It was frustrating. We had the address or at least we thought we did., but the site was elusive, its location confusing. First we were told it was on one side of the city, then we were told it was on another. And Japanese people, in order not to seem impolite and to appear to be helpful, gave us directions even when they weren’t sure themselves. It seemed we circled the entire city—on buses, lots of walking, even in a cab—several times. IB and I were ready to give up (after all we had a train to catch to Kyoto), but JB was insistent, persistent, even a bit obsessed with getting there. And eventually we did.
One of six gingkos to survive the atomic bomb blast in Hiroshima is located less than a half mile from the epicenter of that blast. Surrounded by a cemetery and the temple Hosen-ji, the closest surviving gingko thrives. Engraved on the tree is “No more Hiroshima.” It is estimated that the tree was planted in 1850. There are 55 survivor trees, Hibaku Jumoku, in total that survived the blast on Aug. 6, 1945.
Though the temple next to it, Hosen-ji, was destroyed after the blast, the tree actually bud the following spring, which is why it is known as the “tree of hope.” When the community considered the rebuilding of the temple some years later, they actually discussed transplanting the gingko or even cutting it down, but finally decided to adjust the architecture of the new temple to fit around the tree (see photo above). When we visited the tree a year and a half ago, it was very early spring so it had not bud yet. But JB collected some dried leaves at its base to give as gifts and with which to make art.
It was totally worth the stress and frustration to find the Hibaku Jumoku at Hosen-ji. It is important to honor the struggle and healing of survivors, but perhaps it is even more important to actively work to remove the cause for the struggle and consequent need for healing in the first place.
Location: 3-3 Tera-machi, Naka-ku. Near Nishihngan-ji and Zensho-ji. Close to Betsuin-mae streetcar stop on line 8 toYokogawa JR station.