It took 25 years for anyone to figure out this bonsai tree survived the Hiroshima bombing.

This Japanese white pine tree is almost 400 years old.

This Japanese white pine is 390 years old, to be exact. Photo by Christa Burns/Flickr.

It lives in the U.S. National Arboretum as part of the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum, where it's the oldest tree in the collection.


It stands just a few feet tall and has carefully pruned piney branches extending from a short, mossy trunk.

Oh, yeah, and it survived the devastating Hiroshima bombing of 1945.

At 8:15 a.m. on Aug. 6, 1945, two American pilots dropped a 9,700-pound atomic bomb over the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Within minutes, the entire city had been leveled. Some accounts say everything within a four-mile radius of the initial blast was incinerated almost instantly.

Except, it seems, for this now-390-year-old Japanese pine tree, which miraculously survived despite being just over two miles away from the center of the blast.

In 1976, the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C., received the tree from Japanese bonsai master Masaru Yamaki in celebration of the American bicentennial.

It wasn't until 2001, 25 years later, when Yamaki's grandsons came to visit the tree in person, that officials learned of its amazing journey.

How could such a tiny thing survive such a massive explosion?

Location, it turns out, and a little bit of luck.



You can barely even tell the tree withstood a massive atomic detonation. Photo by A. Currell/Flickr.

“Location, location, location," Jack Sustic, the bonsai's curator, told The Washington Post. “It was up against a wall. It must have been the wall that shielded it from the blast."

The tree is a true living memorial, and it is being honored this week as we recognize the 70th anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing.

If trees like this bonsai could talk, they'd tell the most amazing stories.

Methuselah is estimated to be about 4,846 years old. Photo by Chao Yen/Flickr.

That towering pine tree outside your window could easily be hundreds of years old. The great redwoods in California can live upwards of 2,000 years. And there's even a tree named "Methuselah" believed to be over 4,800 years old.

But measuring years lived doesn't tell you what a tree has experienced during its lifetime. This bonsai tree could soon actually become one of the last living witnesses to the brutal realities of World War II, and a lesson for all of us to appreciate those close to us lucky enough to come out of the war alive.

The National Arboretum's bonsai tree has already outlived its life expectancy but could continue to thrive for another 100 years or more.

As long as it's alive, so are the stories of the over 200,000 lives lost on Aug. 6, 1945.

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