Monday, January 8, 2018

Hatsumode 2018: "Literature Shrine" Minase Jingu

For Hatsumode, the first shrine visit in 2018, this year we selected Minase Jingu, a small shrine in Osaka (Shimamoto) on the border with Kyoto, at the confluence of the Katsura, Kizu and Uji rivers. Minase Jingu is dedicated to Emperor Go-Toba (1180-1239), who after his abdication in 1198, built a Detached Palace (rikyu) in this once beautiful spot (now marred by crisscrossing elevated highways, elevated train lines and ugly flats).

[The Minase Jingu Shrine]

My reason for going to Minase were the many links this spot has with literature. In the first place Emperor Go-Toba himself, who was a serious waka poet and editor of the Shin kokinshu collection of waka - my favorite Japanese poetry collection. In the second place, in the late 15th c., Minase returns to center stage in what is probably the most important renga (linked verse) sequence, the Minase sangin hyakuin, by Sogi, Shohaku and Socho. And finally, Minase plays a small role in Tanizaki's novella Ashikari (The Reed Cutter). I'll come back to these literary links, but let's first have a closer look at Emperor Go-Toba as the subject of veneration in Minase Jingu.

Go-Toba was put on the throne as a small boy in 1183, at a dramatic moment in Japanese history and at a time that there were in fact briefly two emperors. The other one was the (also) child-emperor Antoku, Go-Toba's half-brother. Antoku had been put on the throne at the start of the Taira-Minamoto war (1180-85), in which the Minamoto would eventually destroy the Taira (a story which is the subject of the Heike Monogatari). The Taira abandoned Kyoto in 1183 and fled to Western Japan, taking Emperor Antoku with them, at which time Go-Toba was installed as rival emperor by the Minamoto. Go-Toba became sole emperor in 1185 when Antoku was drowned in the naval battle of Dannoura.

[Emperor Go-Toba - Wikipedia - Public Domain]

Go-Toba remained titular sovereign for 15 years and was made to abdicate in 1198, when his son Tsuchimikado was put on the throne, soon followed by another son Juntoku in 1210 and Juntoku's son Chukyo in 1221. The 12th c. had been the age of the Insei ("cloister government"), where political control was exercised by retired emperors rather than by the titular rulers or the official bureaucracy. But unfortunately for Go-Toba, the Insei system ended with Go-Shirakawa, Go-Toba's grandfather who died in 1192. In that year the warrior government of the Minamoto was established in Kamakura and that is from where real power emanated from now on. Go-Toba foolishly tried to bring down the shogunal regime in Kamakura and win back power for the court in Kyoto. In 1221, he started the Jokyu Disturbance, in fact a war against the shogunate. Go-Toba's forces were, however, smashed by the samurai from Eastern Japan and the Retired Emperor was sent into exile on the lonely island of Oki in the Sea of Japan. where he spent his remaining 18 years (his sons were also exiled, Tsuchimikado to Sado Island and Juntoku to Shikoku (Awa); grandson Chukyo was after just a few months replaced as emperor by Go-Horikawa, a nephew of Go-Toba).

[The entrance to Minase Jingu]

Political intrigues are blown away by the winds of time, but literature remains. Go-Toba was an important waka poet and author of a major poetic treatise, an interest he cultivated after his abdication. His teacher was the excellent Fujiwara no Shunzei. Besides writing high-quality poetry himself, he also had the eight imperial poetry collection, the Shin kokinshu or New Collection from Ancient and Modern Times, compiled by a team of poets and scholars, retaining for himself the final decisions as editor. Together with the first collection, the Kokinshu, the Shin kokinshu is considered as a brilliant achievement. In contrast to the Kokinshu, which was still heavily influenced by the playful but superficial Chinese poetry of the Six Dynasties period, the dominant feeling in the Shin kokinshu is one of melancholy and the world view is deeply Buddhist.

Here is Go-Toba's most famous waka:
gazing out over
mist-shrouded foothills
beyond the river Minase,
who could have thought
evenings are autumn? 
miwataseba | yamamoto kasumu | Minasegawa | yube wa aki to | nani omoikemu
The poem above is quoted in the translation by Haruo Shirane (Traditional Japanese Literature, Columbia U.P., p. 612), who adds that this spring poem challenges the famous assertion by Sei Shonagon in the Pillow Book that evening is the most poignant moment of an autumn day - replacing it with a day in spring. The last two lines are translated by Donald Keene as "why did I ever suppose evenings were best in autumn."

Interestingly, the location where this poem is set is at Minase, at the detached palace where the Retired Emperor often held poetry gatherings. After his death in exile, at his own behest, a Buddhist chapel (Mieido) was built at the spot of that detached palace. The temple supposedly remained in existence until 1873, when in the purely ideological notion that everything linked to the imperial house had to be Shinto, the temple was removed and the present Minase Jingu shrine built in its place. It is thus one of the representative State Shinto shrines of the Meiji period, together with other "jingu" (shrines linked to the imperial house), such as Heian Jingu, Kashihara Jingu, Akama Jingu and Meiji Jingu (although Minase Jingu is much more modest in size than these more famous establishments).

[A place to return the old shinya of the previous year]

The second link with literature occurs in 1488, when the three renga poets Sogi, Shohaku and Socho come together here to write the Minase sangin hyakuin. This renga was meant as a tribute to Emperor Go-Toba (written exactly 250 years after the emperor's death) and the poem was donated to the temple set up in his memory.

The first verse of the renga sequence starts with an allusion to Go-Toba's poem quoted above, and goes as follows:
snow still remains
on mist-shrouded foothills
toward evening
yukinagara | yamamoto kasumu | yube kana
The season here is spring and the second line about the mist-shrouded foothills is quoted directly from Go-Toba, while the next line states unambiguously that it is evening. The Minase sangin has been fully translated by Steven D. Carter in Traditional Japanese Poetry (Stanford U.P., pp. 303-326).

[People fetching water from the spring in the shrine grounds]

Evening is also the time Tanizaki Junichiro's beautiful, poetic and ambiguous story The Reed Cutter (Ashikari, 1932) is set. It has been translated by Anthony H. Chambers (Knopf). One fine evening (the evening of the full autumn moon), the narrator who lives in Kobe, decides to visit the Minase Shrine with its many historical allusions. Musing on old poems and passages of history, the narrator eventually finds himself sipping sake among the reeds of a sandbar where the three rivers flow together, while enjoying the view of the full moon. Then a voice rings out: a man appears who tells him how he used to come here every year with his father when he was a small boy. The father would stop at a hedge surrounding a large mansion and peep through it to watch the beautiful Lady Oyu presiding over her annual moon-viewing party. Many years before that, the father had met the twenty-two-year-old Oyu in the theater; it was love at first sight, but Oyu was already a widow, and as she had a son, her husband's family did not allow her to remarry. Oyu's sister Oshizu thereupon offered to help: she would marry the man in love with her sister, but in name only, so that the sister and her husband could be together in a secret ménage-à-trois. Thus they lived happily for some time until Oyu's son died, and she was married off by her family to another man - therefore her lover could only see her once a year by peeping into the moonlit garden. As usual in Tanizaki, the mysterious woman has become a lasting obsession...

P.S. I should have mentioned a fourth link with literature: the story of Go-Toba and his failed revolt is told in The Clear Mirror (Masukagami, 1338-76), one of the four historical chronicles written in the late-Heian - early Kamakura period all with the term "mirror" in the title. The history of Emperor Go-Toba fills the first chapters of the book.

Minase Jingu is a modest and unassuming place, but also clean and dignified. When you enter through the rustic gate, you see the Main hall in front; to the left stands the Haiden. The halls face West. The main hall has been constructed from wood from the Naishidokoro of the Gosho palace in Kyoto.

In the grounds of Minase Jingu, you'll also find the Rikyu no mizu ("Water of the Detached Palace"), a spring drawing subsoil water of the Minase River, a tributary of the Yodo River, which originates on nearby Mt Tennozan. The spring has been certified as one of Japan's "Best 100 Natural Water Sources" by the Environment Ministry, and people from the neighborhood come here with jerrycans to obtain its pure water. Tea master Sen no Rikyu apparently loved the quality of this water for making tea. In fact, the shrine owns a tea house (in the garden behind the main hall, not open to the public) where annually a tea ceremony is held by the heads of the major tea schools. Of course, water from the shrine's spring is used.

The Minase Shrine owns several important cultural properties, including two national treasures (a portrait of the Retired Emperor Gotoba and his autograph testament with a print of his hands).

The area itself is also quite rich in interesting places to visit: the next station on the Hankyu line (Oyamazaki) gives access to not only the Suntory Whisky Distillery which can be visited upon appointment, but also the Asahi Beer Oyamazaki Villa Museum of Art with its mingei collection.
How to get to Minase Jingu: Take the Hankyu line from Umeda or Juso to Kyoto and get off at Minase (only stop trains). Take the road on the west side running parallel to the elevated tracks (there is a green-colored footpath) for about 10 min, when on a road to your left you see a green forest. That is the shrine; go around to find the entrance.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Hyakunin Isshu (One Hundred Poets, One Poem Each): Poem 27 (Fujiwara no Kanesuke)

Hyakunin Isshu, Poem 27

Mika no hara
wakite nagaruru
itsu miki tote ka
koishi karuramu


like the Izumi River
that gushes forth and flows
through the Plain of Urns
when did I see her
that I should long for her so?

Fujiwara no Kanesuke (877–933)

[The River Kizu]

"River Izumi" is another name for the River Kizu in southern Kyoto Prefecture, a tributary of the Yodo River. The "Plain of Urns" (Mika no hara) was the old name for an area around the river, nor far from where now Kamo Station on the JR Kansai and Yamatoji lines can be found. North of the station (and river) is the spot where Emperor Shomu had set up his Kuni Palace from 740-744 and where he once started to cast the Great Buddha (a project that was aborted at that location).

The poem makes crafty use of a preface (jo), poetic place name (uta-makura) and pivot words (kake-kotoba). "Izumi" is the pivot word: it means "spring" and thus connects with the verb "wakite," "to divide" but also "to gush forth, to bubble up." The first three lines serve as a preface to "itsu miki," "when did I see" (which with its sound of "itsu mi" again echoes the river "Izumi"). That is why poetry, especially classical Japanese poetry, defies translation! A more literal translation would be: "The Izumi River gushes forth and flows through the Plain of Urns - its name "Izumi" makes me think of when I saw her ("itsu-mi"), she, whom I love so much."

[Site of Yamashiro Kokubunji and the Kuni Palace]

In Japan the discussion has long been what type of love this refers to: have the lovers met and pledged their love once, only to be unable to meet again, or have they not yet actually met? It seems that Teika preferred that last interpretation. 

Fujiwara no Kanesuke ("the Middle Counselor Kanesuke") was one of the Thirty-six Poetry Immortals. Fifty-seven of his poems have been included in various imperial anthologies, including Kokin Wakashu and Gosen Wakashu. His residence beside the dam of the Kamo River in central Kyoto was a meeting place for literati as Tsurayuki (Poem 35) and Mitsune (Poem 29). His great-granddaughter was Murasaki Shikibu, author of the well-known Tale of Genji. It is however not certain whether he really was the author of the present poem: in the Shinkokinshu it is attributed to him, but in the Kokin Rokujo it is listed as "anonymous."

References: Pictures of the Heart, The Hyakunin Isshu in Word and Image by Joshua S. Mostow (University of Hawai'i Press, 1996); Traditional Japanese Poetry, An Anthology, by Steven D. Carter (Stanford University Press, 1991); Hyakunin Isshu by Inoue Muneo, etc. (Shinchosha, 1990); Genshoku Hyakunin Isshu by Suzuki Hideo, etc. (Buneido, 1997); Ogura Hyakunin Isshu at Japanese Text Initiative (University of Virginia Library Etext Center); Hyakunin Isshu wo aruku by Shimaoka Shin (Kofusha Shuppan); Hyakunin Isshu, Ocho waka kara chusei waka e by Inoue Muneo (Chikuma Shoin, 2004); Basho's Haiku (2 vols) by Toshiharu Oseko (Maruzen, 1990); The Ise Stories by Joshua S. Mostow and Royall Tyler (University of Hawai'i Press, 2010); Kokin Wakashu, The First Imperial Anthology of Japanese Poetry by Helen Craig McCullough (Stanford University Press, 1985); Kokinshu, A Collection of Poems Ancient and Modern by Laurel Rasplica Rodd and Mary Catherine Henkenius (University of Tokyo Press, 1984); Kokin Wakashu (Shogakkan, 1994); Shinkokin Wakashu (Shogakkan, 1995); Taketori Monogatari-Ise Monogatari-Yamato Monogatari-Heichu Monogatari (Shogakkan, 1994). 

Monday, January 1, 2018

The Year of the Dog

2018 is the Year of the Dog (inudoshi) in Japan, the eleventh year in the cycle of 12 signs from the Japanese (and originally Chinese) zodiac. The Year of the Dog is represented by the Earthly Branch character 戌. As in the West, dogs are believed to have a sense of duty and loyalty, and such are also believed to be the characteristics of persons born in the Year of the Dog.

[Japanese Akita dog - Wikipedia (Sevenfatdogs) - CC BY 3.0]

Dogs are the oldest domesticated animal - their friendship with human beings goes back some 12,000 years, to the early Jomon period, when we also find the oldest Japanese indigenous dogs. In the Jomon period, dog burial was already practiced, showing how important dogs were to humans - they gave invaluable assistance during hunting, tracking down everything from deer to wild boar.

According to the experts, there are various types of native dogs in Japan, and their common characteristic is that of a primitive canine type, with small pricked ears and a curled or upright bushy tail (this curled tail is in fact the major characteristic of Japanese dogs). Their eyes are rather small, with a slant set. The Japanese dog is typically a "one-person dog," very faithful and obedient to one master. For convenience, the Japanese dog today is classified into three types: large, medium and small.
  • Large type (ogata): these are the Akita dogs. Shoulder height 65cm, weight 35-55kg. Temperament is dignified and calm. Was a hunting dog in the past, now a guard dog.
  • Medium type (chugata): also named after localities like the previous one: Hokkaido inu, Kai inu, Kishu inu and Shikoku inu. Muscular body, height 50cm, weight 20kg. Courageous and capable hunters, also for big game as bear, boar and deer.
  • Small type (kogata): Shiba dog. Found in mountainous areas, especially the Chubu and Chugoku districts. Used for hunting small game as raccoon, fox, hare, weasel and birds. The name has been taken from "shiba," "brushwood," as the beautiful hide of this dog has the same brown color as this shrub in autumn.

[Dog scene from Yoshitoshi's Hakkenden ukiyoe - Wikipedia - Public Domain]

Some Japanese "dog-lore":
  • In Japanese folklore and literature, the dog is a friendly character, beneficent and protective. In the fairy tale of Momotaro ("Peach Boy"), for example, a dog is one of Momotaro's faithful companions. Read the story here.
  • In Japanese literature, Takizawa Bakin has immortalized the dog in his famous epic novel Satomi and the Eight "Dogs" (Nanso Satomi Hakkenden, 1814-1841), which describes how the fortunes of a defeated warrior family are revived with the aid of eight "dog" warriors (each of their surnames begins with the Japanese word for dog). The novel is also an allegory as good and evil are incarnated in characters who serve as emblems. It was partly inspired by the Chinese classical novel The Water Margin (Suikoden in Japanese). There is no full English translation, but excerpts of the novel are included in Early Modern Japanese Literature: An Anthology, by Shirane Haruo (Columbia University Press, 2002). There are many adaptations, besides a famous ukiyoe series featuring leading Kabuki actors by Utagawa Kunisada II, also a film version by Fukasaku Shinji, and several manga and anime versions. 
  • The 5th Tokugawa shogun, Tsunayoshi, is famous for his exaggerated devotion to dogs. Due to his misunderstanding of Buddhism (the shogun thought he lost his son and was unable to father another one due to bad karma from a previous life, when he had taken the lives of many sentient beings), Tsunayoshi wanted to protect all living beings, especially dogs as he was born in the Year of the Dog. His edicts (from the mid-1680s on) which forbade the killing of birds and animals were enforced with severe punishments. An apprentice was even executed because he wounded a dog. In the capital Edo, especially dogs became sacred, which earned Tsunayoshi the nickname "Dog Shogun" (inu kubo). In 1695, there were so many dogs that Edo began to smell horribly. Finally, the trouble was taken to a distance, as over 50,000 dogs were deported to kennels in the suburbs of the city where they were fed rice and fish at the expense of the taxpaying citizens of Edo. The edicts were revoked in 1709 after the death of Tsunayoshi.
  • In the Mumonkan (The Gateless Gate), Case One concerns the question whether a dog can have the Buddha nature or not: 'A monk asked Joshu, "Has a dog the Buddha Nature?" Joshu answered, "Mu." ' In other words, the dog is Mu, the Buddha-nature Mu, everything Mu! It is the task of the Zen student, while practicing zazen to come to an immediate experience of Mu, beyond any intellectual signification. This is usually the first koan received by a Zen student from his master. When the student has mastered it, it is said he has become acquainted with the world of Mu (The Shambala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen).
[Wolf-dog in Mitsumine Shrine, Chichibu - Own photo]
  • In parts of ancient Japan, there was a dog-wolf cult, as the mountain god (yama no kami) was believed to take the shape of a dog or wolf (wild dogs were often confused with wolves in Japan). Interesting is the Mitsumine Shrine in Chichibu where wolves (or wild dogs) are the protectors of the shrine instead of the normal komainu.
[Komainu, Sudo Shrine, Kyoto - Own photo]
  • That reminds me of komainu. Everyone who has visited a shrine in Japan has made their acquaintance, often with a smile: the pairs of funny stone guardians that are a cross between a lion and a dog and that often stand at the entrance to the sacred precincts. "Komainu" literally means "Korean dogs," a pointer to their origin on the Asian mainland. As they entered Japan in the Heian-period, their name "Koma" was derived from the designation for the Korean kingdom of Koguryo, although the actual origin may be sought as faraway as Egypt or Iran. The function of these mythical beasts is to repel evil. In the style of Buddhist temple guardians one lion-dog usually has its mouth open (agyo) and the other has it closed (ungyo). Koma-inu are usually made of stone, although examples of bronze and ceramics also exist.
  • An "Inu Hariko" is a papier-mache dog for the protection of children and mothers during childbirth. It is a traditional folk toy and often has a charming expression. In Tokyo, it often carries an upturned bamboo basket on its bag, a sign for "raking in good fortune." See this page by Dr. Gabi Greve about inu amulets and toys (it even contains some inu haiku!).
  • Who does not know the faithful dog Hachiko (an Akita-ken), whose statue stands in front of Shibuya Station? Hachiko always met his master, Professor Ueno Eizaburo at the station when his master returned from teaching at Tokyo University. On an afternoon in May 1925, the dog kept waiting and waiting, but no Pressor Ueno. In fact, the Professor had died of a stroke while at the university. The faithful dog kept coming back day after day at three o'clock, hoping to find his master. This went on for many years and Hachiko became famous around Shibuya Station. People would feed him and give him shelter. Hachiko therefore became a symbol of loyalty, a General Nogi under the dogs. In 1934, after ten years, the faithful dog himself died in front of the station. Money poured in from around the country to set up a bronze statue in his memory - this statue in front of the station now is a popular meeting point, although the sculpture itself is in its second reincarnation as the original one was used to make bullets in WWII. The grave of Ueno Eizaburo can be found in Aoyama, and as a notice tells us, also the faithful dog has been buried here, together again with his master. Well... in fact, only small part of the dog, because you will also find him, stuffed and well, in the National Science Museum in Ueno.
[Japan's most famous dog: faithful dog Hachiko became legendary after waiting every day for his master at Shibuya Station. He was an Akita dog - Wikipedia - Public Domain]

Have a wonderful Year of the Dog!