The Giant Trees of Tochigi: #50 The Giant Zelkova of Oki

#50 The Giant Zelkova of Oki
I drove into the neighbourhood from down there. I saw the tree but wasn’t sure what I’d find when I got closer.

Number: 50
Name: The Giant Zelkova of Oki (沖のけやき)
Type: Zelkowa serrata
Height: 23m
Trunk Circumference: 6.7m
Age: unknown
Location: 栃木県真岡市沖字本田 (36° 23′ 26″N 139° 59′ 14″E)
Date of Visit: 2012-8-2

#50 The Giant Zelkova of Oki
Drove past this scene. Such a big tree in such a tiny space :<

On the left bank of the Gogyou River (五行川), near the boundary of old Shika Village, you’ll find Oooki Shrine. Here, nestled among tightly-clustered homes, is a very large zelkova that is a natural monument of Tochigi.

#50 The Giant Zelkova of Oki
Tighly clustered buildings, indeed!

Until sometime in the Tenshou Era (天正時代, 1573-1592CE), a temple called Fukushuu-ji stood here. When the temple was torn down, this tree was already here, and already extremely large, it is said. For a tree to get large enough to be called a giant, it usually takes at least 200 years, but if this story of Fukushuu-ji is true, then this tree would have to be at least 600 years old.

#50 The Giant Zelkova of Oki
From this angle, it seems big and free and awesome, but it’s still hemmed in by hyperclose buildings.

On the trunk, there are many bumps, probably remnants of old branches. Indeed, in recent years many branches have been cut off. Not because the health of the tree is in question, as it was at the Hackberry of Munakata Shrine, but rather because the plot of land is so narrow, to let the tree grow as it wishes would be troublesome for the neighbours. It’s a little sad, that.

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.

Under Salmon Skies

The dreams themselves were always in the same place. It was a strange place. The sky was pink, and it was like a sparse jungle. There were trees and plants and flowers and vines that I’d never seen before.

As a child, I used to have a recurring nightmare. Well, I say recurring, but it wasn’t the same every time; rather, it continued where it left off. And I say nightmare, but it wasn’t properly scary, just strange.

Continue reading Under Salmon Skies