Think of Japan, what comes to your mind, The Fuji, girls in kimono, and of course the Japanese Castles. I have been to a couple of castles before, but all of them were post-war re-constructions of castles, and were more like modern museums, which looked like a castle keep in the exterior. The Osaka Castle, even has an eye-sore of an elevator built into it. Not that I am against all these modern amenities, but it does have a pleasing aesthetic air, around it to have a castle preserved in its original state. Inuyama castle, (犬山城), one of the 12 remaining original castles, and claiming to be the oldest one in Japan, got a place in my bucket list, the moment I heard about it. This was sometime back, but I couldn’t make it there, all this time, though, it is just an hour and a half drive from here.
The day could not have been more perfect, the beautiful medley of perfect sun and the wind on the trees, white puffy cottony clouds on a perfect blue sky, and nice company, (thanks very much, Yoshie). The drive was perfect, and we reached the castle around 9:30 in the morning, and then the tour began. Stories after stores poured out from the volunteer guide; how the castle was built on the hill-top, next to the river, how they got revenue from the river traffic, how huge trees, cut from the nearby hills, were transported on the river… they were umpteen.
Every single stone & tree had a story to tell… Then there was the highlight of a story.. The story of how a tree; a huge one it was; attained the status of a God, or a Spirit (kami, 神). Don’t know if I had talked about Shinto Gods and Spirits before, well it for sure claims a blog post status by itself, but here is an outline.. Once a place or a thing is pronounced to be God or Spirit, or as a place where a spirit dwells, it would be surrounded by the holy rope (標縄・注連縄・七五三縄 Shimenawa), which defines the boundaries of the spirit land (神体, shintai).
Back to the tree… so, there was this huge tree, right next to the castle keep, which was always a thing of wonder for everyone. Once, hundreds of years ago; as the story goes; there was a huge storm, and a great big thunder-storm, was it. The lightning, and thunder were so big that even the bravest of the soldiers were scared. And then this huge lightning struck on (very near to) the castle. The tree, took the full power of the lightning, on to Himself, thereby giving His life for the castle. Ever since, the tree is considered as a Kami, and is being worshiped (Another version of the story, claims, the tree to be protecting, the castle from many fires, and storms; but I like the first version).
(Click on pictures for larger view)