Number: 37 Name: The Giant Zelkova of Atago Shrine (愛宕神社のケヤキ) Type: Zelkowa serrata Height: 16m Trunk Circumference: 7.0m Age: 633 years Location: 栃木県小山市宮本町１丁目 (36° 18′ 47″N 139° 47′ 59″E) Date of Visit: 2012-7-28
In Kouryaku 1 (康暦元年, 1379 CE [but this is a Northern/Southern Period thing, so if you prefer the Southern Court in this period because they were in possession of the regalia, this year may make you ragey, but do get over it, yes?]) Oyama Yoshimasa (小山義政), who was then the ruler of Shimotsuke Province, established Atago Shrine to pray for the safety of his people and for good harvests. It is said that the Sacred Tree which was planted at that time is this tree.
There’s a bit of damage near the top that’s been capped off with steel. This seems to have happened in a large fire in Taisho 2 (大正２年, 1913 CE). The entire top burned off, and all the growth above it is due to the branching that happened after that.
Here in Miyamoto-cho and also in Hongo-cho there are Atago Shrines, and both of them have giant zelkovas.
Number: 40 Name: The Giant Zelkova of Kou Shrine (国府神社のケヤキ) Type: Zelkowa serrata Height: 25m Trunk Circumference: 5.8m Age: >400 years Location: 栃木県小山市下国府塚 (36° 18′ 47″N 139° 45′ 51″E) Date of Visit: 2012-7-28
When you arrive at Kou Shrine, beside a short path, before climbing the stone steps to the shrine itself, to the right you’ll find this tree.
The charm point of this tree is its roots. In several places I thought it was a rustic old-timey stone retaining wall holding the tree in, but no, in fact, in all of these cases, it was this tree’s magnificent roots. It definitely cuts a strong figure.
As this is an old tree, it’s not unlikely that the trunk has started to hollow out a bit. Perhaps, because of this, the roots have shouldered the responsibility of keeping the tree up.
There is an information board here, but instead of putting it a short distance away, so that it’s clear which tree it refers to but isn’t in the way, they’ve hammered it right into the roots of this tree, with little consideration for the health of the natural monument which they are meant to be protecting. It’s also ruined the view of the east side of the tree, if I do say so myself.
Number: 41 Name: The Giant Zelkova of Touya Shrine (東箭神社のケヤキ) Type: Zelkowa serrata Height: 22m Trunk Circumference: 5.1m Age: unknown Location: 栃木県小山市南小林 (36° 19′ 13″N 139° 44′ 23″E) Date of Visit: 2012-7-28
Travel west from JR Oyama Station roughly 6km, and in the community of Minami-Kobayashi, you’ll find Touya Shrine. The main hall was built in Bunka 9 (文化９年, 1812 CE) and it, with its associated carved ornamentation are important cultural assets of Oyama. There’s an information board with all this information written on it standing by the roadside, and just beside it is this zelkova. However, the information board makes no mention of this zelkova whatsoever.
As you can see, the shape of the tree is like unto a dandelion all puffed up and ready to spread on the wind. It’s still growing, too. In the past twenty years, the trunk has put on nearly a meter of girth. I do hope it keeps on growing and growing until it is big enough for the Oyama Board of Education to deem it worth of inclusion on the information board here.