Bringing a Peace of Hiroshima to North Carolina


At the home I grew up in, a stately evergreen tree towered over our front yard. This pine tree gave shade every summer. Itโ€™s the spot where my father would sit while he made sure my best friend and I did not drown in the pool that we spent hours in-until my friendโ€™s lips would literally turn blue. ๐Ÿ™‚

Itโ€™s the spot where we all sat on a swing while the smoke from the mosquito coils (remember those?) swirled around us as we ate watermelon or ice cream at the end of a fun- filled summer day. I treasure these childhood memories.

Sadly, some years later, that majestic evergreen had to come down-I donโ€™t quite remember why. The front yard looked so lonely with just a grounded stump in the middle. My mom decided to fill that void with a graceful Japanese Maple sapling. She loved the idea of having a tree that reminded her of the ones in the yard of her Hiroshima home.

This stroll down memory lane, leads me to the event I alluded to in my last blog posts. Since my novel, The Last Cherry Blossom, introduces readers to the culture of Japan in the last year of WWII, I wanted to bring Hiroshima to the state Iโ€™m living in when my book published. Last year I found a program called Green Legacy Hiroshima, which was started by two friends: Nassrine Azimi and Tomoko Watanabe. Green Legacy Hiroshima is under the umbrella of the United Nations Institute of Training and Research (UNITAR).

Green Legacy Hiroshima(GLH) cultivates and sends seeds from trees that miraculously survived the atomic bombing on August 6th, also known as A-bomb trees. When we visited Hiroshima two years ago, we viewed these trees and it was a remarkable sight to behold.

GLH has sent seeds to 30 countries to be cultivated into saplings that would then be planted in memory of the victims of nuclear weapons and to spread the message of peace. Currently in the United states, only six states have these saplings. North Carolina will now become the 7th state. (In the future, Iโ€™d really like to work on having an A-bomb tree planted in Rhode Island. It is the state I grew up in, and is the first state my mom moved to when she came to the United States and lived in for over 50 years before moving to NC in 2013).

So, in late 2015, I contacted Nassrine Azimi and discussed my wish to partner with GLH and a university in North Carolina to plant a sapling from an A-bomb tree. In July 2016, she connected me with a couple in Atlanta, Georgia (Steve and Elizabeth Leeper) that had nurtured a Ginkgo sapling. This would save time and paperwork normally needed to procure and quarantine the seeds that arrive from Japan. Iโ€™m very grateful for the elimination of that process. My husband and I drove to Atlanta last July and picked up the sapling.

The A-Bomb sapling grown from seeds of Mother Ginkgo tree to be planted at UNCW

http://www.lang-arts.com/survivors/shukkeien.html

The Mother Ginkgo tree at Shukkeien Gardens after atomic bomb.

http://www.lang-arts.com/survivors/shukkeien.html

Mother Ginkgo tree today,Shukkeien Garden

My daughter, Sara, attends the University of North Carolina, Wilmington(UNCW) and is minoring in Japanese. It seemed like a great fit. I contacted the coordinator of the Japanese Minor and Senior Lecturer of Japanese at UNCW, Kano-sensei. She loved this idea as well and would work with me to make this happen.

This past spring semester, Sara joined the newly formed Japan Club at UNCW. She discussed having a fundraiser for the dedication plaque for this Hiroshima A-bomb tree. The Japan Club jumped on her idea and set up fundraisers within a week. The Japan Club, with the help of some other donors had raised the funds needed within a few months. The Japan Club members, Kano-sensei, and UNCW have been fantastic. The Japan Club is currently planning the dedication ceremony.

UNCW Japan Club Members

UNCW Japan Club GLH cookie sale

Kano-sensei invited me to speak at the North Carolina Teaching about Asia Network Seminar being held at UNCW on Saturday, September 30th. The dedication ceremony will take place after this seminar.

Iโ€™m so grateful to my daughter, her professor, the Japan Club members, and UNC Wilmington. Their enthusiasm and dedication to this cause truly touched my heart.

I do have one other very important reason why I feel that UNCW is a perfect fit. In the summer of 2014, my mother toured only one college with my daughter. And yes, that college was UNCW. ๐Ÿ˜Š

I hope that whenever someone walks between the UNCW Student Union and the pond near Leutze Hall, they might find respite from the heat of the Carolina sun under this A-bomb tree. And while sitting there, would read the plaque, be reminded of what happened on August 6, 1945, and the wish for peace that these trees bring. I pray that these Hiroshima A-bomb trees are the last ones that will ever need to be planted to remind us of why nuclear weapons should never be used again.

When the A-bomb Ginkgo tree is dedicated to the Ishikawa family, on September 30th, I am sure my mom will be smiling. Just like she did whenever she looked at the Japanese maple in our front yard.

My thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by Hurricane Harvey and Irma.

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18 thoughts on “Bringing a Peace of Hiroshima to North Carolina

  1. I had no idea! What an amazing project this is.
    Is there a tree planted at some university here in Atlanta yet?

    I also had a tree like yours as a child, I called it a “magic tree.” It was a cherry blossom!
    When we were little, my father would wake my sister and I to shake the tree branches as the last petals would fall. We would dance in our nightgowns barefoot under the petals falling like snow. It was the same tree we would climb and play in. It’s easy to see why cherry blossoms hold a special place in the hearts of so many ๐Ÿ’œ

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    • Thanks so much. I was so happy that I could honor my mom and family,as well as all victims of nuclear weapons. I believe one is planted at Kutaisi Botanical gardens in Georgia,but I don’t know how far from Atlanta that is.

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      • Well that’s good to know there is one here in the state. This would be an awesome project in tandem with a class that reads your book together! My mother is a 4th grade teacher, and we were discussing your book and the A-bomb trees today. She agreed that ordering/nurturing the seedlings would be an excellent class project. Maybe you could even visit the class(es) when it’s time to actually plant the tree. That would certainly make the newspaper, along with you and your wonderful book!
        Don’t mind me and my ideas, lol. My mom and her co-worker do similar projects to make a book and history lesson very memorable. I just love the tree planting cause!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Maureen says:

    Great post and great memories! How wonderful to have one of the trees so close to you! Hopefully soon, there will be one in Rhode Island as well.

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    • Thank you Maureen. Yes they are, you should know-since you were the one turning blue in the pool ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m so happy and honored to be able to do this. I’m so proud of Sara as well with all she did. And I would love to have one in RI. โค

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