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"Miracle pine" seedling in Izumo Taisha shrine

December 31, 2015


Seedling from lone pine that survived 2011 tsunami headed to Izumo Taisha




A seedling from the "miracle" pine tree in Iwate Prefecture that survived the 2011 tsunami will be planted at Izumo Taisha grand shrine in Shimane Prefecture in March 2016, the fifth anniversary of the disaster.

“I want the seedling to become a symbol that leads people to keep the disaster in mind,” said Yoshihiro Oyama, 64, operator of a gardening company in Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture, who led the effort to raise the seedling and donate it to the famed Shinto shrine.

Oyama also serves as a vice director of a nonprofit organization that was engaged in preserving the scenic Takata Matsubara pine forest, which stretched two kilometers along the coast in Rikuzentakata before the disaster.

When the tsunami spawned by the Great East Japan Earthquake engulfed the coast on March 11, 2011, the pine was the only survivor among about 70,000 pine trees there. Oyama learned of its existence 12 days later.

Oyama and other members of his group, “Association for the Preservation of Takata Matsubara,” went to the pine every day to try to save it. Members built a fence around it to protect it from seawater. They also resupplied fuel to machinery that was removing groundwater mixed with the briny water.

In May 2011, Oyama found that two branches, which had been about 20 meters above the ground, had fallen apparently due to the wind. He brought them to his home, made seven scions, each about four centimeters long, from them and grafted them on rootstocks of black pine trees.

Of the seven, two grew. Oyama asked popular comic artist Takashi Yanase (1919-2013) to name one because he had given names to four other seedlings grown by the Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute in Iwate Prefecture in a similar fashion.

Agreeing to the request, Yanase named it “Kenage” (admirable). Another person named the other one “Sora” (sky).

Oyama asked a Kyoto Prefecture-based group that was engaged in rehabilitating coastal forests for suggestions on where to plant the two seedlings. At that time, he told the group, “We want to plant them in places that are not likely to be hit by tsunami.”

Based on advice from the group, named “Hakusa Seisho no Kai” (Group of white sands and blue pine trees), Oyama and other members of his group chose Izumo Taisha grand shrine as it is known for its “Matsu no Sando” (approach where pine trees are lined). In addition, the shrine attracts worshippers from throughout the country.

In October this year, Oyama’s group offered to donate a seedling from the miracle pine to Izumo Taisha. Shrine officials accepted the request.

According to the Iwate prefectural government, 1,602 people died and more than 200 people remain missing in Rikuzentakata due to the tsunami and related causes. Oyama also lost many of his acquaintances in the disaster, including the then chairman of his group.

“The branches, which led to the seedlings, were presents from the miraculous pine tree that provides us with the spirit to live,” Oyama said.

Oyama’s group will dedicate the Kenage seedling, which has grown to a height of about one meter, to Izumo Taisha. It will be planted near the Matsu no Sando approach on March 19.


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