Tag Archives: oyama

The Giant Trees of Tochigi: #37 The Giant Zelkova of Atago Shrine

#37 The Giant Zelkova of Atago Shrine
It’s a very shady place, here, in the summer. In winter it would be much more open, less claustrophobic.

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

#37 The Giant Zelkova of Atago Shrine
It’s a very simple shrine.

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.

#37 The Giant Zelkova of Atago Shrine
You can see the cap there where the fire-damaged upper trunk was cut off.

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.

The Giant Trees of Tochigi: #41 The Giant Zelkova of Kou Shrine

#40 The Giant Zelkova of Kou Shrine
Okay! I’m here at Kou Shrine! I hear there is a giant zelkova here, but I don’t… see… it?

Number: 40
Name: The Giant Zelkova of Kou Shrine (国府神社のケヤキ)
Type: Zelkowa serrata
Height: 25m
Trunk Circumference: 5.8m
Age: >400 years
Location: 栃木県小山市下国府塚 (36° 18′ 47″N 139° 45′ 51″E)
Date of Visit: 2012-7-28

#40 The Giant Zelkova of Kou Shrine
Oh criminy, there it is.

When you arrive at Kou Shrine, beside a short path, before climbing the stone steps to the shrine itself, to the right you’ll find this tree.

#40 The Giant Zelkova of Kou Shrine
Look at that root! It extends some 10m from the trunk, and really does form a sort of retaining wall on its own. You can also see the information board just thrust into the heart of the roots. Whoever did that wasn’t thinking. At all. In any way. But then, it would have been a civil servant, so it’s not surprising.

The charm point of this tree is its roots. In several places I thought it was a rustic old-timey stone retaining wall holding the tree in, but no, in fact, in all of these cases, it was this tree’s magnificent roots. It definitely cuts a strong figure.

As this is an old tree, it’s not unlikely that the trunk has started to hollow out a bit. Perhaps, because of this, the roots have shouldered the responsibility of keeping the tree up.

#40 The Giant Zelkova of Kou Shrine
You magnificent beast, you.

There is an information board here, but instead of putting it a short distance away, so that it’s clear which tree it refers to but isn’t in the way, they’ve hammered it right into the roots of this tree, with little consideration for the health of the natural monument which they are meant to be protecting. It’s also ruined the view of the east side of the tree, if I do say so myself.

The Giant Trees of Tochigi: #41 The Giant Zelkova of Touya Shrine

#41 The Giant Zelkova of Touya Shrine
Here, nestled on a back street, is Touya Shrine.

Number: 41
Name: The Giant Zelkova of Touya Shrine (東箭神社のケヤキ)
Type: Zelkowa serrata
Height: 22m
Trunk Circumference: 5.1m
Age: unknown
Location: 栃木県小山市南小林 (36° 19′ 13″N 139° 44′ 23″E)
Date of Visit: 2012-7-28

#41 The Giant Zelkova of Touya Shrine
And there, snuggled up to that road, is the tree.

Travel west from JR Oyama Station roughly 6km, and in the community of Minami-Kobayashi, you’ll find Touya Shrine. The main hall was built in Bunka 9 (文化9年, 1812 CE) and it, with its associated carved ornamentation are important cultural assets of Oyama. There’s an information board with all this information written on it standing by the roadside, and just beside it is this zelkova. However, the information board makes no mention of this zelkova whatsoever.

#41 The Giant Zelkova of Touya Shrine
It’s all round and stuff. Lovely.

As you can see, the shape of the tree is like unto a dandelion all puffed up and ready to spread on the wind. It’s still growing, too. In the past twenty years, the trunk has put on nearly a meter of girth. I do hope it keeps on growing and growing until it is big enough for the Oyama Board of Education to deem it worth of inclusion on the information board here.