Hello! The rainy season has ended earlier than usual in Japan. Just before the rainy season began in June, I visited Ekiraku Sansou, the experimental mountain forest of cherry blossom trees formerly owned by Sasabe Shintaro (featured in a previous article). In this article we will compare my visit to Ekiraku Sansou with Sasabe’s own description of the forest found in the “Records of Ekiraku Sansou”.
Ekiraku Sansou is located in Takedao, Takarazuka City, Hyogo Prefecture. Today, the area is known as “Sakura no Sono (Cherry Blossom Garden)”. One of the members of Sakuramori no Kai (lit. means a group of people committed to protecting cherry blossom trees) kindly offered to take me on a tour of the area.
The closest station to Ekiraku Sansou is JR Takarazuka Line Takedao station. From the station, we walked along the Mukogawa river and continued on the unused railroad line of the former Japanese National Railways Fukuchiyama Line (discontinued in 1986). In Sasabe’s time, he would have had to be careful of the trains while walking on the railroad line.
As shown in the article, you need to go through two tunnels to reach Ekiraku Sansou from Takedao station.
From Takedao station, it takes approximately 20 minutes on foot to get to the entrance of Ekiraku Sansou. As shown in the photo, there is a sign to help visitors easily find the entrance.
Upon entering the mountain, you will find stone steps in many places. Because the steps were in such good condition, I thought they must have been made after 1999, when Takarazuka City conducted maintenance of the area. However, according to the Sakuramori no kai member, the steps have been there since before he joined the group, which means these steps were installed during Sasabe’s time.
In the “Records of Ekiraku Sansou”, there is a description regarding the installation of the stone steps during the early stage of Sasabe’s mountain maintenance in the early 20th century. Sasabe must have installed these stone steps in many steep areas of the mountain to make it easier for him to access the trees.
Another thing Sasabe had built was a cabin called “Kakusuitei”. Sasabe used the building when he worked in Ekiraku Sansou. According to the “Records of Ekiraku Sansou”, the building was built in the early 20th century, when Sasabe began the maintenance of the mountain. Unfortunately, the building was washed away by the Great Hanshin Flood of 1938. The building in the photo is not the Kakusuitei building, but is a storage facility built by Sasabe.
Lastly, please let us introduce the cherry blossom trees which Sasabe nurtured. According to the “Records of Ekiraku Sansou”, Sasabe grew many cherry blossom trees, from seeds and through grafting. There were so many trees that the total number is not even known. After Sasabe’s death, many of those trees withered because they were abandoned. However, in an area called “Sakura Zaka”, there are 10 Edohigan cherry blossom trees and 40 wild cherry blossom trees which Sasabe is said to have nurtured. Those trees have been cared for by Sakuramoni no Kai. Please look for the trees if you visit the area.
We hope you enjoyed this article and that it piqued your interest in visiting Ekuraku Sansou.
There are steep areas in the mountain, so please be careful if you do visit. Also, please keep yourself hydrated in the heat!
Please look forward to the next article!