No, anime fans, this is not a mashup of Naruto and Cowboy Bebop.
By now I'm almost getting used to Japan's announcements that it's launching everything but the kitchen sink into space, from paper airplanes to boomerangs to highly advanced underwear.
Now, according to AFP, the next suborbital "tourists" will be cherry trees, one of the most beloved plants in Japan and a national symbol of beauty and renewal.
This week the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) announced plans to send the seeds from ten varieties of sakura to the International Space Station in October.
Among the spacebound is a type of tree called the Takizakura, or "cascade cherry blossom," an ancient breed designated by the government as a national treasure. The trees, some of which are more than 1,000 years old, draw hordes of tourists when they bloom in the small northern town of Miharu.
In addition to violets and lilies, JAXA's cherry tree seeds will stay in space for six months to see how they are affected by reduced gravity. Some of the seeds will even be planted once they return to Earth.
But as you might expect from such a venture, sending cherry trees into space is really half science, half marketing.
"Since the seeds will be returned with a certificate that they have gone to space, we hope to use them to promote tourism here while drawing children's interest in science," Miharu town official Sadafumi Hirata told AFP.
But hey, at the rate things are going, maybe in 500 years when we get that colony on Mars we'll be celebrating a cherry blossom festival around Hellas Basin in addition to the Tidal Basin