Generally, trees can live for thousands of years. And the same is true to bonsai trees. If well kept, a bonsai tree can have the same lifespan of its parent tree. In fact, the oldest existing bonsai tree in the world is approximately 1,000 years old. And is currently housed inside the Crespi Bonsai Museum in Italy. Yes, even your own bonsai trees can live this long as long as they are properly nurtured and protected. As delicate as they are, it’s almost impossible to believe that one particular bonsai tree was able to survive a devastating nuclear attack. But this 394-year-old bonsai tree was one of the few survivors which became a living witness to the infamous Hiroshima bombing. This is a touching story of the Hiroshima Bonsai tree. And its paramount role in strengthening the friendship between two rival nations.
On August 6, 1945, the United States dropped a nuclear bomb over Hiroshima, Japan which killed over 70,000 people. Two miles from the drop site, the Yamaki family was fortunately inside their home when the catastrophic explosion happened. All the Yamaki family members survived the nuclear bombing. But they are not the only surviving resident of the house. The family has been taking care of a 320-year-old white pine bonsai tree which was passed down from generation to generation. Along with the family, even the old bonsai tree came out of the ruined city as one of the survivors.
However, the story behind the Hiroshima bonsai tree was kept exclusively within the Yamaki family. At the end of World War II, the United States and Japan finally settled the conflict and vowed for peace. In 1976, the head of the Yamaki family, Masaru, gave the heirloom bonsai tree to the United States as a symbol of US-Japan friendship. Not knowing that the miniature plant is actually a Hiroshima survivor, the token of friendship was sent to the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum in Washington, D.C. where it still stands today. But not until 2001 that the bonsai tree’s secret will only be revealed. It was when Masaru’s grandsons personally visited the museum where their heirloom bonsai tree was located.
This 394-year-old white pine bonsai tree is currently located at the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum in Washington, D.C
“There’s some connection with a living being that has survived on this earth through who knows what,” says Kathleen Emerson-Dell, assistant curator at the museum. “I’m in its presence, and it was in the presence of other people from long ago. It’s like touching history.”