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

May 30, 2012

Maple leaves of Mt Ogura (Walking Waka Tracks)

Nisonin on Mt Ogura is famous as the place where Fujiwara Teika had his villa and where he is supposed to have compiled the Hyakunin Isshu anthology. Verdant Sagano was a kind of resort area, with fresh air and clear rapids, a world away from the noisy and dusty city. Many Heian aristocrats had villas here. 


The exact location in Sagano of Teika's villa is however not known from independent sources - the idea that it was Nisonin comes from poetry fans in the Edo-period and has no scientific basis. There are also competitors, such as nearby Jojakkoin or the quiet nunnery Enrian. Both Nisonin and Jojakkoin seem in fact doubtful as they are located on hills and Heian aristocrats usually built their villas on more easily accessible, level ground - probably Teika had his country house somewhere in the vicinity of where now Rakushisha with its memories of another poet, Basho, stands.

The temple itself is supposed to have been founded in 841 by the Emperor Saga (who is also intimately connected with Daikokuji). Belonging to the Tendai faith, it derives its name "Temple of the Two Images" from the fact that it has two main images: Shaka, who enlightens humans in this world, and Amida who takes care of our souls after death.

Gate of Nisonin Temple, Sagano, Kyoto
[Nisonin Temple - Photo © Ad Blankestijn]

if the maple leaves
on the peak of Mt Ogura
could have hearts
they would wait
for the Emperor's outing

Ogurayama | mine no momijiba | kokoro araba | ima hitotabi no | Miyuki matanan
This poem, by Fujiwara Tadahira (880-949), is the only poem in the collection (it is No. 26) associated with Mt Ogura, which is in fact a small, round hill rather than a soaring mountain peak. The waka poem starts the association of Sagano with autumn and momiji, maple leaves, turning away from Tatsuta in Nara which until then had been the classical poetic association for autumn colors. As the emperor still has not made his outing to see the maple leaves, the poet playfully asks the leaves to keep their colors for a while.

Nisonin:Tel: 075-861-0687 
Hrs: 9:00-16:30 
Access: 15 min. on foot from Saga Arashiyama Station on the Keifuku Line.