When I picked up the book, The Peace Tree from Hiroshima, I felt a familiar flutter of hope. The title promised a story about the best aspects of humankind. But little did I realize how moved I would be by the book. Published by Tuttle Publishing, which was set up to promote Asian stories in America post World War II, this is a heartwarming tale of a tree that became a symbol of peace between Japan & America.
The Miyajima or pine tree was handpicked in about 1625 when Mr Yamaki’s great great … great grandfather, Mr Itaro, went hiking in the mountains of an island, Miyajama – nicknamed the Island of the Gods for its scenic splendors. Ever since the pine lived in the home of the family: carefully tended for and handed over as a legacy from father to son. 400 years later, when the nuclear bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, somehow this family and the bonsai tree survived.
I had heard of Bonsai & Ikebana art, but did not truly understand what went into creating and preserving such magnificent specimens. When it comes to art forms with flowers and trees, the Chinese and Japanese have such a rich heritage.
In what is the most moving gesture of humanity, on America’s 200th anniversary, Japan gifted America with 50 bonsai trees (one for each state). The bonsai trees were special ones including 3 from the Emperor’s collection. This 400 year old Miyajima tree from Hiroshima was also part of that gift and now lives in the Arboretum in Washington where it has been christened The Peace Tree. This tree that saw humankind go through industrial revolutions, technological advances unseen before, and the worst blemish in warfare is now a Peace Tree. I hope I can visit the Washington Arboretum one day and be in the presence of this little 3 ft tree with a powerful message of hope, resilience and forgiveness.
It truly became The Little Bonsai with a Big Story
This little bonsai’s story along with the Cranes of Hope, will hopefully be a reminder to us on the horrors of war.
I hope I can send these books along with the Butter Battle Book by Dr Seuss, to the current world leaders to remind them of how hard the world has worked towards maintaining world peace. A Course for World Leaders #ButterBattleCourse.
Towards the end of the book, the author writes a note indicating which parts of the story were fictionalized and which parts were true. They also include pictures of several bonsai trees including one that contains 11 trees in one arrangement, created by Bonsai artist, John Naka. Apparently, one of the longest living bonsai, Fudo, lived over 900 years old. It was bought by the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, but unfortunately this one did not survive the new conditions and died.
How could the miniature version of the magnificent large pine tree outside our house live as a bonsai tree for upwards of 400 years? Wonders never cease and artistry comes in so many forms.