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Trees Planted With Seeds From Hiroshima Are Now Growing In Oregon

Chris Lehman

This week marks the 75th anniversary of the atomic bomb blasts in Japan. Oregonians can now visit dozens of new trees that have a unique connection to one of the devastated cities.

The U-S dropped two massive bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August, 1945, killing more than 100,000 people.

In the months afterwards, some survivors in Hiroshima took heart at the sight of blossoms on trees that had withstood the blasts. In recent years, a Japanese peace group called Green Legacy Hiroshima has made seeds from those so-called survivor trees available to be planted around the world. Over the past year, more than two dozen of those seeds have been planted in Oregon and have now sprouted into saplings.

“It’s just kind of a living connection to the events of August 6, 1945, and the hopes of the people in Hiroshima that no other city suffers the fate that they did,” said Jim Gersbach, a public information officer for the Oregon Department of Forestry.

"Many of the (survivor) trees were burned, and to see them actually come back to life was just amazing and encouraging" for Hiroshima residents, said Gersbach.

The project was launched several years ago by Hiroshima survivor Hideko Tamura-Snider, co-founder of the Medford-based peace group One Sunny Day Initiatives. She reached out to a group called Oregon Community Trees.  Michael Oxendine, a board member with the group, made arrangements for seeds to be shipped to Oregon in 2017, where he started the process of germinating them. The trees are ginkgos and Asian persimmons.

Over the next 18 months, Oregon Community Trees partnered with the Oregon Department of Forestry to find permanent homes for the trees. Their efforts resulted in placements of about 45 trees at 30 different sites, including schools, government agencies, arboretums, cemetaries, churches, and parks. While some are on private property, the agreement requires the trees to be accessible to the public for viewing.

"These trees can be a form of remembrance for all the people that suffered, whether they died, or served in action, or were injured, whatever happened," said Gersbach. "These can be a way of honoring and remembering those people."

The Oregon Department of Forestry has a map on its website showing where each of the Hiroshima Peace Trees are planted in Oregon. One of the first trees in the project was planted last year in Eugene. Now, the trees are in communities across the state, from La Grande in the east, to Klamath Falls in the south, to Seaside on the northern Oregon coast.

Plans for public dedication ceremonies for the trees have been canceled or delayed due to the pandemic.

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