Unexpected early Hanami 予定外の早めの花見

japanese cake

A Nor’Easter (winter hurricane) tore through our area recently. Winds gusted in the range of 40 to 60 MPH. My wife was standing in the kitchen making a cup of coffee when a branch the size of a small tree split off our neighbor’s white pine and crashed into our 30 plus year old cherry tree splintering the trunk in half. My wife who observed the whole thing said the branch did not fall but flew into our tree–it was airborne. The cherry tree died heroically. I would like to think it gave its life to narrowly divert the white pine from crashing directly into our house causing even more damage. Nonetheless this was very heartbreaking. Later in the day our neighbor’s 60 foot Leland cypress joined it’s collegue by crashing into our backyard taking out our back fence which like the cherry tree gave its life to keep the massive tree from hitting the house with even greater velocity than it did. At the end of the day; death toll–3 huge trees and a backyard so full of dead trees it was almost impossible to move in it.

We tried to see if we could save the cherry tree–it was such an important part of our backyard. It was central to out yearly hanami and shaded the deck from the sun in summer. But it was too severely damaged. We had no choice but to take it down and replace it with a 6 foot tall “young sprout”. This was particularly sad because the tree would have bloomed in only a few weeks. We gathered up some branches and placed the cuttings in vases with the hope that some would bloom and they did.

These blooms were a much earlier hanami than we were expecting.

Since this was the last Hanami for this cherry tree, in its honor, we decide to do an unexpected early hanami. I quickly put together six kinds of otoshi dishes for the occasion. They were octopus sashimi タコの刺身 (upper left), cube of silken tofu with garnish of perilla and salmon “Ikura” roe or “hiyayakko” 冷奴 (upper center) and store-bought “Chinese-style” squid  salad (イカの中華風サラダ). On the plate (all heated up in the toaster oven) were store-bought fish cake, spicy tofu cubes, and chicken liver simmered in wine.

In addition, we had just recently received a very thin “usuhari” うすはり glass sake carafe and sake cups from Japan sold by ”Sake-talk”  through Amazon. Several years ago when we visited Japan, we got “usuhari” tumblers and we really like these thin glass vessels. In any case, we opened American brew Shochikubai Yamadanishki Daijinjou and poured it into the carafe.

It was a bit sad to see the remaining few twigs blooming in one last gasp of this valiant tree. We still have two cherry trees in our backyard which were there when we moved in. When they bloom in a few weeks it will provide some solice for the loss our beautiful tree. We will raise a cup of sake to its memory (and maybe pour a cup at the base of the young tree we planted as a replacement, just for good luck).

Update: My wife got the idea that we might be able to root some of twigs we salvaged from the downed cherry tree. We got some rooting medium and set up 5 pots (shown below) in the hope one of them would form roots. We know it is a “long shot” but how sentimentally satisfying it would be to propagate another tree from one of the twigs…we would have to name it Phoenix.

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