This tree has lived through the pages of our history books, survived world wars and seen more than any human can imagine to see in his or her lifetime. Planted in 1625, this bonsai tree is almost 400 years old and has been present in so much history it’s almost mythological. With the most fascinating item on it’s resume being that it survived the bombing of Hiroshima.
Gifted as a symbol of friendship by the bonsai master, Masaru Yamaki, the legendary bonsai tree is currently located in the US National Arboretum in Washington, D.C and has been since 1976. Little did the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum realise that this tree held a legendary secret.
In August 1945, the Hiroshima bomb was dropped killing 140,000 people, leaving the devastating effects of war behind and detrimental damage to Hiroshima. Less than two miles away, Yamaki and his family were at home inside and sitting just outside their house in a walled nursery sat the bonsai tree. Yamaki’s family luckily survived the blast with only minor injuries from fragments of glass. The bonsai tree stood unharmed and remained strong.
Until 2001, the legendary secret of the bonsai tree’s survival was unknown and to the surprise of many it was not seen as an extraordinary tail. The tree’s value was placed in its power as a symbol of friendship between two countries, as after all, this tree has lived through nearly 400 years history including wars. A symbol friendship between the US and Japan was seen as something to treasure, especially because of their history.
Bonsai trees in general symbolise balance, peace and harmony, meaning this tree despite it surviving the bombing of Hiroshima, holds meaning in it simply being a gift. Even so, the fact that there is a potted plant that has lived for centuries is extraordinary. Bonsai tree’s if looked after properly, can live for hundreds of years and we can only wish they could talk to tell the tail. Some bonsai trees are a thousand years old and even though this particular tree in comparison is young, the fact that it has survived Hiroshima is an extreme rarity.
This legendary tree almost holds a supernatural awe, it stands a symbol of peace and meditation flouring for almost 400 years. Kathleen Emerson-Dell is an assistant at the museum in Washington, D.C. She believes there is power in the bonsai trees presence and says “it’s like touching history”. “I’m in its presence, and it was in the presence of other people long ago”. The tree is greatly treasured and it has only recently been exhibited as the tree that survived Hiroshima.
The bonsai tree has lived through many other parts of of Japan’s history as well, including multiple tsunamis, wars, and famine. It’s perceived to be an art form of care that is past down generations so it can continue it’s timeline of historic events.
In Asian culture it’s considered an art form dating back a thousand years. The bonsai tree is the art of creating small trees in containers to be shaped asymmetrically to mimic the shape and scale of a wild tree. Zen Buddhism influences the technique of creating a bonsai tree due to its asymmetric design and methods. Bonsai trees are designed to hold a symbolism of harmony and peace and when this is maintained in a group of bonsai tree it thought that balance and peace will be lasting.
The staff at the National Arboretum, where the legendary bonsai tree is now held, maintains each tree’s style. The process is repetitive and needs constant sculpting and stylising. This process is important to the museum as it illustrates each tree’s developing storyline. The trees maintenance is important, as without the staff’s constant sculpting the trees would simply grow to the shape and size of a tree that would be found in the wild or a back garden.
The sheer age in Japanese culture holds power as their respect for old age reflects in their passion for the bonsai trees that depict beauty and maturity. It’s no wonder the gift that has endured almost 400 years of nature’s elements and historical significance is seen as a symbolic gift of peace, unity and friendship.
5. Photo Credit: Christa Joy/Flickr