Taking a stroll through one of Japan’s oldest Western-style public parks, Yuji Kimura examines scores of sakura (cherry trees) lining the main pedestrian walkway leading toward the Tokyo National Museum.

Kimura, who owns a bag shop in Ueno, a bustling working-class area of northeastern Tokyo, has helped graft many of the cherry trees admired every spring.

“They’re like my children,” the 65-year-old says with a proud grin, explaining the horticultural technique employed in their reproduction by taking the desired tree’s stem and attaching it onto the rootstock of another tree so the tissues of the plants are joined together.