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170 km of cherry trees in Tohoku

April 2, 2013


Cherry trees to mark tsunami line in Tohoku as warning to future generations



By TATEKI IWAI/ Staff Writer

RIKUZENTAKATA, Iwate Prefecture--Years from now, 17,000 cherry trees will mark a 170-kilometer stretch of the Tohoku region that was devastated by the March 11, 2011, tsunami disaster.

Disaster survivors and volunteers formed a nonprofit organization called Sakura Line 311 to plant trees at 10-meter intervals, along the farthest points inland that the waves reached.

The group was set up by eight youngsters with the aim of warning future generations about the dangers of tsunami.

After the disaster, Takumi Hashizume, the 36-year-old NPO chief, came across ancient stone markers engraved with characters warning future generations "not to build homes beyond this point."

Markers were found along the Sanriku coast, which extends from southern Aomori Prefecture through Iwate Prefecture and northern Miyagi Prefecture, a clear sign that devastating tsunami had hit in the distant past.

Hashizume concluded it would be easier to remember these warnings if cherry trees, which blossom briefly in spring, marked the spots, hit by the tsunami in 2011.

Starting from a tree planted in a temple on elevated ground about 2 km from the shore in November 2011, some 950 volunteers have undertaken tree planting on more than 10 occasions to date. So far, several types of cherry tree, totaling 520, have been planted. Group members said trees were selected that could withstand the harsh winter environment in Tohoku.

The group's support network is growing nationwide, with donations and offers of trees pouring in to the NPO.

The group is keen to emphasize that its goal of planting trees over such a wide area is a long-term project.

"But that's what makes the project so worthwhile," Hashizume said. "As our activities continue, people will be reminded that tsunami are scary."

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