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Torrential rain likely caused giant, sacred cedar tree to tumble over in central Japan

A sacred cedar tree at Shinmei Shrine is seen toppled over in the city of Mizunami, Gifu Prefecture, on July 12, 2020. (Mainichi/Naohiro Yamada)

MIZUNAMI, Gifu -- A giant cedar tree estimated to be around 1,200 to 1,300 years old in this central Japan city toppled over allegedly due to heavy rain.

A resident near Shinmei Shrine in the city's Okutecho area called emergency services around 10:40 a.m. on July 11, saying they cannot get out of their home due to a fallen tree. Firefighters and others who rushed to the scene found a cedar measuring over 40 meters in height with a trunk circumference of 11 meters on the ground near the resident's home.

(Mainichi/Shintaro Iguchi)
(Mainichi/Shintaro Iguchi)

Five family members who lived at the residence and two others who lived nearby were found with no injuries. It is believed that the tree, which had been growing on the shrine's grounds, toppled over due to the soil loosening after torrential rain hit the area.

According to the Mizunami Municipal Government, the cedar had been designated as a natural treasure by the prefectural government in 1956 and was considered as the shrine's sacred tree. Utility poles and electric cables were damaged in the fall, and about 40 households in the city's Okute district experienced power outages.

Locals were seen cleaning up at the scene around 2 p.m. on July 12. The smell of cedar filled the air as residents cut the tree with a chainsaw and other tools, and loaded the remains onto a truck.

Kiyoshige Yamaguchi, 78, who used a machete to cut off some branches, said, "We did our best by changing the soil around the tree's roots, but I knew that it would eventually fall down. It's a good thing that no one was hurt in the incident."

A 58-year-old lumber dealer from the central Japan prefecture of Mie who arrived at the scene after seeing the news of the event looked at the cedar's roots and pointed out that "the roots are too shallow to support a tree this big." He added, "I feel like the number of giant trees that fell due to strong winds or floods has increased in the past decade. Some kind of countermeasures are necessary."

(Japanese original by Sawako Kumagai, Gifu Bureau, and Shintaro Iguchi, Nagoya News Center)

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