Tag Archives: Trunk Circumference

The Giant Trees of Tochigi: #61 The Giant Cryptomeria of Myouunni Pagoda

#61 The Giant Cryptomeria of Myouunni Pagoda
As seen from the car park.

Number: 61
Name: The Giant Cryptomeria of Myouunni Pagoda (妙雲尼塔の大杉)
Type: Japanese Cedar (Cryptomeria japonica)
Height: 45m
Trunk Circumference: 4.6m
Age: 500 years
Location: 栃木県那須塩原市塩原門前 (36° 58′ 16″N 139° 49′ 15″E)
Date of Visit: 2012-7-23

#61 The Giant Cryptomeria of Myouunni Pagoda
This is the front entrance to the tree, but there’s a fence and a NO ENTRY FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF sign just below the camera. Dunno why.

Myouun Temple (妙雲寺), located 300m northwest of the old Shiobara Town Office, is a zen temple of the Rinzai School. The nun who founded the temple, the eponymous Myouun, is said to have been the younger sister of Taira no Shigemori (平重盛).

Legend has it that this tree was planted by the grave of Myouun, and three trees grew instead, joining at their base as they grew. While this may be true, Myouun would have died in the late 1100s, and these trees barely look the 500 years old the information plaque claims, let alone 800 or 900 years.

This temple… it was a bit terrible. Big signs everywhere saying it is forbidden to take pictures or video if you intend to make money off them. Yes okay, get over yourselves. All of the gardens and trees were blocked off with NO ENTRY signs. I crept in the back way to get a closer picture of the tree in question, because what the hell. Also, the path up the moist hill was made of the slickest stone slabs ever. Dangerous! Ironically, that slope is called Enmeizaka (延命坂, Long Life Slope). I digress.

#61 The Giant Cryptomeria of Myouunni Pagoda
If you follow Long Life Slope to the top, you find a graveyard. If you double back along the top of that hill, you’ll find another “NO ENTRY FFFFFFFFFF” sign. If you ignore it and squeeze through the hydrangea bushes, you find a set of stairs down to the rear of the trees, and if you’re sneaky, you can take some pics there, as I did.

Here and there, dotted around the compound are other giant cryptomeria that bear no names or protection (besides the NO ENTRY signs barring access to them).

Shiobara isn’t just an onsen town. It’s also popular for its water. Indeed, on the grounds of the temple there is a wee waterfall with a daft Buddhist name I can’t be bothered to remember. Natsume Souseki wrote a poem entitled “妙雲寺に瀑を観る” (“See the waterfall at Myouun Temple”). Even now, in autumn, many haiku poets gather here to enjoy the changing season and to write.

The Giant Trees of Tochigi: #62 The Giant Cryptomeria of Takesan Houkine Shrine

#62 The Giant Cryptomeria of Takesan Houkine Shrine
Approaching from the parking lot, one is met by this rope between two trees instead of a torii.

Number: 62
Name: The Giant Cryptomeria of Takesan Houkine Shrine (嶽山箒根神社の大杉)
Type: Japanese Cedar (Cryptomeria japonica)
Height: 20m
Trunk Circumference: 8.7m
Age: >1000 years
Location:栃木県那須塩原市宇都野 (36° 55′ 14″N 139° 51′ 13″E)
Date of Visit: 2012-7-23

If you follow Prefectural Road 56 (The Shiobara-Yaita Line) north from Yaita, near the crest of this, a mountain pass road, you’ll find a right-turn will take you to Mountain Station Takahara. Here there are washrooms, and a restaurant. I did not stop here. I continued further along this side road. Soon asphalt gave way to slick concrete, and soon slick concrete gave way to dirt. And then concrete again. And then dirt. And then a lake. And then concrete. But eventually, rounding a bend, there’s a wee clearing on the right, and if you pull in here, you’ll find yourself at Takesan Houkine Shrine. It’s enshrined deep within the mountains, to be sure.

The day I came here, it was very misty. The route I was following this day was circular, taking me throughout the northwest, so this tree could have been first or last. I’m glad I made it first, for if I hadn’t, this lovely mist would have lifted, and it wouldn’t have been the same.

#62 The Giant Cryptomeria of Takesan Houkine Shrine
Through the mist, I could see the tree.

Getting out of my car and looking around, through the mist I could make out the silhouette of this giant tree.

#62 The Giant Cryptomeria of Takesan Houkine Shrine
That just at the right edge of frame is the tree.

Looking at the main shrine building, the tree is on a narrow ledge to the right. From the parking area, one must look up to see it. In the 8th year of the reign of the Emperor Temmu (天武天皇), that is to say, 679 CE, an ascetic who lived on this mountain, Yamamoto Yoshiaki (山本良章) planted guardian trees at each of the four directions of this shrine. Of those trees, only this one remains.

#62 The Giant Cryptomeria of Takesan Houkine Shrine
It was somewhat surreal, being in that setting with that fog, and that tree.

Despite this shrine being so deep in the mountains, the shrine and its grounds are well looked after. Though I didn’t meet anyone the day I went, there are surely people working behind the scenes to keep this place in good condition, and I’m grateful to them for that.

#62 The Giant Cryptomeria of Takesan Houkine Shrine
Someone before me had wedged a 10yen coin in the bark. There were a few more scattered around the base of the tree, either placed there or that had fallen out of the bark.

On the way back to the main road, turning a bend, there was a doe in the road. I slowed to a stop. She looked back and forth, and then 3 more does and a fawn walked out of the forest behind her and crossed the road. She followed them. I continued on my way.