Name: The Giant Zelkova of Busshou Temple (仏生寺のけやき)
Type: Zelkowa serrata
Trunk Circumference: 5.5m
Age: 700 years
Location: 栃木県真岡市南高岡 (36° 24′ 04″N 140° 03′ 15″E)
Date of Visit: 2012-8-2
From Mooka, if you follow Prefectural Road 119 (The Mooka-Iwase Line) towards Iwase , then head a little bit west off the road, at the foot of Mt. Asama you’ll find Busshou Temple.
It is said that Shoudou (勝道上人), who is known for founding Futarasan Shrine (二荒山神社) and Rinno-ji (輪王寺) in Nikko, was born here in Tempyou 9 (天平９年, 737 CE). The pond that was used for Shoudou’s first bath as a newborn still exists here. Indeed, Kukai (空海) in the collection Shouryoushuu (性霊集) wrote that Shoudou was from Shimotsuke-Haga (that is, this region), so the story of his birth as Busshou Temple may actually be true. The entire region is designated by Tochigi as the Birthplace of Shoudou Who Opened The Temples of Nikko (日光開山勝道上人誕生地).
The statue of Yakushinyorai (薬師如来) which is here is also a designated cultural asset. It is said by the temple to have been carved by Shoudou, but it’s more likely to have been made in the late Heian Period, long after Shoudou’s death.
To the left side of the temple gate stands this giant zelkova. Of course, it is a designated natural monument of Tochigi.