The Giant Trees of Tochigi: #77 The Sacred Zelkova of Shirahige Shrine

#77 Sacred Zelkova of Shirahige Shrine
The Sacred Zelkova is clearly visible as you head north along National Route 4 from the Hoshakuji Junction.

Number: 77
Name: Sacred Zelkova of Shirahige Shrine (白鬚神社の神木けやき)
Type: Japanese Zelkova (Zelkowa Serrata)
Height: 29m
Trunk Circumference: 5.5m
Age: >300 years
Location: 栃木県塩谷郡高根沢町宝積寺 (36° 36′ 56″N 139° 58′ 29″E)
Date of Visit: 2011-5-21

#77 Sacred Zelkova of Shirahige Shrine
The tree, despite its age, is clearly healthy and vigorous.

Shirahige Shrine is located immediately west of National Route 4, a short distance north of its crossing over the Kinu River at Hoshakuji. It is easily visible from the road, and impossible to overlook. However, as traffic on Route 4 is heavy, and the parking area practically nonexistant, do be careful if you choose to visit this tree.

#77 Sacred Zelkova of Shirahige Shrine#77 Sacred Zelkova of Shirahige Shrine

Inside the shrine grounds, beside the massive zelkova, there is a signboard which states that it has been added to the Tochigi’s curated list of trees of historical importance (名木). Another stone pillar proclaiming the tree to be a natural monument in Takanezawa is also there. The pillar calls the tree 「神木欅」Sacred Zelkova.

#77 Sacred Zelkova of Shirahige Shrine
The top of that retaining wall is a couple centimeters above the normal ground level. The bottom of the wall, about a meter below normal ground level.

I think the shrine’s ground level used to be lower.  Perhaps the ground was raised during the building and upgrading of Route 4 after the war. At any rate, a stone retaining wall has been built around the zelkova to protect it.

If one looks closely, one can see new sprouts popping out of roots and here and there. Maybe, in a few decades, we will be able to call this The Parent and Child Zelkovas of Shirahige Shrine.

#77 Sacred Zelkova of Shirahige Shrine
A look back to the entrance. In the distance, National Route 4, and the rise on which Houshakuji is built.
#77 Sacred Zelkova of Shirahige Shrine
A guardian worth of such a tree.
#77 Sacred Zelkova of Shirahige Shrine
Here, too, the aftereffects of The Great East Japan Earthquake can be seen.
#77 Sacred Zelkova of Shirahige Shrine
As the Sacred Zelkova gently waved in the breeze, I head off to my next destination. What will I find there?

I try to show you my Japan. Won’t you show us your Japan?