Monday, May 23, 2005


Went in the rain to Ishiyamadera and realized anew, in all that wet and verdant beauty arranged along the mountainside, the deep truth of Inei Rai San, Tanizaki's rambling discourse on Japanese beauty.

Ishiyamadera was meant to be seen in natural dimness; even better, in the light of rain. With all its fantastic rock formations and hidden groves, recesses and pockets of natural elegance finely maintained, the temple has anciently drawn Japan's artists; Murasaki Shikibu is said to have written some of The Tale of Genji here, in a room now named after her.

Not to mention the layout and architecture of the buildings carefully positioned throughout the forested mountainside (the elegant Tahoto (Treasure Tower), the oldest such building in Japan, was commissioned by Yoritomo Minamoto), in one of which Basho himself stayed awhile, no doubt enjoying what must have been a fantastic Seto-river-and-moon-viewing and haiku-writing platform back in the Basho days.

We slowly wandered that sampling of paradise for a few hours, hung around with the demons a bit and then went looking for Basho’s grave, said to be not too far away...

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