One of the greatest treasures at the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum is the nearly 400-year-old bonsai known as the “Yamaki pine.” Donated to the Museum by Japanese bonsai master Mr. Masaru Yamaki, the tree survived the 1945 atomic blast, which occurred two miles from the Yamaki home. Thirty years after the bombing, Yamaki donated the tree to the U.S. National Arboretum as part of a larger gift of 53 bonsai from the Nippon Bonsai Association.
Earlier this month, the Museum was honored to host his son, the Honorable Yasuo Yamaki, as part of a delegation from Hiroshima’s regional government assembly. Their visit coincided with an announcement from the White House that President Obama will be the first U.S. President to visit Hiroshima this week.
Speaking through a translator at the Museum, Mr. Yasuo Yamaki said he remembers the tree from his childhood. “The Yamaki pine is the equivalent of my father’s son,” he told the gathering. “That is how much this bonsai was valued by my father.” Mentioning two of the most prominent bonsai in Japan – one that sits outside the imperial palace and one inside the palace from the dynasty of the 17th century ruler Tokugawa Iemitsu – he said the Yamaki pine is as revered as those two treasured trees.
“My father would be proud that this tree is a symbol of peace,” Mr. Yasuo Yamaki said. “My sincere hope is that this bonsai continues to grow as a bridge between the United States and Japan thanks to all your efforts and care. Today it is even more beautiful than when it was in Japan. I am very grateful for that.”
This is not the first time the Museum has welcomed members of the Yamaki family. In 2001, Mr. Yasuo Yamaki’s sons, Shigeru and Akira, came to the Museum in search of their grandfather’s tree. Because that bonsai was donated to the Museum before they were born, it was their first time seeing it.
Since that time, members of the Arboretum staff have continued to learn about the tree’s history from the Yamaki family. During his recent visit to Washington, D.C., Mr. Yasuo Yamaki shared historic photos of the family’s bonsai nursery.
“It’s wonderful to see how many people who visit the Arboretum engage with the Yamaki pine,” Arboretum Director Richard Olsen told the Japanese visitors. “It’s an honor that you have entrusted us with it.”
Also during the visit, Sandra Moore and Kazumi Wilds, author and illustrator of the children’s book, The Peace Tree from Hiroshima: The Little Bonsai with a Big Story, presented each member of the Hiroshima delegation with signed copies of the book.
The National Bonsai & Penjing Museum is the most visited site at the National Arboretum. Many visitors go there in search of the famous Yamaki pine. The tree is currently on view in the Museum’s outdoor courtyard but will move to a special place in the renovated Japanese Pavilion in the fall 2016.