The Giant Trees of Tochigi: #80 The Giant Umbrella Pine of Nasu Town

The Giant Trees of Tochigi: #80 The Giant Umbrella Pine of Nasu Town
It may be more spectacular in autumn, where it would stand out from the deciduous trees.

Number: 80
Name: The Giant Umbrella Pine of Nasu Town (那須町のこうやまき)
Type: Umbrella Pine (Sciadopitys verticillata)
Height: 23m
Trunk Circumference: 5.4m
Age: 524 years
Location: 栃木県那須郡那須町芦野 (36° 59′ 11″N 140° 09′ 53″E)
Date of Visit: 2011-8-13

On a piece of high ground overlooking the neighbourhood of Ashino, there stands the remnants of the Ashino Clan’s encampment, known as Sakura-ga-jou (桜ヶ城), which these days is allegedly a public park, and is maintained. It certainly didn’t seem maintained when I was there…

The Giant Trees of Tochigi: #80 The Giant Umbrella Pine of Nasu Town
There are actually stairs there, but it doesn't look much like it.

As I was sitting in the parking lot with my windows down partially (so I wouldn’t have to waste fuel on the aircon), I started to hear a loud buzzing, and a “thunk thunk thunk” sound. Glancing around, I realized there was a Giant Asian Hornet trying to gain entry to the car. I quickly upped the windows and turned the aircon on, and then debated whether I should try to see this tree. I sat in the car for 20 minutes, I guess, relaying my situation on Twitter. I finally decided to move to a different, nearby, closer to the trail I needed to take, parking area and hope the suzumebachi didn’t follow me. Luckily, it didn’t.

The stairs up to the high ground were overgrown this day. Severely overgrown. I guess it’s better to come in fall, or in spring (there are lots of sakura trees around here, as you may expect given the name of the place).

The Giant Trees of Tochigi: #80 The Giant Umbrella Pine of Nasu Town
Out of shape as I am, climbing these utterly thrashed my thighs.

After a reasonable climb, there’s a large, flat clearing. This is the remains of the outer citadel. On the northern edge of this clearing, the land rises again. Looking towards it and a little to the left, you can see the remains of the inner citadel. Over here is a fairly large fir tree. But if you look to the right, you can see what I, at least, came here for. The Giant Umbrella Pine of Nasu Town. Umbrella Pines are actually fairly unique. They’ve been around, virtually unchanged, for 230 million years. They have no close relatives still living today. It’s listed as a vulnerable species.

The Giant Trees of Tochigi: #80 The Giant Umbrella Pine of Nasu Town
At the base of this hill are many signs relating to the tree: name posts, information boards, etc. It's got several names, including the Umbrella Pine of Nasu Town, and the Umbrella Pine of the Ashino Castle Ruins.

There may have been a way up to it, but I couldn’t find it, and being wary of a return of the suzumebachi, I made my visit brief.

The Giant Trees of Tochigi: #80 The Giant Umbrella Pine of Nasu Town
Had to pause on the way down because the hornet was patrolling the mouth of the path. When it buggered off, I made a dash to my car.

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