Category Archives: Basho

Hokuriku Coast and Basho

Oyashirazu

Northern Alps drop into

the Sea of Japan.

Photo and verse by Okunomichi (c) 2018.

Hokuriku

Along the Sea of Japan, Hokuriku, which means Northlands region, is known for its heavy winter snows. Historically it includes the Koshi and Hokurikudo provinces and the Noto Peninsula. Current prefectures include Niigata, Toyama, Ishikawa, and Fukui. This series of posts is about a visit to Niigata and Toyama in May 2018. There are vistas of breathtaking beauty and power, and there are sacred shrines which grew organically out of this primordial region. There is a lot of unknown cultural history over the last ten thousand years, along with well-understood scientific history extending over 500 million years.

Oyashirazu

The cliffs at which the Northern Japanese Alps fall into the Sea of Japan were the product of terrestrial volcanic activity occurring about 100 million years ago. The ancient Hokuriku Road was wedged in a small space between these cliffs and the sea, making for a perilous journey, especially when the waves would surge. Large pockets and caves eroded into the wall where travelers would take refuge from the stormy seas still remain on the face of these cliffs.    

Oyashirazu    ko wa kono ura no    namimakura

koshiji no iso no    awa to kieyuku

Taira-no-Yorimori was a general of the once powerful Taira clan which was defeated by their rivals, the Minamoto clan, in the late 12th century. After their defeat, Yorimori fled to what is now Niigata prefecture. Following after him, his wife crossed Oyashirazu where she lost their child to the raging seas. In her sorrow she wrote this poem, which lends the cliffs their name.

Without his parent knowing,

my child, in this shore’s waves along the Koshiji road,

vanishes in the foam.

The above passages are from the Itoigawa Geopark’s extensive website. Itoigawa is home to the Itoigawa Geopark and the Fossa Magna Museum.  At the Oyashirazu lookout is this statue of a mother and two children, a memorial to all the children who were lost here. All photos are by Okunomichi © 2018.    

IMG_2866

Oku no Hosomichi

Matsuo Basho, traveled through the northern country in 1689 with his student Sora. After visiting Kasawaski, they stopped one night in Ichiburi near the Oyashirazu cliffs. At the inn, there were two ladies of leisure. Basho, perhaps mulling over the life and death pathos in the above Oyashirazu waka by Yorimori’s wife, wrote the haiku,

一家に遊女もねたり萩と月

hitotsuya ni    juujo mo netari    hagi to tsuki

In the same lodging

Play-girls too are sleeping —

Bush clover and moon.

(tr. by Christine Murasaki Millet, 1997)

This seemingly straight-forward haiku has overtones of contrasting themes: playgirls/monks, women/men, bush clover/moon, impermanence/permanence.

Poetic Monument of Matsuo Basho

At Choenji Temple, a stone monument commemorates Basho’s visit and haiku.

2018-05-18 10.03.18 Choenji

Choenji Temple 2018

 

***

 

Advertisements