By ATSUO BEPPU
Born in Tokyo in 1938. Passed his boyhood on Amami-oshima island. Moved to Amami again in 1974 from Tokyo. Interested in taking pictures, shooting videos and fishing.
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ySAKURA-TSUTSUJIz

(Botanical name: Rhododendron tashiroi)

The Sakura-tsutsuji is a kind of azaleas that blooms from mid-December to February, as if secretly among the trees, in the mountains in Amami. It is often called yamazakura (mountainous cherry) by local people in Amami and yamazaqua in Okinawa. Because there are many reddish spots on the inside of the upper petal, just like other azalea flowers, it certainly belongs to the ericaceae family.

 

But if you come across those slightly reddish, undefiled blossoms on a mountain path during a cold season, they may look like cherry blossoms from a distance. Isson Tanaka, a Japanese-style painter, loved this flower and painted it on one of his masterpiece scrolls.

 

The distributional range of Sakura-tsutsuji is Shikoku, Southern Kyushu (including Yakushima and Tanegashima), Amami, Okinawa and Taiwan. But its blossoming season in Shikoku and Kyushu is April and May, unlike in Amami and southward. People sometimes used its uneven trunk as an alcove pillar.   

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