Visitors are flocking to a dying lone pine tree that survived last year’s tsunami in Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture, before it is felled for preservation on Sept. 12.
“I thought I should come once,” a 34-year-old homemaker from Tokyo said on Sept. 8. She was in Kobe when the port city was hit by the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake.
“I am shocked to see not only the tree but also the surrounding area, still in terrible condition a year and a half after the earthquake and tsunami,” said the woman, who was moved to tears.
Many people came to pay their respects to the resilient tree on Sept. 8, some putting their hands together in prayer and some burning incense.
The tsunami spawned by the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake killed nearly 70,000 pine trees in the famed Takata Matsubara forest in Rikuzentakata.
Only one 270-year-old pine tree was left standing, becoming a symbol of hope for reconstruction and the resiliency of survivors. But the 27-meter tree is dying because the salt water left in the ground by the tsunami damaged its root and leaf system.
The trunk will be sliced into several parts, the cores removed, and the remaining rings will be treated with preservatives.
The trunk will be put together, and a carbon pole running inside them will keep the tree standing. The preserved tree will be set up in Rikuzentakata in February.
The project will cost 150 million yen ($1.9 million).
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