A project to restore a pine tree forest wiped out by the tsunami that destroyed Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture, in March 2011 kicked off Saturday with the goal of having about 40,000 saplings planted on the city's coastline by March 2020.

The replanting project has a budget of around ¥1.35 billion, according to the Iwate Prefectural Government.

Before the tsunami from the mega-quake wiped it out, the 70,000 trees in the Takatamatsubara pine forest covered 2 km of the city's coastline, attracting many tourists.

The trees were planted during the Edo Period (1603-1868) to form a tidewater control forest, but the 2011 tsunami swept away all but one tree.

The lone pine became a symbol of hope but had to be cut down after excessive sea salt deposited by the tsunami eventually killed it. It was subsequently used to make a monument called the "miracle pine tree."

At the commemoration ceremony Saturday, around 300 people planted 1,250 saplings from Iwate and other parts of the country.

"I participated in the event because I wanted to help with the reconstruction of the area," said Ibuki Maeta, an 11-year-old elementary school student in Kurayoshi, Tottori Prefecture. The sixth-grader said he knows how dreadful earthquakes can be because he experienced a large one last year in Tottori.