Hiroshima Memo: Green Legacy Hiroshima holds potential to grow awareness in the world

by Akira Tashiro, Executive Director of the Hiroshima Peace Media Center

“What can we do for peace after we go back to our own countries?”

Nassrine Azimi, the first director of the Hiroshima office of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), was repeatedly posed this question by participants taking part in training programs held at the UNITAR branch in Hiroshima. The trainees had come from a range of nations and consisted of senior public officials and other figures.

As part of their training, the participants visited Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Peace Memorial Museum. They listened to talks by A-bomb survivors, or hibakusha, who shared their experiences. Ms. Azimi said that the trainees’ exposure to the A-bombed city left them deeply impressed with present-day Hiroshima, now blessed with water and greenery since its reconstruction from the ashes of war, as well as the efforts being made by hibakusha and others seeking an end to war and the elimination of nuclear weapons.

When the question was posed to her, Ms. Azimi would say, “I hope that each one of you will serve as an ambassador of the A-bombed city of Hiroshima.” At the same time, she did not propose any particular activities for the trainees to pursue. Ms. Azimi then continued to mull the problem: “How can they make use of what they have learned and felt in Hiroshima in their work and daily lives after returning home to their own countries?” She pondered this question persistently.

Hiroshima’s path after World War II, its transformation from a military city to a city of peace, was based on lessons learned from the war and the atomic bombing. “Hiroshima’s philosophy and evolution are embodied in a number of values that the international community must take to heart,” Ms. Azimi said. She feels, however, that those overseas have not been sufficiently informed. As a person who has long worked in the international arena, Ms. Azimi has arrived at this frank conclusion after her interactions with people from all over the world.

I asked Ms. Azimi why she has continued to remain in Hiroshima after stepping down her post as director of the Hiroshima office of UNITAR a year and a half ago. She replied: “I feel that I still have something to do in terms of sharing Hiroshima with the world.” And thus “hiroshimapeacemedia.jp/blog/mediacenter/article.php?story=2011122014073085_en" target="_blank">Green Legacy Hiroshima,” and her commitment to this unique project, were born.

The mission of Green Legacy Hiroshima involves sending seeds and seedlings of A-bombed trees to places abroad. The effort has the potential to connect Hiroshima with a number of the world’s cities, schools, churches, temples, botanical parks, international organizations, and NGOs. Little expense is required for either side when sending or receiving the seeds and saplings. Moreover, the project has no ties to special interests or political persuasions. As a result, it prompts no anxiety or concern on the part of participants. Green Legacy Hiroshima strives to disseminate Hiroshima’s hopes for a nuclear-free world in a peaceful and environmentally-friendly way. One merit of the project is the opportunity to foster long-term relations with others through the down-to-earth work of producing seeds and seedlings.

In the aftermath of the atomic bombing, which reduced the city to a scorched plain, a rumor spread that “No trees or plants will grow in Hiroshima for the next 75 years.” This fear, however, proved to be unfounded. Several months later, weeds began to push through the ground and trees that still stood in the ashes produced new buds. The will to live shown by this vegetation was a source of inspiration to scores of survivors.

In the 1950s, when the City of Hiroshima was planting trees in Peace Memorial Park and along Peace Boulevard, the city appealed to the public for seeds and seedlings. In response to this call, thousands of seeds and seedlings were donated not only by people in Japan, but by people around the world as well. The greenery in downtown Hiroshima today is the realization of this goodwill from people inside and outside Japan. This is an important part of Hiroshima’s revival after the war and an aspect of the city’s history that must not be forgotten.

Green Legacy Hiroshima reciprocates this “legacy” of the city through a new type of peace effort. It seeks to offer the world the seeds and seedlings of second-generation A-bombed trees from Hiroshima, which was offered a bounty of plants in the past. I expect that the UNITAR trainees who have asked Ms. Azimi “what we can do” back home will make a strong contribution by helping to spread this effort out into the world. As citizens of Hiroshima, we, too, should do what we can to support this project.

(Originally published on December 19, 2011)