Saigyo-an located in Yoshinoyama, Yoshino-cho, Nara Pref. is a hermitage, where Saigyo supposedly spent three years. Saigyo (1118-1190) was a great poet in the Heian period and wrote poems for “Shin-Kokin-shu” and “Sanka-shu.” The wooden statue of Saigyo is placed inside the hut. Cherishing the memory of Saigyo, Matsuo Basho visited the hut and composed a poem in 1684. Two stone monuments respectively inscribed with a poem by Saigyo and Basho stand in front of this serene hermitage. Surrounded with cherry blossoms in spring and autumnal foliage in fall, the hermitage will impress you with the wabi-sabi aesthetic and inspire your poetic mind.
A clear water called “Koke-Shimizu” springs out in the vicinity. It is counted as one of 31 Fine Water in Yamato.
Saigyo was a famous Japanese poet of the late Heian period (794-1192). Born to a military family in 1118, he started his careear as an Imperial Guard to retired Emperor Toba at the age of 18. He was a handsome young man, who was both a good warrior and a good scholar. He came to be known in the political circles of the time, but for some unknown reasons, he quit worldly life to become a monk at the age of 23. Later he took the pen name “Saigyo” meaning Western Journey.
He did not belong to any sect of Buddhism and stayed in a hermitage in a deep mountain to seek for enlightment through writing waka poems. Being attracted by the beauty of nature, he made his temporary hermitage in the suberbs of Kyoto and Nara including Mt. Ogurayama in Saga, Mt. Kuramayama, a holy mountain of Yoshino and Mt. Koya, the sanctuary of the Shingon Buddhism. He also made a number of trips to visit temples and shrines in Shikoku and Ise.
94 poems of Saigyo’s work are collected in “the Shin Kokinshu.” His other important collections of poems are “Sankashu (Mountain Home Collection),” “Sanka Shinchu Shu,” and “Kikigakishu.” He died at Hirokawa Temple in Kawachi province (present-day Kanan-cho in Osaka Prefecture) in 1190.
The grave of Fujiwara no Sanekata Ason is in Medeshima-Shiote, Natori, Miyagi Prefecture. Fujiwara no Sanekata is known as a young Heian period nobleman who was good-looking and gracious. Also, he is known as the model of the character Hikari Genji in the classic 'The Tale of Genji'. Moreover, he is counted among the Thirty-six Poet Immortals.
In 955, he was banished for striking a rival poet, Fujiwara no Yukinari, on the head in front of the emperor. He received a royal command to travel to see the old ruins in several areas. In 998, he is said to have fallen from his horse and died.
Later, the poet Matsuo Basho visited this site and sang a song here. Nearby is a monument commemorating Basho's visit. The small grave of Fujiwara no Sanekata stands alone within the tranquil forest.
The Jo masks are Old Man masks, which express the features of very old men, and there are many different types of such masks. The Mai-jo type, which includes Ishio-jo, Mai-jo and Shiwa-jo, is used for Jo-no-mai dances. The Ko-jo type, which includes Koushi-jo and Akobu-jo, is used when a god takes on the form of an old man. And the Morohige-jo type (the type with implanted mustache and beard), which includes Asakura-jo, Sanko-jo and Warai-jo, is used when a dead man takes on the form of an old man.
The Ishio-jo mask was named after the creator of this mask, Ishiobei Masatomo. Different from other jo masks, the Ishio-jo mask has deep-set eye holes with downcast eyes, which creates an imposing countenance. It has the done-up implanted hair, the implanted beard and drawn mustache. Totally, this mask has a highly stylized expression and even gives a nihilistic impression compared with the gentle Mai-jo mask. The Ishio-jo mask is used for an old man or the spirit of a plant or tree that performs an elegant, stately dance in such plays as “Yugyo Yanagi” and “Saigyo Zakura.”
The Seirei Waterfall with a height of 50 m is located in Otaki, Kamikawa-mura, Yoshino-gun, Nara Pref. The waterfall flows down the Otonashi River, which spring out of Aonegamine Peak rising 858 m above sea level, runs into the Yoshino River and then into the Kinogawa River, and finally empties into the Kii Channel. Legend has it that when Emperor Yuryaku (A.D. 418-479) enjoyed hunting in this mountain, a large horsefly came flying and bit him on the elbow. At this moment, however, a dragonfly appeared from nowhere and killed the horsefly, which the emperor greatly applauded and named the place “Akitsuno (the field of dragonflies).” As a rainbow is always over the waterfall due to the sun shining onto splashes of water, the area around the waterfall is also called “Nijikko (the rainbow light).” Being referred to in Manyoshu (Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves), the Seirei Waterfall is a scenic beauty with a long history.
Hirokawa Temple belongs to the Shingon Daigo school of Buddhism, and is located in Minami Kawauchi-gun in Osaka. The hill on which it is built is called Mt Ryuuchi.
Hirokawa Temple is a supplication temple for the Tenmu, Saga and Gotoba emperors. Ennogyoja established it in 666. Gyogi trained as a priest here in 737 and Kukai inherited the temple and reformed it in 812. In 1463, it burned down, but Jiun reformed it in 1732 and added the Saigyo building. The shape it has today is unchanged since then.
Hirokawa Temple is famous as a place where Saigyo stayed and established a hermitage. Within the temple precinct is a memorial museum to Saigyo and Jiun. The temple also features the Nishi Kodo building and is popular for cherry-blossom viewing in spring when over 1500 flowers bloom. Furthermore, one of the cherry trees is 300 years old.
The renowned Isame spring wells out at Kamo Temple in Samegai, Maibara, in Shiga Prefecture.
The spring is mentioned in the 'Kojiki' (Japan’s oldest extant chronicle) and the 'Nihon-shoki' (second-oldest book about the ancient history of Japan). It is said to be the holy water that washed away and cleansed the poison which had induced fever in Yamato-Takeru-no-mikoto (famous for slaying a violent deity at Mt Ibuki on his way back from the East). Legend has it that, in gratitude, Yamato-Takeru named the spring Isame-no-Shimizu.
The source of the spring is on Mt Ryozen and it is said that, as the water wells out and passes through the mountain rock and soil, the flavor as well as the mineral content of the water change.
Isame spring wells out from under a stone wall in the precinct of Kamo Temple to feed into a river which flows along the old 'nakasando' (road through the central mountains). The spring water of Isame, along with the nearby waters of the Saigyosui and the Jyuosui, has become an essential and indispensable source of water for the people of Samegai and can also be said to be 'oasis' water that relieves the tiredness and tension of travelers to this resort.
The famous spring water of Isame has been praised through the ages for its healing and soothing properties since time immemorial.