Concept

Cleyera japonica

Summary
Cleyera japonica (sakaki) is a flowering evergreen tree native to warm areas of Japan, Taiwan, China, Myanmar, Nepal, and northern India (Min and Bartholomew 2015). It can reach a height of 10 m. The leaves are 6–10 cm long, smooth, oval, leathery, shiny and dark green above, yellowish-green below, with deep furrows for the leaf stem. The bark is dark reddish brown and smooth. The small, scented, cream-white flowers open in early summer, and are followed later by berries which start red and turn black when ripe. Sakaki is one of the common trees in the second layer of the evergreen oak forests. It is considered sacred to Japanese Shintō faith, and is one of the classical offerings at Shintō shrines. Sakaki wood is used for making utensils (especially combs), building materials, and fuel. It is commonly planted in gardens, parks, and shrines. Sakaki is considered a sacred tree in the Shinto religion, along with other evergreens such as Japanese cypress and "sacred cryptomeria". Shinto shrines are traditionally encircled with "sacred trees" constituting a "divine fence". In Shinto ritual offerings to the "gods; spirits", branches of sakaki are decorated with paper streamers (shide) to make tamagushi. In the myth about Amaterasu and the cave she hid in, after Susanoo's tantrum, when the Yata no Kagami was forged and propped-up in front of Amaterasu's cave, it was said to have been perched-upon the branches of a sacred, 500-branched Sakaki tree facing the cave. The Japanese word sakaki is written with the kanji character 榊, which combines 木 (ki, "tree; wood") and 神 (kami, "spirit; god") to form the meaning "sacred tree; divine tree". The lexicographer Michael Carr notes: In modern Japanese, sakaki is written 榊 with a doubly exceptional logograph. It is an ideograph (in the proper sense of 'logograph representing an idea' rather than loosely 'Chinese character; logograph') and is a kokuji 国字 'Japanese [not Chinese] logograph.' Ideograms and kokuji are two of the rarest logographic types, each constituting a small percentage of a typical written Japanese sample.
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