Japanese elm, glorious throughout the seasons, surviving 150 years of rain and snow

This approximately 18-meter-tall Japanese elm, thought to be about 150 years old, is known as a symbol of Toyokoro Town in east Hokkaido’s Tokachi region. This massive tree towering above an expansive grass field is spellbinding, and is continuously visited by tourists and photograph enthusiasts.

Heading along the left Tokachi River bank levee going south from Moiwa Bridge in Toyokoro Town, a massive Japanese elm is visible to the right. However, looking closely at the roots reveals that this Japanese elm is actually two trees that grew together.

The double tree first became popular when it was introduced in a photography picture book forty years ago in 1981, and was designated as a Toyokoro Town cultural property in 1986. It was submerged in the successive typhoons of the summer of 2016. The crack between the two trees widened, sparking concern that they would fall. Because of this, the town government has conducted preservation work on the double Japanese elm according to a five year plan that started in fiscal year 2017. In addition to linking the two trees together with wire, workers have employed other measures to prevent the double tree from falling, such as cutting branches that are too long and improving the soil.

This double Japanese elm has dug its roots into the ground and braces itself against wind and snow. I observed it via camera throughout all four seasons last year.

In midwinter, the hoarfrost whitened double Japanese elm is painted beautiful colors by the morning sun. January 13, 2020
In early spring, frost formed above the remaining snow glitters like jewels. March 25, 2020
In summer, a silhouette towers in the thick mist. Water drops stick to a spider web like beads. August 27, 2020
In late summer, a golden shaft of sunlight shines through the light morning mist. September 19, 2020
In autumn, yellow leaves shake in the wind. October 21, 2020
In winter, the moon and Venus are close together in the sky at dawn. December 13, 2020

Location

Japanese elm of Toyokoro

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