Project to preserve Rikuzentakata 'Miracle Pine' draws criticism on Internet

Project to preserve Rikuzentakata 'Miracle Pine' draws criticism on Internet

TOKYO —

The city of Rikuzentakata in Iwate Prefecture was thoroughly devastated by the March 11, 2011 tsunami. However, following the destruction, a single 27-meter-tall 200-year-old pine tree was left standing, the sole survivor of a forest of 70,000 trees along the coastline. The tree had become a symbol of hope for the country and local government vowed to protect it at all costs.

However, for the past year, the tree’s health had been fading fast and it doesn’t have much longer to live. And so the city’s government is going to enact a preservation scheme which is rubbing Japanese netizens the wrong way due to its 150,000,000 yen price tag.

The Miracle Pine of Rikuzentaka, although still standing, was battered hard and badly damaged by the massive wave. Despite the community’s best efforts to nurse it back to health, its roots were overexposed to salt water from the ocean which now has moved up to only a few meters from it.

Previous efforts included building a barricade to protect it from the salt water, but they failed and the tree simply refused to absorb nutrients anymore.

The city is going to cut it down, treat the wood, and insert a metal skeleton. This would of course completely kill the tree but preserve its shape forever as a monument.

The tree is scheduled to be returned to its original spot in a planned ceremony on the second anniversary of the Tohoku Earthquake next March 11.

Once the news hit, comments on Internet message boards such as 2ch were overwhelmingly against this project. Nearly everyone cast sentimentality aside and questioned the logic of spending millions of yen on an essentially dead tree.

“I guess we don’t need to donate any more money if this is what they are spending it on now,” mentioned one commenter. Others felt that creating something out of the wood from the tree like a Buddha statue would be a cheaper and more meaningful option.

Some took that idea further saying if they’re going to spend that much money they should “give it some legs” or “artificial intelligence” as well to make a real “mechapine.” Others took an opposite route suggesting that a natural death returning the tree to the Earth would be a more dignified fate.

Not everyone shares these opinions, though. On Rikuzentaka’s Miracle Tree Project Facebook page, where they accept donations, many have voiced their support. Here people see the tree more for what it represents than just a pine.

Source: Itai News (Japanese)
Rikuzentaka City Website:  Miracle Pine Rescue Project (Japanese)
Miracle Pine Rescue Project: Facebook Page (English)

RocketNews24

  • 0

    mtwildman

    Let it die naturally then preserve tee tree w/polymers...it survived the Tsumani but not the chain saw and somebodies idea that a metal representation is the same.

  • -1

    mikihouse

    once emotion sets in, there is no reasoning to people. Just ask the PETA, or ecoterrorist, or jihadist and cults. Save at all cost? Then save it yourself and don't ask for money. Its a dying tree, almost a dead one. There are more urgent business to do and keeping a dying tree pouring endless money into a bottomless pit is not one of them. But why am I reminded of Iraq and Afghanistan....

  • -1

    sarcaustic

    See? This cost is rubbing the people the wrong way.

    But, oh, of course in their hearts they support sending money elsewhere to clean up debris, right?

    Sure ...

  • 6

    spudman

    I posted on facebook it was a waste of money but the site removed my post and put up a positive one from some American writer instead. Pure waste of time and money, reviving peoples spirits? Give them a house to live in for gods sake.

  • 1

    CrazyJoe

    That's a lot of money to be spent for a "cyborg tree".

  • 1

    papigiulio

    Cant they just make a picture and print it out large size and hang it there until they have money to build a replicastatue to replace the tree. Life can be so easy sometimes.

  • -2

    TheInnocent

    150,000,000 yen to save one tree? How?

    Here is my guess: Saving a tree in this state requires several dozen kilograms of platinum. The plantinum must be carefully placed in the basements of some certain friends of some Rikuzentakata city council members, where it will be consumed. But of course, there is no guarantee it would work...

    Come on. This is obviously a sham. There is no way it requires 1.5 million USD to save one frakking tree! Its pork.

  • 1

    Probie

    “I guess we don’t need to donate any more money if this is what they are spending it on now,”

    My feelings exactly.

  • 0

    Speed

    ....due to its 150,000,000 yen price tag. ....The city is going to cut it down, treat the wood, and insert a metal skeleton.

    Why would it cost so much?? That's almost the equivalent to $1.5 million dollars! Unless the skeleton is pure platinum this doesn't make any sense at all.

  • 4

    Suginamiguy

    How many (even new) houses could that money buy? Spending money on that tree is a waste. It was pure chance it survived that tsunami, pure chance and nothing else. There was absolutely nothing special behind its survival. And if they can get the money to spend on this one dead tree, obviously they are loaded, and don't need my donations ... or anyone else's.

  • -1

    Heda_Madness

    “I guess we don’t need to donate any more money if this is what they are spending it on now,”

    My feelings exactly.

    The donation is for that tree and that tree alone. Lots of other areas that people can donate money for and the people that live in that area should be elligible to try and raise money for any project they see fit. We all have the right to decide if we would like to support the project or not. This is not coming from a central fund. If you'd like to support in the rebuilding efforts then you are free to do so, just as you are if you'd like to support trying to preserve one symbolic tree.

  • 1

    Dennis Bauer

    That money should be used for the victims, let some construction firm make a concrete tree, problem solved.

  • 8

    zichi

    ¥150 million? Must be something wrong with that price? There isn't a single tree, even those giant reds in California, worth that much! Someone needs to cut it down in the middle of the night, before that much money is wasted.

    For ¥150 million they could plant a whole forest of pines. It would also pay for about 20, three bedroom houses.

    Those who want to keep the tree should pay for it.

  • 1

    Lowly

    150 mill?

    Was there a misprint in the numbert of zeros?

    As others said, that must be pure pork! Which is is even at a lower price tag...

  • 0

    Pukey2

    This is simply mind-boggling.

  • 0

    kazetsukai

    Another SAD example of the state of Japanese people's "values" and "priorities". The luxury and "sweet life' had put too many people into a dream state, with too much "idealism" and "fantasy" departing from the reality of the state of the world. Japan is economically sound, but weakened by carrying on the world's burdens because the forced feeling of "guilt" placed on Japan after the war. Japan spends on helping others but very little in helping itself to stay strong.

    Even when "threatened" by China, N. Korea and and even the once "friendly" S. Korea, they "dream" of spending Billions of yen for a project that helps only those who will be paid to make the memento of a disaster. It is different from Hiroshima.

    The money, if available ,should be spent on community development and economic development of the area. Even then, much of the money will be spent on people and institutional expenses in "using" and "distributing" those funds any way. So the "effective" funds may be only 60% of what is made available.

  • -2

    Heda_Madness

    they "dream" of spending Billions of yen for a project that helps only those who will be paid to make the memento of a disaster.

    It's the people of Rikuzentakata, those who lost everything, that are behind this project. It would be wholly wrong to suggest that it would only help those paid to make the memento. Whether that amount of money should be spent on anything is certainly debatable but don't downplay the significance to the victims.

  • 1

    pointofview

    It`s an interesting idea. But the company should do it for free.

  • 2

    Guy Totaro

    Granted, 150,000,000 JPY IS a lot of money. What seems to be missing from the above opinions is an understanding of the symbolism of this tree to the people of Rikuzentakata and across Tohoku. I'm guessing that most if not all commentators here haven't been there to see the scope of the damage so I can understand why the importance of the tree is hard to get. It is not just a tree. It represents hope and survival in a way that only those who have experienced the disaster first hand can begin to comprehend. Try to imagine for a moment the emotional parallel between this lone tree standing - ONE out of literally SEVENTY THOUSAND trees - and being a surviver standing in the ruins of what was once your thriving community. It's understandable for people to be concerned about how and where their hard earned donation money is going. There are no doubt more creative and cost effective alternatives to spending so much, but please try to temper your opinions with some sympathy and compassion. The solution is not to stop donating it's to find a group or groups who's work is transparent and that you trust / believe in. For the record, I've spent the better part of the past year and a half doing tsunami relief work and am amazed at the powerful energy that surrounds this tree and the people who are inspired by it to continue on. I'll pass by the tree this weekend and when I do I will stop and take a moment to focus some hope that you / we are never left standing alone.

  • 0

    TSRnow

    Those who want to keep the tree should pay for it.

    Zichi, as Heda_Madness wrote, they are doing exactly that. Well, up to this point I think all sorts of money went in, but the pure prevention for the tree to be cut down and preserved plus some work on its surroundings will be covered by this fund.

  • 0

    RowanM

    Maybe this is the approach we should take to world leaders! Instead of letting them die naturally, if they represent important causes we should KILL THEM EARLY and then embalm then so people can remember their corpses forever!

    Is this really the plan? It's a symbol of hope because it survived, so let's kill it?

  • 5

    zichi

    TSRNow

    if every person in Iwate donated ¥100, they would have their ¥150 million, but I still think it's too much for a tree.

    Nagata Ward, here in Kobe City was totally destroyed by the 1995 earthquake. A few years back, a group of people formed a NGO to erect a 18m high statue of Tetsujin in a shopping mall, to give hope to the people. The project was completed and the cost was ¥100 million including money for future maintenance.

    No public money was used. I love this Tetsujin statue.

  • 1

    alliswellinjapan

    The article fails to touch upon the biggest likely driver of this initiative which is to create a tourist must-see monument to attract visitors and their local spending. Obviously 150Mn is a significant amount and hard to justify. The dilemma may lie in the difficulty for the town to be more open about their actual motives as it would further raise doubts over the cause for the donation.

  • 0

    SpeakJaplish

    Japan’s government will pay private Japanese landowners 2.05 billion yen ($26 million) for three of the islands, known as Senkaku in Japan

    150,000,000 yen for islands You would think they would find a better way to use that money.....but then again...common sense in not in the vocab of any politician

  • 0

    SpeakJaplish

    That supposed to say 150,000,000 for a tree

  • -2

    JaneM

    Guy Totaro

    I was going to write something similar but you already said it all. Great post!

    I wish more people would go to the area and experience first-hand (even now) the total devastation there. Only people who have been there can start to comprehend the symbolical meaning of this tree for all those who survived but lost everything in the disaster.

  • 0

    Frungy

    What sort of mickey mouse plant biologists did they have looking after this tree? It can still be saved if they just cut the tree off above the damaged xylem and phloem vessels and then insert the tree in a sealed pool of growth and nurtient solution. Yes the tree will be a bit shorter for a while, but it'll regrow its root structure. I've done this sort of thing on a smaller scale when cloning cuttings.

  • -1

    Disillusioned

    Nice price tag! Someone has been up to a bit of price fixing, for sure! Some clever little arborist is gonna retire very soon.

  • 0

    WilliB

    Typical government. Since government has an unlimited supply of money via the right to extrac taxes, governments will never act responsibly with money.

    The government officials in charge should pool their resources and should come up with the 150,000,000 Yen for this steel pine out of their own pockets. Their enthusism would then fade very rapidly.

  • 3

    buggerlugs

    I'm sorry but it's a tree. Yes it may have survived but so did many children who still need financial help. It is a sad state of affairs when a tree becomes more important than human welfare. Spending this much on it or even condoning it is simply stupid. What kind of person puts a tree above the needs of children? If they want a symbol why not leave Tokyo tower bent so that in the future people will ask "whys it bent?" why not leave the boat ontop of the restaurant? It's a tree that is dying. It is NOT more important than human life. And before the defenders ask it. Yes I have been there, I went there to help.

  • -1

    T_rexmaxytime

    That tree is worth maybe 500K yen in my mind......

  • 0

    mrmalice

    i know i have a nasty habit of saying things that makes me liked a lot by officials everywhere. I know i dont live in japan and i know it's none of my business but i have to say this, it's my eternal curse. If it's not private money, if it's tax money, it sounds like something the govt would do ... like erect some fancy museum in a city where thousands live in poverty and sht like that. Humans will be humans i suppose. Leaders are supposed to be a bit superhuman. So if that's taxmoney why is it not spent on the people who got stranded after fukushima ... in an election time nonetheless. I wonder if this will get censored for being off-topic again

  • -1

    southsakai

    Wow so many negative comments about this miracle tree. Fascinating minds.

    The tree means a lot to those that live there and have been through the disaster. I can understand how most of the commenters can't understand it's importance.

    The price is very high, in fact 1.5 million is very high for just 1 tree so I can see why most of you are cringing. I agree that is a lot of money. But to say come in at night and chop it down, you really need to understand what this tree means to the people over there.

    For those of us not really affected by the Tsunami, it means nothing - but for those that live there and have been through the living hell and loss, this tree means a great deal.

    Different people, different places, different situation therefore a different perspective.

    Peace to all of you.

    Guy TotaroSEP. 06, 2012 - 10:29AM JST Granted, 150,000,000 JPY IS a lot of money. What seems to be missing from the above opinions is an understanding of the symbolism of this tree to the people of Rikuzentakata and across Tohoku. I'm guessing that most if not all commentators here haven't been there to see the scope of the damage so I can understand why the importance of the tree is hard to get. It is not just a tree. It represents hope and survival in a way that only those who have experienced the disaster first hand can begin to comprehend. Try to imagine for a moment the emotional parallel between this lone tree standing - ONE out of literally SEVENTY THOUSAND trees - and being a surviver standing in the ruins of what was once your thriving community. It's understandable for people to be concerned about how and where their hard earned donation money is going. There are no doubt more creative and cost effective alternatives to spending so much, but please try to temper your opinions with some sympathy and compassion. The solution is not to stop donating it's to find a group or groups who's work is transparent and that you trust / believe in. For the record, I've spent the better part of the past year and a half doing tsunami relief work and am amazed at the powerful energy that surrounds this tree and the people who are inspired by it to continue on. I'll pass by the tree this weekend and when I do I will stop and take a moment to focus some hope that you / we are never left standing alone.

    Thank you sir!

  • 0

    RowanM

    The price is very high, in fact 1.5 million is very high for just 1 tree so I can see why most of you are cringing. I agree that is a lot of money. But to say come in at night and chop it down, you really need to understand what this tree means to the people over there.

    For me, I'm not even worried about the cost. The tree is a symbol of hope because it was the only tree out of 70000 to survive, and their plan is to kill it. That's ridiculous. What message does that send? How does it mean anything when it survived the tsunami only to be killed by the people who were so excited it lived?

  • 1

    keepitup

    A fund should be made to the tune of 100,000 yen, and the money given to anyone who can successfully douse the thing with kerosene and burn it to a cinder, thus freeing up 150 million yen for for PEOPLE who are still suffering from the tsunami and nuclear disaster.

  • 0

    kazetsukai

    Although money spent by government and individuals as well as organizations all have a general or a specific purpose hopefully to get some meaningful results, the specific "designation" of such funds and its use may not be best suited for it. Too much time , effort and money is being spent trying to "please" the "feelings" of others to "create" a "better image" of such government entity, organization or individual that the final outcome is often a "waste."

    Money that is being used is the "result" of the hard work of individuals who by taxation or by gift have contributed. So it is imperative that the "results" are given the priority "before" nostalgia or image or even immediate elation.

    If every YEN spent was designated to get a specific result to accomplish something meaningful, then by all means. It is like budgeting and cost performance for your own money.

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