A small miracle

Publish date 20-06-2023

by Chiara Vitali

This is how the inhabitants of the Japanese city of Nagasaki define what happened to a small tree on August 9, 1945. That day is remembered as one of the most dramatic of the Second World War: the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, three days after hit the city of Hiroshima. In both cases, death and destruction filled the streets and homes, schools and parks were swept away. On the other hand, a small persimmon plant resisted. Fragile, with the trunk half blackened, but alive.

In the nineties the Japanese botanist Masayuki Ebinuma took care of that tree, who managed to cure it and obtain new seeds. Thus it was possible to create a second generation of seedlings, all daughters of that plant that survived the atomic bomb, which soon became a symbol of peace, resistance and rebirth after the war. First they were given as gifts to children who came to visit Nagasaki, then they were transferred to public spaces. The first official planting was in 1996 at Ryuhoku elementary school in Tokyo. Thanks to the collaboration with the Japanese artist Tatsuo Miyajima, the Kaki Tree Project association was born with the aim of spreading the new persimmon trees all over the world. In fact, even today the second and third generations are taken to different countries, for a total of about two hundred and fifty trees already planted.

It is not just a symbolic action: if the seeds are entrusted to schools or high schools, it is the task of the students to take care of the tree and preserve its meaning. In Italy, persimmons have been planted in Milan, Bergamo, Brescia and many other cities thanks to the commitment of volunteers and associations dedicated to spreading Japanese culture. A simple gesture, yes, which however unites different corners of the planet in a silent relay towards hope and towards that peace which, as we know, grows starting from small things.

Chiara Vitali
NP March 2023

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