Climbing Mt. Nantai Ceremony


Climbing Mt. Nantai Ceremony(tohaisai 登拝祭 )

***** Location: Japan, Nikko
***** Season: Late Summer
***** Category: Observances

This is a ceremony in many parts, starting in July and can go on until August. It is important in the rituals of the mountain ascetics of this area.
Starting on August 1 is most common. Starting at midnight with drums and conches blown, the pilgrims reach for the summit to watch the sunset from there. The dark climb is lit by a few spots with torches or lanterns.

Mount Nantai 男体山 at the side of Lake Chuzenji in Nikko is a sacred mountain and this ceremony goes back more than 1200 years.

Praying at the innermost sanctum
gonaijin sanpai 御内陣参拝

男体山登拝 / Climbing Mt. Nantai

© www.nikko-jp.org/tohaisai

Other names

Worldwide use

Things found on the way


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shichigatsu ya shiro shoosoku no tohaisai

july is here !
mountain climbing ceremony
in white robes

大類 匡光 Masateru Ohrui

Tr. Gabi Greve


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Mount Nantai, Nantai san 男体山 in Nikko

Mt. Nantai is also called Mt. Futara, and the name of Futara is derived from Potalaka in Sanskrit. Also, Futara can be divided into two Japanese words. One is futa, which means two in Japanese, and another word is ara, which means storm. The meaning of combination of those two words is two storms. According to a legend, god of wind and god of thunder appear at Byoubuiwa rocky screen and bring the two storms a year. Moreover, Futara can be pronounced Nikoh in another way of reading. You can imagine that the Nikoh became Nikko later.

Landscape of Oku-Nikko has been created dramatically by natural environment like an eruption. Lake, waterfall, grassy plain and marshland are gathered like a miniature garden.

 © www.nikko-jp.org


WKD: Basho in Nikko

Matsuo Basho wrote:

Kurokami-yama, which means "Mount Raven Locks," though wreathed in spring mists, was still white with snow. Sora composed a verse:

With my hair clean shorn,
I came to Mount Raven Locks
On Garb Changing Morn.

Mount Kurokami is another name for Nantaisan which rises above Nikko. The slopes are covered with ancient trees which makes it appear black when seen from a distance, hence the name. The snow on its peak is one of the eight famous views of Nikko, but the image as Basho uses it also sets up a contrast between the black mountain and the white snow. But the contrast is both maintained and resolved in the sense that both Sora and the mountain have changed their garb and yet they are different in the sense that one has hair.

Sora / Oku no Hosomichi


Nantai san no ame ni naritaru tsutsuji kana

Mount Nantai
now in the rain ...

Minagawa Bansui 皆川盤水

Tr. Gabi Greve

CLICK for enlargement
 © PHOTO : satochan

Related words

***** Fuji, Mt. Fuji, Fujiyama, Fujisan Mount Fuji, Japan



Shiogama Sail-cord Festival

. Shiogama Kaido Highway .

Sail-cord Festival (hote matsuri)

***** Location: Shiogama, Japan
***** Season: Mid-Spring
***** Category: Observance

- Shiogama Festival, see below


Hote Festival, Hote Matsuri 帆手祭 (ほてまつり)

March 10

One of the thee famous festivals in Japan known for the wild activities of the sacred palanquin.

The festival started with the original purpose of fire prevention, and now serves to ward off evil and to offer prayers for the prosperity of the town Shiogama 塩竃市.
Even if it started off as a festival with children as the main participants, the adult participants prayed for a good fishing harvest and more activity of her town too.
People made a statue of the deity Bonten out of the grasses of the "dragon whiskers grass" ( mondo grass ). The old reading for BONTEN 梵天 .. HOTE ほて .. might has then developed with the Chinese characters it is written nowadays. The grass Bonten effigy was called "kusa Bonten" 草梵天.


Sail-cord Festival. A festival held on March 10 at Shiogama Shrine (Shiogama jinja 鹽竈神社 in Shiogama City, Miyagi Prefecture.
Shiogama Myoojin (塩釜明神, 鹽竈明神)

Beginning two days before the festival, sacred dance and music (kagura), a shrine priestess festival, Yamato dances are performed at the Ceremonial Hall (haiden). After the ceremonies on the festival day, there is a procession of the divinities. At the head of the procession is a hayashi stage called katsugi-kagura, with children riding on a doll stage. Besides the children and shrine priestesses (miko), spears, clothing boxes, swords, guns, bows and arrows and others objects are all part of the procession's stately accoutrements.
It is a lively occasion
with hundreds of worshippers. Around the sacred palanquin (mikoshi) flags similar to sails are raised and those accompanying it make offerings. This is the origin of the name.
Festival floats (dashi)
and stages of the town are dragged around. Also, a Daikoku (one of the seven gods of happiness) doll is made and placed on a horse. People sing packhorse-driver songs as they lead this horse from house to house. It is said that this began as a festival for fire protection in 1682 and originally took place on January 28. Now it has changed to be a festival praying for domestic safety and business prosperity.
- source - Mogi Sakae, Kokugakuin University.



日本三大荒神輿のひとつ Shiogama-sama no Ara Mikoshi

The festival's highlight:
Sixteen young men dressed in white carry a sacres palanquin, which weighs more than one ton, on their shoulders, and heroically rush down a dangerous flight of 202 stone steps in the shrine compound.

Shiogama Shrine

Shiogama has prospered as the home of the Tohoku area’s Shiogama Shrine and as a harbour city. Shiogama served as an unloading port forthe provincial Tohoku government (Mutsunokuni) and as a port for the Date clan during the Edo period (1603 ~1867). Shiogama was a prominent national harbour city from the Meji period (1868~1912) on and has more recently developed as a fisheries base (for fishing in both near-by and far waters .)

Shiogama is recognized as the largest unloading point for fresh tuna in Japan,as well as a city with abundant fresh seafood. The City has the most sushi restaurants per square kilometer in Japan . The fisheries industry is strong and Shiogama leads Japan in the production of kamaboko, or kneaded fish cakes, as well as other processed fish products.

Shiogama is one of the doorways to tourism in the famed Matsuhima Bay.
In the“Narrow Roads to the Deep North", the poet, Matsuo Basho, describes traveling from Shiogama to Matsushima by boat. What is not so well known, however, is thefact that over half of the“808 Matsushima Islands" are actuallyin Shiogama. In particular, the inhabited Urato Islands attract many visitors who enjoy sunbathing, marine-sports, clamming, fishing, and rape-blossom viewing.

In ancient times a god named Shiotsuchi no oji no kami, is said to have cometo Shiogama and to have taught the people how to make salt. Shiogama, meaningsalt caldron, derived its name from this legend.
Today, the ancient salt makingritual is still performed every July at the Okama Shrine in Shiogama.

Here is a poem about the city from the Kokinshu #1088

In Michinoku province
Everywhere is sorrow -
But especially here
in the bay of Shiogama
When I see the boats pull away.


- source: www.city.shiogama.miyagi.jp...

Things found on the way

Click for more images .

Amulets from Shiogama Shrine

hooyoke 方除守 protection in all directions

source : www.shiogamajinja.jp/charm

. Amulets for all eight directions .

. Amulets and Talismans from Japan . 


. Matsuo Basho 松尾芭蕉 - Archives of the WKD .

On 5.8 (6.24) Basho left Sendai, passed through Tofukai Yashiki and went on to Shiogama.

奥の細道絵巻 - 鹽竈神社にて

Basho at Shiogama Shrine
© PHOTO Bashouan

Writes Basho

The following morning, I rose early and did homage to the great god of the Myojin Shrine of Shiogama. This shrine had been rebuilt by the former governor of the province with stately columns, painted beams, and an impressive stone approach, and the morning sun shining directly on the vermillion fencing was almost dazzlingly bright. I was deeply impressed by the fact that the divine power of the gods had penetrated even to the extreme north of our country, and I bowed in humble reverence before the altar.

I noticed an old lantern in front of the shrine. According to the inscription on its iron window, it was dedicated by Izumi no Saburo in the third year of Bunji (1187). My thought immediately flew back across the span of five hundred years to the days of this most faithful warrior. His life is certain evidence that, if one performs one's duty and maintains one's loyalty, fame comes naturally in the wake, for there is hardly anyone now who does not honor him as the flower of chivalry.

It was already close to noon when I left the shrine. I hired a boat and started for the islands of Matsushima.

Matsuo Basho, Tr. Britton

Izumi no Saburo 泉三郎 was the third son of Fujiwara no Hidehira 藤原秀衡 (?-1187) who built the powerful Fujiwara presence at Hiraizumi in the late Heian period. From there he ruled the north. Hidehira opposed Minamoto no Yoritomo and favored Yoshitsune. On his death bed Hidehira ordered his sons to protect Yoshitsune from Yoritomo. Saburo tried to do so and was murdered by his treacherous older brother. He died at the age of 23.

The Stone Lantern from Izumi no Saburo
source - PHOTO Bashouan


kuro urushi hikari no haru no mikoshi tatsu

the palanquin of black laquer
shines in the spring sun -
and then starts moving

Kashiwara Minu - NHK Haiku July 2007


Shiogama Minato Matsuri 塩竈みなと祭 Harbour Festival

Shiogama Festival (Shiogama matsuri)

***** Location: Shiogama, Japan
***** Season: Late Summer
***** Category: Observance

Shiogama matsuri 塩釜祭 (しおがままつり)

mizukae shinji 水替神事(みずかえしんじ)
ritual of changing water
Shiogama minatomatsuri 塩釜港祭 Shiogama harbour festival

Main festival at Shiogama shrine, on July 10.

The water of the sacred salt chauldron is exchanged for fresh one, to honor the deity Shiotsuchi no oji no kami 塩土老翁.

other sources quote July 4 - 6 for the festival

Moshio yaki shinji 藻塩焼神事 Ritual of making Moshio salt
On July 4 the seaweed MO is harvested, on the 5th it is washed in the high tide. On July the water of the chauldron is changed and poured over the seaweed.

source : Shiogama Museum Treasures


Basho visiting Shiogama
painting by Koike Kyokukoo
小池曲江(こいけ きょくこう)

. WKD : moshio, mojio 藻塩 Salt with seaweed .

Related words

. Bonten 梵天  
at the New Year

***** Ceremonies and Festivals Saijiki

. shiogamagiku 塩竈菊 (しおがまぎく)
"chrysanthemum like a pot to boil salt" .

Pedicularis resupinata
and more shiogama flowers


Shiogama and the long Sanriku coast have been badly damaged by the earthquake
on March 11, 2001.

. Japan after the BIG earthquake March 11, 2011


- #shiogama -


Yoshida Fire Festival



Yoshida Fire Festival (Yoshida himatsuri, Yoshida chinkasai)

***** Location: Japan
***** Season: Early Autumn
***** Category: Observance


August 26 and 27
The highlight of Mt. Fuji's Tourist season. Together with the Naked Festival of Aichi and the Belt Festival of Shimada, Yoshida's Fire Festival is one of the "Three Most Unique Festivals of Japan."

Fire Extinguishing Festival (Chinkasai 鎮火際)
Yoshida no Himatsuri 吉田の火祭り

Fire Festival at the shrine Fuji Sengen in Yoshida Town
Fuji Sengen Jinja no Himatsuri 富士浅間神社の火祭り

Yoshida himatsuri 吉田火祭 (よしだひまつり)
Yoshida Sengen matsuri 吉田浅間祭(よしだせんげんまつり)

susuki matsuri 芒祭(すすきまつり)"pampas grass festival"
hibuse matsuri 火伏祭(ひぶせまつり) "fire prevention festival"


© Chris Roeske

"The Fire Festival" refers to the two days of activity that surround the ending of the Japanese Summer. The first day, August 26th, marks the end of Mt. Fuji's official climbing season. August 27th is the day of the "Susuki Festival", which uses the "susuki" grass to symbolize the beginning of autumn. Both of these days include activities at Fujiyoshida's main Shinto shrine, called "Fuji Sengen Jinja", located on highway 138 in Kamiyoshida.

Day One: Joyful Descent into the Inferno

The goddess, in her carriage, is carried into the streets, followed by an "omikoshi" made to look like an orange Mt. Fuji, and two "mini-mikoshi" being supported by children. This unlikely, semi-hazardous parade takes the goddess down Honcho-street, and ends at the Kamiyoshida Community Center. As the goddess travels, she looks out to see Honcho-street lined with people, food vendors, and dozens of 9 foot tall wooden structures that look like elongated ice-cream cones.

Once these and many smaller fires are lit, the sight of the flaming city will so impress the goddess that she will be satisfied to contain the eruption of Mt. Fuji for one more year. We hope. In the meantime, the revelers at the Fujiyoshida Fire Festival are free to eat squid on a stick, drink cold beer, and dance around in the smoke, sparks, and falling ash.

Day Two: The Goddess Returns Amidst the Rustle of Autumn Grass.

On August 27th, the city awakes to find that autumn has begun, and that the smoke-tinged air seems slightly cooler. Residents inspect their clothes for burn marks, remove shoes made of grass from tired feet, and turn their attention towards Fuji-san, which will be as dormant as ever. We hope. The goddess, however, wakes up in a new place, a concrete community center, and must be returned.

Read the full account HERE !


© PHOTO Yamanashi Prefecture Tourist Association

Look at a short video !

Click for more photos !

Worldwide use

Things found on the way


fire festival -
an orange Fuji floats
through town

Gabi Greve, 1985

Related words

***** Fire Festivals (hi matsuri)



Demons Away



Demons Away ! Tsuina shiki

***** Location: Japan/Kobe city
***** Season: Winter / New Year
***** Category: Observance


There are two famous ceremonies involving a BABA ONI 婆婆鬼, an old witch.
An old woman is usually called : oni baba, 鬼婆.

One ceremony is held every year on Januaray 7 at the temple Daisen-Ji 太山寺 in Kobe City.
Here Elder Taro Demon 太郎鬼, Younger Jiro Demon 次郎鬼 and Grandmother Demon, Baba Oni 婆々鬼.

神戸・太山寺の追儺式(鬼追い 修正会)

More Photos !

Click HERE also for more Photos !


At the temple Kinkoo-Ji 近江寺 the festival is held on February 11, as a Shuuni-E 修正会 ceremony for the new year.

A red and a blue demon and one old witch, baba oni.
Red Demon is an incarnation of Bishamon-Ten.
Blue Demon is an incarnation of Fudo Myo-O.

More Photos !


The Three Masks
左から太郎、次郎 婆々鬼の面

Baba oni is on the right.

© PHOTO Hyogo Pref. Museum of History


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Things found on the way


枯れすすき むかし婆婆鬼 あったとさ
kare susuki mukashi baba oni atta to sa

withered grassland--
once upon a time there was
a female demon...

Tr. David Lanoue

... ... ...

kare-suzuki mukashi oni-baba atta to sa

Withered pampas grass:
"Well, once upon a time,
an old witch there was..."

Version by Harold Henderson

The withered fields--
"Once upon a time, deep in the forest,
lived an old witch..."

Version by Robert Hass

(Gabi: The deep forest is not mentioned in the original Haiku by Issa.)

Hass comments:

"THE WITHERED FIELDS: The phrase is 'kareno', and it's often translated 'withered moor' because it implies uncultivated land. It's a fall-winter seasonal phrase and Issa is playing with it here. Its associations are equivalent to the beginning of a ghost story."

Compiled by Larry Bole
Translating Haiku

The "old witch" mentioned by Issa might have been his own stepmother. He had married the young Kiku in 1814. She developed a good connection to the stepmother and the two became very friendly.

His cynical mind is expressed in this phrase, [atta to sa]
He wants to say
[You, step mother! you have been unkind for a long time !]

Nakamura Sakuo

Related words

***** Hungry Ghosts and Haiku



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 -


Daibutsu and Hotoke


Daibutsu and Hotoke

***** Location: Japan
***** Season: TOPIC
***** Category: Humanity


Daibutsu, a great Buddha statue, big Buddha statue, large Buddha statue 大仏

- - - - - Read the details here :
Buddha Statues : DAIBUTSU - - Mark Schumacher

The best known BIG BUDDHA statues in Japan are

in Nara - consecrated in 752.

and in Kamakura - consecrated in 1252.
The temple around it was destroyed by a tsunami in 1495.

. 鎌倉 Kamakura, a Haiku Town .

. Folk Toys from Kamakura .
with a Daibutsu made from lego !

. Daibutsu in Kyoto 京都の大仏様 .
京都大仏御殿 / Hookooji 方広寺 Hoko-Ji ...


- quote -
The Gifu Great Buddha
岐阜大仏 Gifu Daibutsu

is a large Buddhist statue located in Shōhō-ji in Gifu City, Gifu Prefecture, Japan. It was conceived by the 11th head priest of Kinpouzan Shōhō temple, Ichyuu, around 1790, in hopes of averting large earthquakes and famines. Ichyuu died in 1815 before it was completed, but his successor, Priest Kohshuu completed it in April 1832, after 38 years of construction. It is one of the three great Buddha portrait statues in Japan.
The Great Buddha of Gifu is unique due to the method of its construction.
First, a central pillar 1.8 meters in circumference was formed from ginkgo tree wood. The Buddha's shape was then formed using bamboo lattices. The bamboo was covered with clay to add shape and many Buddhist scriptures were then placed upon the clay. Finally, the scriptures were covered in lacquer and gold leaf, giving the Buddha the appearance that it has today.
- source : wikipedia-


Here we are concerned with the aspect of these Buddhas and other hotoke in Haiku.

Worldwide use

Things found on the way

BIG Daruma at temple Koryu-Ji in Hokkaido 高龍寺

大仏名鑑 - All the BIG statues of Japan !

source : sakahara 坂原弘康


Daibutsu - just the name makes for a good commercial!

There are so many Daibutsu items on sale !
Even the nose poop 鼻くそ and navel poop へそのごま of Daibutsu!
Most are from the Nara Daibutsu.

Daibutsu anpan
Daibutsu cider
Daibutsu pudding,
Daibutsu krokke croquette
Daibutsu gummi sweets from Shonan / Kamakura

. . . CLICK here for more Photos !


. Nara no Hotoke 奈良
The Buddha Statues of Nara and Haiku


Haiku by Masaoka Shiki

daibutsu no kata hada no yuki toke ni keri

The snow on one shoulder
of the image of Great Buddha
has thawed.

Tr. Hugh Bygott

on one shoulder
of the Great Buddha
the snow has thawed ...

Translation Discussion by Gabi Greve


The snow has melted
On one shoulder
Of the Great Buddha.

Life is asymmetrical in its essential character, and it is natural for us to rejoice in it, for it is the guarantee of our spiritualfreedom. Even on the Great Buddha, for all the Law of Karma and theinviolable Wheel of the Law, the snow melts irregularly.

Tr. and Comment by Blyth


............. Tanka about the Daibutsu of Kamakura

火に焼けず 雨にも朽ちぬ 鎌倉の
はだか仏は 常仏かも

Look at some PHOTOS !


about the Daibutsu in Nara

Daibutsu no ashimoto ni neru yozamu kana

sleeping at the feet
of the Big Buddha -
what a cold night

Tr. Gabi Greve


Photo Gabi Greve
Temple Buttsu-Ji, Okayama, 2004

yukashisa ya ochiba kaburishi hotoketachi

Imaizumi Sogetsu (c. 1750 - 1804), a woman poet

How lovely!
Fallen leaves have reached and veiled
an image of Buddha.

Tr. Hugh Bygott

how lovely -
the stone Buddhas coverd
by fallen leaves

Translation Discussion by Gabi Greve


Comment by Larry Bole :

Mysterious loveliness!
Buddhist statues
Covered in fallen leaves.

Tr. Blyth

Blyth makes no comment on it, but considering that he only translates one other haiku by Sogetsu-ni, one can conclude that he thought this haiku was the most representative/best of her work.

If you want to compare Sogetsu-ni's haiku quoted above to a haiku by Shiki, how about this one of his, written in 1894:

ote no ue ni ochiba tamarinu tachibotoke

Stone Buddha standing there--
fallen leaves settled
in his hands

tr. Burton Watson

Sogetsu-ni's haiku, for all its loveliness, seems to be about mostly that: loveliness. No one has ever said that the tsukinami poets (and I'm not saying Sogetsu-ni was one) weren't skillful, within their artistic limitations. I suspect that pretty, technically-accomplished haiku were manufactured seemingly effortlessly by the tsukinami poets.


divine mystery
in these autumn leaves that fall
on stony buddhas

Tanrısal gizem;
bu güz düşen yapraklar
taş Buda’lara.

Turgay Uçeren


. Matsuo Basho 松尾芭蕉 - Archives of the WKD .

When Basho visited Todaiji in Nara, the temple was still under repair after the destruction wrought by the civil wars of the sixteenth century. The Great Buddha statue was only finally completed in 1692, after the visit by Basho described above, and the statue sat for years in the open like the Great Buddha in Kamakura.

The new Buddha Hall (which is the present one) was finally finished in 1708, and Basho did not live to see this. He grieved for the Buddha in its sad state, for at that time even the head had not been restored yet. Basho saw only the rump of the statue, slowly being covered by the first snow of the year, and he wrote:

hatsu yuki ya itsu Daibutsu no hashira date

first snow!
when will the temple building start
for the Great Buddha?

© Ad G. Blankestijn,
with more memorial stones on this LINK

The year's first snowfall!
When are the columns of Daibutsu
Temple to be erected?

Tr. Oseko

Written in December Genroku 2. 元禄2年12月

Daibutsuden, the current Hall for the Great Buddha was built in 1709.


 Tr. by David Landis Barnhill :

Visiting the Southern Capital, I yearned for the eventual building of the Buddha Hall

first snow--
for the Great Buddha, when
will the columns be raised?

Barnhill also gives an earlier version of this hokku:

yuki kanashi itsu Daibutsu no kawarabuki

the snow is sad:
when will the Great Buddha
have its tiled roof?

It took about two years after the visit of Basho until the roof was preliminary fixed and the statue out of danger.

how sad to see it snowing!
when will the Gread Buddha Hall
get its roof tiled?

Tr. Gabi Greve

round tiles from the Daibutsu Hall
now a sweet from Nara
天平時代大仏殿の巴瓦 - tomoegawara

. . . CLICK here for Photos of the tiles !

. Temple Todai-Ji 東大寺 - Nara .


daibutsu no te ni aru omoi hinataboko

like lying
in the palm of the Great Buddha—
winter sunshine

Takaha Shugyo 鷹羽狩行
Tr. Hoshino Tsunehiko & Adrian Pinnington

I feel like sitting
in the hands of the Great Buddha —
basking in the winter sun

hinataboko ... to take a sunbath in winter, to sit in the winter sunshine
basking in the sun
kigo for all winter
when you sit at the veranda or a sheltered place and feel the warmth of the sunshine.

This haiku is about the feeling (omoi) of the author.


Issa has a few about the Great Buddha

daibutsu no hana kara detaru tsubame kana

from the great bronze
Buddha’s nose...
a swallow!

Tr. David Lanoue ... read more haiku here !

from Great Buddha’s
nose pour forth

Tr. Bob Jones

Related words

***** Shin Daibutsu-Ji 新大仏寺 New Daibutsu Temple
Iga, Mie. With a statue of Fudo Myo-O

***** Gods of Japan (kami to hotoke)... General introduction

***** Dead body, deceased person (hotoke)

***** Stone Buddhas and Haiku ... Gabi Greve

***** Imaizumi Sogetsu-ni . 今泉素月尼


東大寺大佛 The Big Buddha of Todai-Ji
Asano Takeji 浅野竹二 (1900 - 1999)

大仏 Kamakura Daibutsu
Kawase Hasui 月川瀬 巴水 (1883 – 1957)