The Sound of Water (IV): Lake Biwa (2)

. There are two more places at Lake Biwa that I should mention: Genjuan, the cottage where Basho, in 1690, spent what seems to be the happiest time of his life and wrote his famous haibun, and Mumyouan, the cottage at Gichuji Temple where he stayed several times between 1690 and 1694 and beside which he has his grave. These two places are fairly close together on the southeast side of the Lake.
. Genjuan Cottage is on a hill overlooking the water. Unfortunately, the present cottage is a modern reconstruction, but the well from which Basho drew water is still alive. Here he wrote the following poem:

.. For my first prop
.. I have found this pasania tree
.. In a summer grove.

At one time, a poet friend of mine invited me to read my translation of Basho’s haibun at this cottage. At first I was tense, as I could not help feeling that Basho was also listening, but a cool wind from the Lake soothed me as it had Basho centuries before.
. Gichuji Temple is closer to the Lake, and in Basho’s time, lake water used to come right up to its gate. This temple takes its name from Kiso Yoshinaka (1154~1184), an unfortunate warrior of the Genji clan who met an untimely death at Awazu and was buried in this temple nearby. Basho had a special attachment to him and asked his followers to make his grave on the same site. Now he sleeps under a small slab of stone right next to Kiso Yoshinaka. Here, another year, my poet friend invited me to lead a renku session. I bowed reverently to Basho’s grave before I undertook the difficult task.

.. All of a sudden
.. The reeds sway and water shakes —
.. Carp’s spawning time.

5 Responses to “The Sound of Water (IV): Lake Biwa (2)”

  1. Wonderfully understated descriptions. The final haiku caps the haibun beautifully.

  2. As the ‘poet friend’, I can vouch that Nobuyuki read us the Genjuan-no-Ki (or was it -Fu?) beautifully in 2003. It was a privilege to hear Basho’s account read aloud at the place of its composition. As for the renku at Mumyoan in 2007, that was indeed a very hard exercise – a steep learning curve for everyone. What we managed on the day was somewhat hesitatingly dedicated to Master Basho afterwards and then (more confidently) published in ‘Blithe Spirit’ the following year. Hailstone has been blessed for a dozen years now by its association with NY. He was at our precursory renga meet at Rakushisha in 1999, our foundation meet in 2000 at Katata (mentioned in Nobuyuki’s preceding piece on Lake Biwa), and has accompanied us to Iga-Ueno (2002), Kompukuji (2004) and other haiku sites. Long may you continue to inspire us in your humble, erudite way! Thank you for this informative and personal instalment of the ongoing ’Water’ series.

  3. […] The Sound of Water (IV): Lake Biwa (2) (hailhaiku.wordpress.com) […]

  4. Richard Donovan Says:

    Thank you for another enlightening post. I’m glad to hear the well is still alive — and feel again the intimate connection between water and life that is becoming ever more apparent in our water-challenged world.

  5. “For my first prop”, “Go to the pine to learn of the pine”, etc. — Basho certainly seemed to have a strong affinity for trees. At this site, by the way
    http://bashosroad.outlawpoetry.com/norbert-blei-beckett-meets-basho/norbert-blei/haiku/
    Basho and Beckett are interestingly compared.

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