After giving bloom to beautiful red or white flowers, the camellia produces a round fruit.
When the seed of this fruit is drypressed, it produces camellia oil.
There are records of this oil being used as far back as the Heian period, as a form of hair conditioner, while the flowers are mentioned in poems in the Manyoshu collection of poems that was compiled in the 8th century.
This demonstrates the high regard in which this plant has been held in Japan throughout history, and selective cultivation has resulted in the creation of several thousand different species.
Quite apart from the intrinsic beauty of the blooms, I think that people were moved by the sight of the camellia producing elegant flowers even in the shade of the forest.
After the flowers have finished, the tree produces fruit that break open when dry to release dark brown seeds that can then bepressed to obtain oil.
The seeds are also quite cute in appearance.
Only small amounts of oil can be obtained from the seeds so it is usually sold in little bottles.
It is used to produce the very best tempura and its ability to prevent dry skin results in it often being found among the ingredients of cosmetics.