing its diversity.

Ingram was a Darwinian and he valued diversity of species above all else. I was amazed to learn that nearly 130 different varieties of cherries were blossoming in Ingram’s garden in the village of Benenden in Kent before the war. It was a completely different situation in Japan, where the Somei-yoshino dominated the cherry scenery.

From his cherry orchard, Ingram was able to return a variety called the Great White cherry, or Taihaku, to Japan in 1932. This variety had gone extinct in Japan and would not have been saved had it not been for ‘Cherry’ Ingram.
In the late 1920s, Ingram warned the Japanese to "value diversity" just before Japan began a senseless war. His message, after nearly 100 years, still carries a lot of weight. A society that values diversity in cherries should also appreciate multiplicity in all aspects of life. We need to take Ingram's message seriously again to avoid the threat of parochial nationalism.

Abe Naoko is a London-based journalist.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

阿部 菜穂子 / ジャーナリスト

2020年 2月 27日
昨年3月に、初めての英語の著書「チェリー・イングラムーー日本の桜を救ったイギリス人」(‘Cherry’ Ingram The Englishman Who Saved Japan’s Blossoms)を英国、米国など英語圏でペンギン社から出版したところ、驚くほどの反響があった。出版時に英国の権威あるBBCラジオ4が「今週の本(Book of the week)」として1週間、毎朝15分ずつ本を朗読してくれたのをはじめ、エコノミスト誌、ガーディアン紙、ワシントン・ポスト紙、ウォールストリート・ジャーナル紙など主要各紙誌が大きな書評や記事を書いてくれた。ニューヨーク・タイムズ紙も日本の桜の特集記事で、本を詳しく紹介した。この3月にはイタリア語、ドイツ語、オランダ語版が出るほか、スペイン語、ポーランド語、中国語(注:中国語版は日本語版の翻訳)への翻訳も進んでおり、著者のところにはいまだに講演や取材依頼が舞い込んでいる。






このイングラムの桜園から、日本で絶滅した白い大輪の花をつける‘太白’(たいはく)が、1932年に里帰りした。まさに「日本の桜を救った」‘チェリー・ イングラム’を発掘できたのは、光栄であった。


一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟