The Giant Trees of Tochigi: #6 The Giant Zelkova of Chikatsu Shrine

#6 The Giant Zelkovas of Chikatsu Shrine
Another picture marred by power lines.

Number: 6
Name: Giant Zelkovas of Chikatsu Shrine (智賀都神社のケヤキ)
Type: Japanese Zelkova (Zelkowa serrata)
Height: E 40m/W 40m
Trunk Circumference: E 8.0m/W 7.3m
Age: 700 years
Location: 栃木県宇都宮市徳次郎町 (36° 39′ 23″N 139° 50′ 27″E)
Date of Visit: 2011-7-18

Chikatsu Shrine is on the east side of the old Nikko Highway (now National Route 119). Enshrined there is Oonamuchi-no-mikoto (大己貴命), who is also known as Ookuninushi (大国主). Ookuninishi is more famously enshrined at the Grand Shrine of Izumo (to where all roads lead).

#6 The Giant Zelkovas of Chikatsu Shrine
Upon passing through this little entrance, I saw something moving in the distance. As my eyes focused on the large flying yellow-and-black thing, I realized it was a giant Asian hornet, and so I quickly took a few last pictures and then skedaddled back to my car.

The shrine was established in Houki 9 (宝亀9年, that is, 778 CE) when Nikko-san Daimyoujin (the god enshrined at Futaara Shrine) had his duties divided and was ceremonially transferred here and enshrined as Chikatsu-no-mori (千勝森). Also, on a picture scroll kept at Utsunomiya Shrine in Uchiko, Ehime Prefecture, one can see what appears to be this shrine, its torii, and two sacred trees. The scroll has been dated to circa Bunmei 9 (文明9年, 1477 CE), and it is said the picture bears an unmistakable resemblance to this place north of Utsunomiya.

#6 The Giant Zelkovas of Chikatsu Shrine
The east tree.

One wonders of those sacred trees in the picture on the scroll in Ehime are these still-living sacred zelkovas. If we assume that to be the case, then these two trees are easily older than 600 years.

#6 The Giant Zelkovas of Chikatsu Shrine
The canopy of the west tree.

The two trees are roughly the same size, but I’d say the tree on the east side has thicker, fatter roots. One feels, though, that the insides of both trees have hollowed out over the centuries, leaving not much substance to them. Despite that, both these trees are wonderfully tall and vigorous looking. Tall, old trees such as these, hollow on the inside, constantly buffeted by strong winds… that they have held out this long against such an onslaught is a joyful thing.

In 1994, these trees were administered to by a team of tree surgeons to strengthen them.

#6 The Giant Zelkovas of Chikatsu Shrine
#6 The Giant Zelkovas of Chikatsu Shrine
As I beat my hasty retreat from the suzumebachi onslaught, I decided I need to come back here one day. But onwards, ever onwards.

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

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