Name: The Giant Zelkova of Naganuma Hachiman Shrine (長沼八幡宮のけやき)
Type: Zelkowa serrata
Trunk Circumference: 5.7m
Age: >300 years
Location: 栃木県真岡市長沼字宮ノ内 (36° 22′ 07″N 139° 55′ 44″E)
Date of Visit: 2012-8-2
About 500m east of the Kinu River (鬼怒川), near the New Daidouizumi Bridge, is Naganuma Hachiman Shrine. Here enshrined is Hondawake-no-Mikoto (誉田別命). According to the histories kept in the storehouse at the shrine, in Enryaku 14 (延暦１４年, 795 CE), Sakanoue no Tamuramaro (坂上田村麻呂) stayed here while on his journey back from the campaigns in the north, and built this shrine. Does this sound familiar? It should, because it’s been a recurring theme in the giant trees I’ve visited. “Oh, Sakanoue no Tamuramaro planted this tree”; “Sakanoue no Tamuramaro slept here and then had a shrine built”; “Sakanoue no Tamuramaro is my babydaddy”, etc. Okay maybe not that last one.
Whether the story is true or not, what can be said is that in the Bunmei Era (文明年間, 1469-1487 CE), the Naganuma Clan (長沼民) fell, and the shrine started to slide into ruin. Its revival wasn’t to come about until the Edo Period.
From the temple gate, this tree lies at the far right of the compound. This tree has a really large canopy, and it’s a really pleasing shape. I reckon it’s still growing, too — it seems really strong and healthy. There’s a thin shimenawa on the trunk, so I reckon this is probably the Sacred Tree of the shrine.