Ambassador's Blog

Spring has come

18 April 2012

We enjoyed some gorgeous spring weather in March, and last week I had a memorable opportunity to experience the spring at Kew, London.

Our Embassy organised a Japanese Tsunami Memorial Tree Planting Ceremony at the Royal Botanic Gardens on 3 April, as an expression of Japan's deep gratitude and appreciation for the support from the UK after the earthquake and tsunami that struck the Tohoku region of northern Japan last year. We had many special guests for this occasion: three representatives of the 63-man Emergency Search and Rescue Team, which the British Government sent to the afflicted areas immediately after the disaster hit; Ms Lois Robinson, who went to the town of Yamada in Iwate prefecture by herself to work as a volunteer as soon as she saw news of the disaster on TV; some British children who sent letters of encouragement to their counterparts in the affected areas; the Tsubasa Choir (a choir of Japanese and British children based in Ealing), who came to sing a beautiful Japanese song of hope; and two school children from Yamada, Taichi and Anri, who came all the way to convey directly the gratitude of the victims for the generous support they had received.

School children from Yamada

The planting ceremony

During the ceremony, Taichi and Anri presented some seeds from their region to Kew's Millennium Seed Bank. Among the seeds were those from the Ai-Akamatsu tree (a hybrid of Japanese black and red pine), 70,000 of which used to grace the beach of the City of Rikuzentakata, Iwate, and all but one of which were destroyed by the gigantic tsunami. This surviving tree came to be known as the "miracle pine" and was made a national symbol of resilience and recovery.

Japan is now grappling energetically with the long and tough task of reconstruction. This duty falls not only on the adults, but also on the children. They will always remember and will be encouraged by the wholehearted support they have received from their friends from afar in the process of rebuilding. The unprecedented disaster may have devoured almost everything in its path and caused serious, long-term consequences. Nonetheless, Japan has still had the good fortune to find the treasure of international friendship in its wake. And that has become, as it were, the seed of hope.

Following the seed presentation, two young Keyaki, or Zelkova serrata trees, which are official symbols of Fukushima and Miyagi prefectures (two of the most devastated areas in the disaster), were planted in the Japanese Landscape. The Keyaki, a typical East Asian species, is known to be very solid and to grow as old as a thousand years and as tall as 30 metres. I sincerely hope that the friendship thus nurtured and cemented between our two peoples, particularly between the children, will turn out to be as everlasting and strong as the Keyaki trees.

A sincere "Thank you!" to the Director, Professor Stephen Hopper, and his staff at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, as well as to everyone else whose support and cooperation made this wonderful event possible.



Keiichi Hayashi

Ambassadors Blog Archive