HIROSHIMA--Amid the ashes of his hometown destroyed by an atomic bomb, teenager Kazuzo Tagashira started to grow roses and watched them start blooming across the bombed-out ruins here.

Tagashira decided to devote his entire life to raising and breeding the roses in the hopes that world peace would similarly bloom in the future.

“We cannot resort to force in raising plants, and what is most important is carefully taking care of them,” said Tagashira, now 88. “If paying careful attention, they will bloom beautifully. If we do not supply sufficient water, they will wither. Plants are just like peace.”

Tagashira, a horticulturist in Hatsukaichi, Hiroshima Prefecture, created a rose species named Hiroshima Appeal, which was among the flowers sent from Hiroshima to Germany as part of an international exchange program using roses.

In return for the flowers, a rose called Friedenspark Hiroshima--which in German means the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park--was sent from Eltville in western Germany in 1999, according to the Hiroshima Botanical Garden.

The light yellow rose has characteristic recurved petals, and their tips are relatively sharp.

While the rose is not well known in Japan, visitors can see the species when in bloom in a flower bed near the Children's Peace Monument in the park in Hiroshima’s Naka Ward.

When the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, Tagashira was 16.

Shortly after he spotted something white falling in the sky from a window of a train heading for a suburban munitions plant, a strong flash of light struck the train.

Tagashira returned to his home in Hiroshima’s Kamitenma-cho (present-day Nishi Ward) while running through streets filled with corpses. Although his house survived a fire, his younger brother never returned.

A little later, an old man called “Mr. Kimura” moved to a residence behind Tagashira’s home. Although people criticized him, saying cultivating flowers in such a difficult time was inappropriate or that he was an unpatriotic person, Kimura continued growing roses.

Kimura planted branches that had survived the fire after the atomic bombing and grew them so they would bear beautiful pinkish flowers again. As Tagashira was entranced by the beauty of the roses, Kimura presented one of his seedlings to Tagashira and asked him to “grow it lovingly.”

Since then, Tagashira has devoted his entire life to raising and breeding roses.

He dug up burnt ruins and supplied fertilizer, leading to an increasing number of flowers blooming in Hiroshima. Tagashira later began working in the horticulture industry and won a prize in an international rose growing competition.

In the 1970s, Tomin Harada, a surgeon who committed himself to treating victims of atomic bombings, who died at age 87 in 1999, proposed an international interaction program through roses.

Inspired by the effort, Tagashira has developed new rose species, such as Hiroshima Appeal and Peacemaker, and donated them to countries and regions throughout the globe.

The campaign spread across Japan.

Keiko Kitanishi, 70, who lives in Suita, Osaka Prefecture, bought some roses, after reading a newspaper article about the activity. Her efforts eventually resulted in the setting up of a flower bed in a park in Suita, where 450 roses, including Tagashira’s Red Hiroshima, are planted.

“We can promote peace just by growing roses instead of calling for peace in public,” Kitanishi said.

Tagashira is still working to create new species at his own rose garden. He said he is currently considering including the word “Hiroshima” in the name of a new rose with beautiful round petals of pink-red and orange colors.


In addition to Friedenspark Hiroshima, many roses in season blossom in full glory in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, such as one named after Anne Frank, who is famed for her diary detailing her life in hiding in the face of persecution by Nazi Germany. Another rose is named after Albert Schweitzer, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who called for abolition of nuclear testing in a radio show.

According to the Hiroshima city government’s division that manages the park, there are a total of 14 species in the park that are usually in full bloom until early June. They are also fully in bloom in autumn.