Oku Station 30 - Gassan


- Oku no Hosomichi - 奥の細道 - おくのほそ道
The Narrow Road to the Deep North -

. Oku no Hosomichi - 奥の細道 - Introduction .


- - - Station 30 - Gassan and Yudonosan 月山 湯殿 - - -

I climbed Mount Gassan on the eighth. I tied around my neck a sacred rope made of white paper and covered my head with a hood made of bleached cotton, and set off with my guide on a long march of eight miles to the top of the mountain. I walked through mists and clouds, breathing the thin air of high altitudes and stepping on slippery ice and snow, till at last through a gateway of clouds, as it seemed, to the very paths of the sun and moon, I reached the summit, completely out of breath and nearly frozen to death. Presently the sun went down and the moon rose glistening in the sky. I spread some leaves on the ground and went to sleep, resting my head on pliant bamboo branches. When, on the following morning, the sun rose again and dispersed the clouds, I went down towards Mount Yudono.

As I was still descending, I saw an old smithy built right on a trickling stream. According to my guide, this was where Gassan, a local swordsmith, used to make his swords, tempering them in the crystal-clear water of the stream. He made his swords with such skill and devotion that they became famous throughout the world. He must have chosen this particular spot for his smithy probably because he knew of a certain mysterious power latent in the water, just as indeed a similar power is known to have existed in the water of Ryosen Spring in China. Nor is the story of Kansho and Bakuya out of place here,* for it also teaches us that no matter where your interest lies, you will not be able to accomplish anything unless you bring your deepest devotion to it.

As I sat reflecting thus upon a rock, I saw in front of me a cherry tree hardly three feet tall just beginning to blossom - far behind the season of course, but victorious against the heavy weight of snow which it had resisted for more than half a year. I immediatley thought of the famous Chinese poem about 'the plum tree fragrant in the blazing heat of summer' and of an equally pathetic poem by the priest Gyoson, and felt even more attached to the cherry tree in front of me. I saw many other things of interest in this mountain, the details of which, however, I refrain from betraying in accordance with the rules I must obey as a pilgrim. When I returned to my lodging, my host, Egaku, asked me to put down in verse some impressions of my pilgrimage to the three mountains, so I wrote as follows on the narrow strips of writing paper he had given me.

How cool it is,
A pale crescent shining
Above the dark hollow
Of Mount Haguro.

How many columns of clouds
Had risen and crumbled, I wonder
Before the silent moon rose
Over Mount Gassan.

Forbidden to betray
The holy secrets of Mount Yudono,
I drenched my sleeves
In a flood of reticent tears.

Tears rushed to my eyes
As I stepped knowingly
Upon the coins of the sacred road
Of Mount Yudono.
-- Written by Sora

Tr. by Nobuyuki Yuasa
source : terebess.hu/english

八日、月山にのぼる。木綿しめ身に引かけ、宝冠に頭を包、強力と云ものに 道ひかれて、雲霧山気の中に氷雪を踏てのぼる事八里、更に日月行道の雲関に入かとあやしまれ、息絶身こゞえて頂上にいたれば、日没て月顕る。笹を鋪篠を枕として、臥て明るを待。日出て雲消れば湯殿に下る。

谷の傍に 鍛治小屋と云有。此国の 鍛治、霊水を撰て爰に潔斉して劔を打、終月山と銘を切て世に賞せらる。彼龍泉に剣を淬とかや。干将莫耶のむかしをしたふ。道に堪能の執あさからぬ事しられたり。岩に腰かけてしばしやすらふほど、三尺ばかりなる桜のつぼみ半ばひらけるあり。ふり積雪の下に埋て、春を忘れぬ遅ざくらの花の心わりなし。炎天の梅花爰にかほるがごとし。行尊僧正の哥の哀も爰に思ひ出て、猶まさりて覚ゆ。惣而此山中の微細、行者の法式として他言する事を禁ず。仍て筆をとゞめて記さず。坊に帰れば、阿闍利の需に依て、三山順礼の句〃短冊に書。


湯殿山銭ふむ道の泪かな 曾良 Sora


kumo no mine / ikutsu kuzurete / tsuki no yama


katararenu Yudono ni nurasu tamoto kana

- - - - - Peipei Qiu wrote:

Unable to speak
of Yudono’s wonders, my sleeves
are drenched with tears.

(this poem) has not received as much critical attention. This might have to do with the lack of depiction of scenic beauty in the third verse. Traditionally, in Japanese literary travel journals a poet offers a poem to praise the famous scenic site, making allusions or references to the classical poems composed at the same place. Bashô seems to have felt it necessary to make an excuse for his not devoting a verse to the famous scenery.
He writes:
“it was forbidden by the rules for mountain pilgrims to reveal what one saw on Mount Yudono, so I put my brush aside.”
source : Basho-and-the-Dao- Peipei-Qiu


entrance to the Yudono complex

katararenu Yudono ni nurasu tamoto kana

I cannot speak of
Yudono, but see how wet
My sleeve is with tears.

Tr. Donald Keene

no speaking
in the place of Yudono-den
I wet my cuff

Tr. Etsuko Yanagibori

. WKD : Basho at Mount Gassan .

. Gabi Greve - photo album from Haguro / Yudono .

. WKD : the ascetics of the Yudono mounts .


. Oku no Hosomichi - 奥の細道 - Introduction .

. Rokujurigoe Kaido 六十里越街道 Rokujurigoe Highway Pilgrim Road .