The Osaka mint dates back to the 1870s, a time when Japan was opening up to outside influence after centuries of self-imposed isolation. There is an Irish connection – some of the buildings were designed by an Irishman called Thomas Waters, including this elegant reception hall, the Senpuukan, which was built for the visit of the Meiji emperor, who came here in 1872.
The tradition of toorinuke (cherry-blossom viewing at the mint) dates back almost as far – for 140 years people have come here in mid-April to “pass through” the tunnel of cherry trees when they are in full bloom. This is called 通り抜け toorinuke (from a verb meaning to pass through).
The cherry-blossom route is around 500 metres long, and comprises hundreds of carefully-tended trees of over 100 different varieties. They are osoizakura—late-blossoming cherries; while the cherry trees in the various parks around Osaka reached their brief moment of glory 2 weeks ago and have since shed their flowers in a flurry of pinkish petals, at the mint the cherry trees are only now in full bloom.
Yuko suggested that we should get up early to beat the crowds, and she was right. Even at 9 a.m. on a Saturday morning, we were among hundreds making our way from the metro station to the entrance gate.
The toorinuke operates as a one-way system (south to north), with staff-members with megaphones constantly exhorting people to keep moving along the route and not to stop.
However, only the first 100 metres or so of the route was congested, after which it freed up a lot and it was possible to enjoy the experience in a more relaxed way.
Carved into a rock alongside the route is a short poem about the toorinuke:
大阪に 花の里あり 通り抜け
oosaka ni hana no sato ari toorinuke
In Osaka is found the home of flowers—toorinuke
During the toorinuke, the Mint museum and buildings are closed to the public. However I would like to come back here another time to visit them.