The 388-Year-Old Bonsai that Survived Hiroshima
On display at the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum at the United States National Arboretum is this remarkable Japanese White Pine (Pinus parviflora ‘Miyajima’) bonsai sometimes known as Hiroshima Survivor. According to the tree’s display placard, it has been in training since 1625 making it 388-years-old. Oh and it survived the atomic blast in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.
In 1976 as part of Japan’s Bicentennial gift to the American people, bonsai master Masaru Yamaki donated one of his most prized bonsai. The Yamaki family operated a commercial bonsai nursery in Hiroshima for several generations (the nursery is now a private bonsai collection). According to the National Bonsai Foundation:
On the morning of August 6, 1945, all the Yamaki family members were inside their home. The bomb exploded about three kilometers (less than two miles) from the family compound. The blast blew out all the glass windows in the home, and each member of the family was cut from the flying glass fragments. Miraculously, none of them suffered any permanent injury.
The great old Japanese white pine and a large number of other bonsai were sitting on benches in the garden. Amazingly, none of these bonsai were harmed by the blast either, as the nursery was protected by a tall wall. The bonsai originally came from Miyajima Island which is just south of Hiroshima. Japanese white pine bonsai from Miyajima are considered very valuable because they are so rare.
Masaru Yamaki’s Views on Appreciating Bonsai
“Each bonsai has its special quality. Some express changes in the four seasons, while others express the elegance of nature in a pot. Bonsai is not limited to expensive trees in a classic shape. Indeed, by using excessive wire or growing unnecessary branches in order to create a classic shape, the artist may fail to express the tree’s essential beauty.
Trees best expressing bonsai no kokoro (the spirit of bonsai) are often marked by unaffected simplicity. Even if the tree has a slender trunk, it can still touch one’s heart deeply, conveying with overflowing vitality the beauty of nature in fields and mountains.”
You can find many more photos of Masarau Yamaki on his visit to the United States National Arboretum where his donated bonsais reside here. You can also see exactly where this special Japanese White Pine bonsai is located in the museum by visiting the virtual tour here.
The National Bonsai & Penjing Museum began when the Nippon Bonsai Association donated 53 bonsai and 6 viewing stones to the people of the United States to commemorate the U.S. Bicentennial in 1976. The collection has grown steadily with the addition of pieces from American bonsai masters and penjing from China. Today, 3 pavilions house about 150 plants.
[h/t KayBeeToys on Reddit]
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