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Monday, April 12, 2010

Tree hunting

Even now, nearly 70% of the land in Japan is mountains and forests.
Nevertheless, tree hunting for temples or castles has been a killer assignment that can take years since early times.

The central pillar of Horyu-ji Temple Five-storied Pagoda(法隆寺五重塔) is estimated to be over 2,000 years old. It was made of hinoki(Japanese cypress) that produces increased intensity after being cut.

The restoration of the donjon tower of Himeji Castle began in 1956.
Because one of two main pillars that hold up the tower was determined to be nonreusable, builders had to look for a successor tree to the pillar. The first hinoki tree found in 1259 had broken during being cut. The second tree, 780-year-old hinoki, had also broken during being carried. After all, they grafted a pillar made of a 670-year-old hinoki found in Kasagata Shrine(笠形神社) onto a pillar made of the second tree.

Goei-do(御影堂) of Nishi Hongan-ji Temple(西本願寺) is the hall that was established in 1636, and there the wooden figure of Shinran(親鸞), who is the founder of the Jodo Shinshu sect of Buddhism in Japan, is enshrined and important events are held.
It is the world's largest wooden structure that is about 29 meters tall, 62 meters wide and 48 meters long. Its roof covers with about 115,000 roof tiles, and the total weight of the entire roof is about 3,000 tons.
Each of 36 pine tree girders have held 200 roof tiles weighing two tons, but 32 out of the 36 griders was broken. The pine trees were crooked at the foot. It produced increased intensity of the girders. Their bending angles vary delicately with the trees.
Builders gave up searching for pine trees and decided to substitute hinoki cypress for them. Planted trees have been grown upright, so they had to hunt for wild large trees that were hard to find.

Koukei(公慶,1648-1705) was a monk who was dedicated to reconstruction of the Great Image of Buddha (rebuilt in 1691) and the Colossal Hall of the Great Buddha in Todai-ji.
Rebuilding of the hall started in 1696, but it took eight years to find out two large trees using for the hall's beams. The trees had been cherished at a shrine as "sacred tree".
Common peoples who worked for free carried the two logs to Nara 1,200 kilometers away from Miyazaki by ship and land. The completion of the hall was celebrated in 1709. However, Koukei could not attend the celebration because he had died in 1705. He planted Japanese cedars for use in next rebuilding on the site of the temple. Now, they are 300 years old.

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