Fourth Tree Planting Ceremony held on the Tsunami Disaster-hit Natori Coastal Area in Miyagi Prefecture
On May 20, as many as 530 people toiled in sweat under the abnormally hot weather and planted 10,000 black pine seedlings at the Natori coastal site. The occasion was the fourth tree planting event organized by OISCA and the Association for the Coastal Forest Restoration in Natori City, a group comprising the disaster-affected local residents.
The number of participants exceeded those of the previous three years (350 persons in 2014, 480 in 2015 and 500 in 2016). The great majority of the participants were from Natori City and other municipalities in Miyagi Prefecture. Young people, mostly local senior high school students, accounted for 25% of the people joined in the annual tree planting program.
This year, the event was graced by the participation of Mr. Shigeru Ishiba, Member of the House of Representatives and the Chairman of the Association of Japanese Diet Members Supporting OISCA International Activities, and Mr. Koichi Tani, Member of the House of Representatives and the Secretary General of the Association. It is the first time that Members of the National Diet actively participated in the field work at the Natori project site.
At the opening ceremony held near the tide breakwater. Ms. Etsuko Nakano, President of OISCA, delivered an opening speech welcoming the participants to the tree planting activity. She advised them to take good care of themselves under the unseasonably high temperature of 28 degrees Celsius. Then, former Cabinet Minister Shigeru Ishiba took the microphone to deliver encouraging message. He stated: “I understand that this project embodies the aspiration of the local people to restore the badly damaged coastal forest which was originally developed 400 years ago by order of the feudal lord: Date Masamune.” Citing his 30-years experience supporting OISCA activities overseas, he pointed out: “OISCA projects, both in Japan and in overseas, are materialized only when local residents manifest their strong aspiration and willingness to carry out with the active cooperation of other organizations and people”, and affirmed that he would plant about 10 seedlings.
It was followed by short addresses by the Mayor of Natori City, representative from the Tohoku Regional Forest Office, Forestry Agency and the Vice Governor of Miyagi Prefecture.
After the opening ceremony, the participants were divided into 20 different groups led by professional forestry workers and started planting black pine seedlings raised in pots at the near-by OISCA nursery. Hon. Ishiba and Hon. Tani also took the trouble of planting seedlings at the project site. Then, both Diet Members moved to board the mobile elevating work platform and observed the whole project site from the height of 20 meters. They asked how long more years needed until the planted trees would grow to develop into a full-fledged seashore forest.
Aided by the soft sandy land of this year’s planting section, the whole work proceeded relatively smoothly, and the participants finished planting 30 minutes earlier than the scheduled time.
At the closing ceremony, one of the local high school students, when asked about her impressions on the event, commented: “When the earthquake and tsunami disaster occurred in March 2011, I was just a grade-6 pupil. At that time, I was really helpless in the face of the disaster damage. But now, I am lending a small helping hand to the recovery work of our lost seashore forest and am very proud of my volunteer work.”
Meanwhile, one of the few foreign participants, Ms. Anne Thomas, an American citizen living in Sendai City and a regular participant in the OISCA tree planting program said that she was very excited at observing the planted trees steadily growing, and affirmed with pride that she had planted more than 20 seedlings this year.
This year’s event was widely covered by a few media such as the Kahoku Shimpo, a local daily; the Asahi Shimbun, a national daily; Miyagi TV and NHK. (Japan Broadcasting Corporation).
The 10-year Coastal Forest Restoration Project is intended to restore the disaster-hit seashore forest by planting 500,000 black pine and other tree species over 100 hectares of coastal land up until 2020. A total of 190,000 seedlings were already planted over 37 hectares of the site in the past three years. Additional 70,000 new seedlings are expected to be planted over 13.66 hectares in the course of this year.