Japan Earthquake & Tsunami Emergency Relief

Japan Earthquake & Tsunami Emergency Relief (174th report)
Praying for the happiness of Tohoku children: 11 Prayer Trees

[TOKYO, JAPAN, 7 December 2012]

On the evening of 2 December a bell rang over Kesennuma Town in Miyagi Prefecture. Eyes grew large with excitement as the festive Christmas lights gave life to an eight-meter Big Prayer Tree. Children, who had been patiently waiting for this moment, jumped with joy as the audience cheered.

Building on efforts from 2011, the Japan Committee for UNICEF (JCU) set up an eight-meter "Big Prayer Tree" in Kesennuma Yokocho (Kesennuma Alley) in Fukko Yatai Mura (Reconstruction Village) in Kesennuma City, Miyagi Prefecture. The tree was decorated with ornaments created by professional designers and art college students from across Japan, representing the nation's prayers for the children of the Tohoku region.

The UNICEF Prayer Tree Project was launched to deliver smiles to the faces of children affected by the disaster and to make the holiday season more enjoyable. Through this project, children create ornaments with their own hands, which are then used to decorate Big Prayer Trees. These trees stand as symbols of hope for Tohoku children at 11 different locations across Japan—five in Tokyo and six in the Tohoku region.

The Kesennuma tree was the last to go up and owes itself to the efforts JCU Kanagagawa and 18 UNICEF Prayer Tree Project volunteers that traveled from Tokyo for the event. The tree was erected in Kesennuma Yokocho (Kesennuma Alley) in Fukko Yatai Mura (Reconstruction Village), a congregation of small restaurants that were damaged by the tsunami. At the centre of Kesennuma Yokocho stands the eight-meter Kizuna no To tower; eight meters is a reminder of the height of the tsunami. For the purpose of this event, the tower was transformed into a Christmas tree and decorated with the hand-made ornaments.

Setting up the Big Prayer Tree.

As volunteers worked to set up the tree, a workshop was held where the children were given the chance to create their own ornaments. One child who participated in last year's workshop showed up first thing in the morning. Another girl who was unable to make it on time because of school made an extra trip in the afternoon just to participate. One thing was absolutely clear: the children had really been looking forward to the day of the event.

Kesennuma children creating their own ornaments.
A Big Prayer Tree set up in Tokyo.

In the evening, Kesennuma's Big Prayer Tree took life as its lights were turned on before an audience of children and storeowners. Head of Kesennuma Yokocho, Hiroshi Wako, told the crowd that, "I am sure that this tree will provide our town with hope, vision and great courage."

Big Prayer Trees will be on display at each location until 25 December. December marks the one year and nine month anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake. Countless people are still suffering from the impact of this disaster. The Big Prayer Tree project aims to build on efforts from last year, providing an opportunity for people to join hands and pray for Tohoku children. Please take the time to visit one of the locations and witness the great efforts made across Japan that went into creating these ornaments, and the important role the workshops play in delivering smiles to the faces of affected children.

All photo credits: © Japan Committee for UNICEF

Tokyo locations

Yurakucho LOFT 1F rear right, near the stationery section
Ginza Mitsukoshi 1F west-side entrance
Matsuya Ginza Special event space in the centre of 1F
Lumine Yurakucho 1F/8F restaurant floor
Shiseido The Ginza 1F beauty goods sales floor

Tohoku locations

Kesennuma Alley,
Reconstruction Village
Kizuna Hiroba
Sendai Mitsukoshi Jozenji Dori Building, 1F, Hikari no Hiroba
Sendai LOFT 2F east side entrance
Semdao Nagamachi LOFT Next to the 2F up escalator
Morioka LOFT Next to the 6F up escalator
Akita LOFT Next to the 2F escalator

Big Prayer Trees will be on display until 25 December.

Unicef Big Prayer Tree Project website (Japanese) »

pdfClick here for the one-year report (PDF)  »