Kazunao Uehara has forestry in his blood.
As the fourth-generation member of a family that has been in the business since the early Showa Era (1926-1989), Uehara is on a mission.
He is determined to restore a stretch of forest along the scenic Tohoku region coastline that was planted by his great-grandfather and wiped out by tsunami triggered by last year's Great East Japan Earthquake.
"The forest of Japanese black pines that he planted had grown into a thing of beauty after more than 80 years," Uehara, 32, said. "I feel it is my duty as a survivor (of the disaster) to resuscitate that forest."
The family business still operates in Minami-Soma, a city in Fukushima Prefecture that was inundated by tsunami with huge loss of life.
Initially, Uehara had no intention of joining the family business. After graduating from a local high school, he held part-time jobs in Tokyo.
But then he got the opportunity to visit China to observe efforts to halt the spread of the Gobi desert through forestation.
Suddenly, it all became clear. Uehara realized that trees played a vital role in restoring greenery.
He was just 21 when he took over the family business from his father.
Their farm grows about 2 million seedlings a year, with more than 80 species indigenous to the Tohoku region, such as Quercus serrata and "kobushi" magnolia.
Last year's tsunami devastated many "windbreakers," as coastal forests are known, in the Tohoku region, which bore the brunt of the March 11, 2011, disaster.
Without them, the force of the tsunami would have been more severe.
"The forests are indispensable to life and farming along the coastal areas because it helps to stem strong winds and high tides," Uehara said.
Uehara's home and office were destroyed by the tsunami, but the family farm escaped damage.
Over the next 10 years, he plans to plant 4.6 million Japanese black pine seedlings to restore forests in Fukushima Prefecture alone.
The Fukushima prefectural government, as well as farmers in other prefectures who have sent him seeds, are helping him with his endeavor.
Early summer is the time for buds to emerge.
"The farm appears to be shining because of the activity," Uehara said.
While pulling weeds, he keeps a watchful eye and hopes the seeds will grow into trees that will be standing centuries from now.
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