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Local Newsletter vol.5

Enticed by fresh green leaves – Visits to "Higashiyama's Trees of Pride"

image picture  The season of fresh and shiny green leaves has arrived.
 The "Trees of Pride" selected by the residents of Higashiyama Ward are rooted in various places around the ward, spreading their branches to showcase the nature of Higashiyama. Some are several hundreds years old, bearing witness to the area's long history. Why not go out and visit these special trees around Higashiyama?

[Higashiyama's Trees of Pride]

 Some ancient or well-known trees in Higashiyama Ward were designated as "Trees of Pride" through recommendations by local residents and after deliberation by a committee consisting of specialists and ward representatives. (58 trees were selected in 2000.)
 Many of Higashiyama's Trees of Pride are massive in girth, including a camphor tree of two meters in diameter, and many of them are located in public places, such as in the grounds of temples, shrines, parks and schools. As they have grown and lived in Higashiyama for such a long time, they have now become a part of the history of the area.

※Note: Local reporters are residents of Higashiyama Ward who are engaged
in PR activities for the Higashiyama Ward Office.

Camphor Tree at Shoren-in Temple (Higashiyama's Tree of Pride/Natural Monument designated by Kyoto City) [Local reporter*: Shigeo Yasuda]

Camphor Tree at Shoren-in Temple This camphor tree was planted over 750 years ago in the 12th century by the famous monk, Shinran, and has borne witness to many historical events in the grounds of Shoren-in Temple. This tree reminds us of Shinran's poem, "The love and friendship that you believe will come tomorrow can be blown away like cherry blossoms in an evening gale." Since Shinran's death, it has survived a number of hardships, such as battles, wars and fires. It has also seen happier moments, like children passing under the tree when walking to Shirakawa Elementary School every morning. They started to go to a different school, Higashiyama Kaiseikan, from 2011, however, leaving it with the realization of changing times.
 During the festival of Awata Shrine in October, floats and mikoshi (portable shrine) visit Shoren-in Temple to show off their splendor look and bring a festive atmosphere. People bearing the mikoshi climb up the steps to the temple and come through the gate to where the camphor tree proudly stands. Huge lantern floats, called Daitoro, joined the festival eve parade in 2008, to add an even greater celebratory feel.
 People at the temple lovingly tend this old tree, watering it with cold underground water in summer and sweeping away its fallen leaves with local residents in the spring. They truly cherish this tree and take very good care of it.

Zelkova Tree at Toyokuni Shrine (Higashiyama's Tree of Pride) [Local reporter: Nobuo Kimura]

Zelkova Tree at Toyokuni Shrine An enormous zelkova tree stands in the Daibutsu (big buddha) Hall Ruins Park, located to the east of Toyokuni Shrine, and it, along with other zelkova trees in the grounds of the shrine, forms a small forest. At a height of 24 meters (equivalent to eight-storey building) and with a trunk 3.8 meters around, this tree is one of the biggest trees in the city, The roots have spread out an estimated 70 meters underground, feeding off the nutrients from the energizing waters that flow underground from the Higashiyama Mountain Range. Although the tree's dignified demeanor both invigorates and soothes us with its rich greenery, there are not many visitors here, so it is actually a hidden spot for tourists. Please come by when you are around the Higashiyama area, and enjoy the power of the forest under this magnificent tree.

Camphor Tree at Toyokuni Shrine (Higashiyama's Tree of Pride) [Local reporter: Hiromi Ohira]

Camphor Tree at Toyokuni Shrine Toyokuni Shrine was established in 1880 and is the place where Hideyoshi Toyotomi, a feudal lord during the 16th century, is enshrined. The tall tree here with spreading branches is the camphor tree designated as a Tree of Pride of Higashiyama, and is about 80 years old. It bears small light-yellow flowers, which makes the whole tree glow a light yellow-green color. According to some books, the branches and leaves of camphor trees actually offer up the scent of camphor, but I was not able to notice this. On the same shrine grounds, there is also a gingko tree designated as a Higashiyama's Tree of Pride, as well as three Hachisuka cherry trees from Shikoku. These precocious cherry trees were named after Hachisuka Koroku, a loyal retainer of Hideyoshi. Other attractions of this shrine are flea markets and antique markets held on the 8th and 18th of every month.

Crape Myrtle Trees at Yamato-oji Street (Higashiyama's Tree of Pride) [Local reporter: Hiromi Ohira]

>Crape Myrtle Trees at Yamato-oji Street Yamato-oji Street stretches south to north through Higashiyama Ward, and is wider between Hoko-ji Temple and Toyokuni Shrine and in front of the Kyoto National Museum. It is like a long belt containing many tourist attractions. Mimizuka (a burial mound of ears) can also be found near this street.
 Along the west side of this street is a green belt of around 200 meters, and lining it are about twenty crape myrtle trees, designated as Higashiyama's Trees of Pride. These trees were planted in the late 1980s as part of a sidewalk improvement project of the time, and were chosen by local residents for their sturdiness. They were also considered easy to grow, with flowers that would clearly enhance the landscape of the area.
 White and dark pink flowers bloom on these trees in the summer along this main thoroughfare, attracting many visitors taking photos. According to neighbors, the trees are well looked after and loved by local people, despite the hard work required to clean up the street during the seasons of fallen flowers and leaves.

Camphor Tree at Imakumano Shrine (Higashiyama's Tree of Pride/Natural Monument designated by Kyoto City) [Local reporter: Tamiko Nakayama]

Camphor Tree at Imakumano Shrine Emperor Go-Shirakawa received a divine blessing from Kishu Kumano (Wakayama Prefecture) and, thereafter, established Imakumano Shrine about 850 years ago, and the huge camphor tree here was actually planted by the emperor himself. This shrine is also known as the location where Kanami and Zeami showed a "noh" play for Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, a shogun, for the first time.
 The camphor tree standing by the entrance to the shrine has dense and thickly developed branches and leaves, and stretches vigorously out over Higashioji Street. I used to tell my children that "Totoro" (a character in an animated film) lives in the tree, as it looks exactly like the tree in the fantasy movie.

Nettle Tree in Sennyu-ji Goyonotsuji-cho Town (Higashiyama's Tree of Pride) [Local reporter: Masako Asano]

Nettle Tree in Sennyu-ji Goyonotsuji-cho Town There used to be a bridge called "The Floating Bridge of Dreams" to the southeast of Ikkyo Elementary School. This bridge was located over the main path to Sennyu-ji Temple, home to the tombs of many emperors and empresses, and used to also be called Oji Bridge or Ochi-bashi Bridge. The river beneath it was called the Otonashi River, which ran from the mountain behind the temple, through the south of Imakumano, under Ichinohashi Bridge, and into the Kamo River. This river is now a culvert and the bridge has been removed.
 The big nettle tree by the site of the bridge used to be called the "Daughter Tree" as it was believed that a pregnant woman would have a girl if she touched and caressed the trunk. This tree has three trunks shooting out from the roots, and, with its dignified demeanor, seems to watch out for the safety of children as they pass it on their way to school.

Japanese Maple Trees at Tofuku-ji Temple (Higashiyama's Tree of Pride) [Local reporter: Takanori Kitagawa]

Japanese Maple Trees at Tofuku-ji Temple Approximately 2,000 of three kinds of maple trees are planted in the grounds of Tofuku-ji Temple, including five Chinese maple trees which were brought back by the temple's founding monk, Shoichi Kokushi.
 The famous view here in autumn is that from the Tsutenkyo Bridge, which spans from the Buddha Hall to Temple Hall, over the Sengyokukan Valley filled with lush maple trees. A great number of people visit here during this season, and the best scenic point on the Gaun Bridge gets extremely crowded every year.
 Surprisingly, there are no cherry trees in the grounds of Tofuku-ji Temple. Kitsusan Mincho, a painter-monk at the temple in the 15th century requested a ban on cherry trees in the grounds, as he thought many cherry trees would create a location for entertainment and may prove a distraction to training monks. Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, the shogun at the time, was very impressed with this, and had all the cherry trees removed.
 The temple itself is very beautiful, and not just for the colored maple tree leaves in autumn. It may be a good idea to take time to visit the temple and check out all the trees that are there.


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