Scenic site waiting to bloom

(From right) Chandra, Hong, Lim and Yamazaki planting a young sakura tree at an empty plot of land at the end of the shoplots along Karpal Singh Drive in Penang. — Photos: ZAINUDIN AHAD/The Star

IN a few years, Rinka Sekine will be able to enjoy herself under sakura trees planted on an empty plot of land at Karpal Singh Drive.

The seven-year-old girl was seen watering the trees and digging the soil happily during the Penang Sakura Trees planting programme initiated by the Pink Hibiscus Club.

Rinka’s father, engineer Makoto Sekine, 46, said this was the first time his daughter tried her hands at gardening in Malaysia.

“My parents are gardeners in Japan and Rinka used to help

them in the garden when she was younger.

“She seems to enjoy outdoor activities a lot and we will definitely bring her here after the sakura flowers bloom in the future, ” he said, adding that his family moved to Penang a year ago.

The recent programme saw 60 sakura trees, better known as Tecoma pentaphylla, being planted to beautify the area, besides creating picnic spots for Penangites and tourists in the future.

Miss Penang Yosakoi 2020 Nathalie Hong said sakura trees symbolise good luck, love and eternal spring in Japan.

“Sakura trees bloom around the same time in March just like in Japan. By planting the trees, they will sequester carbon from the air to reduce greenhouse gases.

“They are also a beautiful reminder that we need to protect and conserve natural resources of our Mother Earth.

“As part of our efforts to promote recycling and reduce waste, the strings we use to tie the name tags to the trees are recycled straps from face masks. The name tags will show the name of the donors who have contributed to the cost of purchasing these trees.

“As the trees grow in a few years, locals and tourists will be able to enjoy and appreciate the beautiful scenery against the backdrop of the iconic Penang Bridge, ” she said during the event.

Penang Island City Council (MBPP) assistant landscape architect S.V. Chandra said Tecoma pentaphylla are fast-growing trees.

“It will take between three and five years for sakura trees to start flowering.

“The hot weather and regular rain here will further induce flowering, ” he said.

Event organiser Emi Yamazaki, who is the president of Pink Hibiscus Club, said they aimed to grow 333 sakura trees around Penang in three years.

“We, the Japanese community here, would like to give back to Penang. We have spent around RM6,000 for the 60 sakura trees planted today. It is estimated to take between RM30,000 and RM40,000 to plant 333 sakura trees.

“Currently, we have planted 65 sakura trees in Penang, including five at the Esplanade.

“We will be launching an online donation site for people all over the world to take part in this programme.

“Even if the donors are not physically here, they can dedicate the trees for a good cause or to their loved ones. We will present them with a certificate for their good deed, ” she said.

Meanwhile, Sungai Pinang assemblyman Lim Siew Khim lauded the initiative to help make Penang greener.

“When the sakura trees bloom, this will become another much-anticipated attraction for both tourists and locals.

“I look forward to an opportunity to sit down under these trees for a night picnic just like how they do it in Japan during their famous sakura season, ” she added.

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