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

August 4, 2011

Haiku Stones: Taiyuji, Osaka (Basho)

white chrysanthemum
without a stain
the eyes can catch 
shiragiku no / me ni tatete miru / chiri mo nashi
Taiyuji Temple stands rather forlorn between business hotels and offices east of Osaka station. For a temple this location is also uncomfortably close to the Kita Shinchi bar and amusement district. The sturdy wall enclosing the temple seems not strong enough to keep it pure.

[The haiku stone in Taiyuji Temple, Osaka]

Taiyuji was founded by Kukai at the behest of emperor Saga and further enlarged by Saga's his son Minamoto no Toru. Kukai had found a fragrant tree here from which he cut a Jizo and Bishamon statue; Emperor Saga donated a thousand-armed Kannon. Taiyuji grew into a considerably large establishment of Shingon Buddhism and was honored both by courtiers and samurai. It was destroyed in the early 17th c., and again in the middle of the twentieth, both times by the fires of war. The buildings now are all new, concrete contraptions like the surroundings.

The above poem is the hokku (opening verse) of a kasen composed at the house of Shiba Sonome (1664-1726), one of Basho's female students. She lived in Osaka with her husband, a doctor. Sonome had become a disciple of Basho in 1688, and now, in 1694, Basho met her for first time after four and a half years. She was an energetic woman: later in life she moved to Edo were she worked as an eye doctor, and in her final years she became a nun.

The kasen took place in Sonome's house on November 14 (September 27 in the old calendar). The lines of the hokku are based on a waka poem by Saigyo. Basho praises Sonome's purity of heart and elegant taste - it was common to praise the host(ess) of the session in the opening verse of a kasen. The white chrysanthemum may have actually been present in the room or garden, as autumn is the season of these flowers.

Incidentally, this was Basho's last kasen - two weeks later he would be dying in a flower shop in front of the Mido Temple, also in Osaka - perhaps again among spotless white chrysanthemums.
Haiku Stone: The haiku stone stands in the grounds of Taiyuji Temple. It is natural stone 170 cm. high and dates from 1844 (the commemoration of Basho's death 150 years earlier).
Access: 10 min. walk east of Osaka station or 5 min. walk from Higashi-Umeda station on the Tanimachi subway line.
Admission: Grounds free.