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: 65 Name: The Giant Zelkova of Kitanaka Hachimanguu (北中八幡宮のケヤキ) Type: Zelkowa serrata Height: 18m Trunk Circumference: 7.2m Age: 800 years Location: 栃木県芳賀郡益子町北中 (36° 28′ 43″N 140° 05′ 41″E) Date of Visit: 2012-8-2
About 1.5km south of the Mooka Railway‘s Nanai Station, the Hachimanguu of Kitanaka is enshrined. It’s about 200m west of National Road 294. It used to be called Iwashimizu Hachimanguu (石清水八幡宮, which seems to be a popular name for such shrines). It was founded by Ishioka Saburo (石岡三郎) in the Jishou Era (治承年間, 1177-1180CE). It is assumed that this tree was planted at that time, and that is how the age above was arrived at.
In the past, on the opposite side of the path, this tree had a twin, but now only the faint remains of a stump are left to remind us of that one. The remaining one, too, is in questionable health. The bark seems to be peeling off on most of the trunk, and up top, there are several large branches missing.
In Showa 58 (昭和５８年, 1983 CE), the shrine was rebuilt, and now it’s quite splendid. Next door is a community center and field, and both places appear to be well maintained. The information board is almost boastful about the tree and this place, and so I imagine that it’s a place quite important to the locals.
Number: 46 Name: The Sacred Zelkova of Nakamura Hachiman Shrine (中村八幡宮の神木) Type: Zelkowa serrata Height: 33m Trunk Circumference: 5.5m Age: 800 years Location: 栃木県真岡市中 (36° 24′ 50″N 139° 57′ 13″E) Date of Visit: 2012-8-2
On the left bank of the Kinu River (鬼怒川), about 1.5km east of the Mooka Kinu Park Golf Club, on a bit of high land you’ll find Nakamura Hachiman Shrine. It is a shrine that is blessed with a grove full of huge trees.
According to the information boards, in Bunji 5 (文治５年, 1189 CE) upon his triumphal return home from taking part in Minamoto no Yoritomo’s (源頼朝) subjugation of the north, local feudal lord Nakamura Tokinaga presented a Gunbai (軍配団扇) to the shrine. At that time, this zelkova was planted. The age above is based on this story being true.
This is a stern, bumpy tree, and the shrine folk say that this is appropriate given the story of its planting.