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.
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
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).
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.
Whether the story is true or not, this is a strong, wonderful tree.
Number: 14 Name: The Giant Nutmeg-yew of Ryuusen Temple (竜泉寺のカヤ) Type: Nutmeg-yew (Torreya nucifera) Height: 25m Trunk Circumference: 8.2m Age: 800 years Location: 栃木県足利市稲岡町 (36° 19′ 56″N 139° 32′ 11″E) Date of Visit: 2012-7-25
About 1.8km north-northwest of Tomita Station on the JR Ryomo Line, on the right bank of the Izura River (出流川), one finds the Shingon Buddhist Ryuusen Temple. There’s a stone bridge here, at the entrance. I didn’t walk over it, because it looked a little rickety, and I am a big guy. There’s a path around the side, making the bridge nothing more than decoration, and so I used that.
At the end of the bridge, and up a few stairs is the Deva Gate. Ascending through the gate and up the hill, you’ll find the Kannon of Inaoka. The temple of the Kannon was built in the early part of the Edo period, and it has been listed as an important cultural property of Ashikaga. The Deva Gate was built in Tempou 5 (天保５年, 1834CE). The gate isn’t a listed building, but the statues of the Deva Kings are. The statues were probably made at the same time as the gate, and though they’re sort of rough and childish, they have a certain quality.
To the right of the Deva Gate is another small gate. Ryuusen Temple is that way, and that way lies our nutmeg-yew. It certainly appears to be a marriage between two trees. About a century ago, the temple caught fire, and the blaze spread to this tree. Luckily, it has survived and still grows. Though, it is showing its age — it no longer fruits every year.