Fukushima plans 190-km coastal row of cherry trees

JIJI

Residents in Fukushima Prefecture, smarting from the nation’s worst nuclear plant crisis, have launched a project to line 190 km of coastal roads with blossoming cherry trees.

Under the project, residents, evacuees and volunteers will plant 20,000 cherry tree saplings in the prefecture’s Hamadori region along the Pacific coast over the next 10 years.

“Everyone may come back to Fukushima 30 years from now,” said Yumiko Nishimoto, 59, who is heading the project.

“We want to create communities that our children can be proud of.”

The project focuses on Route 6, which runs north-south through Fukushima for 130 km, including a 40-km stretch between the Odaka district of Minamisoma and the town of Naraha, where many residents had to evacuate to due to the proximity to the wrecked Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

Following the March 2011 meltdowns, Nishimoto evacuated to Tokyo with her husband. They returned to their home in Hirono, south of Naraha, late that year. She decided to launch the project after seeing TV footage of cherry blossoms in an uninhabited evacuation zone last spring.

“Until then, I was busy doing things for the present, but I grew to want to do something for the future,” Nishimoto explained.

Behind the project is the desire, expressed about 10 years ago by children who joined a cleanup event along Route 6, to create a row of cherry trees along the road, she said.

The planting started in late January, with 1,000 volunteers hailing from Hokkaido to Okinawa pitching in for a month. Some 1,600 trees will be planted by the end of spring.

As the central government has been leading reconstruction efforts in the Tohoku region, Nishimoto said, “We were keen for projects we could do ourselves.”

“It would be great if people could visit the area to enjoy the cherry blossoms in the future,” she added.