A Japanese-born businessman led effort to plant 1,000 cherry trees in Bellbrook. Why?

A Japanese-born businessman, behind the effort to plant 1,000 cherry trees in the Dayton area as an appreciation for America’s help when after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami destroyed parts of his country has doubled the number of trees planted in the region.

Alex Hara, who lives in Beavercreek, said he watched the devastation on television helplessly from thousands of miles away.

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Though saddened by the events, he was inspired by the rapid response of the American military, and the willingness of the American people to donate money, products and time to people half a world away. This was the birth of Operation 1,000 Cherry Trees, now Operation 2,000 Cherry Trees.

Hara has directed the planting of 1,000 trees in Bellbrook and they were in bloom this month.

“We have had such a long winter and seemed spring would never come. But the cherry trees finally started blooming. We have waited for a long time,” he said, adding that those already planted around the Dayton area, “will continue to grow, the blooms will be even more spectacular in a few more years.”

Hara was overjoyed to see after a long winter, the trees had blossomed.

“Cherry trees are coordinated through the Siebenthaler Company, and the real planting includes master gardeners, school children and other volunteers. The trees have been planted at Bellbrook Middle School on Feedwire Road,” said Edward Marrinan of the Greene County Foundation.

The trees add to the city aesthetics, Bellbrook Mayor Bob Baird said.

“The cherry trees will make Bellbrook into a more beautiful place to live and visit for many years to come,” he said.

Kathleen Wright, of the Greene County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said a project like the cherry trees adds to the value of tourism promotion in the area, which can mean a large economic impact on the Bellbrook community.

Wright said anything that helps bring people to the area can lead to helping all aspects of tourism.

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“The trees have grown, and will continue to grow, and the blooms at Bellbrook Middle School will be even more spectacular in a few years,” Hara said.

Hara’s original project planted the cherry trees alongside of the section of the Great Miami River between the Dayton Art Institute and Carillon Historical Park.

Former Ohio Gov. Bob Taft served as the project’s honorary chairman. He also contributed cherry trees to Bellbrook Middle School in honor of his wife.

“In 1912, the country of Japan gave over 3,000 cherry blossom trees as a gift to the United States to celebrate the two nations’ then-growing friendship,” Taft said, in a statement about the project. “My great-grandfather, William Howard Taft, proudly accepted the gift on behalf of the citizens of the United States.”

Taft explained in his statement that the trees helped form a special bond.

“The first two cherry trees were planted by Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese ambassador, and then first lady, Helen Herron Taft, who had become an enthusiastic advocate for the project. The beautiful cherry blossom trees still exist famously today along the tidal basin in Washington D.C.,” he said.

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