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

April 7, 2012

Haiku Stones: Jeopardized by drunkards (Shushiki, Ueno Park)

Ueno was and still is famous for its cherry blossoms. The inhabitants of the city turn out in large numbers at blossom-viewing time, so that a visit to the park has more the character of 'people-viewing.' Groups sit under the trees, showered upon by the falling blossoms. People eat and, especially, drink, and the sake is responsible for quite a hilarious atmosphere.

This despite the fact that in the Edo-period Ueno was the site of solemn Kaneiji, the funerary temple of the Tokugawa. Interestingly, there is a connection between temple and cherry trees: the trees were planted by the third shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu (1604-1651), in commemoration of Tenkai, the priest who had established Kaneiji. The trees were brought from the famous cherry blossom viewing area of Yoshino, in present-day Nara Prefecture.

Jolliness is not always good for tender blossoms and slender trees. This was already noted by Oaki, the 13 year-old daughter of a sweet shop in Nihonbashi, who wrote haiku under the literary name of 'Shushiki.'

The poem, written in the Genroku area (1688-1704), became famous in the whole city. Oaki was a pupil of Kikaku, who in his turn had studied under Basho.

Whether the well on the photo is really Shushiki's original well, is rather questionable - to say nothing about the cherry tree standing at its side. But through the centuries the small poem still speaks to us in all freshness.
 
[The well in the grounds of the Kiyomizu Hall in Ueno Park ] 
*** 
jeopardized by drunkards 
the cherry tree 
at the well  
idobata no | sakura abunashi | sake no yoi  
***
Location: The haiku stone stands - just as the well - at the back of the Kiyomizu Hall in Ueno Park, behind a fence, and dates from 1940. The present cherry tree was planted in 1978 and is the ninth in line (to answer the above mentioned question).  
Ueno Park is next to Ueno Station on the JR Yamanote Line, and the Ginza and Hibiya Subway Lines. The Keisei Line towards Narita also starts here. The Kiyomizu Hall stands not far from the steps that lead into the park from the main entrance close to Ueno Station (where the statue of Saigo Takamori looks down upon the city). Admission free.