Name: The Giant Ginkgo of Nogi Shrine (野木神社のいちょう)
Type: Ginkgo biloba
Trunk Circumference: 9.7m
Age: 1200 years
Location: 栃木県下都賀郡野木町野木 (36° 12′ 56″N 139° 42′ 30″E)
Date of Visit: 2012-7-28
Nogi Shrine is much larger than I thought it would be. Even as I approached it, my navi had taken me down a narrow side street towards it, so I thought it would be just a wee shrine, but in fact it’s quite a large compound with a very long brick-and-zelkova lined avenue leading up to the front gate.
To the right of the main hall stands a single old ginkgo. But what a ginkgo it is! Around the tree is a stone wall, and a series of wooden stakes. Though this tree doesn’t have a shimenawa as such, the rope on the stakes at the wall has kamishide (紙垂) attached, so indeed, this tree exists in a sacred space.
According to the information board, when Sakanoue no Tamuramaro (坂上 田村麻呂) was returning from his Subjugation of the Emishi (蝦夷征伐), he stopped at this shrine to pray, and, as a memorial of this visit from a great man, this tree was planted. In this way, we reach the age of about 1200 years. Whether this story is the truth or not, the size of this tree and the sheer number of aerial roots dribbling their way to the earth everywhichwhere certainly suggest that this is more than your ordinary tree.
Name: The Giant Ginkgo of Banna Temple (鑁阿寺のイチョウ)
Type: Ginkgo (Ginkgo Biloba)
Trunk Circumference: 8.5m
Age: 550 years
Location: 栃木県足利市家富町 (36° 20′ 13″N 139° 27′ 07″E)
Date of Visit: 2012-7-25
In the grounds of Banna Temple (鑁阿寺), there is a two-storey pagoda. This ginkgo sits in front of it. Whether this is a single, double-trunked tree or two trees that have grown together at the base, I cannot say. The tree seems to be in excellent health, and the location cannot be beat.
When we think of Ashikaga, those whose first thoughts are of Ashikaga Takauji (足利尊氏), founder of the Ashikaga Shogunate/Muromachi Period are legion. However, Banna Temple was founded by an earlier generation of the Ashikaga Clan, back in early Kamakura Period. Ashikaga Yoshikane (足利義兼) was the founder of this temple. Yoshikane was Takauji’s ancestor from six generations before, and who took part when Minamoto no Yoritomo (源頼朝) raised his army.
In Kenkyuu 7 (建久７年, 1196CE), Yoshikane started organizing the construction of Kabasaki Temple and Banna Temple. In the beginning, it was going to be called Horiuchi Enshrinement Hall (堀内御堂), but after Yoshikane’s death in 1199, it was named Banna Temple, after Yoshikane’s posthumous Buddhist name.