Mount Tsukuba


First view of Mount Tsukuba

***** Location: Japan
***** Season: New Year
***** Category: Humanity


First view of Mt. Tsukuba, hatsu Tsukuba
初筑波 はつつくば

First view of Mount Fuji, hatsu Fuji 初富士
The first view or visit to Mr. Fuji is maybe the best of these views and visits to famous mountains in Japan.

We also have

Hatsu Hiei, 初比叡 First View or Visit to Temple Hiei-zan in Kyoto

Hatsu Asama 初浅間 First View or Visit to Mount Asama, near Karuizawa Town

Hatsu Sengen, Hatsu Asama, 初浅間
First view or visit to the Asama Shrine (Mt. Fuji)


Mount Tsukuba (Japanese 筑波山 Tsukuba-san) is an 877 m (2,877 ft) mountain located near Tsukuba Town. It is one of the most famous mountains in Japan, particularly well-known for its toad-shaped Shinto shrine. Many people climb the mountain every year for the panoramic view of the Kantō plain from the summit.

Most mountains in Japan are volcanic, but Mount Tsukuba is composed of non-volcanic rocks such as granite and gabbro. The Mount Tsukuba area is known to produce beautiful granite, and is still mined today.

© Wikipedia



Tsukuba ne no Mine yori otsuru Minano-gawa
Koi zo tsumorite Fuchi to nari nuru

From Tsukuba's peak
Falling waters have become
Mino's still, full flow:
So my love has grown to be
Like the river's quiet deeps.

Emperor Yozei 陽成院

Ogura Hyakunin Isshu
source : etext.lib.virginia.edu

Tsukubase 筑波嶺 is the old name of Mount Tsukuba, Tsukubasan 筑波山.

Minanogawa 男女川(みなのがは), "Man-Woman-River"
the river flows down from Mount Tsukuba, and becomes one with the Sakuragawa 桜川" cherry blossom river at the south side.

source : www.minanogawa.jp

sake from Tsukuba - Minanogawa 特別純米

. Kobayashi Issa 小林一茶 in Edo .

tokoroten kara nagare keri minano-gawa

from a tub
of sweet jelly it flows...
Minano River

"Tokoroten is still a popular summer dessert in Japan. It is a jelly made from seaweed called Gelidium Amansii. Tokoroten is pushed through a coarse mesh to form long threads like Japanese noodles." Gelidium is a genus of red algae.
Tr. David Lanoue

Chris Drake wrote:

flowing from a tube
of clear sweet jelly --
the River of Love

This hokku is from the sixth month (July) in 1813, the year Issa began living back in his hometown in the mountains of Shinano. In the hot sixth month Issa was traveling around the area of Shinano near Zenkoji Temple, staying at various temples and at the homes of some of his students. The hokku is about serving tokoroten, a clear, viscous jelly made from the juice of boiled and then cooled red algae (Gelidiaceae and Gracilaria) that is then cut into blocks and pushed through a rectangular tube with a grating at one end that divides each block of jelly into long noodle-like strips. The strips are sweetened or flavored with sugar, soy sauce, or vinegar and eaten to help beat the heat on summer days. The jelly was eaten at home, at tea houses, or purchased from street vendors. The hokku isn't clear about the place, but someone seems to be pushing a block of the clear jelly through a tube, and the jelly that comes out the far end of the tube seems to flow like a river or small waterfall in many long, thin strands.

Issa uses the romantic name of an actual river that appears in legends and in traditional waka poems, a river located far from his hometown. As part of geography, the small Minano River is written みなの川 , 水無乃川 , or 水無川, and is a stream that flows down from Mt. Tsukuba, northeast of Edo. Issa, however, uses the characters used in waka, 男女川. These characters mean Man and Woman River and refer to the fact that sacred Mt. Tsukuba has two peaks, a Female Peak and a Male Peak, and that the mountain was, in the ancient period, the site of many fertility festivals that included series of singing matches (utagaki) between men and women. Each series continued until contestants decided by means of improvised linked songs that they were a matched couple, and then each new couple paired off for private amorous adventures. These linked love song festivals were, as Issa knew, the reason medieval renga was known as the Way of Tsukuba. In waka the river's name meant River of Love, and it was often used to suggest a romantic situation.
Why, then, does Issa think flowing strips of jelly are a love image? My guess is that this hokku is another of Issa's senryu-like hokku that reflect the earthy humor of the Edo commoner culture of his time. As in senryu, erotic content is often oblique in Issa, but this suggestive hokku seems to be about wet, squishy male-female relationships.


A 17th century Japanese Buddhist scholar, Kitamura Kigin, wrote that Buddha advocated homosexuality over heterosexuality for priests:

It has been the nature of men's hearts to take pleasure in a beautiful woman since the age of male and female gods, but to become intoxicated by the blossom of a handsome youth ... would seem to be both wrong and unusual. Nevertheless, the Buddha preached that MountImose was a place to be avoided and the priests of the law entered this Way as an outlet for their feelings, since their hearts were, after all, made of neither stone nor wood.
Like water that plunges from the peak of Tsukubane to form the deep pools of the Minano River, this love has surpassed in depth the love between women and men in these latter days. It plagues the heart not only of courtier and aristocrat but also of brave warriors. Even the mountain dwellers who cut brush for fuel have learned to take pleasure in the shade of young saplings."
Wild Azaleas (1676)

Buddhism and sexual orientation
© More in the WIKIPEDIA !

Imoseyama, Imose Yama in Wakayama 妹背山(和歌山)
"Imose-yama Onna Teikin" (Proper Upbringing of a Young Lady at Mount Imose).
『妹背山婦女庭訓』 の蘇我入鹿

se no yama ni tada ni mukaeru imo no yama
koto yuruse ya mo uchihashi watasu

Has Mount Imo
Forgiven Mount Se
That stands straight in front of her?
A bridge I cross between the two.

The Poetics of Motoori Norinaga
source : books.google.co.jp

. Ogura Hyakunin Isshu Poems 小倉百人一首 .


Mt. Tsukuba is the famous mountain in the East of the Bando plain, whereas Mt. Fuji is the mountain in the West.
This is what Issa is hinting at in this haiku

hajimaru ya tsukuba yûdachi fuji ni mata

here we go!
the evening rain from Mt. Tsukuba
now on Mt. Fuji

Kobayashi Issa
Tr. Gabi Greve

I visited the area many years ago in autumn.
We stayed over night in a famous lodge where even the emperor had stayed once. Anyway, in the early morning, you could see the huge clouds hanging over the Kanto plain, rolling toward the mountain ridges below us, one after the other. You could almost hear the sound when they bumped into the mountains. The sun came up over the clouds and everything sparkled in white and diamond!

The great Gingko trees in the shrine compound were sparkling in autumn yellow ... the walk up to the two peaks, a bit strenous, but most rewarding for the weary pilgrim. The two peaks are Nantai 男体山(Male mountain) and Nyotai 女体山 (Female mountain), but both are rather full of huge boulders at the peak, so you have to be careful not to fall down to the plain right at your feet, far away down ...

Nyotai San 女体山

At the level of the shrine, a bit easier for access, there is one of the 33 temples of the Kannon pilgrimage in the Bando plain, which was our real aim at that trip.

Oomi Doo 大御堂 おおみどう Nr. 25

Most sacred mountains of Japan are places of worship for Shinto and Buddhist deities together.

Of course we also bought our share of the famous toad oil, gama abura. It used to be prepared in the following way:

A large toad of the area is placed in front of a mirror. When it sees its ugly face and body, it will start to be ashamed and sweat its oily substance. The sweaty oil is collected in a box below the roast where the toad sits.

It is very useful in healing wounds, especially sword wounds of the samurai. This is why the samurai of the Mito clan close by were so strong and victorious.

Gabi Greve


Tsukuba-San-Gama-Matsuri (Mount Tsukuba Toad Festival)
筑波 がま祭り

Mountains are considered sacred in Japan. All the popular mountains have a Shinto or Buddhist shrine on its top. Climbing mountain has been a popular form of pilgrimage here. Though Mount Tsukuba (in Ibaraki) is not a high mountain but its famous for its toad shaped shrine. Its so famous that the newly developed Science City Tsukuba has been named after it. Toad's grease, toad oil (gama abura がま油) was used as a protective ointment in times of feudal warship. It is said that if the toad's grease is applied to the body even, the sharpest of the swords can't pierce through the skin.

Even now traders bring their grease and demonstrate its usefulness by stabbing on their arms. The festival was on August 2nd. We dressed up in Japanese summer dresses and joined a procession carrying a huge toad shrine. Koto(The Japanese style drum) and Shamisen(a string instrument) concerts were going on for public's entertainment. Men were busy carrying the shrine while women were dancing in traditional style. Some people dressed up as kamis(the spirits- which are considered like gods in Shinto).

. iainuki, iai nuki 居合い抜き sword performance .
street performance in Edo, some selling gama-abura.


Festivals in the Tsukuba area

Tsukuba Mountain Shrine ”筑波山神社”

Worldwide use

Things found on the way


Not a cloud in the sky
Over Tsukuba
For the red dragonflies

Masaoka Shiki


Issa and his Tsukuba haiku

natsu no yo ya makura ni shitaru tsukuba yama

in the summer night
it's a pillow...
Mount Tsukuba

hata uchi no kao kara kururu tsukuba yama

a plowman facing
Mount Tsukuba

kusamochi wo masu fuki ni keri tsukuba kochi

first one to blow
on the hot herb cakes...
Mount Tsukuba's east wind

yoshikiri ya shi go sun hodo na tsukuba yama

hey reed thrush--
it's four, five inches tall
Mount Tsukuba

In this haiku, Issa is playing with perspective. From where he and the reed thrush are located, the distant mountain appears to be only 4 or 5 sun tall. A sun is equal to 1.2 inches.

Read more HERE
© Tr. David Lanoue


suisen ya kaki ni yuikomu tsukuba-yama

daffodils --
weaving into the hedge
Mount Tsukuba

This hokku is a revision of an earlier hokku by Issa written in the 9th or 10th month of 1813, when he was back in his home town, so both versions must be based on a memory from the time Issa was in or near Edo. Assuming this hokku is from a memory, Issa first notices the daffodils planted along the base of a hedge, and then he looks up and sees that the hedge has been sculpted with some semi-open areas so that it frames Mount Tsukuba in the distance, to the north of Edo. The daffodils here seem to form the bottom part of the hedge, and as Issa bends down to look at them, they appear to be as large as the famous and sacred mountain, making the mountain feel much closer than it ordinarily does, almost as if he and the daffodils could touch it, since it appears to be part of the hedge. The subject of the verb is not explicit. I take "it," which I added in order to be explicit, to be the hedge as a whole, including the daffodils, though it could include the gardener.

suisen ya kaki ni kaikomu sumida-gawa

daffodils --
gathering into the hedge
the Sumida River

Seen through the hedge, which seems to pull the Sumida River close and embrace it, the daffodils palpably appear to be growing in the flowing water of the great river.

It seems possible that Issa saw both the Sumida River and Mt. Tsukuba at the same time, both interwoven with the daffodils and hedge (or possibly a bamboo framework fence with bushes and flowers growing in and by it). For example, at the link below is a nearly contemporary view from the northern outskirts of Edo of the Sumida River and, beyond it, Mount Tsukuba, with its two peaks.
The print, by Hiroshige, also shows a cherry tree in the foreground and below it a Shinto shrine to the water god Suijin:

source : en.wikipedia.org

Although Issa's view of Mt. Tsukuba may not have been quite as dynamic a vision as his view of the ever-moving Sumida River, the mountain surely had a special meaning for him, since it was believed to be the physical body of a god couple and was also the mountain after which renga was named. The two peaks of the mountain suggest dialog, and in fact in the ancient period festivals called utagaki were held in spring and fall on the mountain that involved long back-and-forth song dialogs between men and women, young and old.

Each linked-song dialog series continued until one of the partners couldn't come up with a good reply-song, at which point s/he agreed to be the lover of the winning singer. Since the mountain itself was believed to be the single body of a female and male god -- the higher of the two peaks is believed to be the female god, and the lower peak is the male god -- the love consummated on its slopes was considered sacred and helpful to the fertility of local fields. Similar festivals were held in many farm villages, some of which lasted into the early twentieth century, but Mt. Tsukuba was widely revered and the most famous of all.

Even Kyoto poets were fascinated by it, and renga theorist Nijou Yoshimoto, noting that the god Yamato Takeru mentioned Mt. Tsukuba in a two-part dialog song in an ancient myth, named renga the Way of Tsukuba, and several medieval renga anthologies have Tsukuba in their titles. Issa surely knew about the Way of Tsukuba and must have had great respect for the mountain, which was still regarded as divine in his time.

Chris Drake


峰ふたつ 青空にある 初筑波
mine futatsu aozora ni aru hatsu Tsukuba

these two peaks
in the clear blue sky -
first Mount Tsukuba

Gabi Greve, 1992


..................... Discussion about a translation

yuki wa mosazu mazu murasaki no Tsukuba kana

Hattori Ransetsu - in Sarumino (『猿蓑』)
服部嵐雪(はっとり らんせつ), (『猿蓑』)

Purple and Mt. Tsukuba
"purple" is a color of high rank, and equalled with Mt. Tsukuba since olden times, since the mountain can be viewen from all sides in this color in the evening time. Purple has been equated with Mt. Tsukuba in many poems of old

Buson   与謝蕪村「行春やむらさきさむる筑波山」
Ransetsu  服部嵐雪「雪は申さず先ず紫の筑波かな」
Nagatsuka  長塚 節「おくて田の稲刈るころゆ夕されば

Shisui, purple water of Mt. Tsukuba


Kashima Kiko, Japanese Reference 鹿島紀行
貞亨4年8月 Japanese Original Text of the below translatios.

There are various translations of this haiku:

Here is the relevant passage, translated by David Landis Barnhill:

It's said that in China there is a view that takes in a thousand leagues, and here we too gazed far off into the distance. Mount Tsukuba soared into the sky, the two peaks rising side by side. And so also in China there are the Twin Sword Peaks, part of Mount Lu.

the snow of course
but even more the purple
of Tsukuba's skies

So wrote my disciple Ransetsu. This mountain was immortalized in the words of Prince Yamatotakeru, and the founders of renga employed it to name their art.* One simply cannot come to this mountain without composing a 'waka' or 'hokku', its beauty is so enchanting.

*The first anthology of 'renga' poetry, compiled by Nijoo Yoshimoto (1320-88) was titled the Tsukuba Anthology ('Tsukubashuu', 1356).
Because of the enormous influence of this collection 'renga' was sometimes called the "Way of Tsukuba."

What of snow?
Icy peaks are fine of course, but just look
at purple-tinged Tsukuba



In "The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Other Travel Sketches", in the chapter "A Visit to the Kashima Shrine", Basho wrote:

In China, it is said, there is a wide field where one can command a distance of one thousand miles by a single glance, but here our eyes swept over the grass unobstructed, till finally they rested upon the twin peaks of Mount Tsukuba soaring above the horizon. Rising into heaven, like two swords piercing the sky, these peaks vie with the famous twin peaks of Mount Rozan in China.

Not to mention
The beauty of its snow,
Mount Tsukuba shines forth
In its purple robes.

This is a poem written by Ransetsu, my disciple, upon his visit here."
[translated from the Japanese with an introduction by Nobuyuki Yuasa].

Compiled by Larry Bole
Translating Haiku Forum

The same sort of casual poetic mood led Basho to undertake a short trip to Kashima, a town about fifty miles east of Edo and well known for its Shinto shrine, to see the harvest moon. Sora and a certain Zen monk accompanied him in the trip in the autumn of 1687. Unfortunately it rained on the night of the full moon, and they only had a few glimpses of the moon toward dawn. Basho, however, took advantage of the chance to visit his former Zen master, Priest Butcho, who had retired to Kashima. The trip resulted in another of Basho's travel journals, A Visit to the Kashima Shrine (Kashima Kiko).
© www.uoregon.edu/ Matsuo Basho by Makoto Ueda

do not talk of snow -
for Mount Tsukuba it is
first and foremost purple

Tr. Gabi Greve

Hattori Ransetsu 服部嵐雪 (1654-1707)

yuku haru ya murasaki samuru tsukuba yama

spring is leaving -
the purple fading
of Mount Tsukubasan

. Yosa Buson 与謝蕪村 in Edo .


source : By G.R.Johnston. flickr

In front of the fire brigade in Tsukuba

source : Daruma no Jinanbo 達磨の次男坊

Daruma at the top of the mountain

Related words

Sakuragawa 桜川, 櫻川 river Sakuragawa
Sakuragawa River has its source in Iwase.
Mt. Tsukuba dominates the southern side of Sakuragawa town 桜川市,.
© More in the WIKIPEDIA !

yuku toshi ya akuta nagaruru sakuragawa
. Yosa Buson in Edo 与謝蕪村 .


. Tengupedia - 天狗ペディア - Tengu ABC-List.

Hooinboo 常陸筑波法印坊 - Hoin-Bo, Hitachi 筑波法印天狗
Tsukuba (Hidachi) 法印坊
Is was known for his very long nose.
It is said that Priest Tokuitsu, who was the first at Mount Tsukubasan and founded 筑波寺 Temple Tsukuba-Ji, turned into a Tengu.

. Tokuitsu (徳一?) (781?-842?) .


***** Saijiki of Buddhist, Shinto and other Ceremonies

. . . Japanese Pilgrimages Sacred to KANNON BODHISATTVA (Avalokitesvara)
Mark Schumacher


- #tsukubasan #tsukuba -


Unknown said...



Anonymous said...

heat shimmers--
in the hut's garden
Mount Tsukuba

kageroo ya iori no niwa no tsukuba yama

by Issa, 1823
Tr. David Lanoue

Gabi Greve said...

odoshi todoku Tsukuba no Oku no Miya

deer scarer sounds
reach up to here - Mount Tsukuba
Oku no Miya

Hikita Hanako 疋田華子

MORE about Oku no Miya

Gabi Greve - WKD said...

- Sugino Suikei 杉野翠兄 -
Another haikai name was Tsukuba An 筑波庵 "Tsukuba Hermitage", Doorin 道隣 Dorin.
His grave is at temple Daitooji 大統寺 Daito-Ji in Ryugasaki, Ibaraki


Gabi Greve - WKD said...

kami no i ya akane ni keburu fuyuki no me

well of the gods -
the buds of winter trees
in soft red haze

Kadokawa Genyoshi 角川源義 (1917 - 1975)

memorial stone at Tsukuba Shrine.

sacred well . . .

Gabi Greve said...

Kobayashi Issa

tokoroten kara nagare keri minano-gawa

from a tub
of sweet jelly it flows...
Minano River

A poem of interesting perspective.
Shinji Ogawa explains, "Tokoroten is still a popular summer dessert in Japan. It is a jelly made from seaweed called Gelidium Amansii. Tokoroten is pushed through a coarse mesh to form long threads like Japanese noodles." Gelidium is a genus of red algae.
David Lanoue

Gabi Greve said...

山の神 Yamanokami and the 庚申 Koshin Deity

Gabi Greve said...

Tsukuba Fudo 筑波不動 Fudo from Mount Tsukuba
筑波山 Tsukubasan 一乗院 Ichijo-In 真福寺 Shinpuku-Ji 愛宕坊 Atagobo, Aatgo Hall

茨城県つくば市上大島 / Ibaraki, Tsukuba city, Kami-Oshima