Ginkgo trees 銀杏
A symbol of autumn in Japan
Very common at Shinto shrines, ginkgo trees are an major part of the Japanese fall landscape. You can admire them all over the country, and the oldest in Japan are over 1,000 years old!
The last of its kind
The ginkgo is a very old tree of the Ginkgoales species. A million years ago, this variety of trees began to die out, leaving behind only a handful of shoots in northern Asia. Today, the ginkgo is the only specimen left of its kind! It is believed to have first appeared in Japan around 1,000 years ago and is now an integral part of the Japanese landscape.
Indeed, ginkgo trees are often present at shinto shrines. Appreciated for their robustness, they serve as shinboku (sacred trees where the local spirits dwell) and are adulated by everyone, especially in Tokyo, where they are a symbol of the city.
Read : Shintoism
The symbol of Tokyo for almost 30 years
Due to the vaguely 'T' shape of its leaves, the ginkgo has been the symbol of the Japanese capital since 1989! It can be found on the Tokyo Metro logo, and many Tokyo parks are populated with them, such as Meiji-Jingu Gaien, whose paths lined with ginkgos attracts many photographers each fall.
A tree with edible nuts (called ginnan), it can be found at a few izakaya tables when the season comes to harvest its fruit. Ginkgos are also dioecious, meaning there are two separate sexes - some trees are female and others male, and the female trees are infamous for the terrible smell produced during breeding season, in autumn. Fortunately, male trees are favored for planting in the cities!
Three exceptional trees across Japan
Among the ginkgo trees that populate the Japanese islands, three trees in particular are distinguished by their age. Planted nearly 1,000 years ago, they are considered the first Japanese ginkgo trees! They produce beautiful golden leaves every autumn and are now part of the must-see sights for visitors coming to enjoy the koyo.
Read more: Koyo
- Horyo Ginkgo (Aomori prefecture)
Planted almost 1,100 years ago in the small town of Horyo, this ginkgo was the first tree of the Ginkgoales family to be classified as a 'natural monument' by the Japanese government, in 1926. It is 31 meters high, more than 13 meters wide and turns beautifully golden every November.
Address : 16-2 Aza-ichonoki, Horyo, Towada, Aomori Prefecture, 034-0303
Access : One hour by car from Aomori station (Aomori-tetsudo, Tsugaru lines)
- The Grand Kikubo
At 27 meters tall, the Grand Kikubo is one of the most imposing trees of its kind. Planted 1,000 years ago in Sannohe, Aomori prefecture, it is also classified as a 'natural monument'. And although the 2011 typhoon that hit the Tohoku region damaged it a bit, the tree has now regained all its previous splendor, to the delight of the inhabitants of Sannohe.
Address : Aza-ichonokikubo, Dobutsu, Hashikami, Sannohe, Aomori Prefecture, 039-1201
Access : 15 minutes by car from Kadonohama station (Hachinohe line)
- Shoboji Temple ginkgo (Saitama prefecture)
This 700 year-old ginkgo is the pride of Shoboji Temple in Saitama Prefecture. Planted on a hill above the temple, it overlooks the mountains of Chibubu and offers a beautiful autumn landscape to those who come to pray to the goddess Kannon Shoboji from late November to early December.
Address : 1229 Iwadono, Higashimatsuyama, Saitama Prefecture, 355-0065
Access : 7 minutes by car from Takasaka station (Tobu-tojo line)