Sometime before 4:40 this morning, the great gingko tree of Tsuruoka Hachiman Shrine snapped in two, its massive bulk thudding into the courtyard.
Estimated at over a thousand years old, the tree was famous for having provided a hiding place for Kugyo, the second son of Minamoto no Yoriie, as he awaited to wreak vengeance upon his uncle Minamoto no Sanetomo, the third shogun, whom Kugyo thought had arranged Yoriie's assassination when Kugyo was only 5 years old. According to the legend, as Sanetomo descended the staircase following a service, the now 20 year old Kugyo leapt out from behind the tree, sword in hand, shouting, "I take my vengeance on my father's enemy!" and hacked off Sanetomo's head.
Kugyo was later killed on the orders of his maternal uncle, Hojo no Yoshitoki. His execution marked the end of the Minamoto line, less than 35 years after Minamoto no Yoritomo and his brothers led the extirpation of the Taira at Dan no Ura.