Name: The Giant Cryptomeria of Myouunni Pagoda (妙雲尼塔の大杉)
Type: Japanese Cedar (Cryptomeria japonica)
Trunk Circumference: 4.6m
Age: 500 years
Location: 栃木県那須塩原市塩原門前 (36° 58′ 16″N 139° 49′ 15″E)
Date of Visit: 2012-7-23
Myouun Temple (妙雲寺), located 300m northwest of the old Shiobara Town Office, is a zen temple of the Rinzai School. The nun who founded the temple, the eponymous Myouun, is said to have been the younger sister of Taira no Shigemori (平重盛).
Legend has it that this tree was planted by the grave of Myouun, and three trees grew instead, joining at their base as they grew. While this may be true, Myouun would have died in the late 1100s, and these trees barely look the 500 years old the information plaque claims, let alone 800 or 900 years.
This temple… it was a bit terrible. Big signs everywhere saying it is forbidden to take pictures or video if you intend to make money off them. Yes okay, get over yourselves. All of the gardens and trees were blocked off with NO ENTRY signs. I crept in the back way to get a closer picture of the tree in question, because what the hell. Also, the path up the moist hill was made of the slickest stone slabs ever. Dangerous! Ironically, that slope is called Enmeizaka (延命坂, Long Life Slope). I digress.
Here and there, dotted around the compound are other giant cryptomeria that bear no names or protection (besides the NO ENTRY signs barring access to them).
Shiobara isn’t just an onsen town. It’s also popular for its water. Indeed, on the grounds of the temple there is a wee waterfall with a daft Buddhist name I can’t be bothered to remember. Natsume Souseki wrote a poem entitled “妙雲寺に瀑を観る” (“See the waterfall at Myouun Temple”). Even now, in autumn, many haiku poets gather here to enjoy the changing season and to write.