Oregon Department of Forestry Celebrates Conclusion of Statewide Plantings of Hiroshima Peace Trees


SALEM, Ore. — A four-year-long campaign to plant saplings grown from the seeds of trees that survived the atom bombing of Hiroshima finished September 21 with a celebration at the Oregon Department of Forestry’s headquarters in Salem. That date was chosen because it is the International Day of Peace as declared by the United Nations General Assembly back in 1981.

Hoichi Kurisu bows in respect at the Hiroshima peace tree on Sept. 21. Mr. Kurisu was a 5-year-old living in a rural area just outside Hiroshima when the atom bomb exploded. He now designs and builds Japanese-inspired landscapes. Photo credit: ODF.

Representatives from 45 organizations that planted a total of 51 peace trees in 35 communities around the state were invited to the ceremony. A number of Japanese-American organizations also attended.

Oregon State Forester Cal Mukumoto, whose ancestry is Japanese-American, welcomed guests and thanked them for making Oregon the home to one of the densest concentrations of Hiroshima peace trees outside Japan. 

Hideko Tamura-Snider participates in the dedication of the ODF peace tree by sprinkling water on its roots. Photo credit: ODF.

The guest of honor was Hideko Tamura-Snider from Medford. She was 10 years old living in Hiroshima when the city was flattened by the first of two atomic bombs the U.S. dropped on Japan in August 1945. Buried in the ruins of her grandmother’s home, Hideko was able to free herself and survived the firestorm that later engulfed the city. Her mother and other relatives were killed by the blast. 

Hideko moved to the United States, eventually settling in Oregon where she wrote two books about her experiences. She founded the One Sunny Day Initiative to promote peace and nuclear disarmament around the world. At her urging, arborist Mike Oxendine in Ashland obtained seeds of survivor trees from the Green Legacy Hiroshima organization. Its volunteers collect and send the seeds around the world as ambassadors of peace. 

Peace Tree Seedlings at SOU in Ashland. Photo credit: ODF.

After Oxendine germinated the seeds, Oregon Community Trees and the Oregon Department of Forestry collaborated in finding homes for the trees. Communities large and small from all parts of the state responded enthusiastically. Today the trees can be found from the coast to La Grande, and from Hood River to Klamath Falls. The 51st tree was planted in Gresham just on September 19. 

As part of the ceremonies, ODF dedicated the ginkgo peace tree planted on its campus back in April 2020. COVID-19 restrictions at that time prevented large public gatherings so the dedication was postponed to September 21, 2022 to coincide with International Day of Peace.

“These peace trees not only convey a message of peace from the residents of Hiroshima, they are also symbols of survival and resilience in the face of unimaginable destruction,” said State Forester Mukumoto. “Seeing them putting down roots in the good soil of Oregon and reaching for the sky gives me hope that people in our state – like the survivors in Hiroshima – can not only endure harsh times but can share with others the hard-won wisdom from having persevered through them.“

About Author

Jim Gersbach is a Public Affairs Specialist at Oregon Department of Forestry.

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