Sunday, October 13, 2013

Carpe Diem's Oku no Hosomichi, Station 5b, 6 and 7 "wooden clogs"

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

In our last episode of "Oku no Hosomichi" we arrived at Mount Nikko and went to visit the shrine on the Mount. It was a holy experience to be there and be part of the "Sunbeams" like prayers spread all over the world to all her corners. We wrote a Rengay (a chain of six poems) based on the "Sunbeam" - haiku by Master Basho. This was a real experience of a higher plan. (This Rengay "Sunbeams" you can find HERE). Let's go on with our journey and enjoy the company of Master Basho and his companion Sora.

sunbeams will rest
on our shoulders and will guide us -
nothing to fear

(c) Chèvrefeuille, your host

Mount Nikko "Sunbeams"

After a good night's sleep we went further on our journey the next morning. We left the Inn of Gozaemon at dawn and for a while stood still at the foot of Mt Nikko, now hidden in the mist and I thought at that moment that we were lucky that we could climb to the top yesterday.

now hidden in mist
only the experience left
parting Nikko

(c) Chèvrefeuille

Sora, our companion was in a holy mood and would like to change his looks. He shaved his head and puts on the black frock (?) of a priest of Buddha and to complete his transformation he changed his name as well. He took on the name Sogo, which means "enlightened by the doctrine". In that time it was very common to wear the black frock of Buddhistic priest, because that gave safety, for travelers.
We passed Mount Kurokami, still covered with snow and hiding in the mist, you could see only his vague silhouet. We walked almost 2000 meters up on the Kurokami and heard the sound of falling water. As we arrived at the place from which direction the sound came we saw a waterfall. Behind the waterfall we found a cave. Master Basho told us that the name of this waterfall was "Urami no Taki", which means "the waterfall seen from behind". We sat there, behind the waterfall for a while. Enjoying the sound of the falling water. In a way it was very soothing, however we couldn't talk with each other, because of the loudness of the falling water.

the sound of water
soothing - like meditating
behind the waterfall

(c) Chèvrefeuille

Mount Kurokami (Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849))

"A friend of mine", Basho said. "Lives in Kurobane at the other side of the great marshy heath of Nasu. Maybe we can visit him and stay there for the night". Sogo and I nodded. "Let's go", Sogo said. We tried to take a short-cut across Nasu, but it started to rain and the heath became more marshy, so we decided to seek shelter at an old farmhouse.
Early next morning as the sun started to rise we went on. The farmer lent us horses to cross Nasu and said: "As the horses stop, then dismount and go on foot further. The horses will return by themselves". It happens as the farmer had said. As we arrived at Kurobane Basho brought us to his friend, who turned out to be the mayor of Kurobane. His name was Joboji, a high class samourai.
Joboji loved to talk and ... man ... he could talk, the whole day long. We stayed at his brother's house for several days. Joboji showed us the tomb of Lady Tamamo, who turned herself into stone. This story is told in the Noh-play Sessho-Seki

Tamamo woodblock by Yoshitoshi

The next day we were invited to visit Shugen Komyoji, the temple of the mountain-monks. We accepted the invitation and went to visit the mountain-monks, who are known for the high wooden shoes, which they wear always like a kind of repentance.
It was really a joy to be there in that wonderful temple. An enlightening experience ... I had to write a haiku about it:

summer mountains
I bow for high wooden clogs -
Nightingale's song

(c) Chèvrefeuille

Shugen Komyoji Temple

What a joy to walk with Basho and his companion. To see ancient Japan as you will never see as a tourist. All those wonderful places ... the shrines, the mountains, the people, the hospitality of the Japanese. Really awesome. I can't wait to go on with our journey to the "Deep North".
We will see ... the next episode will bring us to a poem by Butcho, Basho's Dharma-master, at Unganji.

on a journey
seeking for ancient knowledge
deep inside myself

(c) Chèvrefeuille


As you know from our other episodes of Oku no Hosomichi I will reproduce the text of Oku no Hosomichi which tells us about what we saw in this episode of "Carpe Diem's Oku no Hosomichi".

Station 5b - Kurokami

Mount Kurokami was visible through the mist in the distance. It was brilliantly white with snow in spite of its name, which means black hair.

Rid of my hair,
I came to Mount Kurokami
On the day we put on
Clean summer clothes.

--written by Sora

My companion's real name is Kawai Sogoro, Sora being his pen name. He used to live in my neighborhood and help me with such chores as bringing water and firewood. He wanted to enjoy the views of Matsushima and Kisagata with me, and also to share with me the hardships of the wandering journey. So he took to the road after taking the tonsure on the very morning of our departure, putting on the black robe of an itinerant priest, and even changing his name to Sogo, which means Religiously Enlightened. His poem, therefore, is not intended as a mere description of Mount Kurokami. The last determination to persist in his purpose.
After climbing two hundred yards or so from the shrine, I came to a waterfall, which came pouring out of a hollow in the ridge and tumbled down into a dark green pool below in a huge leap of several hundred feet. The rocks of the waterfall were so carved out that we could see it from behind, though hidden ourselves in a craggy cave. Hence its nickname, See-from-behind.

Silent a while in a cave,
I watched a waterfall
For the first of
The summer observances

Station 6 - Nasu

A friend was living in the town of Kurobane in the province of Nasu. There was a wide expanse of grass-moor, and the town was on the other side of it. I decided to follow a shortcut which ran straight for miles and miles across the moor. I noticed a small village in the distance, but before I reached it, rain began to fall and darkness closed in. I put up at a solitary farmer's house for the night, and started again early next morning. As I was plodding though the grass, I noticed a horse grazing by the roadside and a farmer cutting grass with a sickle. I asked him to do me the favor of lending me his horse. The farmer hesitated for a while, but finally with a touch of sympathy in his face, he said to me, 'There are hundreds of cross-roads in the grass-moor. A stranger like you can easily go astray. This horse knows the way. You can send him back when he won't go any further.' So I mounted the horse and started off, when two small children came running after me. One of them was a girl named Kasane, which means manifold. I thought her name was somewhat strange but exceptionally beautiful.

If your name, Kasane,
Means manifold,
How befitting it is also
For a double-flowered pink.

By and by I came to a small village. I therefore sent back the horse, with a small amount of money tied to the saddle.

Basho and Sora on their journey, a painting by Buson

Station 7 - Kurobane

I arrived safely at the town of Kurobane, and visited my friend, Joboji, who was then looking after the mansion of his lord in his absence. He was overjoyed to see me so unexpectedly, and we talked for days and nights together. His brother, Tosui, seized every opportunity to talk with me, accompanied me to his home and introduced me to his relatives and friends. One day we took a walk to the suburbs. We saw the ruins of an ancient dog shooting ground, and pushed further out into the grass-moor to see the tomb of Lady Tamamo and the famous Hachiman Shrine, upon whose god the brave archer, Yoichi, is said to have called for aid when he was challenged to shoot a single fan suspended over a boat drifting offshore. We came home after dark.
I was invited out to the Komyoji Temple, to visit the hall in which was enshrined the founder of the Shugen sect. He is said to have travelled all over the country in wooden clogs, preaching his doctrines.

Amid mountains mountains of high summer,
I bowed respectfully before
The tall clogs of a statue,
Asking a blessing on my journey.

(translation by: Noboyuki Yuasa)

I hope you did like this episode of Oku no Hosomichi. A new episode will be following next week.


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