Number: 83 Name: The Giant Zelkova of Kitamukada (北向田のケヤキ) Type: Japanese Zelkova (Zelkowa serrata) Height: 32m Trunk Circumference: 5.7m Age: 600 years Location: 栃木県那須郡那珂川町北向田 (36° 44′ 48″N 140° 08′ 59″E) Date of Visit: 2011-8-13
Along National Road 293, directly west of Michi no Eki Batou, one can find Mukada Shrine. This neighbourhood is very cramped, and it’s difficult to get a car into the area where the shrine is. Luckily, the Michi no Eki has lots of parking spots, and a convenient stairway down to the level of the shrine. From the Michi no Eki, you can just make out the shape of this zelkova.
Heading down the steps at the southern end of the parking lot, the shrine is immediately adjacent.
Mukada Shrine was established in Tembun 11 (天文１１年, 1542). According to the information boards, this zelkova must have already been here at that time, though in a much, much younger form. It seems safe to say that the tree was not planted at the time of the shrine establishment.
Number: 81 Name: The Giant Cryptomeria of Kentoku Temple (乾徳寺のスギ) Type: Cryptomeria (Cryptomeria japonica) Height: 48m Trunk Circumference: 5.1m Age: unknown Location: 栃木県那須郡那珂川町馬頭 (36° 44′ 31″N 140° 10′ 19″E) Date of Visit: 2011-8-13
Now, this is Nakagawa Town, but before amalgamation in 2005, this was the central part of Batou Town. In the northern part of this central core, surrounded on three sides by mountains lies Kentoku Temple.
This place is famous for its autumn colours, and the temple marks the entrance to a path through the woods that has in the past been recommended in guidebooks.
Following along the path, just behind the main temple, there is a sizable graveyard. The Giant Cryptomeria stands in that graveyard. It stands in the center, slightly separated from the other cryptomeria. The tree stands very tall, and cuts an imposing figure in this peaceful grove. The lord of the Mumo Clan‘s (武茂氏) gravestones are near here.
The Mumo Clan was a branch of the Utsunomiya Clan founded by Utsunomiya Yasumune (宇都宮泰宗), the third son of the 7th Utsunomiya Lord, Utsunomiya Kagetsuna (宇都宮景綱). The Mumo branch was active from 1288 to 1298 CE, but the title was became extinct at the end of the Einin (永仁) period.
However, in Kanshou 4 (寛正４年, 1463 CE), the third son of Utsunomiya Masatsuna (宇都宮正綱), who was called Utsunomiya Kanetsuna (宇都宮兼綱) revived the Mumo branch, and he became the lord of a domain worth 10,000 koku. Kanetsuna established Kentoku Temple as his family temple.
In Kyouhou 16 (享保１６年, 1731 CE), the Mumo Clan gravestones were collected from here and there and moved here. This included a Kamakura Period stone monument. In Showa 43 (昭和４３年, 1968), these were designated a cultural treasure of Batou Town.
The graveyard is located on gentle sloping terrain surrounded by great old cryptomeria, including this one. It really matches its surroundings, and it’s kind of a beautiful graveyard. As this is a graveyard, and as it is at the mouth of a hiking path and as I went on a nice day in summer, and as it happened to be during obon, there were plenty of people around. But none of them gave any mind to the Mumo Clan or to this tree.
Number: 82 Name: The Giant Ginkgo of Togakushi Shrine (戸隠神社のイチョウ) Type: Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) Height: 38m Trunk Circumference: 5.7m Age: 350 years Location: 栃木県那須郡那珂川町大内 (36° 45′ 06″N 140° 13′ 55″E) Date of Visit: 2011-8-13
Near the Ibaraki border, in the mountains, surrounded by rice fields, there is Togakushi Shrine. Off Prefectural Road 232, there is an arrow-straight 150m cryptomeria-lined path to the shrine. Behind the shrine, there’s a fairly large cryptomeria.
Standing in front of the main shrine building is this large ginkgo. The thick single trunk stretches skyward, and I feel this tree has a great character. Around the base, it can be seen where young suckers have been cut out. It’s been done to preserve this tree’s shape, I guess.
Ginkgo are dioecious. This means that there are female trees and male trees (unlike, say, tomatoes which have both male and female bits in the same flower — hermaphroditic, or cucumbers which have male and female bits on the same plant but in different flowers — monoecious). This is a female tree.
Surrounded as it is by cryptomeria, one can imagine that in autumn, this ginkgo truly shines, as the cryptomeria remains unchanging, this ginkgo will shine in bright yellow.