Jason in Japan


November 21, 2005

Today I visited Yamadera, an amazing temple built in the side of a mountain. It consists of about 40 very beautiful buildings, and was first opened in the year 860, during the Heian Era. In 1689, Matsuo Basho -- a famous master of haiku -- visited Yamadera, and wrote a very well-known haiku about it (see below).

As you'll see by looking at the map (in the gallery below), it's a bit of a hike to do the full tour. The weather was good and the scenery was gorgeous -- not just Yamadera itself, but the many colors of autumn in the surrounding area. I passed by a lot of very friendly people (rather easy to see why they're in a good mood, in a place like that), exchanged many a nod and "konnichi wa", and had a few simple conversations as well -- some that I understood, and some that were amusingly unsuccessful. At the top, I went to a shop and spoke with the two ladies who worked there. I had a nice chat with them, bought a wall hanging (with several of Basho's haiku written on it) and some tea, and they gave me some snacks to go with it.

I went with Yuko (the director of the English school I'm working for), who was kind enough to drive me there. She's been plenty of times herself, so she waited for me at the bottom; when I returned from the climb, she told me that she'd been talking to a potter who owns a shop near the entrance, and that he would like to meet me. So we went to meet him, and were invited to have coffee with him and his wife in the back of the shop. Of course, despite being the topic of the conversation, I couldn't understand most of it, but I was plenty amused by his dog and cat. Anyway, he offered to show me how to make something, next time I visit. I will certainly take him up on this generous offer if I have the chance; I think I'll try making a teacup.

Yamadera is one of the highlights of the Touhoku (Northeast Honshu) region of Japan, and it's a real treat to have something like this so close to home -- it's just a short drive from Yamagata City (where I live).

Shizukasa ya · Iwa ni shimiiru · Semi no koe
Silence · Penetrating the rocks · The cry of the cicada