Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Carpe Diem #880 secrets unveiled of the Deep North: coolness, cloud peaks, not permitted to tell

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

First I will apologize again for being late with this new episode .... but now I will bring it to you. We are on the trail with Basho and his companion Sora on our way into the deep north following the story as told by Basho in his famous haibun Oku no Hosomichi (Narrow Road into the Deep North).

Basho was known as the traveling poet and in the last ten years of his life he traveled a lot. Of all his travels he wrote a haibun, but Oku no Hosomichi became the most famous haibun ever. I even think that there is not an other haibun which can reach the quality level of Oku no Hosomichi.


As I was still descending, I saw an old smithy built right on a trickling stream. According to my guide, this was where Gassan, a local swordsmith, used to make his swords, tempering them in the crystal-clear water of the stream. He made his swords with such skill and devotion that they became famous throughout the world. He must have chosen this particular spot for his smithy probably because he knew of a certain mysterious power latent in the water, just as indeed a similar power is known to have existed in the water of Ryosen Spring in China. Nor is the story of Kansho and Bakuya out of place here, for it also teaches us that no matter where your interest lies, you will not be able to accomplish anything unless you bring your deepest devotion to it. As I sat reflecting thus upon a rock, I saw in front of me a cherry tree hardly three feet tall just beginning to blossom - far behind the season of course, but victorious against the heavy weight of snow which it had resisted for more than half a year. I immediately thought of the famous Chinese poem about 'the plum tree fragrant in the blazing heat of summer' and of an equally pathetic poem by the priest Gyoson, and felt even more attached to the cherry tree in front of me. I saw many other things of interest in this mountain, the details of which, however, I refrain from betraying in accordance with the rules I must obey as a pilgrim. When I returned to my lodging, my host, Egaku, asked me to put down in verse some impressions of my pilgrimage to the three mountains, so I wrote as follows on the narrow strips of writing paper he had given me.

Mount Yudono

a crescent moon faintly seen
over Black feather Mountain

© Basho (Tr. Jane Reichhold)

cloud peaks
how many have crumbled
on the mountain of the moon

© Basho (Tr. Jane Reichhold)

not permitted to tell
how sleeves are wetted
in the bathroom

© Basho (Tr. Jane Reichhold)

as I step on coins
on sacred Yudono road
tears rush to my eyes

© Sora, Basho’s travel companion (Tr. James David Andrews)


There are several places in Japan which are seen as sacred and holy, but some of those places hide secrets too. One of those secrets was on Mount Yudono. Let me tell you a little bit more about the secrets of Mount Yudono.

Basho wrote "not permitted to tell" on Mount Yudano (meaning: bathroom). On this mountain was a spectacular waterfall which had been a Shinto place of worship since early times. Only men could visit it and only after a rigorous climb with several rituals and services in various temples. At the gate, after purification rites, they must remove their shoes to climb the rocks barefoot. In addition, before being allowed to view this wonder, each men had to swear never to reveal what he witnessed there.
Credits: Shinto ritual on Mount Yudono

In modern times, in interests of disclosure, the secret of Mount Yudano has been revealed.
Due to the wearing away of the rock and the reddish minerals in the thermal-warmed water, the waterfall looks exactly like the private parts of a woman complete with sounds and gushing water. The practice can be thought of as worshipping the reproductive aspect of the feminine earth.

Knowing this, the name of the mountain becomes clear. Even clearer is the earlier name for the mountain, Koi no Yama ("mountain of love")>

Maybe you remember this haiku from an earlier post, but you can also have read this one in our Carpe Diem Haiku Writing Techniques "double entendre".

too late for the ferry
after a steaming hot summer night
with my paramour

© Chèvrefeuille

This episode is NOW OPEN for your submissions and will remain open until December 18th at noon (CET). I will (try to) publish our next episode, another Carpe Diem Haiku Writing Techniques episode, later on. Have fun!

1 comment:

  1. I really liked the passage of the victorious cherry tree...