It’s a matter of priorities.  Minato Ward has its right! Unbeknownst to me, the powers that are in Tokyo’s Minato ward, where many Embassies are located, and many international residents of Tokyo live, decided that the venerable camphor tree in the historic Arisugawa Park needed to be moved.  By chance or no, I happened by on moving day and was astonished by the large group of helmets assembled around the mammoth tree which had been shorn of its foliage, its roots wrapped in straw bunting, as I drove by.


Not unlike many traditional festival machinations that I have witnessed over the years, moving the giant Mikoshi for Kyoto’s Gion festival and Chichibu’s night festival outside of Tokyo, the tree had been hoisted and tethered and set on stout horizontal wooden beams with rollers on wooden tracks to guide its movement 10 meters back into the park.  There were even traditional words for the front rollers – Kanzashi – and the back rollers Okagura!

A tall square mound of earth had been carefully prepared to be its new home.  Workers diligently swept away any stray stones or dirt that could impede the forward movement.
Ancient engineering which, though used infrequently, still has professionals who guard the secret.  10 or 15 had been assembled for the great move, along with 60 or so other gardeners, engineers and technicians who helped.


I rushed by later to see what was happening and found that the tree was moving.


A sign had been posted to inform the neighborhood of moving day, yesterday, July 26 at 10 am.  The 70 ton tree was to be moved 10 meters.  By chance I had driven by the great assembly and the straw wrapped tree, so I walked back later just in time for the move.  I had lived in Azabu for 35 years, and feel a particular love for the neighborhood and the park and its trees where I have walked many dogs many days and many nights.
The retention of ancient wisdom, the reverence for ancient trees, the respect for nature, the persistence of ancient values rang out in the claps of the 70 workers who rejoiced at their success in moving the old tree and the joy of by standers who had watched the slow process, which had started months earlier.


And the tears that fell from my eyes as I watched yesterday and today as I tell the story of the tree that moved, are all a part of why I love Japan.

This entry was posted in Journal. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. ada montessoro says:

    By my calculations, 10 meters is 30 feet. Not a very great distance. Do you know why it was moved?

  2. namiyama says:

    Amazing story … and you told it so lovingly! Amazing how much work to move a tree for just a few meters. It is sad that it had to be moved but in other countries they would probably just have logged it. I hope it will survive and will revitalize in its new place.

    All the best



  3. Mary Mauger says:

    Thousands of miles away, I am in tears as I read your story. What pure joy!

  4. Sachie says:

    The respect that is given to the tree, you would never find here in the states. Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful moment. There was a reason why you just happened upon this on the day and time you did.

  5. Thank you for this great story. I forwarded it to many friends both in Japan and abroad Anne

    Sent from my iPhone


  6. glendajean says:

    My own eyes watered at the love, care and respect given to this beautiful giant. Thanks so much for sharing.

  7. rubineleanor says:

    Magnificent. Thank your for your photos and descriptions. I too am moved by the care taken to move this tree.

  8. Jacquie says:

    Wow wow wow, so pleased to hear that the tree is saved!!! Here in North America we would just cut it down!!

  9. Judith Jerald says:

    I Marvel!

  10. Judith says:

    Wonderful story and super photos. Thank you for sharing —- especially now that I am an older human — maybe as old as the tree……

  11. grannypoppy says:

    What a beautiful thing to witness.

  12. Nancy McDonough says:

    Thank you for sharing.

Leave a Reply to Sachie Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s