Speaking of the Cherry flower reminds me of the singer-composer Win Oo who won the Academy Awards for “Mg Toh Cherry Myay,” a song from a film directed by U Tin Yu. It also reminds me of the stunning PyinOoLwin. I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to see the beautiful Cherry flower and the mesmerising cherry blossom recently.
Since childhood, I’ve read poems and novels written by Takkatho Phone Naing, Kalyar (Science & Literature), Moe Moe (Innyar), Nay NweZinMyint, MaungSein Win (Patikone), NwanGyarThyaing and NyeinKyaw, I imagined that the life of a university student will be exciting. I dreamt of Adipati, Sagaing, Bagan, Kankaw, Inya, and Thathone roads as well as Thitpokepin and Jasson. My dream came true when I got the opportunity to join the Defence Services Academy (Cherry University).
However, my real life was very different from my imaginary life. As I am someone who is not very athletic, I tried to get used to the rigorous training of Academy which is implemented to ensure the students emerge as strong, faithful, brave and adventurous minded.
My roommate, Cadet Moe Aung, teases me about my poetic inclination feeling whenever we meet. During college, I used to write poems based on my sentimental feeling about Cherry University while I was studying there.
When I joined, it was right before the cherry blossom season. Hence, it was the coldest season in Pyin Oo Lwin. Apart from scattering Sain Pan (red&blue) along the street around the Academic building, Cherry flowers are scattered along the running routes of which makes it appear like velvet covering of flowers. The scene is amazing for nature lovers.
Our academy compound in Pyin Oo Lwin is dotted with cherry flowers on both sides. As I have always lived in a humid region, I had never gotten a chance to observe a cherry tree which usually grows in the mountainous region. So I was ecstatic when I could witness the beautiful cherry flowers bloom. I used to insert cherry flowers between pages of books carefully so as to maintain its original shape and send the books to my sisters or brothers along with a letter so that they could feel what I was feeling. Some of my friends used to send them inside letters to their girlfriends.
The cherry flower blossoms only once a year, when all the leaves from the trees are shed. Hence, the combination of the barren tree devoid of any leaves along with the soft pink of the flowers presents a scene which can never be forgotten. The beautiful colour of the cherry flowers attracts viewers from all over the world.
Cherry is a highly valued tree in Myanmar. Not only streets but even babies are also named cherry when they are born. The street in Pyin Oo Lwin has been named cherry because of the rows of cherry trees lining the streets. The street looks lovely when the flowers bloom.
When I saw the bloom for the first time, I was quite troubled by an insect called ‘Khu’ which is responsible for falling of the leaves. The insect causes an itching sensation when touched. In our academy, a common punishment during this time included sweeping the fallen leaves and keeping the lane clean. While performing the task, students would often be irritated by the itching sensation caused by ‘Khu’.
When I had to bid goodbye to the cherry flowers at the end of my four years of education, I thought I would never be able to see cherry flowers bloom again. However, I was fortunate enough to experience this once in a lifetime opportunity again. I witnessed the cherry bloom again in Southern Shan State where I was posted when I started working. Unfortunately, I was so busy that I hardly got any time to enjoy the blooming season.
The best thing is that the attachment between me and the cherry tree never faded. Even after leaving the Southern Shan State, I got the opportunity to witness cherry blossom a third time and the best part is, this time in a foreign country. I was given the charge of the exhibitor of Myanmar Travel Mart in JATA Tourism Forum (2016) in Japan where I had to lead 11 travel companies. We conducted that travel exhibition from September 11 to September 25. Moreover, following the invitation of Mr.Yoshinori Ochi, General Secretary of JATA Tourism Expo Japan Executive Committee, Myanmar delegation led by Union Minister H.E U Ohn Maung attended Global Tourism Forum and other related meetings in Japan during this time. We also participated in a meeting of Mr.Ichiro Aisawa, President of Japan-Myanmar Parliamentary Friendship Committee, conducted to promote friendship between the people of Myanmar and Japan and encourage future generations to embrace peace and promote good relations. The agenda of the meeting also included promoting Myanmar as a world travel destination and to finalise the proposal of ‘Growing Cherry’ project. As a result, Japan-Myanmar Friendship (Sakura Festival Myanmar) was successfully held on Zawana Road near the Grand Parade Hall in Nay Pyi Taw on January 29, 2017.
State counselor DawAung San Suu Kyi participated in the ceremonial planting of Cherry trees and said that “Cherry flower is a symbol of peace and means of communication between different cultures; teaching us how to build unity within diversity as well as urged people to consider tree planting as cultivating, nurturing, and strengthening the friendship between Japan and Myanmar and to highlight the need for peace”. She also said “Our country is now on the path of peace. The building of peace sets a value on beauty, elegance, truth and peaceful co-existence and building the path of peace based on the said values can lead us to the goal we desire straight away”.
The Cherry trees planted in Myanmar are a kind which can be grown in any region. Mr.Masaaki Takaoka , a plant genetic engineer(1909-2001) created the species by DNA modification through genetic engineering techniques of transferring pollen and branches. He conducted extensive research for 30 years before inventing the species.
In 1966, this kind of cherry trees was planted successfully in Japan. After its success, the species was spread to cold and humid regions across the world such as Lithuania, Vietnam, Mexico, Turkey, America, Thailand, Laos, Guam, Sri Lanka, Croatia, Azerbaijan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Philippine, Indonesia, Tunisia, Romania, Tanzania, Vatican, China, Korea, Bolivia, Montenegro. Currently, the total number of planted cherry trees in Myanmar is slightly less than 11000 plants.
The film of genetic engineering of plants was filmed on December 2nd, 2016 and it is available to anybody interested in the topic. Mr Massaki Takaoka passed away in 2001 and his legacy is continued by his son, Mr Terumi Takaoka. He also participated in Sakura Festival Myanmar.
According to Mr Terumi Takaoka, the cherry tree not only blooms but the leaves of the trees are edible. Dried leaves can be used as green tea and to make soap. It can be used for decorative planting as well.
Japan has utilised the cherry tree well, especially for tourism. It has systematically planted trees all over to ensure the blooming season becomes a spectacle to be cherished by tourists all over the world. The heart of the Japanese lies in the cherry flowers. By planting cherry trees in Japan, we tried to create a bridge of friendship between the Myanmarese and Japanese.
We have plans to plant 1000 Cherry trees on the left and right of Zawana Road in Nay Pyi Taw – from the lotus roundabout to the Parliament. The plan includes planting 100 Cherry trees in 2017, 200 per the year 2018 and 2019 and 300 in 2020.
Due to the collaboration between Japan-Myanmar Parliamentary Friendship Committee and Vivo Myanmar Travels & Tours Co.Ltd, cherry flowers will be on full bloom on the two sides of the road leading to our Parliament. During the cherry blossom season, the entire area around the parliament will turn pink. This will be a site which will mesmerise tourists, I’m sure.
Japanese tourists visit Myanmar regularly. The friendship between the two countries has been a backbone for the increased number of tourists visiting our country from Japan. I hope this friendship will go forward based on the Youkozakura (Cherry) and we will have more Japanese tourists in the coming years.
Apart from the cherry flower, Padauk, Nguwa and Sain Pain (red and blue) are also beautiful flowers which bloom once a year. When tourists visit our country, they should see these flowers too.
Nay Pyi Taw has been built as a city of gardens and has greenery all around with well-maintained gardens and canopies. We hope the cherry blossom season in our country will slowly become an attraction for tourists just like that in Japan.