The Giant Trees of Tochigi: #44 The Giant Zelkova of Muryouju Temple

#44 Giant Zelkova of Muryouju Temple
The tree is tucked away behind the priest's home and is overshadowed by the magnificence of the approach to the temple.

Number: 44
Name: Giant Zelkova of Muryouju Temple (無量寿寺のけやき)
Type: Japanese Zelkova (Zelkowa serrata)
Height: 18m
Trunk Circumference: 5.3m
Age: Unknown
Location: 栃木県真岡市下籠谷 (36° 29′ 14.7222″N 139° 58′ 49.0794″E)
Date of Visit: 2011-7-18

#44 Giant Zelkova of Muryouju Temple
Stairs like these almost always hold wonderful things at the top.
#44 Giant Zelkova of Muryouju Temple
An avenue of cryptomeria such as this counts as a wonderful thing.

According to temple lore, in Eiwa 1 (永和元年, 1375 CE), a pupil,  Sadayuki (定祐), of Head Priest Joue (定恵) of Senju Temple, started to build a small thatched hut in Komoriya Village (籠谷村). It is thought that, at first, it was used as a place to spread the teachings of Shinran.

#44 Giant Zelkova of Muryouju Temple
The main hall.

Later, at the end of the Tenshou Era (天正, 1573-92 CE), Komoriya Isenokami Masataka (籠谷伊勢守政高) became the patron of the temple and had it erected at its current location. Though the temple complex was only endowed with 30 koku of land, it is a splendid temple.

#44 Giant Zelkova of Muryouju Temple
Overlooking the road and some azaleas.

This natural monument zelkova stands out back, next to the temple kitchen, on the edge of a 10m ledge. From this location, the zelkova can look down on both the priest’s quarters and the nearby road. In springtime, in a small garden below the tree many azaleas bloom. Of course, the roots on the cliff-side side are large and strong to keep the tree from tumbling down the side.

#44 Giant Zelkova of Muryouju Temple
The tree itself isn't a beauty on its own, but its environment and the way it provides a home to other things makes it beautiful.
#44 Giant Zelkova of Muryouju Temple
And thus ends my Marine Day tree hunting expedition. It was certainly an excellent day, but so hot. After this, I went home and had a nap in the air conditioning (naughty, running the aircon in the afternoon on a weekday when we were supposed to be conserving electricity). But don't worry, this isn't the end, there are still LOADS of trees left to visit.