外は夏あたりの水は秋にして内は冬なる氷室山かな (藤原良経)

The air about, that of summer;
its flowing stream water
has an autumnal feel:
but beneath the ground, Mt. Himuro
is winter to its core
…………………….. (waka by Fujiwara Yoshitsune)

Being admin. ed. of a haiku space that goes by the name of the “Icebox,” I’m always on the lookout for Himuro Jinja (ancient Ice-hut Shrines) … and, so far this year, I’ve managed to visit two.

At the first, not far from Todaiji in Nara City, you can have your fortune told by sanctified ice. You pick your fortune from a box, but it looks blank until you place it onto the block of ice before the worship hall. Then the words come through …

Close by the second shrine, what is perhaps the original Himuro Jinja (at Fukuzumi in Tsuge-mura, near Tenri), there’s an ancient-style 氷室 himuro still used for ice storage till the summer, …

… though they no longer provide ice to the Emperor, as they used to back in Nintoku’s time (early Kofun Period). As a sacred place, the shrine itself is said to go back 1,600 years. The ice, cut as blocks from a nearby pond in winter, is stored underground beneath the hut’s ‘floor’. It is further insulated with bundles of straw.


A veritable mystery,
yet he’s not about to let the secret out —
the ice-hut guardian
……………………..  (Buson)

14 responses to “Himuro

  1. Pingback: Himuro | Icebox | word pond

  2. There is a Himuro village, and a Himuro Shrine, in the mountains north of Kyoto. It’s on the Isshu Trail.

    • Yeah. I was kind of hoping to go to it on our Northern section walk in Sep., but it seems that R is thinking of going towards point 75 first. He’s prob. right, with the Trail in those parts as it is, and needing time at Sawanoike. The Isshu Trail Haike series is likely to continue a while, I hope, so ‘another time’, eh?

      • Tempting to cool off there, indeed, but Sawanoike will be refreshing enough this time….

  3. I have an interest in himuro(氷室). Where is this the ice-hut guardian(氷室守)from? Mt.himuro in Tanba (丹波)or Yamato (大和)or oumi(近江)?
      子どもらに山拝ませて氷室餅     千代女(chiyo-jo)

  4. I have an interest in himuro. There were an ice-hut (氷室)in kennrokuen-park(兼六園)in kanazawa(金沢).Where is the ice-hut guardian(氷室守)? Where is Mt.himuro in this waka?

    • Thanks for the Chiyojo haiku. One of your comments went into spam, but I’ve retrieved it now. I haven’t found information about presumed localities of himuros in either Yoshitsune’s waka or Buson’s haiku, but imagine that the former will be either Himuro Jinja in Sakyo-ku, in the hills north of Kyoto or Fukuzumi near Tenri in Nara. Buson’s may be imagined and not relate to an actual place. It’s interesting to note that there are himuro and Himuro Shrines in many parts of Japan, especially perhaps in Kansai and Hokuriku.

  5. 水の奥氷室尋ぬる柳かな    芭蕉

    This is the Basyo’s haiku in ” Haikai Kakitome(俳諧書留)”that was wiritten by Sora
    in the journey Oku-no-hosomiti(奥の細道). 出羽の最上の庄、つまり新庄の俳人風流を訪ね、風流亭で詠まれたようです。元禄二年六月(旧暦)初旬のこと、三日には「羽黒山に登る」とあります。This haiku was made in Furyu-tei(風流亭) at Shinjyo.

  6. Thanks for the Basho haiku, too! I’ve made some Eng. translations. The first was written in present-day Ishikawa prefecture and the second in Yamagata prefecture, both Hokuriku region.

    子どもらに山拝ませて氷室餅 千代女(Chiyo-jo)
    The children are first made
    to give thanks to the mountain –
    frozen rice-cakes*

    水の奥氷室尋ぬる柳かな 芭蕉 (Basho)
    I visit your poet’s ice-hut**
    at the head of the stream –
    summer willows

    * rice-cakes which had been kept frozen in the himuro were often eaten on the day known as Himuro no Sekku on the 1st day of the 6th lunar month (sometime in July)

    ** I added ‘poet’s’ as B means that Furyu’s house was pleasantly cool (though most prob. he did not own a himuro)

    • Thank you very much English translations.
      But Yamagata prefecture is not Hokuriku region.It isTohoku region.
      Hokuriku region are Niigata,Toyama,Ishikawa and Fukui prefecture.

      氷室餅(Himuro moti) is hegimoti(折ぎ餅).Hegimoti is like kakimoti(かきもち)Kakimoti mean sliced and dried rice cakes.
      In the Hokuriku region the kakimoti was made at the end of the year when I was childhood.Therefore Chiyo-jo’s himuro-moti(氷室餅)is hegimoti or kakimoti ,I think. What do you think of it?
      And the mountain is not Himuro -mountain.It is Mt.Hakusan(白山),I think.
      What do you think?

      • Your point 1. agreed.
        2. don’t know.
        3. agreed.
        You are very keen on himuro. Thanks!
        Please come on a haike with David, Richard and me sometime to Himuro Jinja in Sakyo-ku. Prob. this winter.

  7. Thank you very much ,Tito.I learned a lot from Himuro.I want to search the Buson’s himuromori(氷室守),Basho’s「氷室尋ぬる」and Chiyo-jo’s「氷室餅」.