TOKYO >> 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 Nagasaki native, appealed for the public’s help during concerts and via his website.
In eight months, about 24 million yen (about $235,500) has been raised, which is more than 10 times the preservation budget for the year.
“We will gratefully use the funds to ensure that trees with … radiation damage etched into them remain for the next generation,” said a city official.
In late July, tree surgeon Manabu Matsuda used a wooden mallet to inspect the trunk of a camphor tree several hundred years old on the grounds of Fuchi Shrine, which sits about a mile from the bomb’s epicenter.
The upper portion of the trunk bears burn scars from 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, including camphor, Japanese kashi oak and pomegranate, damaged by radiation within a 2-1/2 mile radius of the epicenter. Of these, 30 trees with dark scars are being preserved. Once a year, the city sends a tree surgeon to inspect their branches and leaves to monitor for issues such as cavities forming in their trunks.
Preservation efforts involve averting bacterial infection, soil improvements and other interventions. This year, about 2.25 million yen ($21,087) from the city budget was designated for care of the trees.
Fifteen of the 30 trees are privately owned. Currently, the city has paid for 75% of preservation costs, with owners paying the rest. However, the cost for owners has become an issue.
A camphor tree at Sanno Shrine, for instance, is typical of radiation-damaged trees. Located about a half-mile from the epicenter, the tree required major preservation work in 2011 at a cost of about 13.6 million yen (about $127,500). The shrine was responsible for 3.4 million yen (about $31, 880) of that cost.
Singer Fukuyama, the son of an atomic bomb survivor, released a song in 2014 about the tree. In December, he sent the city some 4.5 million yen (about $42,200) that he raised at concerts, on his website and through other means. In March, he sent an additional 1 million yen (about $9,375) to the city.
In December, the city announced it would use the donations to help cover the costs of preservation for individual owners.
“Once I had to pay 700,000 yen (about $6,560),” said Nobuko Isayama, the 79-year-old owner of a damaged persimmon tree. “If that burden goes away, it’ll be easier to ask my children to take care of the tree.”
This year, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry extended protections to trees that had previously applied only to buildings damaged by radiation. The protections are aimed at ensuring that the legacy of the atomic bombings are passed down to future generations. The ministry allotted 1.2 million yen (about $11,250) to address radiation- damaged trees in public spaces in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.