When the late Emperor Hirohito (known posthumously as Emperor Showa) was the Crown Prince, he visited Taiwan in 1923 (Taisho 12) and received a warm welcome from the Taiwanese people. To commemorate his visit to Taiwan, the Emperor planted Japanese cherry trees himself, and they have firmly rooted to this day. Consequently, as a symbol to further deepen ties between Taiwan and Japan and to promote world peace, the campaign for the homecoming of Japanese cherry trees has been promoted by the Association for the Promotion of Homecoming of Japanese Cherry Trees Overseas since the new Reiwa era started on May 1, 2019. On that day, the then Crown Prince Naruhito ascended the Imperial Throne, the day after the abdication of Former Emperor Akihito of the Heisei era. Practically, it is said that the scions of some of those Japanese cherry trees and the trees’ stocks for grafting those scions will be returned to Japan, and they are scheduled to be planted in Kitanomaru Park close to the Imperial Palace. Since the Park is under the supervision of the Ministry of the Environment of which I served as the Minister, I am playing a role of the coordinator for this campaign.
The first meeting of the executive directors of the Association was held at the International House of Japan in Roppongi, Tokyo, today. Mr. Hideaki Kase, Chairman of the Association, gave a brief explanation of this campaign, and the executive directors introduced themselves in turn. Half of them were Taiwanese people. Mrs. Yoko Abe, mother of Mr. Shinzo Abe, Former Prime Minister, serves as Honorable Chairperson of the Association. Since this kind of meeting was unfamiliar to me, I was a little nervous. However, the Association has close contact with Taiwan and the Japanese Imperial Family, and the campaign itself is non-political, so I am willing to participate actively in the campaign.