Name: The Giant Zelkova of Nogi Shrine (野木神社のケヤキ)
Type: Zelkowa serrata
Trunk Circumference: 6.2m
Age: 500 years
Location: 栃木県下都賀郡野木町野木 (36° 12′ 56″N 139° 42′ 30″E)
Date of Visit: 2012-7-28
The deity enshrined at Nogi Shrine is Ujinowakiiratsuko-no-Mikoto (莵道稚郎子命), who appears to have been Crown Prince circa 309CE.
According to the information boards, in the reign of Emperor Nintoku (仁徳天皇) named a fellow named Narawake-no-Mikoto (奈良別命, thought to be from present-day Kumagaya) the Regional Administrator (国造) of Shimotsuke. When he came to take up his post, it is said that he brought some of the Ujinowakiiratsuko’s ashes and built a memorial shrine at a place called Kasagakenodaitebako (笠懸野台手函). After that, in the Enryaku Era (延暦年間, 782-806 CE), when Sakanoue no Tamuramaro (坂上田村麻呂) was returning from Subjugating the Emishi (蝦夷征伐), he visited the old shrine at Kasagakenodaitebako and, finding it lacking, had the shrine moved to this place. It was at that time that he had the Giant Ginkgo planted. Though the zelkova here is really quite old, all of these events took place long before this zelkova was planted.
Whether any of that previous paragraph is actually true, it’s hard to tell. Historical records are few and unreliable. However, there is firm evidence that, at the very latest, this shrine was around in the late Kamakura period. Whether the previous story is true or not, this shrine has a long history.
According to Enviroment Ministry records, there are 14 trees with trunks larger than 3m around here, including this tree, the Giant Ginkgo next to it, a hackberry, and cryptomeria. This tree is quite tall and has a very full, lush canopy. Because of the wide cone-shape of the roots, the trunk feels to be larger than it actually is.