Sun, Jan 28, 2007 - Page 11 News List

Hitachi Ltd to pay US$400,000 for use of famous tree

AP , HONOLULU

Japanese electronics maker Hitachi Ltd has agreed to pay US$400,000 a year to feature Moanalua Gardens' giant monkeypod tree in its advertisements and corporate literature over the next decade.

Hitachi, which makes televisions, appliances, cellphones and other electronics, has used the 15m-high tree known for its umbrella-shaped canopy as a corporate symbol since 1973.

"Everyone in Japan knows this tree," said Kaeta Yoshida, a 20-year-old Tokyo resident who was taking pictures under the tree on Thursday.

John Philip "JP" Damon, great-grandson to the founder of the US$900 million Damon Estate, recently bought the 9-hectare site from the estate for US$5.05 million.

Many worried that the gardens on Oahu, Hawaii, would be sold to a developer, but Damon says he wants to keep the park open to the public.

Before that, the Estate of Samuel Mills Damon told Hitachi officials that it could no longer guarantee exclusive rights to the tree in its marketing because it was selling the park.

The Hitachi contract could help the gardens stay open and will pay for a large slice of the gardens' annual operating expenses, about US$600,000 a year to maintain, insure and staff. Hitachi previously paid US$20,000 a year to use the tree's image.

The tree is a vital symbol of Hitachi's worldwide business and corporate identity, much like Nike's swoosh or Prudential Insurance's rock, said Osamu Hayakawa, the sales and marketing director for Japanese-language channel Nippon Golden Network.

The area was the one-time home of Prince Lot, who became King Kamehameha V and had a summer cottage at the park which now lies alongside one of the busiest stretches of island freeway.

Monkeypod trees have been a part of the gardens since the turn of the last century and were acquired by Samuel Mills Damon as seedlings during a trip to Africa.

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