The Significance of Trees in Japanese Culture, Religion, and Folklore

Myth Reading Group

Thursday 7 June

12.00-1.30pm in Room 4.204

Amelia Starling (Senior Editor for Folklore Thursday)

We are delighted to welcome Amelia Starling (Senior Editor for Folklore Thursday) to the Centre for Myth Studies. Amelia continues our discussion of Trees & Forests with a session on the significance of trees in Japanese mythology and culture


Fukusa (type of Japanese cloth used for gift wrapping) embroidered with Jo and Uba beneath a pine branch, early nineteenth century, Wikimedia

In Japanese mythology, trees can be home to kami (Shinto deities) and spirits of nature. Pine trees in particular are greatly revered, due to the classical Noh play entitled ‘Takasago.’ Behind this play are the legends of Takasago Shrine and the pine tree lovers, whose spirits are said to reside in the trees to this day. But who were they – human, or kami? In her book entitled Japanese Fairy Tales, Grace James’s story ‘The Wind in the Pine Tree’ offers an insight into this mysterious world of love and magic, where the Takasago pine stands on the periphery of the living and the dead; of the natural and the supernatural. In this session we will explore the layers of stories around ‘Takasago’ and pine trees, from ‘The Wind in the Pine Tree’ and the variation ‘The Pine-Tree Lovers’ recorded by F. Hadland Davis in Myths and Legends of Japan, to the Noh play and the Shinto kami legends it descended from.

For more on Noh theatre, Shinto traditions, and Takasago pines, see Amelia’s article published on our blog earlier this year.

Set texts:

Grace James’s ‘The Wind in the Pine Tree’, in Japanese Fairy Tales, ([1912] 1996). London: Senate (imprint of Random House UK Ltd.), pp. 101-107.

Extract about the Takasago Noh play, taken from Myths and Legends of Japan by F. Hadland Davis pp. 186-187 [full text available on Project Gutenberg]


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