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

July 13, 2011

Haiku Stones: Saiganji, Fushimi, Kyoto (Basho)

In Fushimi today we came across a small temple called Saiganji or more popularly Aburakake Jizo. That means "Jizo covered with oil" and there is of course a story behind it.

Saiganji was founded in 1590 by Unkai. Once upon a time, an oil merchant from Yamazaki stumbled in front of the gate of the temple and spilled most of his oil. Giving it up as lost, he sincerely poured the reminder over the Jizo statue as a donation to the deity and paid his respects. Then he went his way. Thereafter, his business prospered enormously and this gave cause to the popular belief that all wishes would be granted if one poured oil over the Jizo statue of Saiganji.

[Basho-zuka in Saiganji]

Today the temple was closed but when standing in front of it, I remembered we visited here many years ago, during the Jizobon festival in summer, when we were kindly invited into the temple hall by the people of the neighborhood. They shared food and drinks with us and together we watched children and grannies passing around a large rosary with wooden beads as large as tennis balls. And indeed, the stone Jizo had a very oily appearance!

Today I also discovered there is a haiku stone in Saiganji with a haiku by Basho on it:
on my silk robe
put a drop
of the peaches of Fushimi

waga kinu ni | Fushimi no momo no | shizuku seyo
Basho wrote this haiku in 1685 for Ninko, the third abbot of Saiganji who was a haiku poet as well. Ninko was 80 at the time and would die the next year. He was a morally very high-standing priest and that is what Basho alludes to. At that time Fushimi was famous for its peaches and the peach therefore stands for Ninko in the poem. Basho reveres Ninko so much that he wants to receive the shower of the holy man's virtue on his own robe - even one drop.
Access: 15 min walk from Momoyamagoryo St on the Keihan line - walk straight through the Otesuji Arcade, turn left at the end into another, narrower arcade, then at the end again right into an ordinary street and you will soon stand in front of the small temple (again on your right). The haiku stone dates from 1805. Note: "Momo no shizuku," "the drop of the peaches" from Basho's haiku, was selected as the name of one of Fushimi's most famous sake brands.