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Yohei Sasakawa
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Sakura (Cherry Blossom) Tree I Planted in India Blooms [2021/01/08]
The sakura (cherry blossom) tree I planted at the opening ceremony of the Imphal Peace Museum in northeast India in June 2019 comes into bloom.

When I attended the opening ceremony of the Imphal Peace Museum in northeast India in June 2019, marking the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Imphal between Japanese troops and British-led Allied Forces, I was one of 10 Japanese, British and Indian dignitaries who each planted a sakura (cherry blossom) tree.

The Battle of Imphal is often regarded as one of the fiercest battles of World War II. The Nippon Foundation supported the project, launched by the Manipur Tourism Forum, to build a peace museum with the theme of “Peace and Reconciliation” to pass on the story of the cruel conflict to future generations.

In December 2020, I was delighted to receive an email from Mr. Haobam Joyremba, secretary to the tourism forum, saying that among the sakura trees planted at the opening ceremony, only mine had bloomed, as shown on the photo above. It is unusual for a cherry blossom tree to bloom just over a year or so after being planted, delighting people in Imphal, the capital of Manipur State. Some even called it a miracle.

The cherry blossom tree produced its dainty-colored blooms near what is known as Bleached Bones Avenue. This was the escape route used by Japanese soldiers during their retreat after the operation was called off. In all, more than 30,000 Japanese soldiers died−not just in the fierce fighting but also as a result of starvation, disease and exhaustion suffered during their retreat.  

When I think of the spirits of those soldiers who died, my feelings are complicated because I have lived a long life (I turned 82 years old on January 8) in a peaceful country, Japan. I feel very sorry for their sacrifice, but their efforts were never in vain.

Bearing in mind that the precious peace we share today is the legacy of the ultimate suffering of those who fought and fell in battle, we must remind ourselves that our duty is to continue protecting our peaceful society. 

In Japan, the sakura tree is often regarded as a symbol of peace. With its blossoming in Imphal, I wish with all my heart that the peace museum will become a bridge to connect the past and the future to create peace in the world for all time.

Mr. Haobam Joyremba, secretary to the Manipur Tourism Forum, which launched the project to build the Imphal Peace Museum with the support of The Nippon Foundation in June 2019, with the Sakura tree.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 11:43 | FORGING GLOBAL TIES | URL | comment(0)