Japan vows to preserve trees damaged by atomic bombing in Nagasaki

Donations are pouring in from around the country to pay for protecting trees in Nagasaki that bear the scars of the atomic bombing, in part thanks to the efforts of singer Masaharu Fukuyama. (The Japan News/ANN)
Donations are pouring in from around the country to pay for protecting trees in Nagasaki that bear the scars of the atomic bombing, in part thanks to the efforts of singer Masaharu Fukuyama. (The Japan News/ANN)

TOKYO (The Japan News/ANN) — Thanks to the efforts of singer Masaharu Fukuyama, donations are pouring in from around the country to pay for protecting trees in Nagasaki that bear the scars of the atomic bombing.

Donations are pouring in from around the country to pay for protecting trees in Nagasaki that bear the scars of the atomic bombing, in part thanks to the efforts of singer Masaharu Fukuyama.

Fukuyama, a 50-year-old Nagasaki native, has asked for donations during concerts and through other means. The city now allows donations to be made through the furusato nozei “hometown tax” system.

In eight months, about ¥24 million has been raised, which is more than 10 times the preservation budget for this fiscal year.

“We will gratefully use the funds to ensure that trees with the memory of radiation damage etched into them remain for the next generation,” a city official said.

In late July, tree surgeon Manabu Matsuda, 52, used a wooden mallet to inspect the trunk of a camphor tree several hundred years old on the grounds of Fuchi Shrine, which sits 1.7 kilometers from the bomb’s hypocenter.

The upper portion of the trunk bears scars from being burned by the bomb’s heat rays. Matsuda decided the tree needed some treatment.

“Trees damaged by the atomic bomb are fragile. The condition and environment of each is different,” he said. “It’s important to manage them with regular inspections and interventions when needed.”

There are 46 trees such as camphor, Japanese kashi oak and pomegranate damaged by radiation within a 4-kilometer radius of the hypocenter, according to the city’s radiation exposure inheritance section.

Of these, 30 trees with dark scars from radiation exposure are being preserved. Once a year the city sends a tree surgeon to inspect their branches and leaves, and look for things such as cavities forming in their trunks.

The preservation efforts involve preventing bacterial infection, soil improvements and other interventions. This fiscal year, about ¥2.25 million was allotted to preservation in the city budget.

Fifteen of the 30 trees are privately owned. Up to now, the city has paid for three-quarters of the cost of preservation, with owners of the trees paying the rest. However, the burden on such individuals has become an issue.

A camphor tree at Sanno Shrine is typical of the radiation-damaged trees. Located about 800 meters from the hypocenter, major preservation work was done on this tree in fiscal 2011. This cost about ¥13.6 million, of which the shrine paid about ¥3.4 million.

Fukuyama, the son of a hibakusha atomic bomb victim, released a song about this tree in 2014. In December, he sent to the city about ¥4.5 million he raised through concerts, his website and other means. In March he again sent about ¥1 million to the city.

In December, the city announced it would use the donations to set up a fund to help pay for the individual portion of the cost of preserving such trees.

People can also use the furusato nozei system to give money to the fund to protect radiation-damaged trees, which as of Monday had about ¥24.06 million.

“Once I had to pay ¥700,000,” said Nobuko Isayama, the 79-year-old owner of a persimmon tree damaged by the bombing. “If that burden goes away, it’ll be easier to ask my children to take care of the tree.”

This fiscal year, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry expanded protections that had applied to buildings damaged by radiation to trees. The protections are intended to help pass down the legacy of the atomic bombings.

The ministry allotted ¥1.2 million to pay for insect extermination and other aid for radiation-damaged trees in public spaces in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

By News Desk