Young cherry trees grown from trees planted by Nagasaki A-bomb survivor

by Yu Kawakami, Staff Writer

On December 20, the Association of Nagasaki Nyoko, an NPO in Nagasaki that honors Dr. Takashi Nagai (1908-51), an A-bomb survivor of Nagasaki who appealed for peace in spite of failing health, presented young cherry trees to the city of Unnan in Shimane Prefecture, the place Dr. Nagai lived as a boy. The young cherry trees were grown from cuttings of cherry trees Dr. Nagai planted in the soil of Nagasaki after it was devastated by an atomic bomb.

The planting ceremony was held at Iishi Elementary School, Dr. Nagai’s alma mater. The ceremony was attended by all 34 students of the school, 11 members of the association, and about 40 local residents including members of the Association of Mitoya Nyoko. The students took turns shoveling earth onto the roots of three cherry trees.

Dr. Nagai was raised in the Mitoya-cho district of Unnan. On August 9, 1945, he was exposed to the atomic bombing about 0.7 kilometers from the hypocenter. Three years after the bombing, he bought 1,200 cherry trees using such funds as the prize money he won through his essays and planted them to make the city a place where cherry blossoms would bloom again.

Among the citizens of Nagasaki, the cherry trees have become widely known as “Dr. Nagai’s 1,000 cherry trees.” However, many of them have died over the years due to old age or other causes. Today, only 20 of the original trees remain. The Association of Nagaski Nyoko has increased the number of cherry trees to about 200 by propagating the trees through cuttings. The 30 trees presented in the city of Unnan marks the first time the trees have spread outside the city of Nagasaki. These cherry trees will be distributed to 28 elementary schools and junior high schools in Unnan.

Koki Kobayashi, 12, a sixth grader at Iishi Elementary School, said with conviction, “I want to carry on Dr. Nagai’s wish for peace.” Tokusaburo Nagai, 44, a grandson of Dr. Nagai and the director of the Nagai Takashi Memorial Museum in Nagasaki, remarked, “I hope the cherry trees, filled with my grandfather’s wish for peace, will grow right along with the children.”

(Originally published on December 21, 2010)