Matsu Pine Meaning


Japanese Pine Trees

In Japan, the pine tree, or matsu (松の木), shares the same meaning as the Chinese and Korean pine trees. That is, longevity, virtue, and youth. They are also associated with masculinity and power.

The word 'matsu' means "waiting for the soul of a god to descend from Heaven" in Japanese. In ancient Shinto beliefs, gods were said to have ascended to Heaven on a pine tree, where they now reside on a beautiful volcanic mountain in giant or old trees.

Pines are also used to mark the boundaries of the sacred ground of temples and shrines.

Pines are also a popular tree of choice for the art of bonsai. Many of these bonsai trees live to be hundreds of years old!

Prior to the Edo period (1600-1867), pine trees and branches were a popular choice of decoration for samurai on their armor and katana due to all the associations with masculinity.

After the Great East Earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, the city of Rikuzentakata was devastated and the surrounding forest of 70,000 pine trees were almost completely destroyed. That is, except for one lone pine tree. This tree became a national symbol of resilience and determination to stand tall and rebuild in the face of the massive destruction in northeast Japan.