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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

"The Dragon Tree"

Size comparison: A photographer stands in front of  'The Dragon Tree'*

View Map It! Okinawa in a larger map
The Dragon Tree

     N 26 13.935E 127 40.959

The Dragon Tree

Natural phenomenons on Okinawa are often used as symbols for places of worship. Such places can be a water spring, a hilltop, or...a large tree. The tree you see above is commonly known as a Banyan Tree (Ficus microcarpa). The Okinawans call it 'Gajumaru'. The roots of a Gajumaru tree are well known to dig their 'claws' through hard soil and rocks. What makes this tree unique is that it sits on a large stone that has been carved out with a stone marker inside. The main Kanji reads 'Tenryu Daigoshin' and gives reference to a 'Dragon god from the heavens' hence the nickname, 'The Dragon Tree'*. In front of the stone marker is an incense holder for those who wish to offer prayers. What also makes this particular tree beautiful is its radiating symmetry of tree limbs shooting outward. The tree sits next to another utaki (place of worship) and a water spring down below. If you are into seeing the unique and unusual on Okinawa, then this might be a tree to see.

Getting there. The tree is located in a place that you would least expect. It sits behind an apartment and some commercial buildings in Naha City. Study the map carefully. The designated blue vehicle route is accessible for traffic going both north and south (note: northbound traffic just before this intersection cannot turn right due to a road median divider). Look at the Landmark Icon on the map to see what the turn-off looks like. 

Parking. There is no designated parking for this utaki. There may be an open lot just before the turn-off. In this picture it is to the left of the coke machine. Park at your own risk.

*the 'Dragon Tree' is a nickname created by the author to describe the tree and its association with the utaki (place of worship) collocated with it. It is not an official title.

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