Monday, October 15, 2012

Motsuji Temple, Iwate; Basho's Haiku

Motsuji was a very important temple in the past, belonging to the Tendai sect. It flourished during the Fujiwara family. In the Heian Period (794-1192), the popular garden style was "pure land gardens" named after the Buddhist concept of Joudo - pure land or paradise. Motsuji has one of the few pure land gardens that exist in Japan at the moment.

The temple was huge and its grandeur can be still appreciated while walking around the garden. At the entry, the famous haiku written by Matsuo Basho in 1689: "The summer grass/'Tis all that's left/Of ancient warriors' dreams" - the impermanence of glory. It is a famous English translation by Nitobe Inazou, born in Iwate. He was an agronomist and educator. He wanted to be a "bridge across the Pacific" and was member of the League of Nations. He is the author of "Bushido: the Soul of Japan." There is a small monument on the left, which is considered to be in Basho's own handwriting, placed here by his nephew, who was a Zen master.

In Japan, at the entrance of every temple people wash their hands and cleanse their mouth in such places:

There are currently 18 structures, and the main one is of course the Hondou (Main Hall). Inside, there is a statue of Buddha of Healing - Yakushi Nyorai from the Heian era.

The main part of the Pure Land garden is the Dancing Crane Pond - Maizuru ga ike.

Kaisandou - Founder's Hall, Jikaku Daishi Ennin (794-864). He was the third abbot of the Tendai sect, and the first to receive the title Daishi - great teacher. He stayed in China for nine years and wrote "Record of a Pilgrimage to China in Search of the Law."

Some buildings of the former immense complex are missing, and marked by signs only.

Yarimizu - Feeder Stream - is a beautiful stream flowing towards the pond. On the grass on its two sides, a poetry festival takes places every spring. It is called Gokusui no En.

Jizou Bosatsu is the protector of all beings trapped in the six realms of reincarnation. It is said that the jewel in the statue's hand will grant wishes to those who believe in its power.

Jougyoudou - Circumambulation Hall - has inside a deity of agricultural fertility. Every year on 20 January there is a special meditation by walking. This ritual is designated an important Folk Cultural Property.

Gokusui no En, Floating Poetry Festival mentioned above, was revived in May 1986. Participants wear traditional costumes and improvise short poems. After composing and reading their poems, they drink sake floating in cups down the stream.


Since 1977, a museum displays Buddhist statues, documents and some relics.

In the garden, a large area of iris flowers - ayame - donated by Meiji Jingu can be enjoyed during its blooming season.

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