[Camphor Tree and Kumodana]
Currently on display at the Sanjo and Otaru showrooms, "Kokokashiko's Kumodana" is a carved wooden votive tablet stand in the shape of a cloud. The cloud shelf is made of camphorwood, and when you get close to it, you can smell the indescribably fresh fragrance of camphorwood. The camphor tree has an insect repellent effect with its fragrance, and camphor "camphor" made from camphor has been used as a natural insect repellent and painkiller since ancient times. Because of its unique fragrance, the word camphor tree is said to originate from the word "臭し木" (fragrant tree), but there is another theory that it is a "薬の木" (medicine tree).
Camphor is a crystal extracted from camphor leaves and branches, and after its production process was invented in Arabia in the 6th century, it was introduced to Japan via China. It has been used since the Muromachi period (1333-1573), and during the Edo period (1603-1867) it became one of the specialties of the Satsuma clan, and was one of Japan's most important exports, next to gold and silver. Camphor has been a popular ingredient in medicines and perfumes, and especially as an insect repellant product for clothing, and has been enjoyed by ordinary Japanese households. Many people may recall the smell of camphor when they think of chests containing kimonos. Camphor was also used as a medicine for cardiotonic and topical applications, and is still used today mainly as an ingredient in topical medicines, taking advantage of its blood circulation stimulating, analgesic, and anti-inflammatory effects. Recently, camphor camphor has been found to contain a very strong repellent component, and is expected to be effective in combating bed bugs, which have become a social problem in France in recent years.
In the movie "My Neighbor Totoro" directed by Hayao Miyazaki, Totoro lived in the camphor tree, a giant tree that is the master of the Chinju no Mori forest. The camphor tree is a representative tree of the shiny-leaved forests south of the Kanto region, with its large, spreading branches and dense form. Giant camphor trees that are several hundred years old or more exist throughout Japan, and the largest camphor tree in Japan is the "Kamo no kusu" (camphor tree of Kamo) located in the precincts of Gamo Hachiman Shrine in Kagoshima Prefecture. The tree is approximately 1,500 years old, with a root circumference of 33.5 m, a trunk circumference of 24.2 m at eye level, and a height of approximately 30 m. In Japan, camphor trees have been an object of worship since ancient times, and because they repel insects, they have been planted in many shrines as sacred trees that are believed to "ward off evil and remove evil spirits. Buddhist statues introduced in the Asuka Period (7th century) with the arrival of Buddhism were made of sandalwood, but since there was no sandalwood in Japan, camphor trees, which emit fragrance like sandalwood, were used to make Buddhist statues.
Kokokashiko's Kumodana is made by the technique of Inami Sculpture, which specializes in shrine and temple sculptures. Inami Sculpture has a 260-year tradition dating back to the reconstruction of Zuisenji Temple in 1762 in Inami, Nanto City, Toyama Prefecture, which has continued to the present day. Zuisenji Temple is the largest existing wooden structure in Hokuriku, but the Inami area is known for its strong winds, known as the "Inami wind," which has caused many large fires in the past. In order to rebuild Zuisenji Temple, which was destroyed by a large fire, a master sculptor from the Higashi Honganji Temple in Kyoto was dispatched to Inami. The master sculptor from Inami became an apprentice, and by absorbing the highly artistic skills of the Kyoto master sculptor, the brilliant, delicate, grandiose and bold "Inami Sculpture" was created and nurtured. Inami, Nanto City, Toyama Prefecture, was recognized in 2018 by the Agency for Cultural Affairs as the "Town of Wood Sculpture 'Inami'" of Japan Heritage. The gently uphill stone-paved Yokaichi Street in front of the Zuisenji Temple gate is a traditional and tasteful townscape with numerous wood carvers' workshops and town houses, and facilities related to daily life such as bus stops, telephone booths, benches, and street lights, all decorated with wood carvings. The sound of wooden hammers pounding and sharpening wood echoes through the streets, and the fragrance of camphor trees, zelkova trees, and cypress trees wafts through the air. The sound of wooden hammers has been selected as one of the 100 best soundscapes of Japan as "the sound of wood carving in Inami." Inami's sculptures for temples and shrines have been produced in many places in Japan, including Higashi Honganji Temple, Tokyo Tsukiji Honganji Temple, and Nikko Toshogu Shrine. In recent years, they have shifted their focus to interior sculptures for private homes and residences.
Although the Kumodana can be used as a Shinto altar, there was a custom to affix the character for "cloud" to the ceiling as a polite gesture of modesty, as if to indicate that "there are only clouds above the altar" when there is a room above the altar in your home. The clouds are said to be made in the form of "unban" (cloud board) or "unji" (cloud characters), in which the characters for cloud, sky, and heaven are written with a brush on a piece of paper and pasted on the ceiling. The cloud of Kumodana that has been protected by history will gently protect homes and people.