RIKUZEN-TAKATA, Iwate - The "miracle pine tree" that survived last year's tsunami following the Great East Japan Earthquake was dissected Wednesday.
The tree will be treated with a preservative and installed at the same site in Rikuzen-Takata next February.
The tree--the only survivor of thousands of pines in the scenic Takata Matsubara grove after the tsunami--has been a symbol of emotional support and hope for many locals and was dubbed the "miracle pine tree."
Workers cut branches off the 27-meter-tall tree, which was then dissected into four parts as 100 teary-eyed residents and visitors watched on.
Toshimi Kumagai, 88, lost her son Toshifumi, who worked at an office near the pine grove, in the tsunami.
She sometimes visited the tree with her grandchildren to remember her late son on occasions such as the Bon period in mid-August.
"It's a place that stirs emotions. But I must say goodbye for now," Kumagai said.
"I cannot help but have mixed feelings [about seeing the tree dissected]. But I'm looking forward to seeing the tree come back in a new form," Futoshi Toba, the city's mayor, said.
Pieces of the tree's trunk will be sent to a factory in Aichi Prefecture to be hollowed out and treated with a preservative and the branches will be molded to make replicas.
The root will be discarded around December in favour of a metal pole that will act as support for the tree when it is reinstalled with replica branches in February, nearly two years after the March 11 disaster.