Gods & Buddhas Forest Walk in Nara

As the Lord of the Forest stepped into a sunbeam, we stood there spellbound. A fully-antlered stag, with his hinds and fawns nearby, gave us just a single glance: one of many marvellous moments experienced by the Hailstone poets who collected in Nara on 22 October for a composition stroll (ginko) in the primeval forest 原始林 near Kasuga Shrine 春日大社.


Hesitant poets / cross the beck / on freshly-placed stones (Michael L.)

Yellow leaves on the path / through the virgin forest … / soft sunlight (Akito Mori)


Not far from the ancient Shinto shrine is the village of Takabatake, with its treasure of a temple, Shinyakushiji (あらたかな薬師の寺), in which we found a set of magnificent life-size clay statues more than 1,200 years old – the Twelve Heavenly Generals 十二神将.

on the faded clay generals / colours still remain – / akebi wizening (Mizuho Shibuya) 

Fragrance of / the Silk Road – / pomegranates ripen (Kyoko Nozaki)

Lunch was taken sitting on a polished wooden floor in Kanoko Restaurant; and, a couple of hours later, we returned to a cafe around the corner, where we were given a room to ourselves to share what we had written so far. In between, some of the poets wandered off out of town past Shirachi Jinja along the Old Yagyu Road.

At the secluded Shrine / of the White Nipple – / meeting a jovial woman (Tito)

The morning sun had faded into a fine, warm drizzle by late afternoon, so that as we wound our way back to the Floating Pavilion 浮見堂 at Sagi Pond, the still water was very slightly hissing. The quiet, dreamy mood was occasionally interrupted by a noise which, more than three centuries earlier, Basho had described as ‘biiiiii’!

Deer in silhouette / Crying high and low – / Dusk on the pond (Reiko Hayahara)

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12 Responses to “Gods & Buddhas Forest Walk in Nara”

  1. autmn glow
    in the circle of words…
    haiku poets

  2. Wonderful post, Tito. My favourite is Kyoko Nozaki’s haiku!

  3. I loved all the haiku: Michael L.’s portrayal of circumspection in the face of nature’s majesty, Akito Mori’s of nature’s beauty and gentleness, how Miho Shibuya and Kyoko Nozaki both expertly illustrate the marriage of human and natural activity, Tito’s blend of privacy, sexuality, and fun, and Reiko Hayahara’s striking and haunting scene. And the photos aren’t far behind in memorableness! What is that exquisite flower?

    • The flower appears to be a variety of Toad Lilly, the Japanese name, I believe, is ‘hototogiso’ (little cuckoo.)

    • Yes, as David Sinex has suggested, a diminutive ‘hototogisu’ lily. This is what we were told on the day by Reiko. Michael Lambe took that picture.

  4. Akito Mori Says:

    It was pleasant and memory day for all participants
    to have had this Nara Ginko walk, where some deer
    welcomed us but others ran away into the forest.

  5. John Dougill Says:

    Wish I’d gone.

    Two questions:

    1) Shrine of the White Nipple?

    2) ‘biiiiii’?

    • Answers:

      1) 白乳神社 Shirachi Jinja. According to the jovial woman we met, this tiny shrine is for upper body healing, whereas the nearby Shrine of the Red Nipple (or Breast) is for lower body complaints. We asked her where the line of division comes! Can show you sometime.

      2) びいと啼く尻声悲しい夜の鹿(芭蕉)
      Calling “biiii!”
      Its long wail, so sad –
      A deer at night.
      (Basho, visiting Nara one month before he died)

  6. I have a question. What’s an akebi? And why is it wizening?

    • It is a wild vine fruit which is edible, about the size and shape of a large kiwifruit, but with smooth lavender-colored skin. If I remember correctly, it has black seeds inside but the flesh is sweet. It wizens in the drying autumn weather if not picked. I like the contrast between the flaking ancient sculptures and the wizening/ fading akebi fruit spotted hanging somewhere outside.

  7. Ah, I see. i wondered if it was used to make the dye for the sculptures, but clearly that was not the intended connection…

  8. [...] October 22nd, I joined the Hailstone Haiku Circle’s composition stroll in Nara. The weather was temperamental, but we didn’t get a full downpour until the evening – [...]

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