The Giant Trees of Tochigi: #49 The Giant Ginkgo of Soukou Temple

#49 The Giant Ginkgo of Soukou
There it is, down some road my navi claims doesn’t exist and doesn’t go through, when it in fact does both.

Number: 49
Name: The Giant Ginkgo of Soukou Temple (宗光寺のいちょう)
Type: Ginkgo biloba
Height: 21m
Trunk Circumference: 5.6m
Age: >300 years
Location: 栃木県真岡市長沼字寺ノ内 (36° 21′ 32″N 139° 55′ 55″E)
Date of Visit: 2012-8-2

#49 The Giant Ginkgo of Soukou
’tis a wee bit hollow at the base.

Soukou Temple lies to the east of Naganuma Junior High School. It forms, along with Kita-in (喜多院) in Kawagoe and Kanasana Temple in Kodama-gun (both in Saitama), the three great centers of Tendai Buddhism (天台宗) in Kanto.

#49 The Giant Ginkgo of Soukou
Look at that complex air root.

According to temple lore, in Kashou 1 (嘉祥元年, 848 CE), by the desire of Emperor Ninmyo (仁明天皇), Ennin (円仁) began the process of founding this temple. Thereafter, it had a relatively easy, uneventful existence. However, in Tenshou 19 (天正19年, 1591 CE) Tagaya Shigetsune (多賀谷重経), lord of Shimotsuma Castle (下妻城) in Hitachi Province (常陸国), caused its destruction. It was later rebuilt by Tenkai (天海).

#49 The Giant Ginkgo of Soukou
The wee Yakushi shrine.

The ginkgo lies 150m south of the temple. It’s on the grounds of a small shrine to Yakushi. It’s difficult to spot in summer, as it blends in with the rest of the grove in which it stands, if you look from a distance, but once you approach it, it’s clear that it’s not ordinary tree.

#49 The Giant Ginkgo of Soukou
Branches! Leaves! TREEEEEEEEE.

This tree has lots of branches. LOTS of branches. It’s clearly a very healthy, vigorous tree. I wonder if it looks as spectacular in its autumn yellow?