Why Japanese Shrines Always Have Cedars

If you’ve spent any amount of time in Japanese shrines or temples, you probably would have noticed that one tree in particular seems to always make an appearance.

Ok, not always, but certainly often.

Haguro-san and Dewa Sanzan Jinja as well as the shrine grounds of Ise Jingu immediately come to mind. However, there are many famous examples of shrines and temples in Japan with cryptomeria, cedar trees, specifically. Toshogu in Nikko even has more than 12,000 cedars lining the path to the centre.

So why cedar?

Legend has it that the Kami Susanoo, younger brother of The Sun Goddess Amaterasu, once said, ‘without trees, how are people meant to build boats?’ Susanoo then promptly plucked a few of his beard hairs and planted them on earth.

Those hairs happened to be cedar trees.

Then, long, long ago, but not too long ago, when the Kami first came to earth from heaven, it is believed they arrived in Takachiho, Kyushu. Can you guess what they used to get there?

Susanoo’s beard hairs.

Without cedars, the Kami wouldn’t have been able to make it here to earth, and they wouldn’t be able to go between heaven and earth as they please either.

So the next time you see a cedar, be sure to show your appreciation to Susanoo’s beard hairs. Just don’t try climbing one as a way of getting into heaven. I assure you, it doesn’t work that way.





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