An island of wild camellias
Camellia flowers have, in the past, been used by Japanese Christians to represent the Virgin Mary. They grow wild on Goto, which has a long history of producing camellia oil
If, at the right time of the year, you walk along the mountain trail which leads to Former Gorin church, you will be met by wild camellias. On Hisaka island, there are many wild camellia forests. In around the 17th century, a missionary named Kamel who had been doing missionary work in Manila brought the camellia flower back to Europe. The scientific name of one of this flower’s best known species is Camellia japonica. For people in Europe, Camellia flowers became representative of the East. In Christianity, one of the flowers which has traditionally been used to symbolise Mary is the rose. In Japan, however, “The fifteen mysteries of the rosary” show Mary holding white camellia flowers.
Since olden times, camellias have been intimately connected with the Japanese way of life and with Japanese culture. Goto is blessed with an abundance of these flowers, and for a very long time camellia oil has been produced on Goto. Camellia oil is extracted by pulverising the seeds and is used in cooking and for women's hair. Each area on Goto has its own oil refinery (people used to take camellia seeds to these refineries where they would exchange them for oil). First, the sundried seeds are pulverised. Then, they are heated with steam, and by gradually increasing the pressure, the oil is extracted. Finally, the oil is filtered using washi (traditional Japanese paper). It is said that it is this old manufacturing method which is what helps to give the camellia oil produced on Goto its superior quality.