Number: 49 Name: The Giant Ginkgo of Soukou Temple (宗光寺のいちょう) Type: Ginkgo biloba Height: 21m Trunk Circumference: 5.6m Age: >300 years Location: 栃木県真岡市長沼字寺ノ内 (36° 21′ 32″N 139° 55′ 55″E) Date of Visit: 2012-8-2
Soukou Temple lies to the east of Naganuma Junior High School. It forms, along with Kita-in (喜多院) in Kawagoe and Kanasana Temple in Kodama-gun (both in Saitama), the three great centers of Tendai Buddhism (天台宗) in Kanto.
According to temple lore, in Kashou 1 (嘉祥元年, 848 CE), by the desire of Emperor Ninmyo (仁明天皇), Ennin (円仁) began the process of founding this temple. Thereafter, it had a relatively easy, uneventful existence. However, in Tenshou 19 (天正１９年, 1591 CE) Tagaya Shigetsune (多賀谷重経), lord of Shimotsuma Castle (下妻城) in Hitachi Province (常陸国), caused its destruction. It was later rebuilt by Tenkai (天海).
The ginkgo lies 150m south of the temple. It’s on the grounds of a small shrine to Yakushi. It’s difficult to spot in summer, as it blends in with the rest of the grove in which it stands, if you look from a distance, but once you approach it, it’s clear that it’s not ordinary tree.
This tree has lots of branches. LOTS of branches. It’s clearly a very healthy, vigorous tree. I wonder if it looks as spectacular in its autumn yellow?
Number: 50 Name: The Giant Zelkova of Oki (沖のけやき) Type: Zelkowa serrata Height: 23m Trunk Circumference: 6.7m Age: unknown Location: 栃木県真岡市沖字本田 (36° 23′ 26″N 139° 59′ 14″E) Date of Visit: 2012-8-2
On the left bank of the Gogyou River (五行川), near the boundary of old Shika Village, you’ll find Oooki Shrine. Here, nestled among tightly-clustered homes, is a very large zelkova that is a natural monument of Tochigi.
Until sometime in the Tenshou Era (天正時代, 1573-1592CE), a temple called Fukushuu-ji stood here. When the temple was torn down, this tree was already here, and already extremely large, it is said. For a tree to get large enough to be called a giant, it usually takes at least 200 years, but if this story of Fukushuu-ji is true, then this tree would have to be at least 600 years old.
On the trunk, there are many bumps, probably remnants of old branches. Indeed, in recent years many branches have been cut off. Not because the health of the tree is in question, as it was at the Hackberry of Munakata Shrine, but rather because the plot of land is so narrow, to let the tree grow as it wishes would be troublesome for the neighbours. It’s a little sad, that.