This bonsai tree would undoubtedly have a lot to say if trees could talk. Since its planting in 1625, it has experienced a great deal of history. It was given to the US by bonsai maestro Masaru Yamaki in 1976 and is now housed at the US National Arboretum in Washington, DC. The Arboretum had no idea that this tiny plant harbored a remarkable secret.
The Hiroshima nuclear bombing in 1945 was carried out within two miles from the Yamaki family’s home. Yamaki, his family, and the bonsai, all of whom were indoors during the explosion, were mostly unscathed despite the horrible event’s 140,000 fatalities and long-lasting impacts on the city. Before the 200th anniversary of the United States, Yamaki later gave the tree to the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum without ever mentioning its extraordinary past.
When Yamaki’s grandsons paid a surpise visit to the collection in 2001, it was then that the white pine’s connection to Hiroshima became clear. Although the museum doesn’t promote this chapter in the history of the bonsai, preferring to stress its function as a friendship gift between two nations, it has lately updated its website with information regarding the bonsai’s connection to Hiroshima.
According to Kathleen Emerson-Dell, assistant curator of the museum, “there’s some connection with a living being that has endured on this earth through who knows what.” It is present with me, and it was also present with folks from a long time ago. It is like to touching history.