The Giant Trees of Tochigi: #54 The Giant Zelkova of Yakumo Shrine

#54 Giant Zelkova of Yakumo Shrine
Approaching the shrine from the street, before you take a single step upwards, your vision is dominated by the Giant Zelkova.

Number: 54
Name: Giant Zelkova of Yakumo Shrine (八雲神社のケヤキ)
Type: Japanese Zelkova (Zelkowa serrata)
Height: 28m
Trunk Circumference: 5.1m
Age: >300 years
Location: 栃木県大田原市黒羽田町 (36° 51′ 38″N 140° 07′ 21″E)
Date of Visit: 2011-5-21

On the left bank of the Naka River, at the east end of National Route 461’s Naka River Bridge, you find Kurobaneta-machi. Before Kurobane Town amalgamated into Otawara City in 2005, you could find the town hall here.

#54 Giant Zelkova of Yakumo Shrine
I do hope those aren't insect holes. I'd hate for something to happen to this tree, like the Giant Evergreen Oak of Takioka Onsen Shrine.

Yakumo Shrine is found on the high ground to the east of the old town hall. Stepping onto the stone staircase leading up to the shrine, you can’t help but notice a majestic tree at the top on your right-hand side. This is the Giant Zelkova of Yakumo Shrine. The thin rope encircling its trunk suggests that herein dwells a kami.

#54 Giant Zelkova of Yakumo Shrine
What a mighty tree.

In 1989, the first survey of Giant Trees was carried out, and this zelkova was recorded. Since that time, the trunk circumference has increased a further 25cm. Despite its advanced years, it’s still managing to carry on strong growth.

From low on the trunk and looking upwards, one can see that there were many branches at one time, but as they get thick, they seem to be shed. Perhaps they become too heavy for their own good. At any rate, in the months and years after such a shedding, this zelkova works to heal itself, and now the wounds of these lost brances are nothing more than lumps and bumps here and there.

Though obscured by leaves on this warm spring day, it seems that, once, long ago, the tree forked further up, but that the southermost half of the fork has been lost. One wonders how wide the canopy may have reached if that fork had continued to grow.

#54 Giant Zelkova of Yakumo Shrine
The roots don't have an easy time of it, but they've made do.
#54 Giant Zelkova of Yakumo Shrine
Before leaving, I gave this tree a hug. I couldn't not, it was just such a warm, inviting tree. I'll come back here one day. But, ever onwards!

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