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Elm tree makes music after being destroyed in northern Hokkaido

A towering elm tree is no longer the great symbol that citizens of the town of Shimokawa in northern Hokkaido were once proud of.

The 300-year-old elm, which stood at 27 meters, had even won an award: It was honored as one of the 100 Giants of the Forest by the Forestry Agency of Japan. But the last decade has not been very kind toward the tree.

In 2004, the tree tussled with a strong typhoon, and it barely managed to survive the fight. However, the killer blow came around two years later when heavy rain severly damaged the once prominent symbol of the town.

Shimokawa then called a town meeting where the name of 29-year-old guitar-maker Naoto Odashima was mentioned.

Although most guitars in Japan are made from imported maple or mahogany, it was decided that Odashima should be asked to construct a guitar out of the remains of the elm.

He was happy to take the commission and immediately got to work.

Odashima said: “That tree lived for 300 years, so I hope this guitar will still be played 300, or even 400, years from now.”

Odashima completed the guitar in October 2009, and since then it has been played by many musicians in Shimokawa. The maker says the guitar, which has a light body, emits a crisp, pleasant sound, and that he’s proud of it.

Tokuma Kazuhiko, of Shimokawa Cluster, a tourism organization of Shimokawa, said: “I hope this guitar promotes our town’s wonderful green surroundings.”

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