A walk among the cherry blossoms

Sakura, sakura–lovely in every language as a harbinger of spring.


tinted photo of young Japanese women wearing kimonos

Henry and Nancy Rosin Collection of Early Photography of Japan, 1860 – ca. 1900
Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives
Smithsonian Institution

More than a century ago, cherry trees made beautiful backdrops for photos—just as they do today. Pictured here are three young women dressed in kimonos posing with parasols under a blooming cherry blossom tree, circa 1860–1900.

This photo is from the collection of the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. It was included in an album produced by the studio of Tamamura Kozaburo (1880s–1900s)—a successful commercial photography studio in Japan.

This photo is not currently on display, but the galleries offer more Japanese artworks, such as those in the upcoming “Inventing Utamaro: A Japanese Masterpiece Rediscovered,” opening April 8. The exhibition reunites for the first time in nearly 140 years three works by the legendary Japanese ukiyo-e (“pictures of the floating world”) master, Kitagawa Utamaro (1753–1806). The exhibition will be open through July 9; more information is available at

Sakura Sakura (“Cherry blossoms, cherry blossoms”), is a traditional Japanese folk song depicting spring, the season of cherry blossoms. Said to have been composed at the end of the Edo era (about 150-200 years ago) as an etude for beginning players of koto, the Japanese zither. Lyrics were added later in the Meiji era. It is often played and sung internationally as a song representative of Japan.

Posted: 21 March 2017
About the Author:

Marilyn is an editor in the Smithsonian’s central Office of Public Affairs; she has been at the Smithsonian since 2008. When not editing, she aspires to be Vianne Rocher in “Chocolat” and embraces all things “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”