Categories
Poetry

To Welcome or Let Go

I was in Germany for the winter holidays when I wrote this. I do not remember the winter thunder storm. I do, however, remember visiting these monuments in Eguchi, Osaka. This play became the topic of my Master’s thesis. (Last edited on January 27, 2022.)

The memorial to Saigyo and the courtesan’s encounter at Eguchi, now in present-day Osaka. Photo by H. McGaughey

Tübingen, Germany This morning, from the window in the living room, the rising sun could be seen just above the mountains in the distance. Above the sun, dark clouds, their undersides faintly lined in gold. Then suddenly snow started falling in sheets like rain, lightning flashed, and thunder followed. Today is not a day I want to be outside, walking through the changeable weather.

In the Shin kokin waka shū (c. 1205 New anthology of Japanese poems past and present), a pair of poems exchanged by Saigyō and a courtesan (yūjo in Japanese) on a rainy evening comes to mind. Or rather, these poems, as incorporated in the nō Eguchi, have been on my mind for the last few months, since they comprise a core component of my thesis, but for now I’ll set the thesis aside, because I really just want to tell you the story of these poems as I see it.

Saigyō gave the first poem to a courtesan who had refused him lodging on a rainy evening.

世の中を厭ふまでこそ難からめ仮の宿りを惜しむ君かな

Yo no naka wo itou made koso katakarame kari no yadori wo oshimu kimi kana

To hate the world is hard, but you deny me a moment’s shelter?

Shin kokin waka shū (Vol. 10, Travel poems) Poem 978 by Saigyō (original lightly modified for clarity)

Her reply:

世を厭ふ人とし聞けば仮の宿りに心を留むなと思ふばかりぞ

Yo wo itou hito to shi kikeba kari no yadori ni kokoro wo tomu na to omou bakari zo

Hearing you hate the world, I simply thought you should not set your heart on a moment’s shelter.

Shin kokin waka shū (Vol. 10, Travel poems) Poem 979 by a courtesan (yūjo) named Tae (original lightly modified for clarity)
Categories
Travel

Battling a Dragon on Mt. Takao

In this post, I mentioned that I was a Master’s student. I occasionally went to Mt. Takao on my own back then because there were always people there, which gave me a feeling of security.

Edited on January 26, 2022.

Tokyo, Japan It’s quite some time since I wrote. Last week, I successfully proposed a topic for my MA thesis, so I should be able to take it a little easier now, or so say some fellow students, but my mind is already full of how I might construct this massive academic text in the next few months. So, I’m sorry if this blog has fallen out of my awareness a little.

There is, however, a story I would like to tell about a small excursion I embarked on shortly before my thesis proposal. I was so overwhelmed with having to summarize all my thoughts in a page-long summary and with the crazy heat that is of course normal in this part of the world at this time of year, that I fled to a nearby mountain for a hike.

I came to a place where shrines to Buddhist gods are placed in three little caves. A few people had taken cover there and one woman sitting on the ground at one of the altars was chanting the name of the Amida Buddha as she struck a gong on the ground.