Otome Tsubaki

Long long ago, a millionaire’s daughter fell in love with a fisherman. They loved each other

very much but her parents didn’t consent to their marriage, because of the difference in their social positions, and married the girl to another man against her will.  On the wedding night the girl threw herself into the cruel sea. On the same night the fisherman never came back from fishing.  People gave him up for lost.



   Some time after this happened, at the seashore where the girl’s dead body was found, there was a red camellia blooming. It looked sad in mourning over the death of the girl, 

and to people's surprise, pale light emanated from this f lower at night. For many years the light served as the sole guide above the dark sea. It showed the way back to the harbour to the fishing boats far out at sea and the lost ships on stormy nights.


They  called the camellia with its divine light Otome Tsubaki (the maiden camellia). This story was transmitted from person to person, from generation to generation. They also called it Kyoboku (the mirror tree) because it shone like a mirror.


After many years passed, the Japanese Navy was stationed in Kure. The official residence of the commander-in-chief of the naval station was scheduled to be set up in the very place in Kameyama shrine where the camellia tree was growing. Eventually, the shrine was obliged to move to its present place. The camellia tree was also doomed to be transplanted to the precincts of the shrine.


When the workers tried to move the tree, every man who was at work had a severe stomachache. They couldn't continue the work. When a white snake was witnessed coiling around the sacred camellia tree, everyone wondered what power the tree could have. A mysterious tale was spread among the Kure people that even a lightest touch of a leaf or a

flower would cause a terrible stomachache and a curse on the person who touched it. 


Some related stories about the camellia tree are depicted in the documents of Kameyama shrine. When the tree was seven hundred years old it died. But the trunk of the tree was carved into a statue of the Maiden Camellia. The statue is exhibited at Irifuneyama Museum.


Fortunately, a baby tree was born at the root of the old mother tree. It is now growing in a northern comer of Kure City Ground. This is the only reminder of the old Kameyama shrine.


 Kure Monthly Vol.2 No.7 August - September 1986