GREATER, TAINAN TAIWAN – Former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori on Saturday helped plant cherry trees in Taiwan at a memorial park dedicated to engineer Yoichi Hatta, to express Japan’s gratitude for the country’s assistance following the March 2011 disasters.
Taiwan has been the most generous contributor to postdisaster recovery efforts in Tohoku, donating 6.6 billion New Taiwan dollars (¥18 trillion) for rebuilding projects in the devastated region, President Ma Ying-jeou said.
Ma and first lady Chow Mei-ching joined a TV fundraiser soon after the twin disasters struck and fielded telephone enquiries from donors. The fundraiser raked in ¥2.1 billion in just four hours.
Then Prime Minister Naoto Kan wrote to Ma, Foreign Minister Timothy Yang and then Prime Minister Wu Den-yih last year to express Japan’s gratitude, saying, “Thank you for the ‘kizuna’ (bonds of friendship between the two countries).”
In remarks before Saturday’s tree-planting ceremony, Mori said Japan is grateful for the generosity shown by the Taiwanese public, who led the world in the amount they donated.
“There is a Japanese saying: A good neighbor is better than a relative far off,” he said. “I believe Taiwan and Japan are the closest of friends.”
At Saturday’s event, Mori planted 10 cherry trees with Greater Tainan Mayor William Lai and 30 other Japanese and Taiwanese guests. Another 200 trees will be planted in the park at a later date. All the trees have been donated by the town of Kawazu, in Shizuoka Prefecture.
Mori, who attended the park’s opening ceremony in May last year, said he is happy to see the Taiwanese public and government making efforts to preserve Hatta’s legacy. Hatta conceived the ambitious plan to build the Chianan Canal and Wushantou Reservoir in Taiwan to irrigate the Chianan Plain in the south of the island, while he was stationed there between 1910 and 1942 during Japan’s colonial rule.
The infrastructure Hatta designed helped turn the barren wilderness into one of Taiwan’s most important agricultural regions.