Thursday, September 12, 2019

Carpe Diem #1744 Pilgrimage to the Great Shrine of Ise (Japan): "There is nothing to see; and they won't let you see it."

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

Welcome at a new episode in our wonderful "an act of devotion" month in whicj we are exploring pilgrimages around the world. Today I have chosen to bring an episode about the Great Ise Shrine, a Shinto traditional pilgrimage, that even once was walked by Basho. He wrote a short haibun about this pilgrimage. And maybe you remember Yozakura, our Unknown Haiku Poet, whom we have met in our story "Wandering Spirit", was once a monk in the Great Ise Shrine.

Grand Shrine of Ise (Shinto-religion)

While I was doing research for this episode I ran into a wonderful piece of prose about the Grand Ise Shrine written by Percival Lowell, I love to share a piece of this prose here to give you some inspiration.

[...] "My first meeting with the gods, upon the top of Ontaké, had been strangely unexpected; my last sign from them was destined to be no less so. It took place in an utterly dissimilar yet even more improbable place—the Shrines of Ise.

If, when buds first stir with dreams of blossom amid the forbidding April of our New England year, a man could quietly be spirited away from doubt, delay, and disappointment to a certain province of what is still old Japan, he would find himself in what he would take for fairyland. Over the whole countryside and far up its background of hills glow cloud-like masses of pink-white bloom, while upon all the country roads carnival crowds of men, women, and children journey gayly along, chanting as they go, beneath the canopy of blossom. It is the great Shintō pilgrimage to the Shrines of Ise that he is gazing on, made every spring by three hundred thousand folk at the time when the cherries blow.

Up the winding street of the town of Yamada, the house-eaves on either hand one long line of fluttering pilgrim flags, the gay throng wends its rollicking way, and, crossing a curved parapeted bridge, enters a strangely neat park in the centre of a little valley shut in by thickly wooded slopes. At the farther end of the open an odd sort of skeleton arch makes portal to a carefully kept primeval forest. Through this ghost of a gateway the pilgrims pass by a broad gravelly path into a natural nave of cryptomeria, the huge trunks straight as columns and so tall that distance itself seems to taper them to where their tops touch in arch far overhead. Down aisles of half light on the sides show here and there the shapes of plain unpainted buildings, with roofs feetdeep in thatch, and curiously curved projecting rafters; while under the great still trees the path winds solemnly on through a second portal, and then a third, to the foot of a flight of broad stone steps, up which it ascends to a gateway in the centre of one side of a plain wooden palisade. The gateway's doors stand open, but a white curtain, hanging from the lintel in their stead, hides all view beyond.

In front of the curtain lies a mat sprinkled with pennies. Before it each pilgrim pauses, lays aside his staff, takes off his travel robes, and tossing his mite to lie there beside its fellows, claps his hands, and bows his head in prayer. Then, his adoration done, he slowly turns, takes up again his robe and staff, and goes the way he came. For this is the goal to his long pilgrimage.

That curtain marks his bourne. Beyond the veil none but the Mikado and the special priests may ever go. Yet every now and then a gracious breeze gently wafts the curtain a little to one side, and for an instant gives the faithful glimpse of a pebbly court, a second gateway, and, screened by pale within pale of palisades, more plain wooden buildings with strangely raftered roofs, reputed counterparts of the primeval dwellings of the race. And this is all that man may ever see of the great Shrines of Ise, chief Mecca of the Shintō faith.

If with the mind's eye the pilgrim penetrate no farther than his feet may pass, he may well say with the disappointed tourist whom Chamberlain quotes in the guidebook, in warning to such as would visit these shrines: "There is nothing to see; and they won't let you see it." [...] (Source: Occult Japan)

Uji Bridge to go over to Ise Grand Shrine

Wouldn't it be wonderful to visit the Grand Ise Shrine in Spring? Look at the beautiful cherry blossoms ... and be silent ...

cherry blossoms bloom
fragile beauty goes with the gods
walking Uji bridge

© Chèvrefeuille

I hope you all did like this episode. It was really a joy to create it, because it's about a wonderful pilgrimage in the land of the Rising Sun, the Mother Land of Haiku, Japan.

This episode is NOW OPEN for your submissions and will remain open until September 18th at noon (CEST). I will try to publish our new episode later on. For now ... be inspired and enjoy!

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