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Hibakujumoku Translation: “The Winding Eucalyptus”

広島城ユーカリA878 Photo by Shigeo Hayashi

The eucalyptus after the bombing. Photo by Shigeo Hayashi.

The second installment of my translations from Yūko Ishida’s Meeting Hiroshima’s Trees is about the eucalyptus located in the Hiroshima Castle grounds.

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The Winding Eucalyptus

There’s a eucalyptus along the castle’s moat, near the willow. It has grown quite large and has a thick trunk — a splendid tree. With long branches blowing in the wind and supported by a number of posts, it looks as if this eucalyptus is using a cane. Photos after the bombing show the eucalyptus had lost most of its branches and leaves. The trees around it had all died, so this remaining one stood out starkly. Since that time, the eucalyptus has grown large, and its abundant long, thin leaves wave in the wind. I admire this eucalyptus’ resilient vitality.

“Come take a look at this.” Horiguchi-san called me over, and I ducked under the branches and leaves to get close to the tree. Horiguchi-san pulled a leaf closer and showed it to me.

eucalyptus leaves

The two types of leaves this eucalyptus produces.

“This kind of eucalyptus has both round leaves and long, thin leaves in just one tree, which in an unusual characteristic. The new leaves are round, and the old ones have a long, thin key shape. It’s rare to see a tree in Japan with different shapes of leaves like this. Eucalyptus are resistant to fire since they come from Australia, where bush-fires are common. Even if the leaves burn up, eucalyptus can quickly put out new buds.”

Horiguchi-san pointed to the thick base of the trunk, where a slightly protruding section looked as if its portion of trunk had been stripped away.

“Very few parts of the trunk visible in photos from the time of the bombing are left. Just this.”

eucalyptus original trunk

The last remaining part of the tree’s trunk from the time of the bombing.

This eucalyptus has met with a harsh fate even after the bombing. In 1971, a huge typhoon bent the trunk 2.5 meters up from the base. It was thought that the tree was finished, but after a short time new shoots emerged from the north side of the trunk. After that, the trunk was bent by a number of other typhoons, but it kept growing new trunks from the shoots until it reached its present size. The bent original trunk most likely became hollow, with only the parts near the outside surface remaining, and with time that part died too and splintered bit by bit, until now only one thin piece is left.

eucalyptus

The eucalyptus’ multiple trunks, winding branches, and wooden supports.

Keiji Nakazawa, author of Barefoot Gen, wrote a manga featuring this eucalyptus. In Under the Eucalyptus Trees, Nakazawa drew the eucalyptus when its bent trunk still remained; looking at the tree now, I could see the change in its appearance.

“Although this eucalyptus has been in critical condition a number of times, it continues to grow with a powerful vitality even now. I was surprised when I noticed that the eucalyptus’ roots were growing so strongly they pushed away the stones of the castle moat. The tree’s branches grow in a winding pattern, and recently an investigation has begun as to whether that’s an effect of radiation.”

Are winding branches really the effect of radiation? What could this tree be telling us? The eucalyptus’ long, hanging foliage swayed slowly, rustling.

* * *

「うねりながらのびるユーカリ」、石田優子の『広島の木に会いにいく』、 58-62ページ

Meeting Hiroshima’s Trees is published by Kaisei-sha (偕成社). Excerpts are posted with the permission of the author. Translations are my own, as an individual.

Link to previous translation.

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Hibakujumoku Translation: “The Tree Doctor of Hiroshima”

「広島の木」 cover

Front cover of Meeting Hiroshima’s Trees

In my search for information on hibakujumoku, I cracked open Yūko Ishida’s book Meeting Hiroshima’s Trees (広島の木に会いにいく) and was immediately engrossed. I want to share the book’s stories, both of trees and of people, through a series of translated excerpts on this blog. There are more installments to come!

Meeting Hiroshima’s Trees is published by Kaisei-sha (偕成社). Excerpts are posted with the permission of the author. Translations are my own, as an individual.

* * *

The Tree Doctor of Hiroshima

The first person I talked to when I began collecting information on hibakujumoku was Arborist Chikara Horiguchi. Hiroshima City certifies that hibakujumoku were affected by the bombing through inquiring with experts and using photographic data. There are currently 160 hibakujumoku of various kinds registered by the city. The trees’ characterics and stories vary, and one can’t understand all of them immediately. However, an arborist who has spent many years caring for these trees probably knows a great deal.

Horiguchi-san gives the impression of a quiet, gentle person. When I first met him, he was tanned, perhaps from so much outdoor work, and was wearing jeans that allowed for plenty of movement. He was 67 at the time but certainly didn’t seem his age. I first asked Horiguchi-san about his work as an arborist.

“The majority of an arborist’s work is checking to make sure the trees are healthy and treating ones that are weak. Trees are living things, like humans and animals — they can get hurt and sick. They have a time when they sprout from their seed and steadily grow, but as they get older they also become weaker.”

Horiguchi-san chooses his words carefully when he speaks. My interest in him grew, and I asked why he set his sights on this line of work.

Jōmon Sugi

Jōmon Sugi

“I was born in 1945 and grew up in Miyazaki Prefecture. As a fourth-year university student, lost as to what to do in the future, I went to go see Jōmon Sugi on Yakushima, which had been discovered the previous year. Jōmon Sugi is said to be 2,000 years old, the oldest tree in Japan. It’s covered in moss, the upper part of the tree has other trees growing from it, and many creatures live in symbiosis there. There’s so much life in this Japanese cedar that one tree seems like a whole forest. I was deeply moved when I saw it. I decided I liked trees and would find work related to them.

“When I graduated from university and found work as a gardener in Fukuoka, at first my superiors laughed because I didn’t know anything about trees. I was embarrassed. I used my first pay to buy an illustrated reference book on trees and shrubs, and I studied like mad. The following year, I joined a landscape gardening company in Hiroshima thanks to a connection here. My job was planting trees in the city every day. At the time I thought I wanted to work in a traditional Japanese garden, and so I told the company director, ‘This is different from the work I had in mind.’ The director replied, ‘Planting trees in Hiroshima is part of the peace industry.’ Until that moment I hadn’t been aware of the connection between peace and trees. From then on, planting trees in Hiroshima City became incredibly important to me, and I gave my work my all.”

“Peace industry” could perhaps also be said as “working for peace.” Thanks to the efforts of Horiguchi-san and others like him, the verdant city of Hiroshima exists today.

“About three years after that, I was helping a man named Tadahiko Yamano, who came from Osaka to treat trees. He said to me, ‘You seem to have a lot of love for trees, so how would you feel about looking after Hiroshima’s trees that survived the atomic bombing?’ That’s how I came to be involved with hibakujumoku. Yamano-san taught me to ‘listen to the trees’ voices.’ At the time I wondered why he said that to me, since trees can’t speak. However, from then on listening to the trees’ voices has become a theme in my work.

Horiguchi-san

Horiguchi-san, giving a presentation on hibakujumoku

“Many new roads and buildings were constructed in the period of economic growth after the war. People only focused on new things, and efforts were concentrated solely on planting trees. Old things like hibakujumoku were forgotten and not cared for. But I thought there was something wrong about that, that the trees that survived the atomic bombing are a part of Hiroshima’s history. However, no one would listen if just one gardener said that. In 1991 I heard an arborist organization had been established, and the following year I took their test. I became an arborist because I thought being a qualified tree specialist would help me protect hibakujumoku.”

  On days off from his landscape gardening job or after work, Horiguchi-san makes time to check on and treat hibakujumoku. In the 30 years since he began working with these trees, Horiguchi-san has watched over the hibakujumoku as some regained their health, while others withered.  

  “I’m glad when a tree recovers; I think, ‘Thank you for returning to good health.’ But when things go badly, I often wonder what happened: Did I do something wrong, or did the tree just lose its vitality?”

  When I ask Horiguchi-san how he feels when a tree dies, he thinks for a moment, then answers, “Saen nō.” “Saen” is Hiroshima dialect for “not good at all” or other expressions of regret. When Horiguchi-san faces a tree, is he listening to its voice? I asked him again for more details about his work.

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「広島の樹木医さん」, 石田優子の『広島の木に会いにいく』、 31-37ページ

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Listen to Panflutes Made from Hibakujumoku

Hiroshima’s Senda Elementary School created a CD last December of the school’s Panflute and Chorus Club playing three songs on panflutes made from a kaizuka-ibuki hibakujomoku that had grown on the school’s grounds. The recordings are from a moving performance students gave when Tomoko-san visited the school. The songs are “Amazing Grace,” “Aogiri no Uta 2016,” and “Sore Ike Carp!” Both the Carp, Hiroshima’s baseball team, and the hibakujumoku are seen as symbols of Hiroshima’s recovery, so it’s only natural to put them together in song. Please listen to the pieces embedded below.

senda elementary panflutes

Photo taken from the Asahi Shogakusei Shinbun.

The instruments were crafted by a professional panflute maker after the school’s kaizuka-ibuki tree died. The tree’s branches were carved to the appropriate sizes and hollowed, then tied together to complete the flutes.

According to its website, Senda Elementary School was mostly destroyed during the atomic bombing, but now the school houses 18 hibakujumoku, some of which have been moved from other locations. Aside from the late kaizuka-ibuki tree, the grounds hold camphor, wisteria, juniper, pine, and maidenhair hibakujumoku, among others.

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Nine Introductions to Hibakujumoku

On November 4, Tokyo University of Agriculture Professor Yoichi Kunii, Kuniko Watanabe, and myself traversed the streets, gardens, hills, shrines, and temples of Hiroshima to gather data on hibakujumoku (atomic-bombed trees).

Professor Kunii plans to use his findings to visually represent the trees using 3D computer modeling. His models, in connection with University of Tsukuba Professor Masakazu Suzuki’s articles on hibakujumoku, will allow readers and students to quickly visualize Professor Suzuki’s findings. Creating 3D models of the hibakujumoku that still stand in their original location can clearly show the direction the tree is leaning, the direction of its branches and roots, and any other characteristics that may be a result of exposure to the atomic bomb. Professor Kunii hopes also to bring his students to collect data on the trees. Not only will it be a great learning opportunity for his students, but locals (for example, children at Myojyo-in Nursery, in whose schoolyard stand two hibakujumoku) will learn about the trees through interacting with the researchers.

Click “Continue reading” below for photos and introductions to the hibakujumoku we visited.

img_3077

Shukkeien’s ginkgo leans toward the hypocenter of the atomic blast.

Continue reading

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Green Legacy Hiroshima: Spreading Seeds Of Peace Across The World

An A-bombed tree in Hiroshima.

An A-bombed tree in Hiroshima.

After the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on 6th August 1945 it was thought that nothing would grow in the city for 75 years. However, the following spring new seedlings were seen springing up amongst the debris of the city. They provided a powerful message to the survivors and gave them hope that they could rebuild their city.

Today, 66 years after the A-bomb, Hiroshima is a green and vibrant city. Many of the trees that were planted in the city after the war were gifts from overseas donors and donors from other parts of Japan.

Hibakujumoku

However, 170 of the trees that we can enjoy in the city today had actually been in Hiroshima before the bomb was dropped and survived the bombing and the devastation that followed. After the war, many of those trees were replanted or preserved in 55 locations within a 2km radius of the hypocenter. Today, they are officially registered as A-bombed trees. Each A-bombed tree is called a hibakujumoku  and is identified by a name plate.

Green Legacy Hiroshima

Green Legacy Hiroshima is an initiative launched by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) and ANT-Hiroshima, to spread worldwide the seeds – and the peace message – of trees that survived the atomic bombing.

Recently, Nassrine Azimi, senior adviser at the United Nations Institute for Training and Research in Hiroshima (UNITAR), together with Tomoko Watanabe of ANT-Hiroshima, and a group of friends, launched an initiative called Green Legacy Hiroshima through the auspices of UNITAR to help spread the seeds of Hiroshima’s A-bomb-surviving trees around the world.

The founding idea of Green Legacy Hiroshima is to distribute seeds and saplings from Hiroshima’s A-bombed trees to interested groups and schools around the world. We hope that seeds will be planted in urban, botanical gardens, schools, public and private institutions and places of political or symbolic importance for the message of peace.

Please check the UNITAR Green Legacy Hiroshima webpage if you would like to participate in a project to plant seeds of peace. You can also find more information about the survivor trees: http://www.unitar.org/hiroshima/greenlegacy


ANT-Hiroshima

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Green Legacy Hiroshima