Told from the point of view of the bonsai tree, we follow the three hundred year history of a small pine that is selected from the island of Miyajima by a man named Itaro and passed down from father to son. At first the tree misses the gentle rain and monkeys squawking, but he soon grows to like his new home where he is watered and pruned and shaped into a bonsai tree.
The tree tells of the terrible thing that happened in 1945 when an atomic bomb exploded two miles from his house and how he felt like bowing, as his friend Masaru (his current caretaker) was unharmed. Then, thirty years later, “my life took the most surprising turn of all!” The tree was flown to the National Arboretum in Washington D.C. as a gift to the United States for its 200th birthday. It became a “Peace Tree”.
The next year the tree was most surprised when Masaru, his former caretaker, now old and frail, visited him with his grandson.
This is an endearing story, so much so the title is almost out of sync with the story. Of course, the title will ‘sell’ the book; but the story, told in first person, is a gentle, loving story of the tree’s rich experience in Japan before it was sent to the US. This story is a wonderful way to introduce the history of the relationship between Japan and the United States.
Originally published in San Francisco Book Review 8/2015