Names in this site follow the Japanese custom of family name first.

July 25, 2011

Haiku Stones: Shinshoji, Narita (Basho and Kyoshi)

Joroku Buddha statue
heat haze high
above the stone

joroku ni | kagero takashi | ishi no ue

I have already written about Narita Shinshoji Temple, and also introduced the museums in the temple grounds in Narita museums. Now I visit the haiku stones in the temple and first come to a kuhi by Basho, standing in green grass. By the way, this haiku was not written in Narita, but when Basho traveled in Western Japan.

[The haiku stone in Narita Park]

By chance, the meteorological circumstances of my visit are the same as those expressed in the haiku. The summer heat is severe, so much that the hot air reverberates and creates a mirage above a flat stone: Basho imagines the stone is the pedestal of a large Buddha statue and in the hot air seems to discern its figure... Joroku is a measure for Buddhist sculpture, one jo and six roku, which corresponds roughly to 4.8 meters. So it is a huge statue that looms up before Basho's eyes in the steaming heat, a veritable mirage...
under the moon
Danzo the Seventh

sugokarishi | tsuki no Danzo | nanadaime

Shinshoji Temple in Narita has a long and deep relation with the Ichikawa family of Kabuki actors. This goes back to Ichikawa Danjuro I, who apparently prayed to the Fudo deity of the temple for offspring. Thanks to the patronage of the famous Kabuki actor, the temple also became a popular pilgrimage destination for the people of Edo and was therefore in the 18th c. able to rebuild many of its structures, such as the pagoda.

[The modern Tahoto pagoda of Shinshoji Temple]

In the park of the temple we find a stone pedestal on which in 1910 the bronze statues of two Kabuki actors were erected, Ichikawa Danjuro VII and his father, Danzo VI. This was the first statue ever to be set up for actors in Japan, but unfortunately it was destroyed in WWII when Japan suffered from a lack of resources and used all the bronze it could get to make weapons. The present haiku stone by modern haiku master Kyoshi was in 1953 put up on the empty stone base by Danzo VIII to honor the memory of Danzo VII, his predecessor. Danzo VII had often visited the Narita temple and was an acquaintance of Kyoshi as well. The haiku stone is a fitting memorial to the long and deep relation between the Ichikawa clan of actors and Narita Shinshoji Temple.