Kanji 1467

Thank you for visiting this Character Home Page. Below you'll find a synopsis of the essay. If you wish to read the full text, the PDF of the essay is available for purchase to the right.


Native to Japan, this towering tree lives 500 years—and more than two millennia on one island! Living cedars may be seen as sacred, receiving attention even from the emperor. Meanwhile, felled cedars turn into everything from soy sauce barrels to "magewappa." Discover unexpected relationships between cedar and saké, as well as between postwar reconstruction and pollenosis. 

Revision history:

Nov. 23, 2021: p. 9: Made several changes to the photo caption.

Jan. 16, 2020:

  • p. 2: Etymology Box: Replaced the old Henshall etymology with the new one. Also removed the Sears image because for some reason he no longer has old images of 杉 on his site.
  • p. 16: Added a link to the Kanshudo games.

Oct. 31, 2013:

  • pp. 6 and 7: Slightly revised some info. in sentences.
  • p. 11: Added a sentence about how cedar repels insects.

June 21, 2013: Originally published.


Corey's picture
I found this essay very interesting. Eve, raised the question about why so many people in Japan suffer from cedar pollen allergies and how there doesn't seem to be a flower to spread the pollen. It's a bit off the topic of mastering kanji but just delving deeply into the topic should help in the process of master the language.
eve's picture
Thanks so much, Corey! Yes, I like to give the full picture of the topic at hand, whatever it may be. As you say, this sort of exploration helps readers (and me!) master the language. It also provides a much deeper sense of the culture. But I think perhaps the biggest payoff for kanji learners is that, if you get excited about the topic (in this case cedars), that feeling will carry over to the particular kanji. Whenever you see 杉 in the future, I hope you'll feel happy or even excited, as you would on seeing a friend. That'll make you engage more deeply with the Japanese text you're reading, and the positive feeling about 杉 will help you overcome any frustration you may feel if you don't recognize some other characters. That's my experience, anyway!

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RADICAL木 (75: tree)