Kyoto Community Flower Diary

Helen Bailey, Maddie Pelz & Yihang Sui


This rich historical dataset dating back to the early 800s suggests that the full flowering date of the cherry trees in Kyoto have become increasingly early across time. We want to tell this story because cherry blossoms are an important part of Japanese culture, and are an example of the many species of plants being threatened by climate change.

As members of the travel bureau, our audience is people traveling to Kyoto hoping to plan a trip to visit different landmarks. Our goals with this interactive data story are to engage visitors with the cultural importance of cherry blossoms and the history of Kyoto, in order to encourage them to continue to build upon this historical dataset. Participants select the day of their visit to Kyoto, and then select an interest from the list we provide. The list includes architecture, religion, theater, art, and etc. After selecting their personal interest, they will be guided to the place of interest or things to do in Kyoto.

Assume they are interested in architecture. They then are shown a historical photo from the year in which that day was the full flowering day in Kyoto, and given information about that landmark. We then ask them to them contribute a modern photo of the landmark in order to help collect data on modern flowering times, as well as a way to collect and share their own travel memories. Using this app, we hope to connect their current travel experiences to the past in order to encourage them to reflect on the impact that climate change is having on these beautiful trees.

For example, Yuyiko from Tokyo traveled to Kyoto this year. She was interested in Religion and visited Daigo-ji on April 5th. She took pretty photos with cherry blossom and helped us keep the data of flowering date. From her photos, we collect April 5th’s data.

For this data story we used a dataset consisting of (almost) yearly records of the peak flowering dates of the cherry blossoms since ~800AD. Despite this dataset’s simple appearance, the data points have been collected from a range of historical sources, ranging from personal diaries to government documents describing emperors plans for the official cherry blossom festival. We used this along with scientific reports of how climate change is playing a role in these earlier flowering times to provide additional information about these blooming trends.