“There is a river with arched bridges, and along the bank a road bordered on either side, for miles and miles, with cherry-trees. They have no fruit; only blossoms. When April comes the newspapers report the cherry-trees in bloom, and it seems as if the influence of those far-off blossoms finds its way into the dustiness and dinginess of that great city; for the workman leaves his work, and the merchant his store, and they go to spend the pleasant April days in the meadow, by the river – under the cherry-trees of Mukojima.”
– The Cherry-Blooms of Yeddo and Other Poems, Clara May Stevens Arthur, 1881
The area of Mukojima, on the east bank of the Sumida River across from the Asakusa temple district, gained favor during the Tokugawa era as one of nine hunting grounds established for the Shogun. It was the “Falcon Shogun,” Tokugawa Yoshimune, who planted the orchard of cherry trees found along Mukojima embankment that later generations would venerate and flock to every spring for O-hanami [cherry blossom viewing].
As it was only a short ferry ride across the Sumida from Asakusa, the common folk would gather amidst the spring blossoms. The literati of the Edo period sojourned there, too, for inspiration, while the politicians and tycoons of the Meiji era built villas at Mukojima as retreats.
“On the east bank of the river Sumida is a long avenue of cherry trees extending over a mile along the banks. In early April when the blossoms are in
its best, when one walks along the banks one feels as if he was going through a ‘flower tunnel.’ It is the merriest season of the year and crowds went thither pleasure-seeking during the time, especially on Sundays and Holidays.
“Tourists who visit the capital in that season should not miss the opportunity to be there. There are many suitable restaurants and tea houses on the way well shaded under the trees which present picturesque views. There is also a University Boat-House on the banks from which annual regattas are held by the students of the Imperial University and other institutions during the season.”
–Up-to-date Guide for the Land of the Rising Sun, H. Hotta, 1902