links to APDL and KCC link to KCC homepage link to APDL homepage

Roads of Oku: Home

Inspiration ...

Matsuo Basho's Narrow Road to the Deep North, Translated by Nobuyuki Yuasa / Google Map: Bashō's Oku no Hosomichi ("Narrow Road to the Deep North")

Journeys ...

Spring 2004: On the Road in Kansai / Google Map
Summer 2005: Roads of Oku / Google Map
Fall 2006: Where Gods Alight / Google Map
Summer 2007: Hōkūle‘a in Yokohama / Map
Winter 2008: Snow Country / Google Map
Spring 2008: Full Bloom & Festivals / Google Map
Summer 2009: Fireflies & Sweet Fish / Google Map
Fall 2009: North Country Colors / Google Map
Summer 2010: Legends of the Land / Google Map
Spring 2011: On the Far Side of Disaster / Google Map
Summer 2012: Travels in the Fifth Moon / Google Map
Summer 2013: Far Roads: Finishing Touches / Google Map
Summer 2015: Saké-Tasting in the Kingdom of Local Brew

Memorable ...

Roads / Seacoasts & Coastal Roads / Bridges / Ferries / Walks & Hikes / Mountains / Ropeways / Rivers / Waterfalls / Lakes / Trees / Rocks / Caves / Hot Springs / Sakura / Fall Colors / Archaeology and History / Castles / Shrines / Temples / Gardens / Festivals / Food / Drinks
Photography: Dennis Kawaharada and Karen Ono

Note ...

On Driving in Japan

Roads of Oku: Journeys in the Heartland

A collection of essays on Japanese culture, history and literature. Available at (Far Roads Press, 2015).


Daigo-zakura, Iwaiune, Okayama. Spring 2011

This giant cherry tree in Iwaiune, Okayama, is said to be 1000 years old, which means it started growing during the Heian period (794-1185). It's named after Emperor Daigo (885-930), who is said to have visited it. Sixty feet (18 meters) high, it's at the top of a hill on a narrow, remote mountain road. We visited it in the third week of March, when it was barely in bud, not blooming. Still, a very impressive tree!

giant cherry treesakura in bud

This tree, with relatively small flowers is of the higan-zakura variety, which is said to bloom early, around equinox (higan). But it was around equinox when we visited it, still in bud.

From the web, Daigo in bloom, in April:

daigo in bloomdaigo sakura

Among the other oldest sakura in Japan: Yamataka Jindai Sakura (approx.2000 years old?) in Hokuto City, Yamanashi; Uzumi-zakura (1500 years old) in Motosu, Gifu ; Miharu Takizakura (lit. "waterfall cherry tree", over 1000 years old) near Koriyama, Fukushima.

Sugi (Cedar)

Left Below: Kirishima Shrine, Miyazaki, Kyushu. Towering cedar trees stand in the courtyard in front of the vermilion-colored Kirishima Shrine, the oldest and largest tree eight hundred years old, one hundred ten feet high, and seventeen feet around, its trunk circled by a shimenawa. Fall 2006.

Cedar tree at Kirishima shrineForest

Right above: Sugi, Hagurosan, Yamagata. Summer 2005. Okinasugi (grandfather cedar), which is said to be more than 1,000 years old. Also called Jiji Sugi, Trunk: 6.5m, Height: 42m and Age: more than 1,000 years. Found along the 2,446 stone steps path up to the temple atop Haguro-san. Other 500 old Japanese cedar trees line the pathway. Total number of cedars is 445. (Max. diameter of a cedar is 1.3m and number of the cedars having over 1.0m diameter are 184.) Nearby: Goju-no-To (Five-Story Pagoda), a national treasure, which originally is said to have been built by Taira-no-Masakado (931-938)

Left below: Shogun Sugi. Said to be the oldest cedar tree in Japan, 1400 years old. Summer 2010. The central trunk was lopped off. Right below: Kaya no Ki. Shinzan Shrine, Oga Peninusula, Akita. Summer 2010. The shrine perpetuates the tradition of Namahage, with a festival in the winter.

Shogun SugiKaya no Ki

Left below:Sugi at Fujiyoshida Shrine, Yamanashi. Summer 2010. Right below: Cedar Trunk, Okunoin, Koyasan, Wakayama. Summer 2009

Fujiyoshida shrineOkunoin

Icho (Ginkgo)

Left Below: Tsurugaoka Hachiman Shrine, Kamakura, Kanagawa. Spring 2008. (The Kamakura gingko, reputed to be a thousand years old, was blown over in a storm in March, 2010. The trunk was replanted to try to save the tree.) Right Below: Buddhist Temple, Takayama, Gifu. Summer 2010.

Tsurugaoka shrine gingkoTakayama gingko

Left Below: Akiu Shrine, Sendai, Miyagi. Fall 2009. Right Below: Mogami River, Yamagata. Fall 2009

Akiu shrine gingkoMogami river gingko

Kusu-no-ki (Camphor Tree)

Atsuta Shrine, Nagoya. Spring 2008. Atsuta Shrine is surrounded by a park with trees up to and over 1000 years old, featuring  elms, and zelkova trees, among others. Goshimboku is the biggest camphor tree among Shichihon-kusu (seven camphor trees). This 1,300 year old giant camphor tree, is said to have been planted by the renowned Buddhist priest Kobo Daishi. White snakes are said to live inside of the tree.


Nachi Shrine, Wakayama. Spring 2004. I call it “the hobbit tree.” The 800 year-old camphor tree is in the precincts of the shrine. You can go through the hole into the tree to place an ofuda (a small wooden plaque) on which you write a prayer.

Kusunoki Nachi shrine

Mother Tree, Shirakami Forest, Aomori. Fall 2009

This Buna (Beech Tree) “is the oldest beech tree in the Shirakami forest, believed to be 400 years old. The trunk is 465 centimeters around in girth, and 148 centimeters in diameter at its widest trunk. It stands 30 meters. Affectionately called “Mother Tree” it's located about a 5-minutes’ walk from Tsugaru Pass, between Nishimeya Village and Ajigasawa Town.”

Shirakami forest buna

Otowa no Tsubaki, Ioji, Fukushima. Fall 2009

The mother, Otowa, who lost her two sons in war, had abandoned herself to grief. Her love for her sons entered into this camellia tree. The tree produces buds, but they drop from the tree without blooming. The camellia is called "Otowa Tsubaki."

Camellia tree

Willow and Eucalyptus Trees, Hiroshima Castle Park. Summer 2009

Near Hiroshima Castle and the epicenter of the Atomic Bomb Blast on August 1945, these two trees, a willow (left) and a eucalyptus (right), have survived.

Willow and eucalyptus

Pine Forest, Tsuruga, Fukui. Winter 2008

With 17,000 red and black pines, Kehi no Matsubara, on the shore of Tsuruga Bay, is counted as one of the three great pine forests of Japan.

Black pine forest