The Giant Trees of Tochigi: #22 The Giant Cryptomeria of Kasosan Shrine

#22 The Giant Cryptomeria of Kasosan Shrine
Here, at the base of a mountain, lies Kasosan Shrine.

Number: 22
Name: The Giant Cryptomeria of Kasosan Shrine (加蘇山神社の杉)
Type: Japanese Cedar (Cryptomeria japonica)
Height: 51m
Trunk Circumference: 6.4m
Age: 500 years
Location: 栃木県鹿沼市上久我石裂 (36° 35′ 57″N 139° 35′ 51″E)
Date of Visit: 2012-4-28

This place, Mt. Ozaku (石裂山, 879m) has been sacred ground for Shugendou (修験道) since olden times. Kasosan Shrine is at its eastern foot.

According to shrine history, this shrine was founded in the Jingo-Keiun Era (神護景雲, 767~770 CE). At the time, what is now the inner sanctuary was actually the main shrine, but because it’s up a craggy and precipitous hill, in Bunka 11 (文化11年, 1814 CE), a so-called lower shrine was built at the current location, but it was only a subsidiary shrine to the main one higher up the mountain. In Meiji 44 (明治44年, 1911), a new main shrine was constructed at the current location, and the old shrine higher up the mountain became the inner sanctuary. This is how things are now. Furthermore, at the summit there is an auxiliary shrine to Tsukuyomi-no-mikoto (月読命), Tsukiyama Shrine (月山神社).

#22 The Giant Cryptomeria of Kasosan Shrine
How many people have climbed these stairs?

From the village below, you can drive right to the base of the stone steps of Kasosan Shrine.

On the shrine grounds, there are several giant cryptomeria, and it makes quite a spectacle. Among them, three are designated Natural Monuments.

#22 The Giant Cryptomeria of Kasosan Shrine
You can clearly see how two trees have merged.

First, there is this tree at the bottom of the steps. It’s two trees that have grown together at the base, so the base is exceedingly large. In the main shrine there is another double-trunked cryptomeria standing at the entrance to the path to the inner sanctuary. I overheard another visitor saying that his friend had told him it was a power spot, so he’d come to see it as well.

I wonder how many of the young trees in this forest will grow old like this. I wonder what the probability is that they’ll live as long as this one? One in ten thousand? One in one hundred thousand?

#22 The Giant Cryptomeria of Kasosan Shrine
I found your new desktop wallpaper, by the way.

To view these trees and their bark and the mosses growing on them, one can see the trials and tribulations they have suffered over the centuries. But they never complain. They accept anything.

Standing there, confronting the tree, I feel a little embarrassed that I am not as stoic as it is. I suppose I shall have to return here one day.

#22 The Giant Cryptomeria of Kasosan Shrine
The signs at the bottom say "Beware of bears" on the right and "beware of mamushi" on the left. Since "mushi" is Japanese for insect, I thought, as one does, "I wonder what sort of insect a mamushi is, that there needs to be a warning." In fact, mamushi is the Japanese Pit Viper, the most abundant snake in Japan, and also the most venomous. Oh my!