The Giant Trees of Tochigi: #45 The Giant Nutmeg-yew of Henjou Temple

#45 The Giant Nutmeg-yew of Henjou Temple
Take a guess which of the trees in this picture is the Giant Nutmeg-yew. The hint is in the name.

Number: 45
Name: The Giant Nutmeg-yew of Henjou Temple (遍照寺のかや)
Type: Nutmeg-yew (Torreya nucifera)
Height: 28m
Trunk Circumference: 6.1m
Age: 800 years
Location: 栃木県真岡市中 (36° 24′ 32″N 139° 57′ 24″E)
Date of Visit: 2012-8-2

#45 The Giant Nutmeg-yew of Henjou Temple
It’s got rather quite a spread!

On the left bank of the Kinu River (鬼怒川), in the corner of the remnant of Nakamura Castle (中村城跡) lies Henjou Temple. According to documents at the temple, in Ryakuou 4 (暦応4年, 1341 CE) (this is the era name for the Northern Court — if you prefer to think of the Southern Court as being the legitimate one at this time, well you’re wrong, get out), the temple was officially opened in the nearby neighbourhood of Kayazutsumi. It seems to have been a major temple, complete with a five-storied pagoda. In the Tenbun Era (天文年間, 1532-1555), Nakamura Tokinaga (中村時長) undertook a restoration of the temple, and moved it to its present location. However, it was shortly thereafter lost to a fire. It was rebuilt in the current location in the Tenshou Era (天正年間, 1573-1592 CE).

#45 The Giant Nutmeg-yew of Henjou Temple
It’s branches are very long at the bottom and so, to protect the tree and visitors, all of the lowermost branches are propped up with poles.

Nakamura Munemura (中村宗村), founder of the Northern Date Clan, is said to have planted this tree in Bunji 5 (文治5年, 1189 CE) upon leaving for the territories awarded to his family by Minamoto no Yoritomo (源頼朝) for their service in the subjugation of Oshu. The tree age given above relies on this tale being true. If it is true, then this tree was standing here for some 400 years before the temple was built at this location.

#45 The Giant Nutmeg-yew of Henjou Temple
You magnificent old beast, you.

Whether the story is true or not, this is a strong, wonderful tree.