Finding Sekitei

Late November. I climbed Mt. Takamiyama (1,248m, ‘Kansai’s Matterhorn’) on the border between Nara and Mie. Found a little snow at the top, where there’s a shrine to Yatagarasu, the giant three-legged crow, guide of the first emperor, emblem of Kumano Jinja (and of Japan’s national football team). The scene was almost biblical: a mountain ark.

The Messenger Crow’s Mount —
there below, autumn ranges
north, south, east and west ……………. Tito

After the descent, took a dip at Takasumi Hot Spring. Of this, another time. The bathhouse receptionist gave me a map, however, on which was marked “Sekitei-an”, a haiku poet’s hermitage elsewhere in the village of Higashi Yoshino. I remembered the name from Blyth’s History of Haiku. Although Blyth has him in Meiji, he is actually one of the best of the Taisho period haiku poets. I began to envisage a Hailstone event there next year. In the meantime, here are two of his beautifully alliterative/assonant verses for the winter season. Happy New Year!

koshiyuki no / yama mite shouji / shime ni keri
Gazing across
to the snowed-up mountains …
then shutting up
my paper window-screens ……………. Sekitei, 1913

getsumen ni / samukari no ei / kakari keri
The face of the moon:
in silhouette
flying on through it,
a flock of winter geese …………….. Sekitei, 1951

One response to “Finding Sekitei

  1. Teruko Yamamoto, who has already visited the Sekitei hermitage, sent me the following Japanese description of the two haiku translated above:

    腰雪の 山見て 障子 締めにけり
    寒さが自分の身体に良くないのでしょう。真ん中より下まで雪のかかっている山を見て 思わず障子を締めてしまったー。 寒がりなのかも。

    月面に 寒雁の 翳 かかりけり
    冬の夕方の空に丸い月が出ている、そこへ雁が飛んできてその羽が かかり 翳のようになってとても美しく 高貴な光景に見えたのでしょうか。