It was an historical occasion when the Afrikaans Taal Monument in Paarl on Wednesday 26 September played witness to the planting of a sapling from a tree that survived the atom bomb in Hiroshima in 1945.

The sapling is a gift from the people of Japan to the people of South Africa and represents their wish for healing and prosperity for all South Africa’s people. The tree planting ceremony formed part of the launch of the One World Festival.

The Drakenstein Municipality, Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport, Institute for the Healing of Memories and the Japanese Consulate collaborate with Camissa Solutions to make this year’s event possible.

Several high-ranking government officials, partners in the event, and other interested parties attended the ceremony.

The first Japanese slave arrived in Cape Town in 1657, indicating that South Africa have much longer historical ties with Japan than most people might suspect. The Japanese are also this year celebrating 100 years of Consular presence in Cape Town and on the African continent.

The sapling was planted at the Taal Monument in a protected environment and will be cared for and nurtured into maturity.

At the ceremony Conrad Poole, mayor of Drakenstein Municipality, announced that the R301, the road that leads to the Drakenstein Correctional Facility where former pres. Nelson Mandela spent his last years in incarceration, will be renamed the Nelson Mandela Freedom Road.

“Tata Madiba was a pure example of somebody who made a difference in somebody else’s life. Although it is a tree that we are planting, I firmly believe in this hall are a few trees – and they are in the form of human beings – that can give to other people to enrich their lives.”

Mr. Yasushi Naito, Consul of Japan in Cape Town, said: “The tree which is being planted today is Ginkgo Survivor Tree. Green Legacy Hiroshima Project has initiated a worldwide campaign to send seeds of trees, which have survived the Atomic Bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 73 years ago, to cities around the world including Cape Town.

“Seeds are sent with a message of peace, hope, resilience and friendship. Mr Adam Harrower of South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) was very kind to have grown the seeds to saplings in Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden and facilitated planting these at various places around the Cape as a monument of friendship with the people of Hiroshima and of Japan. And I am happy that Mr Harrower is with us today.

“Ms Tomoko Watanabe, co-founder of Green Legacy Hiroshima who visited Cape Town last year, told me that the very first tree, which encouraged the people of Hiroshima devastated by the bomb was nothing but sprouts of these trees shooting out from the burned soil as if to tell people, ‘you must live and you must be strong’. I am happy for this opportunity today to spread these seeds carrying the powerful message of peace to Paarl, knowing that the trees will be cared for by the hands of friends in Paarl.

“Also amongst us is Kyoko Kimura Morgan, founder of Origami for Africa, presenting paper cranes symbolizing a prayer for peace.

“In August 1918, the government of Japan established the first official mission on the African continent in the form of the Japanese Consulate. Japan’s presence in Africa started in Cape Town.

“This year the Japanese Consulate in Cape Town celebrates 100 years in the Cape and it is an honour for me to plant this tree today at the Taal Monument in the spirit of peace, hope, and friendship.

“Looking further back, we see many footprints of Japan in the Cape. From what I read, the first Japanese person recorded to have arrived in South Africa came here just 10 years after Jan van Riebeek.

“The Second Commander, Zacharias Wagenaer who served as a VOC captain at Dejima, an island in Nagasaki where limited trade was allowed during isolation, arrived in Cape Town with “Anthonyj de Later van Japan” in 1662 and freed him in 1666. Anthonyj was allowed to own a piece of land and a house at the corner of Adderley and Strand Streets where you find Woolworths today and that block became the “Cradle of Commerce” of the Mother City.

“Cape Town is a scramble juncture of culture and history where people meet and go. People from Japan also came here at different periods for unknown ventures and became part of the evolution of Africa. This inspiration strengthens our commitment to this land and makes us look forward to working toward common aspiration, achieving prosperous and peaceful Africa.

“There are some 240 Japanese residents in the Cape, many of them are permanent residents who have strong affection and identity with the local community. Recently we are also observing encouraging signs of Japanese investment in the Cape. Since 2016, no less than 6 major Japanese companies opened their offices with investments, including; Nomura International and Panasonic.

“These companies form part of 140 Japanese companies which have a growing interest in and have set up base in South Africa, most of these bases overseeing operations throughout the whole of Sub-Saharan Africa. They are very eager to seek further partnerships in sectors including Automotive, Energy, Mining, Science/Technology and Innovation.

“Japan is willing to make a sizable contribution in the form of investment to South Africa, the significance of Japanese investment being not only on capital but with robust sharing of success models, expertise, experience and human resource development.

“Throughout the past 70 years after World War II, the Japanese Government has been sharing its experience and industrial expertise through Official Development Assistance. The remarkable emergence of economies in Asia is testimony of what can be achieved through the sharing of experience and now our focus is more on the African continent.

“Japan, being a former underdeveloped nation with experience of overcoming devastations, has strong aspirations of making contributions towards sustainable and inclusive development of the world.

“It is a happy and honoured coincidence that this year the world celebrates the 100th anniversary of the birth of the late President Nelson Mandela who was released from Drakenstein Correctional Centre (formerly Victor Verster Prison) in February 1990.

“In recalling Mr Mandela, I am honoured to have been the first Japanese person to have met him after his release. Mr Mandela used to have a strong interest in the reconstruction of Japan, and how the nation demonstrated ownership and resilience to become the master of its own destiny.

“As our Foreign Minister Kono said at the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit in New York this week, Japan commits itself to Mr Mandela’s vision for humanity and wishes to become part of the inclusive story of Africa.

“In conclusion, I hope the Ginko Survivor Tree becomes another monument of the long- standing ties between the Cape and Japan. My wish is that these seeds of friendship and peace grow well into the next 100 years.”   

Daniel Johnson, spokesperson for Dr Ivan Meyer, Western Cape MEC for Finance and also responsible for International Relations, said on dr Meyer’s behalf: “The establishment of the Japanese Consulate in Cape Town in 1918 was not only the first of its kind in Cape Town but also on the African continent and signalled the start of a relationship which has grown from strength to strength over the past 100 years.

“The nature of this relationship prompted the Japanese Government to donate a stone lantern bearing the inscription, “an appreciation to kindness and hospitality shown to Japanese Emigrants to the City of Cape Town in 1932. The kindness and hospitality, something which sadly has become such a scarce commodity in the world today, has since been reciprocated many times over.

“The planting of the sapling symbolises not only the future growth potential of this relationship, but also the resilience of a relationship that has withstood many challenges over the past 100 years but remains resolute in our commitment to make this world a better place for all our citizens.”

This is the third year the festival will be presented as a celebration of spring, renewal, diversity and our common humanity. The venue is the Arboretum next to the Berg River –  a picture-perfect, exquisite setting for a festival. 

The One World Festival happens on Saturday 6 and Sunday 7 October and gates open at 14h00. Tickets cost R250 for a weekend pass and R150 for a day pass at Computicket and Shoprite and Checkers.

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