It’s soon to be official, Kobe will win Christmas this year, and with it, all of Santa’s gold.

This year, the city of Kobe is celebrating the 150th anniversary of its port opening to trade with foreign nations, and to round off the year they are planning to celebrate Christmas with the “World’s Number-One Christmas Tree Project.”

The tree in question was selected from the mountains of Himi City in Toyama Prefecture by Sora Botanical Gardens’ “Plant Hunter” Seijun Nishihama. It’s a 150-year-old asunaro (thujopsis in English) tree measuring about 30 meters (98 feet) in height, one meter in diameter, and weighing about 24 tonnes.

This would make the tree taller than all but one of the Rockefeller Center trees (the 1999 tree was 100 feet) and just as old as the internationally opened Kobe Port. There was just the problem of how to transport it 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) from Himi to Kobe.

▼ The scale of the tree compared with conventional trucks

Rather than cutting the tree down, the entire plant was dug up on 10 October with its roots intact. For the next month it was carefully compressed to a movable size and on 5 November it began its journey.

▼ Reenactment

Being transported by vehicles typically used to move Shinkansen cars or rockets, this old tree made its way to Kobe and was planted in a gigantic pot right on the edge of Kobe Port on 17 November.

During the planting ceremony Nishihama was interviewed by media, and when asked what he thinks the transplanted asunaro’s thoughts were, he replied “I guess it’s thinking ‘I’m happy to have traveled this far!'”

Granted it was an odd question to begin with, but considering the tree was taken from the dense mountain forests to a barren patch of concrete right next to the ocean winds I imagine the tree’s thoughts to be more along the lines of, “AHHHHHHGHHHHH! IT BURNS! IT BURNS!”

Although it would be nice for the tree to live on as a natural monument in Kobe, no one expects this plant to be long for this world under such conditions.

That’s why Sora Botanical Gardens is partnering with Kobe-based mail order retailer Felissimo to chop the World’s Number One Christmas Tree up into hundreds of two-centimeter (0.8-inch) balls that will be attached to rubber bracelets and sold for 3,800 yen (US$34) each as an “Asunaro Bangle Fruit of Success.”

▼ However, it (pictured right) is not technically a “bangle” (pictured left)

At this point you might be wondering, “Why go to all that trouble of digging up the tree’s roots if it’s just going to die anyway?”

The answer to that is to make it the World’s Number-One Christmas Tree! By utilizing the roots in an above-ground pot, extra meters are added to the tree’s overall height ensuring that it will be the tallest in the world this year, and thus winning Christmas.

There’s also a Guinness World Record attempt involved, even though the record for “tallest cut tree” is held by Northgate Shopping Center in Seattle for their 67-plus-meter Douglas fir erected back in the 1950s when cutting down really old trees for decoration wasn’t as frowned upon. Nevertheless, the World’s Number-One Christmas Tree in Kobe is still aiming to win a record for the Christmas tree with the most official message ornaments. This highly specific recognition will rank the World’s Number-One Christmas Tree right up there with Puskar Nepal (most self-kicks to the head in one minute) and the Tuna-Gose Executive Committee (longest distance to flow noodles down a bamboo gutter).

The ornaments are made of a reflective material on which a message can be written. The reason for the reflective surface is so that the tree itself requires less electricity to light up, instead relying of sunlight and other surrounding lighting to cleverly give it its sparkle.

There is also the question as to why Kobe is so eager to beat western civilization at their own game when it comes to Christmas trees when Christmas in Japan involves little more than listening to George Michaelfried chicken, and making out.

Actually, the whole Christmas angle is really incidental. According to the organizers, the World’s Number-One Christmas Tree is really meant to be a symbol of the recovery Kobe has made since it was devastated by an earthquake in 1995.

A crowdfunding page for the World’s Number-One Christmas Tree calls it “a symbol of reconstruction and rebirth” and has the slogan “Sparkling Tree of Life.” However, many netizens have been left struggling with how an age-old tree being uprooted, taken away from its home, and then minced into pseudo-bangles is an appropriate symbol of life…the less cynical netizens at least.

Yes, it’s certainly shaping up to be a convoluted Christmas down in Kobe this year. So, why not head on down for the grand lighting on 2 December to share in the celebration this symbol of life soon to become expensive bracelets and possibly win an award named after a beer company, all in the spirit of yuletide oneupmanship on this the sesquicentennial of the opening of a port under duress by the U.S. Navy?

It’s sure to be more interesting than what we do around Christmas.

Tree information
The World’s Number One Christmas Tree / 世界一のクリスマスツリー
Hyogo Prefecture, Kobe City, Chuo Ward, Hatobacho 2, Meriken Park
Various events will run from 2 December to 26 December
Crowdfunding Page
Asunaro Bangle Fruit of Success order page

Source: Buzzap via Hachima Kiko
Top image: PR Times
Images: PR Times (1, 2, 3)