The Giant Trees of Tochigi: #81 The Giant Cryptomeria of Kentoku Temple

The Giant Trees of Tochigi: #81 The Giant Cryptomeria of Kentoku Temple
I always feel a little uncomfortable shooting in graveyards. I don't know how any family members I may stumble across will react. Indifference is what I always get, but I always think someone will be angry that I'm somehow disrespecting their loved ones.

Number: 81
Name: The Giant Cryptomeria of Kentoku Temple (乾徳寺のスギ)
Type: Cryptomeria (Cryptomeria japonica)
Height: 48m
Trunk Circumference: 5.1m
Age: unknown
Location: 栃木県那須郡那珂川町馬頭 (36° 44′ 31″N 140° 10′ 19″E)
Date of Visit: 2011-8-13

Now, this is Nakagawa Town, but before amalgamation in 2005, this was the central part of Batou Town. In the northern part of this central core, surrounded on three sides by mountains lies Kentoku Temple.

This place is famous for its autumn colours, and the temple marks the entrance to a path through the woods that has in the past been recommended in guidebooks.

The Giant Trees of Tochigi: #81 The Giant Cryptomeria of Kentoku Temple
I wasn't entirely sure where in the compound the cryptomeria of note was when I arrived, so when I saw this, I thought perhaps it had been felled for one reason or another. But no this is another tree whose trunk is now being carved into a little statue of Jizo.

Following along the path, just behind the main temple, there is a sizable graveyard. The Giant Cryptomeria stands in that graveyard. It stands in the center, slightly separated from the other cryptomeria. The tree stands very tall, and cuts an imposing figure in this peaceful grove. The lord of the Mumo Clan‘s (武茂氏) gravestones are near here.

The Giant Trees of Tochigi: #81 The Giant Cryptomeria of Kentoku Temple

The Mumo Clan was a branch of the Utsunomiya Clan founded by Utsunomiya Yasumune (宇都宮泰宗), the third son of the 7th Utsunomiya Lord, Utsunomiya Kagetsuna (宇都宮景綱). The Mumo branch was active from 1288 to 1298 CE, but the title was became extinct at the end of the Einin (永仁) period.

However, in Kanshou 4 (寛正4年, 1463 CE), the third son of Utsunomiya Masatsuna (宇都宮正綱), who was called Utsunomiya Kanetsuna (宇都宮兼綱) revived the Mumo branch, and he became the lord of a domain worth 10,000 koku. Kanetsuna established Kentoku Temple as his family temple.

The Giant Trees of Tochigi: #81 The Giant Cryptomeria of Kentoku Temple
The cicadas use this place to move to the next life, too.

In Kyouhou 16 (享保16年, 1731 CE), the Mumo Clan gravestones were collected from here and there and moved here. This included a Kamakura Period stone monument. In Showa 43 (昭和43年, 1968), these were designated a cultural treasure of Batou Town.

The graveyard is located on gentle sloping terrain surrounded by great old cryptomeria, including this one. It really matches its surroundings, and it’s kind of a beautiful graveyard. As this is a graveyard, and as it is at the mouth of a hiking path and as I went on a nice day in summer, and as it happened to be during obon, there were plenty of people around. But none of them gave any mind to the Mumo Clan or to this tree.

The Giant Trees of Tochigi: #81 The Giant Cryptomeria of Kentoku Temple
This really is a spectacular spot for a graveyard.

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