On the second day, we traveled further up north.
The Hiraizumi complex of temples, namely the Chuzon-ji (Chuzon temple), was recently admitted into World Heritage Site lists, was part of our morning tour. Sleepy and bleary eyed, we clambered onto the buses (“Ohayou gozaimasu,” we chirped at our bus-driver, Akiyama) that brought us to temples hours away.
The months and days are the travelers of eternity. The years that come and go are also voyagers. Those who float away their lives on ships or who grow old leading horses are forever journeying, and their homes are wherever their travels take them. Many of the men of old died on the road, and I too for years past have been stirred by the sight of a solitary cloud drifting with the wind to ceaseless thoughts of roaming.
Last year I spent wandering along the coast. In autumn I returned to my cottage on the river and swept away the cobwebs. Gradually the year drew to its close. When spring came and there was mist in the air, I thought of crossing the Barrier of Shirakawa into Oku. I seemed to be possessed by the spirits of wanderlust, and they all deprived me of my senses. The guardian spirits of the road beckoned, and I could not settle down to work.
I patched my torn trousers and changed the cord on my bamboo hat. To strengthen my legs for the journey I had moxa burned on my shins. By then I could think of nothing but the moon at Matsushima. When I sold my cottage and moved to Sampû’s villa, to stay until I started on my journey, I hung this poem on a post in my hut:
kusa no to mo
sumikawaru yo zo
hina no ie
Even a thatched hut
May change with a new owner
Into a doll’s house.
Translated by Donald Keene (The Narrow Road to Oku, 1996)
(An earlier and slightly different partial translation appeared in Keene’s Anthology of Japanese Literature, 1955.)
I had forgotten about Basho’s journey to the north. We had studied it in our haiku class back in Waseda, under the learned Professor Pinnington (I can only hope to be only a little be like Pinnington one day, because his mind is cavernous and full of deep knowledge) and I had written a paper on Basho. Seeing the statue, and the monument dedicated to him, reminded me of sleepy classrooms suddenly snapping to attention.
The air was cool at Chuzon-ji, and after trekking about in the forests, it started to drizzle. We ducked under coniferous trees and errant, too-large umbrellas.