Yama Tera Yama


Yamadera, terayama  山寺 - 寺山 

***** Location: Japan
***** Season: Topic
***** Category: Humanity


Here we will explore the difference between

Yamadera, a temple with this name

yamadera, a temple in the mountains

terayama, mountain with many temples


Matsuo Basho at the temple Yamadera
Oku no Hosomichi 奥の細道

shizukesa ya iwa ni shimi-iru semi no koe
(Discussing various translation.)

deep silence -
the shrill of cicadas
seeps into rocks

 © PHOTO Basho-An

Basho visited here
Genroku 2, 27th day of the 5th lunar month
(now 13th of July)

"Yamadera, an amazing temple built in the side of a mountain. It consists of about 40 very beautiful buildings, and was first opened in the year 860, during the Heian Era. In 1689, Matsuo Basho -- a famous master of haiku -- visited Yamadera. "

More photos are here
© Jason in Japan

... ... ...

Yamadera in Yamagata Province

In ancient Japan it was believed that huge rock faces such as those at Yamadera, represented the boundary between this world and the next. It is said that the Buddhist Priest Jikaku Daishi Ennin began cutting away at the rocks in 860ad to build the Konponchudo - the main temple building of Yamadera. This building - reconstructed in 1356, houses an 800 year old wooden Buddhist image and the 'Flame of belief' which has been burning constantly at Yamadera for over 1000 years.

The Konponchudo is the first building one passes on the 1100 step climb to the Oku-no-in, the uppermost of the 40 temple buildings. The stone steps wind their way through the trees and rocks and pass through the large wooden 'ni-o-mon' gate around halfway. Shortly after the gate, the path divides in two, the left route leading to a lookout platform commanding spectacular views of the valley below. The path straight ahead leads to the Oku-no-in.

Along the way, one also passes the semizuka stone engraved with a much celebrated haiku poem written at Yamadera by the founder of Haiku; Matsuo Basho:

© Yamagata Kanko


Ryushaku-ji - 立石寺

The Risshaku-ji (Ryushaku-ji in Oku) is a mountain temple with long paths through dark, old cedars and rocky pathways. The number of steps down, for example, from the summit (Oku no In) to the main building of Risshaku-ji count out to 870 (according to the Bashouan web site).

The crags there are of volcanic rock and rather porous. There is a possibility that Basho is speaking about a sense that these rocks mute the sound of the cicadas in comparison to how they sound in the forest. Below are some pictures of the crags ("iwa") that he refers to. In the first you can get a sense of scale, and if you look closely, a stone lanter on the path gives you a sense of the nature and narrowness of the walk. In the second, the volcanic characteristics of the rock are quite clear. The third is a large crag near the main building of Risshakuji.

How still it is here --
Stinging into the stones,
The locusts' trill.

Tr. Donald Keene


A poem by Tu Fu says,
"Cicadas' voices merge together at an old temple."
Basho further enhanced the poetic beauty of the scene by introducing the image of rocks absorbing the voices. --Moran (1713-1779, haiku poet and chief priest of Myoho Temple in Shimousa)

Not a single sound was heard at this quiet place, except the voice of the cicadas that was so forceful that it seemed to seep into the rocks. --Sanga (Haiku poet who wrote a book on Basho in 1793)

If my sensibility is reliable, there should not be many circads here. -- Mizuho (1876-1955, tanka poet and classical scholar)

I disagree. The whole mountain is filled with the cicadas' screech. -- Watsuji (1889-1960, philosopher and scholar, an "intellectual leader of his generation")

In the word shimiiru ["to seep / stain into" -- Wallace] we sense motion in stillness, and stillness in motion. Basho, with his consummate art, captured this oneness of motion and stillness in a short poem. -- Ebara (1894-1948, scholar of renga and haikai at Kyoto University)

(excerpted from Basho and His Interpreters by Makoto Ueda)
© www.sonic.net/

Basho wrote the famous cicada haiku in memoriam of his haiku teacher and friend,
Sengin 蝉吟 (1642 - 1666) "Cicada poet"
寛永19年(1642年) - 寛文6年4月25日 25th day of the 4th lunar month.
(1666年5月28日)May 28
His name was 良忠.

Basho was of a poor family and was sent to the Todo family to become an attendant to the young lord Todo Shinshichiro 藤堂新七郎 (Toodoo Shinshichiroo) at age 13.
Sengin was the son of the head of the family and Basho studied with him in Iga Ueno, but Sengin died very young at age 25.
Basho took his bones to Mount Koyasan to have them burried. Basho then went on to Edo to start his own career as a haiku master.
He always kept his young master in mind all his life.

cicada here becomes his kakekotoba for his friend, since it was close to the day of his death memorial (there is confusion about the dates), but it was 23 years after his death.

The Todo family 藤堂氏 had always been involved in waterworks, construction of canals and freshwater supply for the towns. They were also famous for their skills in building castles and stone walls.

Todo Takatora 藤堂高虎
(1556 - 1630)

© More in the WIKIPEDIA !

Whilst studying with Shinchichiro Basho also memorized a lot of Chinese poems and migh have this one in mind, by Du Fu

Cicada's voices merge together at an old temple

- Japanese Reference -


yamadera, a temple in the mountains 山寺

Mitoku San, Temple Sanbutsu-Ji 三徳山三仏寺

This is just one example, the famous "hall thrown into the rocks", Nage-Ire Doo.


. Matsuo Basho visiting Temples .   

kono yama no kanashisa tsuge yo tokorohori

yamadera no kanashisa tsugeyo tokoro-hori

of this mountain’s
many sorrows, tell the tales
old yam diggers

Tr. Barnhill

The mountain's sorrows
the sweet potato digger
can readily tell

Tr. ??
source : www.soupsong.com

Written at temple 伊勢の菩提山 Bodaisen(ぼだいせん)Jinguuji 神宮寺 Jingu-Ji in Ise, Mie prefecture, close to the famous shrine Ise Jingu..
. . . CLICK here for Photos ! This temple has been founded by waka-poet and priest Saigyo, but has fallen to ruin when Basho visited and there was no trace of the former temple left. Today there is a haiku memorial stone with this haiku by Basho.

Oi no Kobumi 笈の小文

This seems the Japanese to go with it, but it is about the
tokoro imo 野老芋 yam potato (Dioscorea tokoro), a kind of yama-imo, Dioscorea opposita, a kind of YAM, and not the satsumaimo, the sweet potato.

digger of yam
tell us about the sorrowful fate
of this mountain!

another version is this:

yamadera no kanashisa tsugeyo tokoro hori

tell us about
the sad fate of this mountain temple -
old yam digger

Details about this potato:
tororoimo, tororo imo とろろ芋 and tokoro imo 野老芋


terayama, mountain with many temples 寺山

tera yama ya chigo wa korogeru chô wa tobu / Issa

When Issa wrote the haiku quoted below, he was supposed to be at the Higashiyama area of Kyoto. In this area, there are 36 famous peaks, some of which feature the name combination terayama, including the name of a famous temple of this area:


稲荷山,光明峯,惠日山,白水山,今熊野山,阿弥陀ヶ峰, 清閑寺山, 鳥辺山,霊山, 高大寺山, 東大谷山, 双林寺山, 長楽寺山, 円山,華頂山,粟田山,神野山,大日山, 南禅寺山, 若王寺山,椿ヶ峰,着気山,紫雲山,吉田山,如意岳,月待山,北白川山,爪生山,茶山,一乗寺山,葉山,修学院山,赤山,御生山,比叡山

Other famous mountains with many temples in Japan

Eihei-Ji Temple 永平寺

Koya San in Wakayama 高野山

Worldwide use

Things found on the way


tera yama ya chigo wa korogeru chô wa tobu

temple mountains —
babies tumble
butterflies flit

Issa (Tr. Nakamura Sakuo)

chigo tachi no yoru wa namida ka neshooben

do the children cry at night?
take a pee at night?

Renku from Nakamura Sakuo

Discussing CHIGO, the temple acolytes

... ... ...

tera yama ya haru no tsuki yo no renga michi

temple mountain--
under a spring moon heading
to a poem party

tera yama ya tamoto no shita wo semi no tobu

temple mountain--
buzzing into my sleeve
a cicada

tera yama ya kagashi tatte mo inu hoyuru

temple mountain--
the dog also barks
at a scarecrow

Issa (Tr. David Lanoue


yamadera ya yuki no soko naru kane no koe

mountain temple--
deep under snow
a bell

yamadera ya kogarashi no ue ni neru ga goto

mountain temple--
like it's lying down
on the winter wind

yamadera ya kiri ni mabureshi kannakuzu

mountain temple--
mist covers up
the wood shavings

Read more of Issa Haiku here:
Issa (Tr. David Lanoue


mountain temple -
a prayer overgrown
with moss

Gabi Greve
Look at the Photo HERE !

Related words

***** CHIGO, the temple acolytes

***** Mountain, peak, hill (yama, gake, oka) Japan



Gabi Greve said...

mountain temple--
the little boy's name
on his fan

yamadera ya oogi de shireru kozoo no na


by Issa, 1819

Literally, a "little priest" (kozoo) is involved. However, in Japanese this expression can mean any little boy.

Tr. David Lanoue


I wonder if just any little boy of the poor village would have a fan with his name on?

I am inclined to read this as "little priest", priest apprentice, young monk, since the sceen is set in a temple.

Gabi Greve


anonymous said...

Thanks Gabi (excellent blog entry). And thank you Basho and mountain-temples everywhere.
J. Facebook

anonymous said...

wind carries
the sound from my
soul`s mountains


flyingtofu said...

Gabi, i saw no place to comment on the bashou ku above, but if you give me a japanese date for it, i can check a book by yamamoto kenkichi quickly and see if anything is written about it.

re the issa ku, i sort of like the word "acolyte" for a kozoo -- your comment re david's comment is very go-mottomo

Gabi Greve said...

Thanks Robin!
I am afraid I have no date for the Basho haiku right now, will be on the lookout

Gabi Greve - Basho archives said...

Matsuo Basho

kumo to hedatsu tomo ka ya kari no ikiwakare

like clouds drifting apart,
a wild goose separates, for now,
from his friend

Tr. Barnhill

Basho's young lord and friend Sengin had died 6 years ago in Iga Ueno

Gabi Greve - Buson said...

Yosa Buson

yamadera no suzuri ni hayashi hatsugoori

the ink stone
of this mountain temple has it early -
the first ice

Tr. Gabi Greve

MORE about ink stones

Gabi Greve - Buson said...

Yosa Buson

yamadera ya tsuki sokonai no kane kasumu

A mountain temple--
a bell struck clumsily
resounds blurred in the fog.

Tr. Sawa/ Shiffert

about visiting temples

Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

. Ennin - Jigaku Daishi 慈覚大師 . (794 – 864)

Priest Ennin tried to built a temple at the mountain 長嶺山 near the waterfall, but could not succeed the first time. He continued his pilgrimage in Tohoku, toward the mountains of Dewa and in860 founded the famous Yamadera 山寺.
On the way back he was again stopped by the powerful energy of the waterfall and the forest and this time carved a statue of Fudo Myo-O himself. He established this temple as the "Oku no In" of Yamadera.