Imperial Couple Attend Tree Planting in Iwate

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The Emperor plants a sapling at the 73rd annual national tree-planting festival in Rikuzen-Takata, Iwate Prefecture, on Sunday.

RIKUZEN-TAKATA, Iwate (Jiji Press) — The Emperor and Empress attended on Sunday afternoon the 73rd annual national tree-planting festival in Rikuzen-Takata, Iwate Prefecture, one of many municipalities hit hard by the March 2011 disaster.

At a ceremony in the festival, the Emperor paid tribute to the victims of the major earthquake and tsunami that struck on March 11, 2011, and said, “I deeply respect the tireless efforts by local people to promote postdisaster reconstruction as well as the contributions by people related to the tree-planting festival.”

The festival took place at Takatamatsubara Memorial Park for Tsunami Disaster in the Iwate Prefecture city.

The couple took part in the annual event in person for the first time in four years, after being unable to do so due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The tree-planting festival is one of the major regional events attended by the Emperor and the Empress.

Iwate hosted the festival for the second time. The Emperor noted that he climbed Mount Iwate in the prefecture from “Iwate-ken Kenmin no Mori,” a nature-based facility, when he was a student. The facility was used as the venue for the first tree-planting festival in Iwate Prefecture, held in 1974.

“I’m pleased” as charcoal and lacquer have been produced in Iwate Prefecture from a long time ago and trees are closely related to the lives of local people, the Emperor said. “Passing on healthy forests to young generations is our important mission,” he added.

At the park, there is a monument of “kiseki no ipponmatsu,” or the miracle lone pine tree, which survived the tsunami while all other pine trees along the coast were swept away. In 2013, when he was Crown Prince, the Emperor played a viola made from part of the miracle pine tree.

Following the speech at Sunday’s event, the Emperor and Empress planted a total of six kinds of saplings, including daimyo oak and Japanese dogwood, while live music was played with the viola used by the Emperor in 2013 and other musical instruments.

The couple also sowed four kinds of seeds such as Japanese rose, the Empress’ symbol.