These trees were planted along the highway running through Nikko, Aizunishi and Reiheishi for more than 20 years, beginning in 1625 (the 2nd year of Kan’ei age) by Masatsuna Matsudaira, vassal of Ieyasu Tokugawa’s, and his son. They were contributed to the Nikko Toshogu Shrine on the 33rd anniversary of Ieyasu’s death in 1648 (the 1st year of the Keian age). In the Edo era, the cedar trees were under the protection of the magistrate’s office and the residents the highway were obliged to defend the line of cedars cordially.
In the Meiji era, about 1,000 trees were deforested because of the development involved in the modernization. But they came to be protected again for the purpose of public use, and during the Greater East Asia War, only two of them were used as material for the battleships, though many of big trees were deforest. Due to environmental deterioration and natural damage resulting from typhoons and the advances of modernization about 100 trees fall each year, so protective measures (such as planting roadside trees) are accelerated. In 1996 (the 8th year of the Heisei era), an ownership system for the lined cedar trees was started by the Nikko Lined Cedar Trees Protection and the Tochigi Prefecture Cultural Asset Section. They sell one cedar tree for 10 million yen and use the profits to advance the protection of the trees. The 1992 Guinness Book of World Records holds this route to be the longest tree-lined road in the world, measuring a length of 37km. In Japan, it is regarded as both a special historic site and a special natural monument –a very precious heritage. The spectacle of trees whose average height is 27m and whose age is 380 years old is extremely magnificent and beautiful, so we can boast to the world.
The noteworthy cedar trees are “Hodan’uchikomisugi (the cedar tree driven with a cannonball)”, which was hitby a bullet when the Shogunate’s army of this region was bombarded in the Boshin War, “Sakurasugi (the cedar tree with a wild cherry tree)” in whose rip a wild cherry tree thrives and blooms beautifully to this day, and “Namikitaro (road side trees Taro)”, which is the oldest tree along the road.
Moreover, parties concerned about the world’s three major groups of cedar trees, the longestin the world “Nikko Highway lined with Japanese cedars”, the oldest “Yaku Japanese cedars” and the largest “Sequoia cedar”(California, U.S.A.), gathered in Imaichi city in 1999. The first “World’s three major cedar trees environmental summit” was held, declaring that “we protect these three major cedar trees as a symbol of measures for preventing global warning and pass them down through the ages.”