Shoji and Akira Yoshimi grow Okinawa pines in Kagoshima for the last 40 years

Shoji and Akira Yoshimi grow Okinawa pines in Kagoshima for the last 40 years

Shoji Yoshimi and his son Akira have continued to look after Okinawa pines in Kagoshima City for the past 40 years.

May 29, 2012 Ikue Nakaima of the Ryukyu Shimpo

In Kagoshima City, there are four Okinawa pines (Pinus luchuensis) growing beside a road with a view of Sakurajima. Kagoshima resident Shoji Yoshimi, who has looked after these pine trees for 40 years, decided to hand on the baton to his son Akira on the occasion of the 40th year of the reversion of Okinawa to Japanese sovereignty. The Yoshimi family has lived in Okinawa and the pine trees remind them of their time in the prefecture.

The Okinawa pines are located in a place called the Ryukyuan’s Pine in a corner of the Iso Way in Yoshino, Kagoshima City. Pine trees have been there since the time of the Satsuma domain. There is a theory the name of the place originates from the fact that Ryukyuan ships visiting Satsuma used a pine tree as a landmark.

In commemoration of the anniversary of the reversion of Okinawa to Japanese sovereignty, in 1973 Naha City presented six Okinawan pines to Kagoshima City and planted them on this site. Shoji, from Tokunoshima Island, managed a gas station in Okinawa from 1953 to 1972, before moving to Kagoshima in 1973. When he heard that there were Okinawa pines in the city, he went to the Ryukyuan’s Pine but found that the pines were about one meter (3.3 feet) tall had been left unattended, surrounded by weeds.

There is no source of water near where the pines are, so through the years Shoji carried water from his home by car every time he went to pull up weeds. To date, two of the pines have died from drought and pine wilt disease, but the remaining four are healthy.

Shoji runs a real-estate business based in Kagoshima, but has expanded it throughout Japan. “I was moved by the kindness of the Okinawan people and how they readily help others carry their baggage. The approach to interacting with others that I learned in Okinawa helped me create a successful business.” He kept taking care of the pines as a way of doing something for Okinawa. He said that it is not that he raised the Okinawa pines but that they have helped him grow. He decided to pass the baton on to his son when he reached the age of 80 and started to experience failing health.

Akira lived in Okinawa until he was in the first year of junior high school and has not been back for about 20 years. But whenever he sees his old school, Futenma Second Elementary School, which is right next to Futenma Air Station, on the television news, he can’t believe how people could study in such a horrible place, and he worries about Okinawan people living alongside bases. “When I see the pine trees, I always think of Okinawa. I really want to protect and look after them carefully,” he said, looking up the pines that are now over five meters (16.4 feet) tall.

(English translation by T&CT, Lima Tokumori and Mark Ealey)

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