Sunflower seeds sent to Chichester from Japan as symbol of memory and hope. | Mary Atkinson

Haruka’s Sunflower Blooms in Chichester

This is the story of some very special seeds for a sunflower known as Haruka’s Sunflower (full story below) that were sent all the way from Rikuzentakata in Japan by Kouichi Kimura, local supporter of Cocoro Charity.  I planted the seeds in my garden in Chichester at the beginning of August 2012, too late really for them to sprout. However, I planted them to remind me of the suffering and also the lessons learnt from the strong and courageous local people we met on our recent trip with Cocoro to tsunami- destroyed Rikuzentakata.

Despite the bad weather, the sunflowers continued to grow slowly… until one brave plant flowered on October 3rd 2012. It feels very a important link between UK and Japan, because it flowered whilst the Cocoro team including holistic therapists Rena Kato and Mayu Yamamoto, who have both stayed with us in Chichester, were back working in Rikuzentataka. So special.

Haruka’s Story

The story begins in January 1995, when Haruka Kato, a very kind and popular 11 year old girl, was killed in the terrible Kobe earthquake which destroyed her home. That summer, a beautiful sunflower mysteriously fought its way through the piles of rubble and bloomed in the vacant lot where Haruka’s house had once stood.

Residents took seeds from the sunflower and sowed them as symbols of memory and hope. And then seeds were collected from these sunflowers…. and so it continued with sunflowers sprouting all over Japan and the world. Seeds were sent to USA for the 911 disaster, and to Thailand after the tsunami. And of course, Haruka’s sunflowers were planted in Rikuzentataka after the tsunami to bring strength to the local people who suffered such tragedy and loss.

The sunflower is not just an ordinary flower in Japan anymore, it has become a symbol of hope for all. There is even a book written about Haruka’s sunflower to share the story.

Smiling Flower Story Massage

I had no idea of this wonderful story when we wrote the Smiling Flower Story Massage to take to the children of Rikuzentakata on our Positive Touch for Tsunami Children programme with Cocoro Charity. And now, that I know more about Haruka’s Sunflower, the massage story takes on a whole new meaning. If you would like a free copy of our massage story then please contact me (Mary Atkinson, UK Representative for Cocoro Charity).

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