The city of Rikuzentakata was thoroughly devastated by the March 11 tsunami.  However, following the destruction a single 27 meter 200 year-old pine tree was left standing, the sole survivor of a forest of 70,000 trees along the coast line.  The tree had become a symbol of hope for the country and local government vowed to protect it at all costs.

However, for the past year the tree’s health had been fading fast and it doesn’t have much longer to live.  And so the city’s government is going to enact a preservation scheme which is rubbing Japanese netizens the wrong way due to its 150,000,000 yen (US$1.9M) price tag.

The Miracle Pine of Rikuzentaka although still standing, was battered hard and badly damaged by the massive wave.  Despite the community’s best efforts to nurse it back to health it was simply over exposed to salt water from the ocean which now has moved up to only a few meters from it.

Previous efforts included building a barricade to protect it from the salt water, but they failed and the tree simply refused to absorb nutrients any more.  Taking a page from the Six Million Dollar Man, they have the technology. They can rebuild it.

Unfortunately instead of creating a super powered Hundred Fifty Million Yen Tree that fights crime and runs in slow motion, they are going to cut it down, treat the wood, and insert a metal skeleton.  This would of course completely kill the tree but preserve its shape forever as a monument.

The tree is scheduled to be taken down for treatment on 12 September and will be returned to its original spot in a planned ceremony on the second anniversary of the Tohoku Earthquake next 11 March.

Once the news hit comments on internet message boards such as 2ch were overwhelmingly against this project.  Nearly everyone cast sentimentality aside and questioned the logic of spending millions of yen on an essentially dead tree.

“I guess we don’t need to donate any more money if this is what they are spending it on now” mentioned one commenter. Others felt that creating something out of the wood from the tree like a Buddha statue would be a cheaper and more meaningful option.

Some took that idea further saying if they’re going to spend that much money they should “give it some legs” or “artificial intelligence” as well to make a real “mechapine.”  Others took an opposite route suggesting that a natural death returning the tree to the Earth would be a more dignified fate.

Not everyone shares these opinions though.  On Rikuzentaka’s Miracle Tree Project Facebook page, where they accept donations, many have voiced their support.  Here people see the tree more for what it represents than just a pine.

Source: Itai News (Japanese)
Rikuzentaka City Website:  Miracle Pine Rescue Project (Japanese)
Mirecle Pine Rescue Project: Facebook Page (English)

A Photo of the Miracle Pine taken in 2007 among the 70,000 other trees that were destroyed