Tag Archives: torii

The Giant Trees of Tochigi: #73 The Giant Ginkgo of Nogi Shrine

#73 The Giant Ginkgo of Nogi Shrine
Here we are at Nogi Shrine. Though Flickr’s geonaming thinks this is in Koga, Ibaraki, it’s actually in Shimotsuga-gun, Tochigi. The brick path this side of the torii extends for a kilometer behind me.

Number: 73
Name: The Giant Ginkgo of Nogi Shrine (野木神社のいちょう)
Type: Ginkgo biloba
Height: 13m
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

#73 The Giant Ginkgo of Nogi Shrine
It’s a fairly large, well-appointed, well-maintained place.

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.

#73 The Giant Ginkgo of Nogi Shrine
Here’s the tree, in all its aerial-rooty majesty.

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.

#73 The Giant Ginkgo of Nogi Shrine
Some trees are tidy. They grow straight, they have lovely lines to them, they are beautifully designed. Surely you have seen ginkgos like this too — tall, straight ginkgos with nary a branch out of place. The one at Mibu Temple springs to mind. But to achieve that effect requires constant pruning and the occasional cutting-the-top-off. If a ginkgo is left to grow naturally on its own, you get a mess like this, which is beautiful in its own way.

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.

The Giant Trees of Tochigi: #18 The Giant Zelkova of Fujioka Shrine

#18 The Giant Zelkova of Fujioka Shrine
Here be the zelkova, see?

Number: 18
Name: The Giant Zelkova of Fujioka Shrine (藤岡神社のけやき)
Type: Zelkowa serrata
Height: 28m
Trunk Circumference: 6.0m
Age: 385 years
Location: 栃木県栃木市藤岡町藤岡 (36° 15′ 01″N 139° 38′ 16″E)
Date of Visit: 2012-7-28

Fujioka Shrine lies to the west of Watarase Reservoir (渡良瀬遊水地), which became a Ramsar Site in July 2012. The shrine lies close to the border with Gunma Prefecture (and, indeed, the road I drove after leaving here took me first to Gunma, then Saitama, then Tochigi, then Saitama in the course of five minutes, and after I turned a corner and went over a bridge, I found myself in Ibaraki).

#18 The Giant Zelkova of Fujioka Shrine
It’s a fairly large shrine, actually.

According to information boards on site, the shrine was established in Tengyou 3 (天慶3年, 940CE). Though it has only used the name of Fujioka Shrine since Meiji 8 (明治8年, 1875CE), a shrine has existed here since the middle Heian Period.

#18 The Giant Zelkova of Fujioka Shrine
There. To look at it, at first, you’d think it’s just wood where the bark has come away, but it’s been treated with something, I think. That crack at the bottom of the wound is slightly worrisome.

On the grounds, many large zelkova can be seen. Of them all, however, the largest is the one to the right of the torii. From the spread of the roots, it appears that this is a very strong tree. On the side facing the torii there is a large scar from what I guess is the loss of a large branch or secondary trunk. The area has been filled in with whatever it is that arborists use to patch large holes in trees like that (I’ve seen it used in zelkovas up and down the prefecture, when they haven’t just bolted steel plates over it).

#18 The Giant Zelkova of Fujioka Shrine
This is the tree on the left of the torii. Just peeking out of that hole, you can see the bee hive.

This tree, and its neighbour on the other side of the torii have large hollows in their bases. The neighbouring tree’s hollow is home to a wee beehive, actually.

I guess that, in the long lives of these trees, not every day has been pleasant and uneventful, but now, here, they seem healthy in their peaceful surroundings.