The cherry trees in Little Tokyo have the will to live

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Photos: Anna Chen/Metro

Yesterday morning, children from the Fukushima Aiikuen orphanage joined Thomas O Kelly from the Sakura Rescue Project, the Japan America Society of Southern California and other representatives at a sakura cherry tree dedication ceremony which took place at the Little Tokyo/Arts District Station. Three trees were named in honor of Fukushima Aiikuen: Spirit of Iwako-sensei, named for the founder of Fukushima Aiikuen Iwako Uryu; Fuko, meaning luck and happiness, named by the boys of the orphanage; and Momorin, a cute nickname meaning “peach pal,” named by the girls of the orphanage.

The dedication ceremony commemorates the first Fukushima Youth Cultural Exchange Program visit organized by Japan America Society of Southern California.

Sakura trees are a large part of Japanese culture, and 16 sakura trees were planted behind the Little Tokyo/Arts District Station upon completion of the Gold Line Eastside Extension. Over the years, only 13 of the 16 trees have survived, and a few months ago the watering of the remaining trees stopped, causing them to wither.

Thomas O Kelly, a resident of Pasadena and frequent visitor to Little Tokyo, took notice of the trees. He asked the nearby Koyasan Buddist Temple if he could use their water, borrowed two 5 gallon containers, purchased a hand cart and began his personal quest to save the sakura. Over the next few months, Mr. Kelly would ride the Gold Line to Little Tokyo to water the trees twice a week, carting approximately 65 gallons of water each visit.

Two weeks ago, this matter was brought to the attention of Metro. Though the trees are outside of Metro’s right of way, they are tied to Metro’s irrigation system. The water was turned back on, and Metro will also replace the 3 sakura trees, bringing the total number back to 16. Metro will work with the community to keep the trees alive and healthy so that future participants of the Fukushima Youth Cultural Exchange Program can enjoy them. 

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5 replies

  1. Are these trees threatened by the reconfiguration of the Little Tokyo Station as part of the Regional Connector?

    • Hi Roger,

      The trees may need to be relocated, but Metro will work with the community to make sure they stick around in Little Tokyo.

      Anna Chen
      The Source, Writer

  2. Elegant – a mature Sakura in full bloom.
    Dazzling – 16 mature Sakuras in full bloom.
    Our hats are off to Mr. O’Kelly for his efforts and his ability to care.
    They will be beautiful – you’ll see.

  3. They need to redesign all the stations so that stations themselves earn the money needed to support on their own.