The Giant Trees of Tochigi: #51 The Giant Zelkova of Senju Temple

#51 The Giant Zelkova of Senju Temple
I arrived just after 8am, and already there were food stalls set up and selling wares for a festival. Or, maybe, they were still there from being open all night?

Number: 51
Name: The Giant Zelkova of Senju Temple (専修寺のケヤキ)
Type: Zelkowa serrata
Height: 16m
Trunk Circumference: 5.2m
Age: 615 years
Location: 栃木県真岡市高田 (36° 23′ 35″N 140° 01′ 26″E)
Date of Visit: 2012-8-2

#51 The Giant Zelkova of Senju Temple
Strong, healthy wood, and baby shoots here and there.

This tree stands at the gate of the well-known Senju Temple (専修寺), which is the head temple of the Jodo Shinshu (浄土真宗) sect of Buddhism. Long ago, there was another zelkova on the right side of the gate, but it has gone long ago, and this tree, bereft of its partner, stands alone.

#51 The Giant Zelkova of Senju Temple
The necessary up-the-canopy shot.

In 1207, Honen (法然) and his disciple Shinran (親鸞) (among others) were exiled from Kyoto (Honen to Tosa, present-day Kochi Prefecture, Shinran to Echigo, present-day Niigata Prefecture) for spreading the nembutsu. When the nembutsu ban was lifted in Kyoto in 1211, he chose not to return there, but rather headed to what is now Ibaraki, and there set up a school.

#51 The Giant Zelkova of Senju Temple
Time to continue on my way, I guess.

Years later, he met with his best student, Shinbutsu (真仏) at Nyorai-do in what is now Aizu-Wakamatsu City in Fukushima, to discuss plans for a temple to teach the senju-nembutsu, the variation described by Shinran. That temple was this temple, founded in 1226. At that time, the main Senju Temple was located at this sect’s holy mountain, Honzan in present-day Tsu, Mie. These days, however, the main temple is here, in old Ninomiya Town. At this temple, four of the buildings, including the gate and the main hall are nationally-listed cultural artifacts.