Tree surgeon aids tsunami-hit region

SENDAI - Tree doctor Tomoyasu Kita is focusing his energy on Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, these days, repairing trees damaged by salt from tsunami caused by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.

"The trees are fighting on without a word. I can't ignore them," said Kita, 41. He is working to improve the soil by sprinkling a neutralizer to lower its salt concentration and using pipes to ventilate it.

When Kita was a high school student, he saw a TV show featuring Japan's first certified tree doctor, which made him dream of a job connected to nature. However, his family ran a clothing store in Kanazawa, so he chose to study business. After getting an MBA in Britain, he worked in the finance and accounting divisions of companies inside and outside Japan.

Ultimately, he quit his corporate career at the age of 35, thinking, "I don't want to stay in accounting until I retire."

In 2011, Kita obtained his long-sought certification as a tree surgeon, but he received few job offers.

However, he was asked to use his expertise in management to help new businesses in disaster-affected areas. In Ishinomaki, Kita saw withered pines, cherry trees and other trees. "Disaster-hit areas are where tree surgeons are needed most," he said. In April 2013, Kita opened an office in Ishinomaki and he now divides his time equally between the office and his home in Shizuoka.

It takes at least several years for a tree to fully recover. "The city will have no vegetation unless I do my best. No tree has completely recovered yet," Kita said. "But I plan to keep working with the trees I've taken care of."