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Kiso-hinoki (木曽檜)

The wood of hinoki (Japanese cypress, or Chamaecyparis obtusa) grown in the Kiso area of southwest Nagano Prefecture is known for its faint pink surface, pleasant odor, straight grain that is easily worked, and durability. It was thus valued for lumber for use in the construction of temples, shrines and castles. Noh stages, masks and props are mostly made of hinoki wood, but Kiso-hinoki is the most highly prized. These days, however, huge trees suitable for a stage are rarely found, so wood from foreign countries is often used instead. In the Edo Period, strict regulations led to the saying "a head for a tree" (if someone steals a single tree, he will be beheaded). Kiso-hinoki topped a preservation list of forbidden trees in Kiso that were known as the "Kiso five trees." It was also known as Bishū-zai (Bishū wood), because the Owari domain (Bishū) was the exclusive dealer.

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