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Thursday, September 5, 2013

Ogatamanoki, The Welcome Spirit Tree

Ogatamanoki, the Welcome Spirit Tree

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Ogatamanoki, The Welcome Spirit Tree

     N 26 36.268E 128 07.236

Ogatamanoki, The Welcome Spirit Tree

In Arume of Higashi Village the local people have a special tree they call the Ogatamanoki (オガタマノキ), which happens to be the same Japanese name of this very type of tree (scientific name, Michelia compressa) found throughout Japan and the Ryukyu Islands.(1)(2) This particular tree, with a circumference of about 3 meters, is collocated next to the Shinzan Utaki.(3) The tree is believed to welcome good spirits.(3)

The Name and Background History. The kanji used to describe the Ogatamanoki is written as 招霊の木. The first two Kanji can be pronounced as Shōrei; Shō meaning 'inviting' or 'welcoming' and rei meaning 'spirit' and the last kanji, 木, means 'ki' or tree.  Hence, put together, the tree is known to be the Welcome Spirit Tree. (It is not certain if the first two kanji can also be read as Ogatama).

It said that when their flowers bloom it releases a strong fragrance and such trees are often planted near shrines (perhaps because it believed they welcome good spirits).(4) In Kyoto, at the Shiramine Shrine, there is a Ogatamanoki believed to be over 800 years old.(5), and here at the Kin Kannondo Temple and Shrine in Okinawa, you may also see some of these trees in the background.

Author's Notes. The tree itself appears to have sustained some damages long ago. The upper part seems to have broken off or was torn down.

Directions. Take Highway 331 North going towards Higashi Village, then take Highway 14 going west. About 300 meters later look for a white sign in English and Japanese on your left. You will see the Shinzan Utaki and a middle school next to it. There are wooden steps that take up to the Spirit Tree.

Source of Information.
2. (Japanese)
3. Higashi Village Guide Pamphlet.
4. (Japanese)
5. Official Kyoto Website (Japanese)

Other Places of interest nearby. Sakishima Sappanwood Tree, The Higashi Museum, The Azalea Festival (March Only), Meoto Falls.

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