Thursday, May 28, 2015

Parting ways with the Poet Basho

Heading north - If you look at our map, you'll see where we leave Sendai by ferry and head north to Hokkaido.  In his famous Road to the Deep North journey, Basho turned left and headed across Honshu and then traveled down the western coast and back to Edo (Tokyo).  Our last direct connection with Basho's route came at a place where several threads of Japanese history came together in a stunning mountainous area called Hiraimizu.  We drove due north of Sendai for about an hour and entered one of Japan's most famous historical and beautiful spots.

The Temple Complex at Motsu-ji

Hiraizumi - In a lovely valley jammed with "sites" - World Heritage and Japan Cultural Treasures - there are two major temple locations - Motsu-ji which is one of the last large Heian-era gardens representing the power and glory of the Fujiwara's whose demise happened here, and the Chosu-ji the location of the pavilion-within-a-pavilion -- a glittering cultural treasure.  It's surprising that way up here in the far north we find the first designated Japanese cultural treasure in spite of the grandeur of Kyoto far to the south. 

Kaori wisely provided a copy of Basho's description of this spot
and I read it and the famous haiku.

The View of the Koromo River as described by Basho

The Basho Spot - We've flitted along Basho's route and visited the "kind of near here" locations of some of his stops and poems.  But here on a ridge overlooking the Koromo River, we stand on the very spot where he composed one of his most famous haiku -- a lament to the fleeting world of warrior's such as Minomoto Yoshitsune, who died near here and to whom there is a lovely building dedicated nearby.

Minamoto Yoshitsune, one of Japan's
favorite tragic figures.

Paul Skenazy and his buddy Matsuo Basho had to say goodbye.

The Taiheiyo Ferry - You'll see on the above map that we leave land aboard a ferry -- this is a huge ship -- no small ferry -- and we settle in to enjoy good food, karaoke, and other shipboard amenities and rumble northward in a very soft swell.  Great way to make the trip to Hokkaido -- overnight.  Hokkaido appears through the fog the next morning. 

The Taiheiyo Ferry that we boarded for our trip to Hokkaido.