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Naoko Abe: ‘Cherry’ Ingram, The Englishman Who Saved Japan’s Blossoms  

Thu 23 February 2023
6:00 pm
- 7:45 pm


£17 in-person tickets include: entry to the talk, museum entry and a glass of wine
£8 virtual tickets

The Talk

In this enlightening talk, Naoko will talk about Collingwood ‘Cherry’ Ingram (1880-1981), the Englishman who saved Japan’s blossoms.

Ingram, an eccentric Edwardian gentleman, had fallen in love with Japanese cherry blossoms at the beginning of the 20th century and went to Japan three times to bring back cuttings of different species and varieties of cherry trees. He grafted them to an English native tree to plant in his garden in Benenden, Kent, and created new varieties by artificial hybridisation. By the 1940s, he had created the world’s largest cherry tree collection in his garden.

Ingram spread the beauty of cherry blossoms across the UK and beyond. He was determined to preserve the diversity of cherries at a time when many varieties were disappearing from Japan because of industrialisation.

In 1932, Ingram returned a beautiful variety called ‘Taihaku’ (the great white cherry) to Japan, which had gone extinct there. Ingram sent cuttings from the tree in his garden, but it took five years for a successful homecoming.

Naoko will tell the amazing story of how Taihaku was returned via the trans-Siberian Railroad, with cuttings stuck in potatoes. The original ‘Taihaku’, which is almost 100 years old, still blossoms at his former residence.

Naoko will also talk about the symbolism of cherry blossoms in Japan, including the Japanese military’s ideological distortion of cherries during the Second World War.

‘Cherry’ Ingram, The Englishman who Saved Japan’s Blossoms

‘Cherry’ Ingram, The Englishman who Saved Japan’s Blossoms is Naoko Abe’s first English-language book. Published in March 2019 to critical acclaim, the book was chosen as the Book of the Week by BBC Radio 4 and received positive reviews in major publications, such as the Economist, Guardian, Financial Times, Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal.

The book has been translated into German, Italian, Dutch, Spanish and Polish, and Chinese edition is on the way.

About the Speaker

Naoko Abe worked for the Mainichi Newspaper, one of Japan’s most influential newspapers, for many years. As the paper’s first female political reporter, she covered the prime minister’s office, the foreign ministry, and the defence ministry. She travelled extensively with prime ministers and foreign ministers domestically and internationally.

Naoko moved to London with her British husband and two sons in 2001 and has worked as a freelance journalist and non-fiction writer. She has written five books in Japanese on the British education system, family policies etc. She has developed a strong interest in the culture and politics of plants and flowers in recent years.

Shōji Hamada: A Japanese Potter in Ditchling runs 22 October 2022 – 16 April 2023

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