Two cherry blossom trees in front of the Japanese Cultural Community Center of Northern California were “completely vandalized” on Tuesday morning, leaving no hope for flowers this year.
The trees, which were destroyed down to the trunk, were the first to be planted in San Francisco’s Japantown in over 50 years, following the removal of all trees in the area by the city’s Redevelopment Agency in the 1960s and ’70s.
As seen in images posted on Facebook, not a single branch was left of the trees for any flower to bloom from.
“This was not simply a passerby trying to break a branch off for fun. Someone took their time breaking off every branch,” wrote Paul Osaki, executive director at the cultural center. “This was no easy task as some of the larger branches were over 3 inches thick and the trees [were] 12 to 15 feet high.”
Osaki called the incident a “violent assault.”
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The cultural center will submit a surveillance video as evidence. The video shows the damage beginning on New Year’s Night and spanning over the course of three days, as the assaulter hacked away at the tree.
Cherry blossoms, known as “sakura” in Japan, are the country’s unofficial national flower. They bloom in spring and symbolize renewal.
However, this blooming season is short-lived, lasting only up to two weeks. For this reason, they also symbolize the fleeting nature of life. The trees have been destroyed beyond the point of repair on their own.
They were planted at the cultural center in 1994 to honor the emperor and empress of Japan during their visit. According to the organization, another tree was vandalized in a similar fashion two years ago.
“They weren’t regular street trees to us,” Osaki told ABC7 News. “We planted them with intent, purpose and culture in mind.”
Osaki expects the police to treat it as a hate crime.
“This is very tragic news,” the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival said of the matter, according to the Sacramento Bee.“We are so sorry for your loss. We look forward to cherry blossoms every year, and to see this vandalism is heartbreaking.”
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