Nearly 400-year-old bonsai trees survived the Hiroshima atomic bomb

Grown by Yamaki's family since 1625, the white pine tree survived when an atomic bomb leveled Hiroshima city.

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At about 8:15 pm on August 6, 1945, Masaru Yamaki bonsai master was inside the house when the window glass suddenly shot and ripped his flesh. The US plane has just dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima city, just over 3 km from Mr. Yamaki's house. His family was fortunate to survive the explosion, and the white pine tree in the house stood still thanks to a wall surrounding the garden.
Mr. Masaru Yamaki visited the white pine in 1979.
Mr. Masaru Yamaki visited the white pine in 1979. Photo: U.S. National Arboretum.
When Mr. Yamaki sent a white pine tree to the Bonsai Nippon Association to contribute to 53 bonsai trees for the US on the occasion of the 200th National Day, people only knew who supported it. For the next 25 years, the white pine tree is on display at the Bonsai and Penjing Museum at the National Botanical Garden in Washington D.C, USA - but no one knows its miraculous story.

The secret only came out in 2001, when two grandsons of Yamaki suddenly visited the botanical garden to find the tree they had heard of. Thanks to a Japanese translator, they told the story of surviving the grandfather and the hundred-year-old bonsai tree. Two years later, Yamaki Takaki Yamaki, daughter of Yamaki, also visited the museum hoping to see her father's tree.

The museum managers and the Yamaki family became friends. Thanks to the visits of the descendants of bonsai masters, the experts learned about the valuable value of the plant called Yamaki Pine.
Yamaki pine tree
Since 2017, the Bonsai and Penjing Museum (USA) has completed a display area dedicated to Japanese bonsai trees (Japanese Pavilion) and Yamaki pine tree placed near the entrance. Photo: U.S. National Arboretum.
Today, white pine trees are only about a meter tall, with thick stems and green short needle foliage spotted yellow. The rope that made the posture fixed so that the branch did not reach straight towards the sun.

"Shaggy, curving branches... all create unique stuff for this tree. It is like the star of the Katharine Hepburn movie, with a beauty of age," Kathleen Emerson-Dell, caregiver of Yamaki Pine, shared.
Yamaki Pine tree.
Yasuo Yamaki, the son of Masaru Yamaki, visited the tree in 2003. Photo: U.S. National Arboretum.
Yamaki Pine tree.
Bob Drechsker (pictured) is the first person in charge of taking care of Yamaki white pine. Photo: U.S. National Arboretum.
Yamaki Pine tree.
Tree covered to prepare to transport to the US in 1976. Photo: U.S. National Arboretum.
Yamaki Pine tree.
The process of transporting 53 bonsai plants to the US. Photo: U.S. National Arboretum.
Yamaki Pine tree.
People in the Nippon Bonsai Association say goodbye to the last bus carrying the tree. Photo: U.S. National Arboretum.
Yamaki Pine tree.
Yamaki Pine was displayed at an exhibition in Japan in 1975. Photo: U.S. National Arboretum.
Yamaki Pine tree.
Experts trim the trees. Photo: U.S. National Arboretum.
Yamaki Pine tree.
The staff of the nursery inspecting the tree in 1997. Photo: U.S. National Arboretum.
Jack Sustic, expert of Bonsai and Penjing Museum, thinks that Yamaki Pine is a symbol of reconciliation relations between Japan and the US after World War II.

Mr. Sustic was moved to learn that Mr. Yamaki has supported the white pine that existed in the family for at least six generations: "One of the things that makes it so special is, you imagine, every day there is somebody that took care of this tree all the way from 1625 ".

Sustic's mission is to water and rotate plants, check insects daily. What is unique about this museum is that there will be no alternative sources for abandoned and dead trees. This expert even kept a tight suitcase at home in case he had to go to the museum after working hours when trees needed urgent care.

The Bonsai and Penjing Museum is located on the campus of the American National Arboretum at 3501 New York Avenue, Washington D.C.

Opening hours: 10am - 16h daily, except holidays.

Free entrance and parking.

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