Number: 48 Name: The Giant Zelkova of Naganuma Hachiman Shrine (長沼八幡宮のけやき) Type: Zelkowa serrata Height: 30m 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.
Number: 50 Name: The Giant Zelkova of Oki (沖のけやき) Type: Zelkowa serrata Height: 23m Trunk Circumference: 6.7m Age: unknown Location: 栃木県真岡市沖字本田 (36° 23′ 26″N 139° 59′ 14″E) Date of Visit: 2012-8-2
On the left bank of the Gogyou River (五行川), near the boundary of old Shika Village, you’ll find Oooki Shrine. Here, nestled among tightly-clustered homes, is a very large zelkova that is a natural monument of Tochigi.
Until sometime in the Tenshou Era (天正時代, 1573-1592CE), a temple called Fukushuu-ji stood here. When the temple was torn down, this tree was already here, and already extremely large, it is said. For a tree to get large enough to be called a giant, it usually takes at least 200 years, but if this story of Fukushuu-ji is true, then this tree would have to be at least 600 years old.
On the trunk, there are many bumps, probably remnants of old branches. Indeed, in recent years many branches have been cut off. Not because the health of the tree is in question, as it was at the Hackberry of Munakata Shrine, but rather because the plot of land is so narrow, to let the tree grow as it wishes would be troublesome for the neighbours. It’s a little sad, that.
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.