Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Conic impressions (5)

1 November (pm): after lunch, there’s time for one more Fuji mound. Although my phone is no better than a brick in this country, I can still use GPS (Go ask at Police Station) to find it. The officer at the Sendagaya kōban helpfully points me south-south-west, past the Metropolitan Gymnasium. Then there’s a street of glitzy cafes and boutiques to thread before the pine trees of the Hatonomori Hachiman shrine come into view.

The approach path to the Sendagaya Fuji starts awkwardly beside a row of russet torii. Tall visitors should duck carefully under their cross-beams. I hope nobody saw me bang my head. A nearby signboard shows that this Fujizuka aims to reproduce all the features of its great original.

Nor does it fall far short in that aim. This is the feature-richest Fujizuka that I've so far seen. Near the seventh station, Jigigyō Miroku himself is met with, in the guise of a stone figurine sitting within a small lava cave.

And, unlike the other three Fujizuka I’ve visited, this one has a proper summit shrine or “oku-miya”, just as on the real mountain.

There's even a tiny birdbath, which a tag identifies as the Kinmeisui, a little pond that sometimes forms, or used to form, on the real Mt Fuji's southern crater rim.

Another signboard explains that the mountain was built in 1789, making it one of the oldest Fujizuka in the city centre.

Lava blocks (“kuroboku”) from the real volcano were used only around the summit area, but this economy is decently concealed by the authentic panda grass (“kumazasa”) and topiary that deck the lower slopes. Although it had to be reconstructed after the Great Tokyo Earthquake in 1923, the mound preserves its original shape, the signboard says.

Light is fading. There is just time at the shrine office to buy an o-mikuji (fortune paper) bound in a brass ring. It prognosticates in four languages – Japanese, Chinese, Korean and English – suggesting that this inner-city shrine has adapted itself urbanely to the shifting flows of international tourism.

This is what it says:-

10. Great Good Fortune: throw out old stale habits for something more suitable to the age and, like a withered tree that buds in the spring, your destiny will be blessed with good fortune like a rebirth.

Illness: you will recover
Love/marriage: you will have much happiness
The person you await: he will come
Lawsuits: you will win
Lost item: you will find it
Buying & selling: do at the same time
Building/moving: after due consideration
Travel: favorable
Money: matters improve
Examinations: you will succeed

Now it’s time to head for the Japanese Alpine Club in Ichigaya for the evening appointment. It’s only when I’m standing on the station platform, with the yellow Chuo Line trains hammering through every few seconds, that I realise how peaceful it had been in that pine grove, atop the miniature volcano. Isn’t that one reason why we go and climb mountains?

2 November: Travel: favorable, the fortune paper is as good as its word. The airline upgrades me to business class. Seat 5D is not by a window but, no matter, soon after take-off a miniature Mt Fuji, complete with a fresh new snowcap, floats briefly in the centre of an opposite porthole, blue with distance, mystic, ineffable. And this time, it’s the real thing.

Conic impressions (4)

1 November: I’m staying at a hotel near Minami-Senju, which seems to bother the old friend I dined with yesterday. “Isn’t it a tough area?” he asks. Now, wait a moment – I mean, how many other rail stations in Tokyo have a bronze statue of Matsuo Bashō in front of them? For this is where the all-terrain haiku poet started on his Narrow Road to the Deep North, although presumably not by taking the Jōban Rapid Line out of town.

As if to burnish the cultural credentials of my chosen location, the hotel’s concierge tells me that yet another Fujizuka is within walking distance – that of the Ono Terusaki shrine. Accordingly, I set off on foot (like Bashō himself), only southwards down the roaring skillet of Route 4, the trunk road that links central Tokyo and Nikkō. Perhaps the rush hour was the wrong time to attempt this; within minutes, my eyes are stinging from the fumes and grit.

As soon as possible, I veer off to the right, into a different world. Instead of the flyblown eateries, battered vending machines and shuttered workshops on the main drag, here are narrow streets lined with leafy trees and homely taverns.

There is even a sento or two – OK, one of them has morphed into a coin laundry, but the other is still functioning as a traditional public bathhouse, doubtless with a traditional painting of Mt Fuji across its walls.

Mt Fuji! That reminds me – we’re supposed to be questing for Fujizuka. As my mobile phone is defunct, I accost a hapless passer-by. Pointing out the way, he says he’s happy that a visitor is taking an interest in his local shrine. In this miraculously preserved fragment of Tokyo’s old “shita-machi”, people seem to be proud of their local Mt Fuji. Another leafy street, past more small shops – no chain supermarkets here - and I’m there, walking between two noble ginko trees into the sacred precincts.

Lurking in a shadowy corner is a tumbled mound of boulders – lava, I presume – held together, seemingly, by the roots of the saplings and weeds that sprout from all its nooks and crannies. For all its chthonic unkemptness, though, this Mt Fuji lacks the height and bulk of its peers at Otowa and Shinagawa.

The small scale and primitive form – more mountainside than manicured rock garden – hint that I’m looking at one of Edo’s earlier Fujizukas. A helpful signboard confirms that it was constructed in 1828. And it turns out that an earlier version dates from 1782, making it only a generation more recent than Edo’s first Fujizuka.

Adherents of the Mt Fuji faith trace their origins back to Hasegawa Kakugyō, born in 1541 and said to have died 106 years later in the same cave on Mt Fuji, the Hitoana, where he performed austerities on tiptoe for one thousand days and nights. But it was a later follower, Jikigyō Miroku (1671-1733), a successful oil merchant and proselyte, who turned the Fuji congregations or “Fuji-kō” into a mass movement.

Jikigyo Miroku
Jikigyō had a wife and three daughters. This became especially relevant to the story of Fujizuka in the sixth month of 1733, the year after the Kyōhō famine, when Jikigyō climbed Mt Fuji for the last time, with the firm intent of fasting to death – for his motives, Emily Scoble’s excellent paper on miniature Mt Fujis explains the background.

In the thirty-one days before he succumbed to hunger and cold, Jikigyō gave sermons that his acolytes noted down as holy scripture. And one of his teachings was that women ought not be thought of as “impure”, as held by mainstream religions of the time, and should hence be treated as equal members of the Fuji-kō. As women were nonetheless officially banned from climbing Mt Fuji, he suggested that a replica could be built in Edo that anybody – young or old, male or female – could climb “as long as the world exists”.

His wishes were realised by his disciple, Takada Tōshirō, a landscape gardener, who put up Edo’s first miniature Mt Fuji in 1765 . Starting a tradition of his own, he used real lava from the lower slopes of Mt Fuji for the body of his mountain and soil from the summit for the top.

Within a few years, Fujizuka started to mushroom all over Edo and even in surrounding districts, although they didn’t seem to catch on further afield. Print artists included them in their famous views of Edo. Hiroshige cleverly juxtaposed the one at Meguro with the real Mt Fuji. The air was less hazy in those days, thanks no doubt to the dearth of trucks on the roaring skillet of Route 4.

On the slopes of a six-metre-high mock-Fuji that he completed at Takadanobaba in 1779, Takada fashioned a miniature Tainai cave, a tiny shrine at the fifth station, and ten climbing “stations” along a zigzag ascent path, as did many of his imitators. Unfortunately, I can’t see if the Ono Terusaki Mt Fuji shares these features, because a sturdy metal gate stands in the way. And the gate is guarded by two stone monkeys, making reference to the tradition that Mt Fuji was thrown up in a single night during a Kōshin year. Clearly, casual climbing is discouraged: this Fujizuka will not be trivialised.

Turning towards the shrine’s buildings, I keep my camera switched off. Although it’s still early in the morning, there’s hardly a moment when somebody isn't paying their respects in front of the main sanctuary, whether an old man, or a mother with her baby in a sling, or salaryfolk on their way to work.

Prayers are said to be particularly efficacious for success in the academic and theatrical worlds. Atsumi Kiyoshi, of the “Otoko wa tsurai yo” series, got his first big break after praying at Ono Terusaki. So there’s no need here for the plaintive sign I saw yesterday below the Shinagawa Fuji: “Let’s pray at least once a month at our local shrine.”

As if materializing from thin air, a white-robed maiden has appeared in the shrine office – surely it was empty a moment ago. She finds my range instantly: probably my little round glasses have betrayed me as an aspirant meizanologist. “If you’re interested in Fujizuka, we’ve just recently published this book …” And effortlessly, as if possessed by a fox, my wallet opens and ¥1,800 passes over the wooden counter.

Flipping through the first pages of my purchase, I see at once that this is an insider job. “The O-Fuji-san of Great Edo” (a rough translation of the Japanese title) is published by a committee of the Tokyo Association of Shinto Shrines that researches the Mt Fuji faith. Right at the start, they've included a fold-out page with a lengthy genealogy of all the divinities involved. This seems to have been downloaded directly from the Kojiki.

Map of Fujizuka in Tokyo (detail)
From the O-Edo no o-Fuji-san guidebook
What gets my full attention is the sketch map printed across pages 18 and 19. It shows no fewer than 70 Fuji mounds in greater Tokyo – the westernmost is out beyond Hachioji. Then, after some hints on how visitors should comport themselves, the book launches into a shrine-by-shrine guide to the city’s Fujizuka (curiously, I can’t find the Otowa Fuji that I climbed yesterday, perhaps because it resides within a temple’s grounds).

Mountain-opening festival at Ono Terusaki shrine
Photo from the O-Edo no o-Fuji-san guidebook

After reading a few entries, I get the point. The Fuji mounds belong to shrines, and the shrines serve the local community. That’s especially true of the Ono Terusaki shrine: if you want to climb its miniature Mt Fuji, you have to wait until the official yama-biraki “mountain-opening” ceremony on 30 June and 1 July each year and join in the festival. Then anybody can climb the mountain, says the guidebook, “from tiny tots to old folks”.

Oddly enough, Jikigyō Miroku doesn't get much of a write-up in the book's introduction (he was said to have been a difficult character), yet here the authors seem to echo his very words...

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Conic impressions (3)

31 October: there’s still two hours of daylight, and I remember once seeing a Fuji-like mound from the train to Haneda airport. So I head to Shinagawa and ask at the Keikyū line wicket gate. The clerk’s head bobs inside his office to consult a colleague and then bobs out again. All I have to do, he says, is to take the slow train as far as Shin-Bamba, the “new horse place”.

That sounds just right – traditionally, a bamba was where you dismounted from your steed and proceeded on foot into the sacred precincts of a shrine. I dismount from the slow train at the wrong end of the platform and proceed on foot a little further than necessary. But the shrine is hard to miss: it is fronted by a torii with dragons writhing up its supporting columns.

The torii’s rococo style hints at the shrine’s history – founded in 1187, but rebuilt much more recently, mostly in postwar concrete. The Fuji-zuka can’t be missed either, looming over the busy street almost menacingly. It too is rather new. Started one year after the Meiji Restoration, it was completed in 1872, as one of the city’s very last Fujizuka. Then, exactly half a century later, it had to be bodily moved to make way for the new Keihin road, whose four lanes roar underneath it rather as the Tōmei expressway rumbles past the foot of the real Mt Fuji.

To climb the Shinagawa Fuji, you hang a left half-way up the steps to the main shrine. Immediately, you find yourself out on a slope of lava boulders, already high above the street. As on the Otowa Fuji, stone pillars mark each of the mountain’s ten “stations”.

Near the eighth station, a prominent rock recalls the lava buttress under which the Fuji-kō's martyr, Jikigyō Miroku, fasted to death in 1733. (The authorities of the Fuji Sengen Shrine wouldn't let him fast on the summit, lest his death there ritually pollute it.) If you go to the real mountain, you'll find his memorial on the Yoshida Route:

Memorial to Jikigyo Miroku on the real Mt Fuji
Photo by courtesy of 360navi.com: http://www.360navi.com/15yamanasi/01fuji/09ymt08/
Closer to the summit is a miniature shrine:

If there’s a Tainai cave too, I must have overlooked it. Indeed, this Mt Fuji is so high and steep that you need to watch your footing carefully.

At the summit, a family is looking at the view. Our collective gaze sweeps out over the station, eastwards across the mangrove swamps of Odaiba. Before the buildings intervened, I’m sure you could have seen as far as Chiba across the bay.

Then I discover that the Shinagawa Fuji has a trick that the real mountain can’t emulate – that is, instead of having to descend the way you came, you just step down a few feet into the pine grove of the main shrine, elevated as it is high above the street on a natural bluff. Quite unlike the interminable and knee-punishing screes of the Subashiri Route.

When the train pulls out of Shin-Bamba station, the evening sky backlights Shinagawa’s Fuji as a clot of anarchic shadows set amidst the regular crenellations of the city skyline, mountain wildness against civic order. The contrast is arresting, yet nobody gives the scene a second glance.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Conic impressions (2)

31 October: inspiration strikes as I drag my suitcase along the gritty streets of Minami-Senju. Mt Fuji! There’s no time to climb the real thing, of course (and my RailPass expires in a matter of hours) but miniature Mt Fujis are dotted all around the city of Tokyo, I’ve read – surely, there’ll be one or two within reach. A quick scan of the hotel’s internet reveals two “Fuji mounds” close to the Yamanote Line.

An hour later, I’m walking past two large buses and then up the steps to Gokokuji, near Mejiro. The sign on the gate promisingly announces the temple as a “Dai-Honzan” – a great main mountain – alluding no doubt to its allegiance to the Shingon Sect, founded on Mt Kōya by Monk Kūkai. The main building houses a famous Kannon, allegedly brought all the way from India, and today also two busloads of schoolchildren, who are listening to a priest in purple robes.

Back-tracking to the temple’s gateway, I find I sign inviting me to "go up" the Otowa Fuji. No second bidding is needed. A flagstoned path leads past a flower-bed and over a stone bridge across a dry watercourse.

A few steps up the slope is a stone stele announcing the first station – I’m impressed: not only the mountain, but every detail of an actual ascent has been miniaturized.

A little further on is a small cave, which might correspond to the actual Hitoana cave on Mt Fuji, where Kakugyō, the founder of the Fuji-kō sect, meditated on tiptoe for a thousand days and nights.

Or perhaps it represents the Tainai, another cave on Mt Fuji, said to assure safe childbirth. As the climb steepens, a small shrine comes into view on the skyline, as might happen on the real mountain. A "great rock" guards the summit approach, mimicking a prominent buttress on the real mountain.

The summit view downwards is convincingly steep. Lumps of lava-like rock may have come from the real mountain. In days gone by, plants as well as rocks were brought from the real Mt Fuji to build these miniature ones.

Down at the base, a toddler is starting her first ascent, step by painstaking step, belayed by her mother's hand. I nod to them as I go by. You never know, we might be witnessing the start of a distinguished alpinistic career.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Conic impressions (1)

31 October: a Kagayaki whisks me from Hokuriku back to Tokyo. This super-express does indeed move like a flash. Although I’m on the look-out for famous mountains, the volcanic tump of Asama is sliding away astern by the time I’ve managed to lift my camera.

The photographic results are, as you’d expect, nugatory. Fukada Kyūya, the Hyakumeizan author had more leisure to appreciate the scenery when he travelled this same route during the 1920s:-

Before there was a Hokuriku express on the Jōetsu line, I used to take the Shinetsu line on the way to Tōkyō from my home town. If I boarded the train in the evening, I would see the first glimmerings of dawn near Karuizawa. Floating in the steel-grey sky would be a stocky, round-headed mountain. That was Asama. After the long night’s journey, this eminence would welcome me back to the realm of nature. And this was the moment that most reassured me that, now at last, we were closing on the Kantō plain. 

While I was studying at Tokyo, I must have passed by Asama a score of times in the university vacation. There it would be, with its huge mass, its unique shape, its scoured flanks, smoke wisping unfailingly from its summit cone. From the train’s windows, I would look up at the mountain, close, high, vast, ineffable. No other mountain is like it.

Probably I’m not the first to reflect that living life faster does not necessarily enrich it. To be fair to this high-speed Kagayaki, though, it does win me thirty-six hours in Tokyo before my flight back to Europe. Time for one lunch and two suppers with old friends. But how to spend the intervening hours in a meizanologically productive way? That is the question …

Monday, December 4, 2017

In search of Taichō (5)

30 October: not sure who suggests it first – they say married couples think alike – but Plan B springs to mind at once. As the Sensei has business in Katsuyama, somewhere up in the innermost recesses of Fukui Prefecture, she’ll drop me off at nearby Heisenji, the temple built on the very spot where Taichō started his ascent of Hakusan.

Clouds smudge the nearby hilltops as we reach the carpark. When I open the van’s door, the Sensei hands me a bear-bell. “You’ll need this,” she says. I raise an eyebrow, but accept it anyway. One should always show respect for the heavies with fur overcoats. And, of course, for the Sensei’s judgment

Bear attacks don’t seem to concern the shrine authorities. Instead, the signboard by the entrance says (loosely translated) that complaints have been received about ill-informed guides disturbing the peace with their erroneous opinions. So visitors are advised to tour the precincts with local volunteer guides who know their stuff. With this admonition in mind – and keeping the bear-bell muffled – I start off up a long flight of roughly hewn stone steps.

Passing under a torii, I spot a sign pointing away from the main path. It shows the way to a pool ringed by tall trees. This is a solemn place, especially in the gloom of a grey autumn afternoon. Another signboard confirms that this is where the Hakusan deity appeared to Taichō in 716, the year before he made his Hakusan ascent, promising she would reveal her true shape on the summit.

The following summer, Taichō at last reached the long-sought mountaintop, only to be confronted by a nine-headed dragon coiling upwards from the crater lake that still mirrors the sky near Hakusan’s summit shrine. Unabashed, the monk commanded the apparition to show its true shape, whereupon it shimmered into a vision of the Eleven-Headed Kannon. Taichō and his companions forthwith prostrated themselves in front of the goddess, understandably weeping tears of gratitude.

Leaving the pool, I wander uphill, across mossy slopes and through a grove of lofty red pines. Higher up, these give way to a tangled forest, sunk in gloom under the louring clouds. A warning sign fastened to a tree has me reach for the Sensei’s bear-bell. As you know, a chime in time saves nine.

A far pavilion, on the forest’s edge, marks the start of the path to Hakusan. Generations of pilgrims certainly came this way. But did Taichō? These days, first ascents need to be authenticated with a verifiable summit photo. That’s a bit much to ask from an eighth-century monk, but even the most ardent Taichō fan must ask how far the facts corroborate his Hakusan feat.

Some elements of the legend are compelling. Especially persuasive is the way in which a sightline extended from Ochi-san, Taichō’s first mountain, though Heisenji, leads logically over a series of ridges to Hakusan’s summit. Indeed, you can still follow that path today, although some stretches are said to be sketchy.

No less sketchy, alas, is any independent evidence for the ascent. We do know, on the evidence of a scroll preserved by the Imperial Household Agency, that a monk called Taichō was copying sutras around the second year of Tempyō (730). Yet it’s hard to credit, though some have done so, that this lowland scribe is the same monk who climbed Hakusan.

On the other hand, it is probable that Hakusan really was climbed at an early date. A chronicle compiled around the turn of the tenth century, the Nihon Sandai Jitsuroku, says that a monk named Sōei ascended Hakusan in the year 884, accompanied by two magical crows who lit the way for him through the night.

Could it be meaningful that Sōei belonged to the Tendai sect? For, in 1084, the monks of Heisenji decided to throw in their lot with the Enryakuji on Mt Hiei, the sect’s head temple, switching their allegiance from another Tendai institution, the Onjōji. That seems to have been a shrewd move. Thereafter, in the words of the English-language brochure helpfully handed to me at the visitor pavilion, “the amount of donations increased, allowing for the temple to increase its sphere of influence. Heisenji is considered to be the place of origin for the Hakusan faith, and as a result, became extremely prosperous.”

It was during this heyday that the Taichō legend became widely known. The Tendai connection may also have influenced the characters that spell the monk’s name. He shares the character for the “chō” (澄) in his name with Saichō, the Tendai sect’s founder. As for the “tai” (泰), this character corresponds with the second one in the name of Monk Nittai, who is said to have climbed Hakusan in the Tengi era (1053-58).

Rain is starting to spit, hinting that this pavilion is far enough for today. Also - let's admit it - bear-bell or no, I’d prefer to avoid a rencontre with any fur-coated heavies who might be lurking in the underbrush. Nearby stands a monument to that mirror of medieval chivalry, Kusunoki Masashige, but I suspect that investigating it might lead to complications in this post. Oddly enough, the monument gets no mention in the shrine's brochure. Anyway, it's time to start back.

On the way down is the site of recent excavations on the grove’s southern flank. These have uncovered a well-made cobbled road running straight down the hill, past a series of terraces that could have accommodated a large village. And they substantiate what Heisenji’s brochure is telling me: “At its peak, Heisenji was home to 48 shrines, 6,000 temple quarters, 8,000 warrior monks, and approximately 90,000 koku of rice.”

For a time, the warrior monks carried all before them. When another temple of the Hakusan faith got into a tax dispute with the governor of Kaga – this was in 1176 – the armed bands of all the Hakusan temples rose “as one mountain” and chased the erring governor back to Kyoto, bearing the Hakusan deity along in a palanquin on their shoulders.

Nitta Yoshisada in action, print by Tsuchiya Koitsu (1870-1949)

Probably their greatest feat of arms - it is celebrated in the Taiheiki, a martial epic - was to face down Nitta Yoshisada when he besieged their fortress at Fujishima in 1338. This victory led to the disintegration of Yoshisada's army, his self-decapitation and, ultimately, to the forwarding of his head to Kyoto in "a vermilion-lacquered Chinese box". Yoshisada was, of course, the most distinguished lieutenant of Kusunoki Masashige, the very same warrior whose memorial I'd just inspected further up the hill. The legacy of the Kemmu Restoration is complex, one has to conclude.

It was in Japan’s Warring Country period (1467–1603) that Heisenji’s luck turned. In 1574, religious fanatics razed all its buildings to the ground. Eventually, the temple was rebuilt, but never on anything like the previous scale. In a final indignity, Heisenji had to give up all its Buddhist images during the Meiji government’s campaign to disentwine the country’s two main religions. For this reason, it is now officially the Heisenji Hakusan Shrine.

For a paltry 50 yen, visitors can inspect a garden that purports to be the oldest in Hokuriku – it was laid out around 1530 by a regional official of the Muromachi shogunate. I deposit my coin in a box at the gate, as nobody is on hand to accept it, and step into a verdant space. Here the moss has taken over, flowing over stones and paths, and filling any pond or pool that may once have been there. It is a place for thinking green thoughts in a green shade.

The thought which occurs to me there is that we're skating round the question. In the past week or so, we’ve visited the hilltop where Taichō first practised his austerities, set eyes on one of the few original scrolls that tell his story, and ogled the treasures of the imperial court that promoted him to “kashō”. We've even inspected a ritual staff of the kind that monks like him took into the hills. And now I stand in the grounds of a temple, or a shrine, supposedly founded in 717, in the very year of his ascent of Hakusan. The question can no longer be avoided.

So did Taichō really exist?

Ideally, you’d want to put that question to somebody who knows about Taichō – for example, somebody like Hiraizumi Takafusa, Heisenji’s head priest, who also happens to be a grandson of Dr Hiraizumi Kiyoshi, the Tokyo University professor who published the Taichō-kashō-denki back in 1953. (Incidentally, back in the early 1930s, Professor Hiraizumi used to visit Prince Chichibu, the Imperial family's most alpinistic member, and deliver a lecture on "Japanese Political History" every Wednesday evening. It's a small world when it comes to mountains....)

Fortunately, I don’t have to knock on Hiraizumi-sensei’s door right now, as the officials of Echizen-chō have already interviewed him for their brochure commemorating Taichō’s 1,300th anniversary. This is how he replied:

Of course Taichō existed but, as he was a personage of the Nara period, it’s very difficult to establish the facts, and we need to do more research. Our thinking about him has been based mainly on the Taichō-kashō-denki, which was set down about two centuries after his death, and it’s a mixture of gemstones and dross, with some puzzling passages. For that reason, many researchers have been sceptical about its contents. But recently, among the scriptures collected at the Kanazawa Bunko, a text was discovered that was read at the inauguration ceremony of Heisenji, and which has, all of a sudden, started to reveal how things were in the late Heian period. Although this is still about 400 years after Taichō’s death, it says that Taichō lived below the approach to the present temple, in Kitadani. In the absence of other surviving traditions, details like this from the document are exceptionally valuable. So we’re getting ever closer to the firm conclusion that he really existed.

Abruptly, the peace of Heisenji is shattered. Up the stone steps from the lower world are advancing three groups of pensioners, each with a well-informed volunteer guide addressing them through a loud-hailer. Yet their timing is providential. When I move aside to let the last platoon through, I overhear their guide pointing out Taichō’s tomb or memorial.

The simple stone stele would be easy to miss, so unassumingly does it stand in its little enclosure aside from the temple’s approach. In front, the ground is still drifted deep in pine-needles blown down by the typhoon. Stepping up to pay my respects, I suspect this is about as close as I’m going to get to the Hakusan pioneer, at least on this trip.


Echizen-chō Kankō Renmei, Taichō Daishi: Echizen ni umareta, Echizen ni ikita, brochure celebrating the 1,300th anniversary of Taichō’s ascent of Hakusan.

Higashiyotsuyanagi Fumiaki, Taichō to Hakusan kaizan denshō, in Hakusan Heisenji: yomigaeru shūkyō-toshi – Katsuyama-shi

Samuel C Morse, The Buddhist Transformation of Japan in the Ninth Century: The Case of Eleven-Headed Kannon, in Heian Japan, Centers and Peripheries, edited by M Adolphson, E Kamens and S Matsumoto

Mimi Hall Yiengproksawan, Hakusan at Hiraizumi: Notes on a Sacred Geopolitics in the Eastern Provinces

Paul Varley, Warriors of Japan, as portrayed in the war tales, University of Hawaii Press.

John S Brownleee, Japanese historians and the national myths, 1600-1945, The Age of the Gods and Emperor Jinmu, UBC Press/University of Tokyo Press.

Fukada Kyūya, the Hakusan chapter in Nihon Hyakumeizan translated as One Hundred Mountains of Japan.