Name: The Reverse Cryptomeria (逆杉)
Type: Japanese Cedar (Cryptomeria japonica)
Trunk Circumference: 10.7m/7.5m
Age: 900 years according to the Natural Monument Register; 1500 years according to the shrine.
Location: 栃木県那須塩原市中塩原 (36° 58′ 36″N 139° 48′ 26″E)
Date of Visit: 2012-7-23
Shiobara Hachiman Shrine is located in the northwest of Shiobara Onsen, and is quite near to the entrance of the Nikko-Shiobara Momiji Line, a toll road in autumn for looking at the foliage. At this shrine, there is a great spring, and as such a clear pond has formed. The main entrance to the shrine is over a vermilion bridge that spans this pond. Carp swim merrily there, and visitors to the shrine can cart away jugs of the spring water as they like.
To the north of the pond stand two large cryptomeria. Their roots have come into contact over the ages, and in fact these trees are thought to be a male and female pair. As to why the trees are called “Reverse” cryptomeria, it is said that the lower branches grow down and out, much the opposite of how they ought to. Perhaps these lower branches are the ones that have been cut off, for I have no idea what they’re on about.
In Kouhei 5 (康平５年, 1062 CE), Minamoto no Yoshiie (源義家, also known as Hachimantaro, 八幡太郎), before heading north to attempt to subjugate the land of Oshu (that is, Mutsu Province, the Shimokita Peninsula in Aomori) and control the Ezo people, stopped here to pray for victory. Instead of the traditional bamboo when preparing the altar, he instead planted two cryptomeria seedlings he happened to have. Those seedlings are these trees, we’re lead to believe. This dating keeps with the Register of Natural Monuments age. However, if the shrine’s age is correct, then these trees would have already been giant when Minamoto no Yoshiie stopped here to pray.
These are said to be the biggest trees in the prefecture.