Hundreds of people joined former Japanese prime minister Yoshiro Mori in planting cherry trees in Greater Tainan yesterday in a gesture to thank Taiwan for its assistance following a massive earthquake and tsunami that battered Japan last year.
Mori, leading a group of 170 Japanese nationals, joined local officials in planting the first batch of 200 cherry trees at the Yoichi Hatta Memorial Park at an event dubbed kizuna, a Japanese word meaning “bond,” to mark the close ties between Japan and Taiwan.
The park is named after a Japanese engineer who built a canal that helped irrigate southern Taiwan in the early 1900s.
Mori and Greater Tainan Mayor William Lai (賴清德) plowed the soil before planting young trees that were grown by grafting a tree species native to Japan onto one indigenous to Taiwan, which the event initiator said symbolized the inseparable bond between the two countries.
Mori said he had planned a trip to Taiwan in May to mark the anniversary of Hatta’s death but decided to squeeze in another visit after hearing about the tree-planting event, so he could personally express Japan’s gratitude to Taiwan for its ￥20 billion (US$247 million) in post-disaster donations.
“Taiwan and Japan have been close friends, and hopefully we can be even closer through this event,” said Mori, who also unveiled a monument nearby and wrote kizuna and the Japanese word for “cherry blossom” on it.
The views were echoed by Lai, who said the planting of Japan’s national flower — the cherry blossom — had strengthened the friendship between Taiwan and Japan. Yang Ming-feng (楊明風), chief of a local agriculture and water development agency, said the agency would work to turn the tree-planting site into one of Taiwan’s largest cherry blossom parks.
The event organizer, a Japanese sports association, had said previously that it planned to plant a total of 5,000 cherry trees in several stages.