Menus Subscribe Search

Follow us


images

Miracle’s Miraculousness Appears to Increase With Distance From Its Cost

• March 13, 2013 • 9:33 AM

images

This week’s two-year anniversary of the March 11, 2011 Japan tsunami has revived interest in the curious story of the Rikuzentakata Miracle Pine. What you think of the story tends to reflect the language in which you read it, however.

The only remnant of a coastal forest washed away in the tide, the pine is widely cited in international press accounts as a symbol of  local resilience amid the tragedy. Before the tsunami, the pine had been part of a 70,000-tree greenbelt dating to the Edo period. The tsunami felled the other 69,999 trees in the space of a few minutes.

The problem came a few months later, when recovery crews took a good look at the tree. Saltwater had infected the local groundwater, rotting its roots. Though standing, the Miracle Pine was nearly dead.

images-1

Cutting the Miracle Pine down last fall. It was sent to a lumberyard 3000 miles away for treatment and reconstruction.

Last fall, local and federal officials in Japan hatched a plan to convert the Miracle Pine into a monument to the more than 19,000 people lost in the tsunami. They decided to chop the tree down, cut it into nine sections, limb several weakened branches, and hollow out diseased parts of the roots and trunk. After several months work, they would re-assemble the tree around a new, carbon fiber strut installed in the trunk and re-attach the limbs, with some plastic leaves. The sculpture/tree hybrid was re-assembled over the past several weeks, in time for this week’s second anniversary of the tsunami.

The resulting conversation around the tree revealed a split in local and international appetites for sentimentality—and money. Most non-Japanese accounts of the 150 million Yen ($1.5 million) project have been overwhelmingly positive: a “symbol of hope for thousands of people,” said Australia’s News.au. That’s pretty typical of Anglophone reaction.

Japanese reaction is more mixed. From an account in Japan Today.

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.

Those who spoke to the Daily Yomuri were less flip but perhaps more melancholy.

“I feel rather miserable” as the pine tree is no longer alive, farmer Katsuteru Hatakeyama, 71, said.

“The lone pine tree has already been impressed on our minds, so I think it has fulfilled its role,” said a 60-year-old woman, who declined to be named.

While inspirational outside the country, the tree is showing up as the butt of jokes in conversations about other tsunami-recovery themes. A typical comment from the EXSKF blog, which tracks the tsunami’s nuclear power angle:

Could embalming the mangled Fukushima reactors in plastic resin be the answer???

Marc Herman

A weekly roundup of the best of Pacific Standard and PSmag.com, delivered straight to your inbox.

Recent Posts

November 26 • 4:00 PM

Turmoil at JPMorgan

Examiners are reportedly blocked from doing their job as “London Whale” trades blow up.


November 26 • 2:00 PM

Rich Kids Are More Likely to Be Working for Dad

Nepotism is alive and well, especially for the well-off.


November 26 • 12:00 PM

How Do You Make a Living, Taxidermist?

Taxidermist Katie Innamorato talks to Noah Davis about learning her craft, seeing it become trendy, and the going-rate for a “Moss Fox.”


November 26 • 10:28 AM

Attitudes About Race Affect Actions, Even When They Don’t

Tiny effects of attitudes on individuals’ actions pile up quickly.


November 26 • 10:13 AM

Honeybees Touring America


November 26 • 10:00 AM

Understanding Money

In How to Speak Money, John Lanchester explains how the monied people talk about their mountains of cash.


November 26 • 8:00 AM

The Exponential Benefits of Eating Less

Eating less food—whole food and junk food, meat and plants, organic and conventional, GMO and non-GMO—would do a lot more than just better our personal health.


November 26 • 6:00 AM

The Incorruptible Bodies of Saints

Their figures were helped along by embalming, but, somehow, everyone forgot that part.


November 26 • 4:00 AM

The Geography of Real Estate Markets Is Shifting Under Our Feet

Policies aimed at unleashing supply in order to make housing more affordable are relying on outdated models.



November 25 • 4:00 PM

Is the Federal Reserve Bank of New York Doing Enough to Monitor Wall Street?

Bank President William Dudley says supervision is stronger than ever, but Democratic senators are unconvinced: “You need to fix it, Mr. Dudley, or we need to get someone who will.”


November 25 • 3:30 PM

Cultural Activities Help Seniors Retain Health Literacy

New research finds a link between the ability to process health-related information and regular attendance at movies, plays, and concerts.


November 25 • 12:00 PM

Why Did Doctors Stop Giving Women Orgasms?

You can thank the rise of the vibrator for that, according to technology historian Rachel Maines.


November 25 • 10:08 AM

Geography, Race, and LOLs

The online lexicon spreads through racial and ethnic groups as much as it does through geography and other traditional linguistic measures.


November 25 • 10:00 AM

If It’s Yellow, Seriously, Let It Mellow

If you actually care about water and the future of the species, you’ll think twice about flushing.


November 25 • 8:00 AM

Sometimes You Should Just Say No to Surgery

The introduction of national thyroid cancer screening in South Korea led to a 15-fold increase in diagnoses and a corresponding explosion of operations—but no difference in mortality rates. This is a prime example of over-diagnosis that’s contributing to bloated health care costs.



November 25 • 6:00 AM

The Long War Between Highbrow and Lowbrow

Despise The Avengers? Loathe the snobs who despise The Avengers? You’re not the first.


November 25 • 4:00 AM

Are Women More Open to Sex Than They Admit?

New research questions the conventional wisdom that men overestimate women’s level of sexual interest in them.


November 25 • 2:00 AM

The Geography of Innovation, or, Why Almost All Japanese People Hate Root Beer

Innovation is not a product of population density, but of something else entirely.


November 24 • 4:00 PM

Federal Reserve Announces Sweeping Review of Its Big Bank Oversight

The Federal Reserve Board wants to look at whether the views of examiners are being heard by higher-ups.



November 24 • 2:00 PM

That Catcalling Video Is a Reminder of Why Research Methods Are So Important

If your methods aren’t sound then neither are your findings.


November 24 • 12:00 PM

Yes, Republicans Can Still Win the White House

If the economy in 2016 is where it was in 2012 or better, Democrats will likely retain the White House. If not, well….


November 24 • 11:36 AM

Feeling—Not Being—Wealthy Cuts Support for Economic Redistribution

A new study suggests it’s relative wealth that leads people to oppose taxing the rich and giving to the poor.


Follow us


Attitudes About Race Affect Actions, Even When They Don’t

Tiny effects of attitudes on individuals' actions pile up quickly.

Geography, Race, and LOLs

The online lexicon spreads through racial and ethnic groups as much as it does through geography and other traditional linguistic measures.

Feeling—Not Being—Wealthy Cuts Support for Economic Redistribution

A new study suggests it's relative wealth that leads people to oppose taxing the rich and giving to the poor.

Sufferers of Social Anxiety Disorder, Your Friends Like You

The first study of friends' perceptions suggest they know something's off with their pals but like them just the same.

Standing Up for My Group by Kicking Yours

Members of a minority ethnic group are less likely to express support for gay equality if they believe their own group suffers from discrimination.

The Big One

One in two United States senators and two in five House members who left office between 1998 and 2004 became lobbyists. November/December 2014

Copyright © 2014 by Pacific Standard and The Miller-McCune Center for Research, Media, and Public Policy. All Rights Reserved.