Ninna-ji Temple is home to a special variety of short, late-blooming cherry trees. In many parts of Kyoto cherry trees start blooming as soon as March, but the Omuro Cherry Trees are much slower to blossom, often coming into full bloom in early to mid-April.
The Omuro Cherry Trees have been at the temple since the Edo Period, and have been beloved by many for hundreds of years. The beauty of the trees in bloom and their special characteristics have been recorded in many poems. The practice of flower-viewing at Ninna-ji Temple is even recorded in the Keijo Shoran, a guidebook to Kyoto’s famous sites created during the mid-Edo period (18th century). This long history ultimately led to the designation of Ninna-ji Temple’s cherry tree grove as a nationally recognized Place of Scenic Beauty (“meisho” 名勝) in 1924.
Until recently it was thought that the height of the trees was due to the presence of bedrock under the grove that stunted the roots and the trees’ overall growth, but recent research has discovered that clay-like soil, not bedrock, lies beneath the cherry trees. This clay-like soil offers less oxygen and nutrients for the trees, and this appears to be one reason why the roots of the trees are shallow. Although it was not bedrock to blame, the main assumption that the roots are not able to grow deep into the ground was not mistaken. Research on the trees continues today, and we will update as more is learned about what makes the Omuro Cherry Trees so special.