Name: The Giant Cryptomeria of Takesan Houkine Shrine (嶽山箒根神社の大杉)
Type: Japanese Cedar (Cryptomeria japonica)
Trunk Circumference: 8.7m
Age: >1000 years
Location:栃木県那須塩原市宇都野 (36° 55′ 14″N 139° 51′ 13″E)
Date of Visit: 2012-7-23
If you follow Prefectural Road 56 (The Shiobara-Yaita Line) north from Yaita, near the crest of this, a mountain pass road, you’ll find a right-turn will take you to Mountain Station Takahara. Here there are washrooms, and a restaurant. I did not stop here. I continued further along this side road. Soon asphalt gave way to slick concrete, and soon slick concrete gave way to dirt. And then concrete again. And then dirt. And then a lake. And then concrete. But eventually, rounding a bend, there’s a wee clearing on the right, and if you pull in here, you’ll find yourself at Takesan Houkine Shrine. It’s enshrined deep within the mountains, to be sure.
The day I came here, it was very misty. The route I was following this day was circular, taking me throughout the northwest, so this tree could have been first or last. I’m glad I made it first, for if I hadn’t, this lovely mist would have lifted, and it wouldn’t have been the same.
Getting out of my car and looking around, through the mist I could make out the silhouette of this giant tree.
Looking at the main shrine building, the tree is on a narrow ledge to the right. From the parking area, one must look up to see it. In the 8th year of the reign of the Emperor Temmu (天武天皇), that is to say, 679 CE, an ascetic who lived on this mountain, Yamamoto Yoshiaki (山本良章) planted guardian trees at each of the four directions of this shrine. Of those trees, only this one remains.
Despite this shrine being so deep in the mountains, the shrine and its grounds are well looked after. Though I didn’t meet anyone the day I went, there are surely people working behind the scenes to keep this place in good condition, and I’m grateful to them for that.
On the way back to the main road, turning a bend, there was a doe in the road. I slowed to a stop. She looked back and forth, and then 3 more does and a fawn walked out of the forest behind her and crossed the road. She followed them. I continued on my way.