Aomori Hiba: The Tree Of Life

aomori hiba tree of life

Hiba’s scale-like leaves form into flattened shoots similar to lengths of rope.

In Japan, there is a saying that goes, “In a house made of hiba, mosquitos do not come for 3 years.”  To celebrate our new Aomori Hiba cutting boards, we give you a look into the fascinating history and properties of the prized hiba tree.

Hiba arborvitae is a member of the cypress family Thujopsis dolabrata that is native to Japan, where it is concentrated in Aomori Prefecture.  The tree is known as an arborvitae or “tree of life” for its incredible lifespan and resilience against the elements. It grows slowly over a period of 250 years and can stand up to both strong winds and heavy snowfall.

Aomori Hiba survives in harsh natural environment. A young tree sometimes keep waiting for big trees covered over the sky being cut for as many as 100 years to have sunshine. It even waits until the environment is improved to grow up.

It takes as many as 300 years to be 70cm in diameter. Typical Japanese cedar takes 100 years to be the same size, you will know how slowly “Aomori Hiba” grows up compared to the other trees. That is why the grain is very fine and called “Golden Wood”.

The highest-quality oils are pressed from the bark of trees that have reached full maturity at 300 hundred years old.  Due to this aging process and its relative scarcity, hiba wood is considered a precious material, carefully regulated and protected.

Hiba is known as one of the three largest trees in Japan alongside hinoki and sugi.  It’s considered a first-class building material for pagodas and shrines because it naturally resists rot and mold, which is particularly valuable in humid summers. A compound called hinokitiol that’s found only in Aomori-bred hiba trees also banishes bugs like termites or spiders. In temples, where cleansing and purification are important parts of religious rituals, the natural antimicrobial and germicidal properties of hiba played an important symbolic part.

Prized for their woodsy, calming scent and pest-resistant lumber, hiba trees are a time-honoured building material as well as an excellent aromatherapy ingredient.

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