What took everyone by surprise was when they found out more about the tree, particularly its history which was never revealed until decades later.
The atomic bombing of Hiroshima in 1945 was truly devastating. Tens of thousands of people lost their lives and it was indeed one of the darkest moments in world history. However, one bonsai tree and the family that looked after it managed to survive.
The Yamaki family lived a couple of miles away from where American forces dropped the atomic bomb. Bonsai master Masaru Yamaki, who looked after the tree, gifted it to the US as a symbol of peace and friendship. It is now currently located at the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington, D.C.
Bonsai Tree planted in 1626 survived the Hiroshima atomic bomb. It was given to the US as a Bicentennial Gift in 1976 pic.twitter.com/UB3DPNkeER— Powerful Pictures (@Powerful_Pics) November 26, 2013
However, what took everyone by surprise was when they found out more about the tree, particularly its history which was never revealed until decades later. "We really don't play up the idea of its surviving Hiroshima," Kathleen Emerson-Bell, assistant curator for artifact collections at the museum, told USA Today. "It's just a fact of life." The tree, which was planted in 1625, has lived a lot of history in nearly 400 years.
“There’s some connection with a living being that has survived on this earth through who knows what,” Emerson-Dell added. “I’m in its presence, and it was in the presence of other people from long ago. It’s like touching history.”
Bonsai masters are known to design each tree to evoke different kinds of emotion, weight, and style, according to Michael James, an agricultural science research technician. "You look at it and instantly you see something incredibly beautiful," James said.
This bonsai tree, a Japanese white pine, was cultivated by a single family for 350 years. On August 6, 1945, it was two miles from ground zero when the bomb fell on Hiroshima. Amazingly, it was unharmed. The Yamaki family donated it to the US in 1976, to honor our bicentennial. pic.twitter.com/qP51ImqTWp— Ben Wikler (@benwikler) June 12, 2018
"I think the whole art form of bonsai itself can have many meanings: it's peaceful, it's appreciative of nature, it's meditative. That's why I love this art form. So many generations have worked on this tree. That individual artist had such a great vision, and it keeps growing," James added.
But how did it all start? Well, the tree called The White Japanese Pine, and sometimes the Yamaki Pine, had this secret that not many knew until 2001. Its history was finally revealed when Yamaki’s grandsons turned up at the arboretum and wanted to see the tree. Following this, the curator of the museum had called them over for lunch, and that is when they told them about it. The grandsons revealed that the family had been running a commercial bonsai nursery in Hiroshima for many generations.
Surprisingly enough, when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, it hit most of the city, including the nursery. However, the bomb only shattered the windows of the nursery and the tree miraculously survived. Although the tree did suffer a few minor cuts from glass fragments due to the blast, the family and the tree largely remained unharmed.
Meanwhile, people who visit the arboretum have often expressed their astonishment after learning about the tree's history. One among them is Cheryl Tyler who thinks it is almost supernatural. "These are things you don't ask questions about because you don't know how it happened the way it did," Tyler, who is president and CEO of CLT3 Security Consulting told the publication. "To see something that's created like this and see it in growth and maturity — it's phenomenal."