Christchurch Botanic Gardens to honour earthquake deaths with cherry blossoms

By Annabelle Dick

New Zealand World Peace Bell member David Bolam Smith will plant cherry blossom trees in both Christchurch and Japan to honour the lives of the earthquake victims.  Photo / Christchurch Star
New Zealand World Peace Bell member David Bolam Smith will plant cherry blossom trees in both Christchurch and Japan to honour the lives of the earthquake victims. Photo / Christchurch Star

Twenty eight young Japanese language students lost their lives when the CTV building collapsed during the February 22, 2011, quake.

Now eight cherry blossom trees will be planted in the Botanic Gardens to honour their memory.

The trees donated by the city of Ishinomaki, Japan, will be planted at the Botanic Garden's Peace Bell garden next month to honour victims of New Zealand and Japan's quakes.

Members of the Disaster Relief Team from Japan move in to the site of the CTV building in central Christchurch. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Members of the Disaster Relief Team from Japan move in to the site of the CTV building in central Christchurch. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Just weeks later Japan was struck by a devastating 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami killing about 16,000 people. The city of Ishinomaki lost more than 3000 people.

New Zealand World Peace Bell member David Bolam Smith said the commemoration project came about when he met Japanese families and representatives at the five-year anniversary in February.

Zen Buddhist priest, Mr Goto, was there on behalf of one of the families when Mr Bolam Smith invited him to ring the Peace Bell to pray for the Japanese students lost in the CTV building.

Mr Bolam Smith said he was telling Mr Goto about his plans to plant cherry trees from the bell to the river when he offered some help.

"He pulled out his wallet and gave me $500 dollars on the spot and said please plant cherry trees here to remember the people who died in the Christchurch earthquake and the tsunami and quakes in Japan," Mr Bolam Smith said.

After planting trees in Christchurch, Mr Bolam Smith will also travel to Mr Goto's home city of Ishinomaki to return the favour by planting cherry blossoms remembering the victims from both the Christchurch and Japan 2011 quakes.

"We're building a cherry blossom bridge between the two countries," he said.

Ishinomaki is home to a training facility being built for the Rugby World Cup in 2019 and Mr Goto wanted to build the connection between Christchurch and Japan even more for the world cup.

Mr Bolam Smith will travel to the city in September to plant the trees outside the stadium in the presence of the Japan Rugby Football Union and the city mayor.

"The trees and a commemorative plaque will honour the victims of both quakes, our countries friendship and our love of rugby," Mr Bolam Smith said.

Mr Bolam Smith will travel to Japan on September 1.

He's also urging residents to attend the public tree-planting ceremony at the Botanic Garden Peace Bell to remember those who lost their lives on August 11 at 2.30pm.

- Christchurch Star

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