"Yokozuna" Japanese beech in national forestland, candidate for new popular Esashi spot
In the Southern Hokkaido town of Esashi, a movement has begun by an Esashi volunteer group to elevate a local tree into a town symbol. The tree is a giant Japanese beech situated within national forestland in the town. The giant tree has two major branches pointing upward on the left and right, resembling a yokozuna (highest ranking sumo wrestler) performing the dohyo-iri (sumo ring-entering ceremony). The volunteer group wants to talk with the relevant governmental organizations and make this tree into a new popular spot for the town.
The moment that sparked the group’s origin happened two years ago. Reportedly, townspeople assisting with a survey in the natural monument “Hinoki Asunaro and Ao Todomatsu Natural Woodland Habitat”, which is situated in the same national forestland, suddenly discovered the giant Japanese beech tree and were immediately awed by its immense size. Esashi Inishie Resource Research Group Chairperson Muroya Motoo reports first seeing the tree some 15 years ago, when he was walking in the mountain area. He recalls, “The branches were extending out in a way that looked like a yokozuna raising both hands outward in the dohyo-iri ceremony.”
In response to the wishes of the Esashi volunteer group, the Esashi municipal government surveyed the giant tree and the surrounding area on September 21 with a 12-member group of municipal officials and participating mountaineering enthusiasts. They visually confirmed that the tree height is approximately 15 meters, and also determined that the trunk diameter is 2.1 meters and the main branch extensions to the left and right are approximately 5.8 meters. Additionally, to prepare for future surveying, the municipal officials registered the location of the giant tree with a satellite positioning system (GPS).
The Esashi volunteer group aims to make this tree famous like Otobe Town’s Enkatsura (Tree of Marriage), which is actually two trees with their branches connected together, and the giant “Hiba Jii-san” hiba tree in Assabu, a town that neighbors Esashi.
Because the giant tree is located in national forestland, the town government cannot set up walking paths, etc., on their own in that area. The Municipal Industrial Promotion Division commented, “We want to discuss how to move forward on this with related organizations, such as the Hiyama Promotion Bureau and the Hiyama Forest Management Office.”
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