Mt. Mikami Haike
On the morning of Dec. 6th, five Hailstones, one guest poet, an MBS reporter and a TV cameraman gathered in front of Yasu Station. The guest was Judy Kendall, who had once lived in Kanazawa but was now on a visit from the UK. Yasu in Shiga Prefecture (Omi Country) is the birthplace of Kitamura Kigin (1624-1705), the teacher of Basho, and is famous for eye-catching Mt. Mikami (432 m). This name is an honorific for its god. “I was pleased because Mt. Mikami looked like Mt. Fuji…”, Basho once wrote in his famous haibun, ‘Record of the Illusion-dwelling Hut’ (Genjuan no ki). The mountain is also known as Omi Fuji.
Omi Fuji’s base
red leaves under the green
The mountain has another name – ‘Mukade-yama’, Centipede Mountain! A tenth century folktale tells us that there once was a giant centipede inhabiting the mountain that harrassed people nearby. It wound itself round Omi Fuji seven-and-a-half times before being killed by the warrior Tawara-no-Hyota. The monster was presumed to have been the vengeful spirit of the deceased general, Taira-no-Masakado. Dreadful!
Before climbing, we visited Mikami Shrine to pray, as a courtesy, for a safe climb. That morning, a wedding ceremony was being held.
for the bride and groom –
winter morning birdsong
The trail to the mountain-top was gated against the wild boar that might otherwise raid the village fields. Once past, our path climbed through dark cedar forest.
above, to left and right ―
beneath, a sapling sprout
Under the coloured trees
poets discuss their poems –
birds singing high up
We came across a flat place where a temple called Myokendo had once stood. The only remaining wooden structure had completely collapsed.
In amongst the tiles
of the ruined temple,
and Ribobitan D
The trail become steeper and steeper as a view gradually spread out.
how many climbers
have grasped this root for aid
shining still like teak
top to bottom: a British Basho, a Japanese Wordsworth and an American Zeami?
At the top was a large sacred rock where Amenomikage (grandson of Amaterasu and diety of Mikami Shrine), had descended to earth. To have lunch on the rock would have been truly ‘awesome’ (but we refrained)! Instead, we rested on an outcrop just outside the consecrated zone. Wonderful was the view from the mountain out across the plain of Goshu (another name for Omi): withered winter paddies in sunshine, a hazy Hiei and Hira (mountains) across Biwa Lake.
right to left: SO, JK, HM, TI, Ms Nakao ( MBS reporter), SG, JM
Descending the mountain…
The steepened rock, pressed
so kindly into foot-shaped steps
by past travellers’ feet
At Wareiwa Rock, someone made a detour…
Caught in a giant rock –
the moment of fear before