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

June 11, 2012

Ablution poem at the Kamigamo Shrine (Walking Waka Tracks)

The Shimogamo Shrine has Kamo no Chomei as famous resident poet, but also the Kamigamo Shrine with its deep forest and clear streams often was the subject of poetic effusions in former times. In the grounds stands a monument to Poem No 98 of the Hyakunin Isshu anthology that is situated here in the rustling woods, at the murmuring streams...

[Nara Brook in Kamigamo Shrine, Kyoto]
in the evening
when the wind stirs the oaks
at the brook of Nara
the ablutions are
the only sign of summer

kaze soyogu | nara no ogawa no | yugure wa | misogi zo natsu no | shirushi narikeru
This poem was written by a courtier called "Ietaka of the Junior Second Rank" (1158-1237), who was quite popular as we find hundreds of his poems in imperial anthologies. A member of Emperor GoToba's poetic circle, he studied with Shunzei and became the son in law of Jakuren, both famous poets in their own right.

The poet walks through the sacred grounds of the Kamigamo Shrine and is surprised at the sudden change of the seasons. The wind that rustles through the leaves of the oak trees is chilly, reminding him of autumn, and the only sign that it is still summer are the people performing ablutions with sacred wands at the river bank. Sacred bathing was a summer custom at both Kamo Shrines and is still ritually enacted at the Shimogamo Shrine in the form of the Mitarashi Festival in late summer.
Kamigamo Shrine
Access: 30 minutes by bus 4 from Demachi-Yanagi Station. Get off at the last stop, Kamigamojinja-mae. Or a 15 minute walk from Kitayama Station on the Karasuma Subway Line. Grounds free.