Name: The Giant Zelkova of Asada Shrine (浅田神社のケヤキ)
Type: Zelkowa serrata
Trunk Circumference: 5.7m
Location: 栃木県佐野市馬門町字前原 (36° 17′ 04″N 139° 36′ 00″E)
Date of Visit: 2012-7-28
This tree actually doesn’t exist in either the local natural cultural properties registers or the Environment Agency giant tree registers. And yet, it’s in the list from which I am working, because it really is a rather stunning tree. It’s a wonder it isn’t properly registered though.
According to the lore of Asada Shrine, the shrine was founded in the 56th year of the reign of Emperor Keiko (景行天皇). According to convention, the 56th year of his reign would be 127 CE. This is well before there was any sort of centralized hegemony in Japan, and as such, we can put Emperor Keiko and most likely the founding date of this shrine, entirely in the realm of legend.
As for the proper dating of this temple, there is a bell at this shrine inscribed with the date Eishou 5 (永正５年, 1508 CE), so we can be sure that it was around at least as early as then. This shrine is also sometimes referred to in history as Tenmei Souja (天明総社) and as the Grand Shrine of Aso (阿曾大神宮) (though the latter name is a bit too grandiose for this place). On the torii, Tenmei Souja is the name written.
It’s a quiet little shrine in a quiet neighbourhood on the edge of nowhere.