Thursday, January 04, 2007

Basho in Yamagata

Basho's pilgrimage through Yamagata took him to the three mountains of the Dewa Sanzan range:Yuudono, Gassan, and Haguro. Haguro, whose name means "Black Feather", is famed for its avenue of lofty cryptomerias. Most, at 300 hundred years of age, have only just reached maturity, at least so think their 500- year-old elders, of whom a number line the shrine's approach. But the great-granddaddy of them all, a mighty Methuselah just into his second millennium, deigns not to acknowledge these mere saplings. For has he not been declared a National Treasure, by order of the very Emperor himself? Mention of these has not exhausted Haguro of its store of treasures and oddities. The shrine atop Haguro is approached along an avenue of Japanese cedars, which form a kind of barrel vault overhead. The path itself is paved, from base to summit, with low, shallow steps of stone. Just where they were quarried, or how transported to their present location, is a mystery, to me at least, but that it was a massive undertaking there can be no doubt, for there are 2446 of them, all told!

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