Japan Heritage Kisoji
Japan Heritage Kisoji
Cultural Properties
Travel Column

Story 2 - Depleted Forest Resources and A Strict Preservation Policy

Forest Resources for Living

Kisobushi is a traditional folk song that tells of river loggers in the area, who rode rafts down the river to transport logs.
Kiso-hinoki cypress is the foundation of local industries in the Kiso Valley and synonymous with Kiso.

Kiso-hinoki for Shrines and Temples

Since ancient times, the elaborate grain of the Kiso-hinoki cypress has made it the favored tree for building temples and shrines (e.g. Hakusanjinja Shrine, the oldest in the Kiso Valley). Since the 17th century, it has been used as the sacred wood for Ise Grand Shrine’s Shikinen Sengu (rebuilding of the shrine every 20 years).


Hakusanjinja Shrine, the oldest shrine in the Kiso Valley (Okuwa Village)

Kiso-hinoki Crisis (early Edo Period)

The fine wood was put in jeopardy in the early Edo Period. As the Warring States Period came to an end and the Azuchi-Momoyama Period began, a town-building boom saw rapid growth in lumber demand and led to destructive lumbering throughout the country.
The Tokugawa Shogunate regarded the Kiso Valley as an inexhaustible reservoir of good lumber. Vast amounts of wood were cut down for castle-building, such as the Edo Castle, Sunpu Castle, and Nagoya Castle and for the castle towns. Eventually forest resources in Kiso were in jeopardy.

Strict Forest Preservation Policy (mid-Edo)

The Owari Domain, which had jurisdiction over the Kiso Valley, started to prevent logging of Kiso-hinoki in the early Edo Period. The regulation came to cover the whole Kiso Valley in the mid-Edo Period and was summarized as “a head for a cypress, an arm for a branch,” which means that logging of Kiso’s Five Trees was a capital crime. The wood tax was abolished accordingly. The measure was a tough economic regulation for the people of the area who earned their livings from lumber, though it was ground-breaking in terms of the protection of forest resources.


Hinoki – highly durable with beautiful wood grain patterns

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