Number: 70 Name: The Giant Zelkova of Beppu (別府のケヤキ) Type: Zelkowa serrata Height: 24m Trunk Circumference: 6.5m Age: >500 years Location: 栃木県芳賀郡市貝町田野辺 (36° 34′ 03″N 140° 07′ 16″E) Date of Visit: 2012-8-2
This tree was on the grounds of a private home.
There was a small shrine at its base for the household gods.
It had a very peculiar shape. Two trunks, joined at the bottom, then free, then joined again part way up, then free; it was a very twisted, very bumpy tree. It had fresh growth up and down the entire length of the tree. It was healthy.
It was probably the biggest tree in all of Ichikai.
And then came the storm that spawned tornadoes in Mooka and Tsukuba. On that day, though no tornado touched down as far north as Ichikai, the wind was intense and the tree was tilted askew just enough that the owners chose to cut it down, for safety. It’s a shame.
Next week marks the final tree, and the end of a project I started three years ago. Final tree for now, that is.
Number: 67 Name: The Giant Zelkova of Arakashi Shrine (荒橿神社のケヤキ) Type: Zelkowa serrata Height: 28m Trunk Circumference: 5.5m Age: 700 years Location: 栃木県芳賀郡茂木町小井戸 (36° 32′ 18″N 140° 11′ 25″E) Date of Visit: 2012-8-2
North of Motegi Town Hall, at the top of Mt. Kikyou, the Motegi Clan had their castle. The front of the mountain facing the town is a steep slope, but the rear has a flat plateau perfect for building on. This place is called “Tachi” (舘, that is, mansion, or small castle), so it may be where someone related to the castle once had a home?
Arakashi Shrine is located on the east side of this plateau, separated from the castle remains by a small gulley. The deities here enshrined include Kunitokotachi-no-Mikoto (国常立命), Toyoshikumono-no-Mikoto (豊雲野命), and Arakashikone-no-Mikoto (阿良加志古根命). The shrine is said to have been founded in Daidou 1 (大同元年, 806 CE). This shrine lies to the northeast of Motegi Castle, and thus probably served to protect the castle against the evil that flows from that direction.
Before Manji 1 (万治元年, 1658 CE), there was a three-storied pagoda here. Back then, Buddhism and Shintoism were pretty deeply mixed, and I guess that mix would have made this a pretty impressive shrine. Now, the hall that once housed the image of the Amitabha Buddha is slowly falling down.
This zelkova is between the first and second torii on the right, beside the road that goes by the shrine. It’s near the Amitabha hall. The tree isn’t about to wither and die, but it’s not the healthiest either. Though I guess they probably put it in carefully, surely they could have put more thought into the placement of the mirrors.
Number: 66 Name: The Giant Nutmeg-yew of Kakujouin (覚成院のカヤ) Type: Nutmeg-yew (Torreya nucifera) Height: 17m Trunk Circumference: 6.2m Age: 500 years Location: 栃木県芳賀郡茂木町茂木 (36° 31′ 38″N 140° 11′ 02″E) Date of Visit: 2012-8-2
If you were to walk 500m southeast from Mooka Railway‘s Motegi Station, at the base of a mountain you would find Kakujouin. The temple was allegedly founded by Kakuban (覚鑁) on a spot traditionally used to pray for rain.
The nutmeg-yew stands on a flat area along with the temple’s main hall and other buildings (including the home of the priest and his horrible little dog that barked at me the entire time I was there, nonstop). There’s no fence around this tree, but there is a broad shrubbery circle that, I imagine, is suggestive of the temple’s desire that one not approach the tree too closely.
According to the information board, this was two trees planted closely together and as they grew larger, they became joined at the base, and to look at them, it’s very plausible. Both of the trees are female, and thus it’s probable that the ground is littered in berries every year.