Saving the blossom: Cherry Ingram and his rich legacy

Join Naoko and learn about the life of 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 many different cherry trees. By the 1940s, he had created the world’s largest cherry tree collection in his garden in Benenden, Kent. He returned an iconic white-blossomed variety called ‘Taihaku’ to Japan in 1932 where it had gone extinct. The homecoming of Ingram’s trees is continuing. In 2021, five more varieties that had gone extinct in Japan were returned from Harcourt Arboretum. They had all been preserved in Ingram’s garden. 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.

Naoko Abe is a UK-based journalist and non-fiction writer. Her first English-language book, ‘Cherry’ Ingram, The Englishman Who Saved Japan’s Blossoms, was 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 around the world, including the Economist, the Financial Times and the Washington Post. It was chosen as one of the best books of the year by the Sunday Times and the Daily Mail in the UK and by NPR (National Public Radio) in the US. The book has been published in eight languages. The original book in Japanese won the prestigious Nihon Essayist Club award in 2016.

Naoko was the first female political reporter at the Mainichi Newspaper, one of Japan’s most influential newspapers, and has written five books in Japanese. Her new book ‘The Martyr and the Red Kimono’ will be published in England in April 2024. She has lived in the UK with her British husband since 2001.