Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Yoshinaka and Tomoe at Rest

Visiting the graves of Kiso Yoshinaka and Tomoe Gozen, who rest quietly in a small forested hillside just off the Kiso Road. Tokuonji is a quiet temple, offering pleasant views of rice fields and a small river that narrows at it lengthens toward the upper reaches of Koma-ga-take.

There are four ancient graves in back.  Beneath one rests Tomoe, who in later life became a nun after the death and defeat of her warrior lover.  There's a stone for him as well, although his body is buried between Lake Biwa and the famed poet Basho.  Yoshinaka's head is reputed to be buried at Hōkanji in Kyoto, near the tall pagoda that punctuates the hilly streets leading up to Kiyomizudera. 

The graves overlook a small shrine, and a bronze statue of Tomoe on horseback.  It is easy to imagine her racing through a rain of arrows, her naginata twirling behind.  Modern archers practice in the kyūdōjō attached to the temple, shooting through the swirl of dragonflies, the rice stalks beyond bending toward autumn.

On the turntable:  The Yardbirds,  "The Very Best of...
On the nighttable:  John Dougill, "In Search of Japan's Hidden Christians"


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