Monday, December 05, 2005

part 1: Bright Leaves, Falling Persimmons

Last Wednesday we went into Kyoto - for the first time in a surprisingly long time - to see the brilliant tapestry of autumn leaves at Arashiyama. Specifically, Tenryuji (with its famed dragon ceiling), which because of the brilliant leaves in its precincts and gardens was thronged even on a Wednesday so we didn't throng around, but went to have a splendid lunch of stone-ground soba noodles at a fine riverside restaurant (that had purses in the shop below for $500) where the view was fine upstairs as we ate overlooking the famous bridge, the boats and the passing throngs.

After lunch we went on a soul stroll north along the river and thence through the park of golden and scarlet leaves to the thatch-roofed House of the Falling Persimmons, the residence of Basho's disciple Mukai Kyorai, where on one famed night during Basho's brief visit in 1691 - when reality was still everywhere, day and night - a remarkable 40 persimmons fell to the ground. There Basho wrote the Saga Diary and worked on The Monkey's Raincoat anthology, which was published in the same year.

We then strolled on through the arches of Basho's beloved tall bamboo, with hot-sweet-potato and roasted chestnut sellers here and there in the high green tunnels, steam issuing from the cookers in the dim light, amid the long streams of people heading to where I'll write about next.

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