There are many very old trees in Japan, and they are honored and even worshiped. It seems strange to my western mind that people pray to trees and believe they can receive luck, healing or longevity. However when I went to Kinomiya Shrine in Atami to see the 2,000 year old camphor tree there, I couldn't help but be awe-struck.
The tree is 20 meters around, gnarled and twisted, with one of its vast trunks cut and capped to keep out insects and rot. When I thought of all the history the tree must have witnessed since it was a seedling, I felt as if I was in the presence of something much more than a simple tree - something inhuman yet wise, benevolent and maybe even sentient. Do I just have an overactive imagination? If you have been there, tell me what you thought!
I enjoyed exploring Kinomiya Shrine. The name means 'Tree Palace', and it's considered a power spot with both water and mountain spiritual power. I was surprised to find a cafe area in the grounds with open air seating and good coffee. (That's my kind of power spot!)
While you are there make sure you walk the path around the tree, as doing so is supposed to add an extra year to your life-span.
The shrine is 20-30 minutes walk from Atami Station. If it's too far, too hot, or too cold for you then a taxi is your best option.
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I fell in love with Japan long before I came here in 2003 to teach English, and it has proved to be a lasting romance. I love the history, the traditional architecture, the food, the strange and sometimes ridiculous contrasts, and the beautiful countryside. I lived in Shiga prefecture for one year, and in Kyoto for nine years, and now I live in Machida in Tokyo. I've traveled a little in Japan, but not nearly as much as I'd like to. I like traveling by train, but my favorite way to travel is bicycle.