The tree survived, and its story, nuclear blast and all, was stored in its rings. Eventually, the tree was given to the US as a bicentennial gift from Japan in 1976, though its trial of atomic survival didn't surface until 2004, when Yamaki family members visited and mentioned its history.
"It's a very quiet practice," said David Haskell, the Pulitzer-nominated author behind The Forest Unseen and The Songs of the Trees, the latter of which served as the source material for The Atomic Tree. "You are working with this tree, and particularly this particular tree, over 400 years. Quiet, contemplative work, listening to the tree, deciding when to be still, when to clip a little needle -- it comes down to how each little needle is carefully sculpted and so forth. In not seeking out a lot of publicity, I think some of the spirit of bonsai comes out through that."
The Atomic Tree, which launches on Within on March 22nd, approaches VR with an incredibly effective eye. It begins with the tree as it stands today, and then reverts to recreations of its initial years in a serene, mossy monastery, before showing it in the Yamaki home. Between these scenes, viewers are thrust directly into the tree, soaring through its rings in Coraline-esque, celestial tunnels that drive home the beauty and importance of the information stored within the spiraling wood. At the Yamaki house, family members trim the tree, the narrator's deep voice ringing over the scene, when suddenly, the screen is consumed by white. The bomb has fallen.