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The Burdens of Sacred Forests

The August 29th issue of Jinja Shinpō had an article written by the chief priest of a jinja in Shiga Prefecture in response to the articles about sacred forests. The jinja is in a town, facing onto the main road through it; the precincts cover about a hectare, and there is a good forest, including a keyaki (Japanese zelkova) with a trunk 4.5 metres in circumference. The woodland is designated by the city as a protected woodland, and people often visit it.

However, maintenance is a major task. The trees drop leaves on the surroundings almost all year round, and they need to be cleared up. (Apparently, camphor trees (kusunoki) start dropping their leaves at the end of March, while cherry trees do so in August, and then all the other trees get started for autumn.) The adherents’ women’s group come three times a month to do a big clean, and the other ujiko and sōdai also help out, but the chief priest still has to do a lot of sweeping.

The problems do not end once the leaves have been swept up. Disposing of them as rubbish at the municipal tip costs ¥15,000 per ton (about $100 per ton at the moment). Apparently, being designated as a protected area does not come with an exemption from, or even subsidy for, those fees. The alternative would be to burn the leaves, but that, he has been told by the local police, is illegal.

Thus, he says, what he really wants to hear is some advice on how to deal with the fallen leaves, because they are a major headache for him, and doubtless for other chief priests of jinja in urban areas.

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4 thoughts on “The Burdens of Sacred Forests”

  1. There are a lot of possibilities (compost occurred to me as well), but what is practical will depend on the individual jinja. Still, it would definitely be helpful to have a forum for priests to share ideas and experiences.

  2. I’m so glad someone mentioned compost. I pile all my leaves in a box outside. It is remarkable how quickly they break down.

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