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August 8, 2013

Haiku in Manpukuji, Uji: Songs of tea pickers (Haiku stones)

leaving the Temple Gate
there is Japan!
songs of tea pickers

sanmon wo dereba | Nippon zo! | chatsumi uta

By Kikushani (1753-1826)

Manpukuji Temple in Uji, Kyoto, belongs to a Chinese Zen school that was brought to Japan by Ingen, who fled China for the Manchu invaders in the mid-17th c. The Obaku-sect temple was a true Chinese cultural enclave in Kyoto: the layout of the temple was Chinese: with small temples for typical Chinese deities as Mazu, there were Chinese-style Buddhist statues, the sutras were read in Chinese, the meals were Chinese "fucha" vegetarian meals... All first 13 abbots were also emigres from China, they wrote a particular kind of Chinese-style calligraphy and entertained guests with a "sencha" tea ceremony. The temple was a center of Chinese culture in Kyoto and often visited by Japanese literati.


Gate of Manpukji, Uji, Kyoto
[The gate of Manpukiji. Photo Ad Blankestijn]

When the haiku poetess Kikushani has visited Manpukuji and steps out of the Sanmon, the temple gate, she has the feeling that she has made a trip to China and only now returned to Japan.

What makes her so sure she is back in Japan? The songs of the tea pickers she hears - Uji was the oldest and most famous tea producing area in Japan.
The haiku stone stands in the grounds of Obakusan Manpukuji Temple in Uji, Kyoto, 5 min walk from Obaku St. and 20 min walk from Uji St. 
Kikushani (1753-1826) became a poetess and a nun after losing her husband when she was only in her mid-twenties. The haiku dates from 1788.