Japan’s Ancient Giants of the Forest

Japan’s woodlands account for 70% of the nation’s land area and boast a rich diversity of trees that have grown over the centuries to awe-inspiring height and girth. In this series we visit several of the Japan’s most famous “kyoju”—the ancient giants of the forest.

Early Summer Dew: Three Ancient Trees in the Season of RainTakahashi Hiroshi

In our ongoing series on Japanese old-growth trees, naturalist Takahashi Hiroshi visits three kyoju at the height of the rainy season. Tsuyu is an important time for these ancient plants, bringing respite after spring’s exacting renewal and nurturing rainfall ahead of the heat of summer.
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Spring Immemorial: Ancient Trees in a New Season of GreenTakahashi Hiroshi

As the pale pink hues of cherry blossom season pass, spring deepens as wooded areas come alive with newly sprouted foliage. In a timeless ritual, ancient kyoju—Japan’s venerable old-growth trees—return to life, adorning their aged limbs in youthful coats of leaves. Standing beneath these giants, one is filled with eagerness for the coming days and months.
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Venerable Blossoms: Daigozakura in OkayamaTakahashi Hiroshi

The Daigozakura stands sentry atop a hill in northwestern Okayama Prefecture. An edohigan tree, the strain famed as the largest of all the sakura, this specimen is revered by local residents, who maintain its hill in a state of natural splendor to showcase the giant as it deserves.
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Venerable Blossoms: The Yoshitaka Sakura in ChibaTakahashi Hiroshi

Standing alone in a field in northern Chiba Prefecture, this magnificent yamazakura (mountain cherry) tempts photographers and flower-viewers, who try each year to pinpoint when its difficult-to-predict blossoms will cover its dome-shaped crown.
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Venerable Blossoms: Miharu Takizakura in FukushimaTakahashi Hiroshi

In the central Fukushima town of Miharu stands the 1,000-year-old Takizakura, or “waterfall cherry,” whose drooping branches seem to send rivers of pink blossoms flowing toward the ground each spring. The largest shidarezakura (weeping cherry) in the country is considered one of the “three great cherry trees” of Japan.
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Venerable Blossoms: Three of Japan’s Most Revered “Sakura”Takahashi Hiroshi

Roughly 80% of cherry trees in Japan are somei-yoshino, a relatively recent breed. There are numerous, much older sakura, though, that over centuries have grown into giants renowned for their spectacular displays of blossoms. These venerable plants are truly awe-inspiring when in full bloom.
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