OISCA — Tree Planting Day
Dear Family and Friends,
OISCA is Japan’s Johnny Appleseed. It is not an individual, and it does not stick to apple trees. But it serves the same purpose as Johnny: creating forests. OISCA is Japan’s oldest NPO. For fifty plus years it has devoted itself to reestablishing life via planting trees in places devastated by war or natural disasters.
When the infamous tsunami of 03/11 devoured the Northeast coast of Japan, OISCA immediately made itself available for assistance. Since then, both professionals and volunteers have worked tirelessly on a vast reforestation project in Miyagi. It will take ten years, but OISCA thinks long term and does very careful and precise planning. And sure enough, their vision of a coastal black pine forest is gradually taking shape.
Most of this project is done by local volunteers. After all, they are the ones who will live here long after OISCA’s work is completed.
In addition, each of us short-term volunteers had received an instruction package in the mail. We were told what to bring, what to wear, how the day would be organized, and how to plant the small saplings.
Likewise, before we arrived, OISCA staff had painted sticks with a blue tip and had placed each one where the trees were to be planted.
The work was to take place behind Sendai Airport. When we arrived there, men with very clear signs were waiting for us. They politely showed us where the buses were to transport us to the site.
There were 350 volunteers in all. Since most of us had no real experience, OISCA staff carefully demonstrated exactly what we should do.
Each pair was responsible for one long row. So we all followed our line of blue-tipped sticks that paralleled the coast. Dig, plant, stomp, spread. Dig, plant, stomp, spread.
After we finished, there were speeches of appreciation. The Vice President of OISCA said how deeply he loved the people of this area. He told a story about an incident that had deeply impressed him. After the earthquake banks were giving people a bit of cash, about $300. One day an old woman came to give back what she had received. “I gratefully took this money,” she explained. “But when I got home, my son had also gotten some. I felt that two people in one family getting money was not fair to others, so I’ve come to return what I was given.”
“Now how can you not love and deeply respect people like that?” the Vice President said. Then he continued, “I’m old now, so I won’t see this forest in its full glory. But many of you will. And pine trees are very sensitive. They carry the spirits of those who died here. And they will carry our spirits and intentions as they grow and stand strong for centuries.”
Just then, someone pointed to the sky and said, “Look!” It a very clear day, but overhead was an unusual rainbow. One part of it was a circle. Another formed two perfect wings.
Indeed, the spirits of those before us were there. Surely they were hovering close, lifting the veil between us and them, and showering us with their blessings.