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The Japanese Umbrella Pine “Kouyamaki”

The Japanese Umbrella Pine “Kouyamaki”

Monday January 11, 2016

The Japanese Umbrella Pine (Sciadopitys verticillata – click here for Wiki description) is a very rare and unique tree, endemic to Japan. I had heard there was a stand growing in Fukushima, which is the northern limit of its range. It can be found in other parts of Japan such as the Japanese Alps and Shikoku, and most notably in the historic mountain temple complex at Kouyasan in Wakayama. The Japanese name of the Umbrella Pine is “kouyamaki”, due to its long association with Kouyasan.

Mezashidake Fukushima

Mezashidake, in Fukushima. Home to the most northern population of Umbrella Pine in Japan

The stand in Fukushima can be found in Minami Aizu on a peak named Mt Mezashi (Mezashidake). The peak is around 600m in altitude, so it is not overly arduous making it to the peak, but it is a pretty solid uphill walk so there is definitely some huffing and puffing involved :)

Japanese Umbrella Pine (Kouyamaki) - foilage

Japanese Umbrella Pine (Kouyamaki) – foilage

Japanese Umbrella Pine (Kouyamaki) - trunk and branches

Japanese Umbrella Pine (Kouyamaki) – trunk and branches

Not only is the Umbrella Pine endemic to Japan, it is also the only species in its family – so it is a very rare tree, basically a living fossil.

Japanese Umbrella Pine (Kouyamaki) on Mezashidake in Fukushima

Japanese Umbrella Pine (Kouyamaki) on Mezashidake in Fukushima

Japanese Umbrella Pine (Kouyamaki) on Mezashidake in Fukushima

Japanese Umbrella Pine (Kouyamaki) on Mezashidake in Fukushima

The walk took approx 1.5 hours up and probably only half that coming down. I have visited a lot of well known and iconic Japanese locations over the years (as well as plenty of lesser well known places!) but visiting the rare and hard to find Umbrella Pine in the wild was a great experience.

Umbrella Pine Mt Mezashi Fukushima

Umbrella Pine at Mezashidake, Fukushima

Umbrella Pine Mt Mezashi Fukushima

Umbrella Pine at Mezashidake, Fukushima