Jiji PressMINAMISOMA, Fukushima (Jiji Press)— The Emperor and Empress attended an annual national tree-planting festival, the last such event for the couple, in the tsunami-hit city of Minamisoma in Fukushima Prefecture, on Sunday.
The ceremony was held at a site in the city’s Shidoke coastal district, where trees are being planted to prevent tsunami damage.
At the beginning of the 69th national tree-planting festival, the Imperial couple and other participants offered silent prayers for victims of the March 2011 giant tsunami triggered by a magnitude-9 earthquake that mainly struck Fukushima and other prefectures in the Tohoku region.
Then, the Emperor and Empress planted saplings of six tree species, including Japanese black pine and Japanese red pine, and sowed seeds of four tree species.
The couple looked at saplings of Chinese hackberry planted at the site. The hackberry saplings were grown from seeds collected at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo and passed from Nagano Prefecture to Toyama Prefecture and then to Fukushima as a symbol of postdisaster reconstruction. Nagano and Toyama prefectures hosted the 67th tree-planting festival in 2016 and the 68th festival in 2017, respectively.
This year’s tree-planting festival will be the last such event with the participation of the Emperor and Empress, with the current Emperor set to step down from the throne at the end of April 2019.
The next annual festival, to be held in Aichi Prefecture in May 2019, will be attended by current Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako after they become the new Emperor and Empress at the start of that month.