Controversial video sparks outrage as tourists violently shake cherry blossom trees in Kyoto

Akina Fong

16th April 2024 – (Kyoto) A video capturing tourists violently shaking cherry blossom trees has ignited a firestorm of outrage among Japanese netizens and raised serious questions about tourist behaviour and the preservation of natural beauty. The footage, shared by former broadcaster Akina Fong on her Facebook page, showcases a group of unidentified tourists who, in their quest for the perfect photo, recklessly shook the branches of cherry trees, causing a shower of petals to fall prematurely.

Fong, who witnessed the incident while dining with her husband, expressed her shock and dismay in the video, which quickly went viral. “The cherry blossoms have such a brief lifespan, and to see them treated this way is heartbreaking,” Fong lamented in her post. The video shows tourists taking turns to shake the branches vigorously, with petals cascading down like snow, creating a fleeting moment of ‘romance’ which was artificially, and harmfully, induced.

The incident has not only sparked a backlash on social media but has also caught the attention of Japanese media, leading to a broader discussion about the impact of tourism on the country’s cherished floral emblem. The cherry blossom season, a key attraction in Japan, draws millions of visitors each year, but this incident highlights a darker side of tourist interaction with these delicate blooms.

The actions of these tourists could carry serious legal consequences under Japanese law. Cherry trees, often located in public or government-owned spaces, are protected, and damaging them can lead to charges of vandalism, which may result in hefty fines or even imprisonment. The potential legal repercussions underscore the gravity of such disrespectful behaviours and the need for greater awareness and education among tourists about respecting local cultures and environments.

The reaction from Japanese netizens has been one of unanimous condemnation, with many expressing sadness and anger over the disrespect shown to a symbol so deeply ingrained in Japanese culture. Comments on social media reflect a strong sentiment that such actions not only tarnish the beauty of the cherry blossoms but also the cultural reverence they hold.

“Damaging public property is not just a minor offence—it’s a crime,” one user wrote, emphasizing the seriousness of the act. Another commented, “The springtime of Japan is being ruined by foreigners who do not appreciate our customs and the significance of our natural heritage.”

Video credit: Akina Fong