A national mint may seem an unlikely place to enjoy hanami, the traditional Japanese custom of admiring cherry blossoms in spring, but the Japan Mint headquarters in Osaka is quite famed for its so-called Sakura no Tōrinuke, or the Cherry Blossom Tunnel.
In mid-April, the riverside promenade that stretches for 600 yards around the Mint blooms in shades of pastel pink as its sakura goes into full bloom. It boasts more than 300 cherry trees, which come in over 100 varieties. Every spring, the mint names one of these varietals as the “flower of the year,” which gets featured on medals that are included in the annual proof coin sets.
The cherry blossom trees were originally planted in the 1830s by the Fujido samurai clan who owned the area at the time, and kept as is when the property was taken over by the Meiji government to be renovated as the national mint headquarters. The tradition of the tunnel goes back to 1883, when the master of the Mint, Kinsuke Endo, allowed the public of Osaka to enter the premises to enjoy the blossoms.
British author Rudyard Kipling (of the Jungle Book fame) experienced the tunnel during his trip in 1889, and wrote about it in his book From Sea to Sea: “All along the boulevard the cherry, peach, and plum trees, pink, white, and red, touched branches and made a belt of velvety soft colour as far as the eve could reach […] The Mint may make a hundred thousand dollars a day, but all the silver in its keeping will not bring again the three weeks of the peach blossom which, even beyond the chrysanthemum, is the crown and glory of Japan.”