Feb. 23 - Pine trees which survived the quake and tsunami that ravaged northern Japan last March become symbols of hope and resilience. Chris Meyers reports.
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PLEASE NOTE: EDIT CONTAINS CONVERTED 4:3 MATERIAL
When Japan's massive tsunami last march swept through the coastal city of Rikuzentakata, in addition to the damage caused to buildings and human life, it also wiped out the town's famous pine forest.
There were more than 60,000 pine trees along the coast. Of those, only one survived.
For residents such as Seiko Handa it became a symbol of hope where the city itself lost nearly 10% of its population to the wave.
SOUNDBITE: Seiko Handa, resident of Rikuzentakata, saying (Japanese):
"We didn't have any hope at the time. So even having one survive really was like having a beam of light shining through the darkness."
The tree, which is more than 250 years old, survived the tsunami but the salt water left behind is slowly killing it.
The tree itself has already begun to rot from the inside but thanks to the city's forest office, all was not lost.
SOUNDBITE: Kazunari Takahashi, Rikuzentakata Forest, Fisheries and Agriculture Department, saying (Japanese):
"We took a graft from the tree as one method to keep the tree's heritage alive. We also took the pine cones and the few remaining seeds to raise its successors."
The Japan finance ministry itself has adopted the single pine tree as the design for its new reconstruction commemorative coins.
Finance Minister Jun Azumi.
SOUNDBITE: Japan's Finance Minister, Jun Azumi, saying (Japanese):
"We decided to use this design in the hope of recovery for east Japan as it has doves flying above a symbol of one of the places that was damaged."
Rikuzentakata's pine tree has become the most famous, but further south in Kesennuma one pine tree that was found sprouting through the concrete has become another symbol for regrowth.
SOUNDBITE: KATSUSHI SATO, resident of Kesennuma, saying (Japanese):
"It's still pretty small, but it's doing it's best. I'd have to say it's somehow kind of encouraging."
As the northern coast of Japan looks to recover, many have turned to these pine trees as symbols of perseverance in the face of what can seem to be insurmountable odds.
Chris Meyers, Reuters, Rikuzentakata.
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