Rikuzentakata is one of the cities in Iwate which was heavily devastated by the 2011 tsunami in Japan. It was even reported as being ‘wiped off the map’. However, out of 70,000 trees that once lined the shore, only one survived and soon became an iconic symbol of hope for the people and has since been labeled the “Miracle Pine”.
The miracle pine is said to be more than 250 years old with a height of 27 meters. Unfortunately, the tree didn’t survive the floods over time due its roots dying because of being over-exposed to salty water. As a result, it was removed in September 2012. However, the people of Rikuzentakata didn’t want to lose their iconic symbol and so experts went to work on constructing a sculpture of the ‘miracle pine’ as close to its original state as possible.
A metal skeleton was inserted into its trunk while branches and leaves were synthetically made. The cost of the restoration project was met with a lot of criticism so to overcome this, money was raised from donations from people all over Japan and around the world. It immediately exceeded its 150 million yen target!
A total of 1,700 people in Rikuzentakata were engulfed by the tsunami waves in 2011. After the water receded, only a few infrastructures remained standing with 30 children under 16 years old becoming orphans. A lot of suffering was involved in the tsunami of 2011 and the miracle pine gave these people the strength to get through it.
Many of the survivors are still living in temporary shelters built by the government due to the lack of space on higher grounds. Houses are no longer allowed near the sea, and instead, it has been turned into a memorial park where the miracle pine serves as its centerpiece.
As a way of commemorating lost lives, it was lit up every night for the entire year of 2014. Visiting the miracle pine is a great way to pay homage to those who died in the disaster and at the same time is also an opportunity to draw strength and hope from the iconic centerpiece.
Rikuzentakata City Website*Japanese Only