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.
Number: 9 Name: The Lone Cryptomeria of Ikarugi (鵤木の一本杉) Type: Japanese Cedar (Cryptomeria japonica) Height: 23m Trunk Circumference: 5.9m Age: 600 years Location: 栃木県足利市鵤木町 (36° 18′ 52″N 139° 29′ 27″E) Date of Visit: 2012-7-25
This is called the Lone Cryptomeria, but when you approach it, you realize there are three trunks. The top bit has died off, it looks like, but the side branches have grown long and vigorously. It’s almost pine-like. Or, alternatively, it’s like three bald eagles standing back to back and stretching their wings. I digress.
Here and there on the trunk, you can see a bit of burning. Whether this has anything to do with the top dying off, I cannot say.
It is said that, in the olden days, this cryptomeria was planted here, on this small hill, to act as a landmark for travellers on the local road. Before, you could surely see this tree from a long way off, as the land here is quite flat. Now though, you need to be rather close to see it, due to buildings here and there. I’ve heard that there used to be another giant cryptomeria 200m east of this place, but it has since withered and gone.
There’s a small park surrounding the tree and its mound. There’s a swing and… well there’s a swing. I guess at one time kids used to come here to play, but given the number of empty beer cans kickin’ around the park, I’d guess parents don’t do that so often these days.