On Oct. 11, 2011, seven months to the day after the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami struck the Tohoku region, I stood beside the sole surviving pine tree from a 350-year-old forest of approximately 70,000 similar trees on the coastline of Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture. In the months following the disaster, this lone survivor had come throughout Japan to be known as “the miracle pine” and “the pine of hope.”

However in May 2012, the tree was finally pronounced dead: Its roots had rotted. After all, it had stood some 10 hours in seawater before the tide receded.

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