The national tree of Japan is a conifer tree known as the Japanese cedar or the Japanese Sugi Pine. It is of the family Cupressaceae and bears the scientific name of Cryptomeria japonica.
It is the only tree in the Cryptomeria class and is often referred to as the Cryptomeria.
The Japanese call it Sugi. Literally translated, the words mean “hidden parts”, which is an interesting thing about this tree.
This is a very tall tree that creates the canopy under which one could even hide themselves in a manner of speaking. Or at least, a human could feel much smaller.
The national tree of Japan carries symbolic significance as much as any other major component of Japanese history.
The Japanese cedar pine is considered a prized specimen no matter where it is located in the country. It has national, spiritual, and economic significance as it is used for its wood and its metaphysical presence.
Although the Japanese cedar pine is the most famous in Japan, its reputation has led to its growth all over the world.
Learn more about the Japanese cedar pine here.
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The Japanese cedar pine or cryptomeria is mythical in itself. It is another of those Japanese symbols that nobody really understands its true importance, but the Japanese just know that it is.
It could have been that two maidens from a palace long ago had a picnic in one someday and it changed the dynasty and entire imperial reign of Japan.
Or it could be something entirely different, but just as historical. Japan prides itself on its mystique in tradition, and the reason the Japanese cedar pine is so significant may always be a mystery.
Like many other Japanese symbols, the cedar pine has found its way into many different elements of culture, such as poetry and song.
It was also recognized as an iconic botanical beast in the 1893 epic story by Charles Sprague, in “Notes on the Forest Flora of Japan.”
Does the Japanese Cedar Pine Have Spiritual Significance?
One legend has it that a military general died in war, and a feuding landlord did not have enough money to offer a proverbial lantern for his funeral.
Instead, he requested a street of Sugi be planted so that the general would be protected from the Sun. That place is now called the Shinto shrine and is infamous for its forest of Sugi that surrounds it.
The word Sugi, or “hidden parts”, is also the name given to a bounty hunter in the North American tale of The Clone Wars of the Star Wars franchise.
In that tale, she was a friend to the Jedi known as Obi-Wan Kenobi, although she fought for what she believed in, and wasn’t entirely a fan of peacekeepers concerned about getting paid.
The Sugi trees in Japan are protectors in their own right and provide energy for the country, which adds to unique Japanese appeal.
The Japanese cedar pine, or Sugi pine, is a massive tree that can reach hundreds of feet in height. This is how it provides its own protection and makes humans feel so small.
Their trunks can be as wide as 12 to 15 feet. Its size lends towards being a good tree for protection, and it is frequently planted near temples and spiritual centers to provide sanctity and oasis.
The shape of the Sugi pine is such that it offers branches that grow horizontally. This is an evergreen that has the typical pyramid shape, but it grows in an irregular fashion.
The bark itself is famous in its own right and is a rusty and brown shade that peels vertically.
This bark will peel in a unique way that adds to the rustic nature of this tree that grows however it wants to, without rhyme or reason for conventional tree shapes.
The leaves of the tree are a cross between needles and leaves, providing ample protection in their growing season. The leaves are approximately half an inch long, and their cones can hold as many as 50 scales.
The wood becomes timber for the Japanese and is traded all over the world. In China, the Sugi pine is planted on the acre for its wood alone.
This timber has a unique scent that is resistant to both insects and weather. The Sugi pine timber is also very strong and has found its way into millions of pieces of furniture in homes all over the world.
Japan is ideally situated to accommodate a large population of the Sugi pine, both for its own spiritual symbolism as a national tree, but also for its economic and trade importance.
The Sugi pine likes warm climates and does not handle moisture well when it is growing in the wild or on its own.
The tree is used throughout Asia for multiple purposes, primarily the construction of both large and small purposes. Ships, bridges, and end tables have all been built with Sugi pine.
The economic function of this pine may be overextended in some parts, as merchants and farmers alike see the dollar signs in the Sugi pine. Every part of the tree is used for commercial purposes.
The leaves are even manufactured into incense.
The greed of merchants and farmers is not something that will factor into the lifespan of the national tree of Japan.
The Sugi pine will always be revered in the country, a country that likely takes pride in a national tree that bears so much profit across the world.
Has Japan Always Sold Sugi Pine Commercially?
Yes, Japan has always seen the market value of their own cedar pine.
In fact, during World War II, the Japanese government thought they would capitalize on the capitalists and planted fake Sugi pines, finding the Sugi forests to hold little commercial value.
That plan sort of flopped for them, and the country wound up with an abundance of trees that they couldn’t do anything with.
The mass production of flop Sugis also resulted in a nationwide hay fever problem that has caused allergies in Japan that exist even today.
Problems such as this are considered with every commercial product, and the Sugi pine is no different. The Japanese have learned the consequences of an excess of this tree.
They also know that too much of it could result in a lower water table, which increases the risk of landslides.
Some Sugi pine forests also carry a pollen count so bad that the Japanese call it a “pollen fog” and are forced to stay away from it or they will get ill.
The national tree of Japan is the Sugi pine, a tall tree with horizontal branching that is a pyramid in shape, but not perfectly shaped.
This mystical creature of the Sugi pine is a wonder in Japan but has a few drawbacks when it is taken advantage of.
Still, it is a revered tree that is used all over the world today, on ships and bridges, making Japan proud. Discover another hidden gem of the world by learning more about Japan’s national tree, the Sugi pine.