-5.Cultural and historical legacies
(1) Stone Lanterns in Sakitama Shrine
Sakitama Shrine is an old shrine that dates back to the Heian Era. A reference to this shrine is found in an old document from the era. In the precinct, there are a pair of stone lanterns which were erected in 1697 by a donation of local people. On each of the lanterns, a poem from Manyoshu tanka anthology, which was edited in the 8th century, is inscribed in an old-style hiragana. Tanka, or waka, is a popular form of Japanese short poem like haiku, and it consists of 31 syllables in the form of 5, 7, 5, 7, 7 syllables. We can find few of these Manyoshu lanterns as old as these in Japan. The poems go as following.
On the right-hand-side lantern: 埼玉の小埼の沼に鴨ぞ翼きる おのが尾に雫り置ける霜を払うとにあらし Early in the morning, the surface of Kosakinuma swamp is covered with white frost all over. A goose flaps its wings as if to shake off the frost that had accumulated on its tail.
On the left-hand-side lantern: 埼玉の津に居る船のかぜをいたみ 綱は絶ゆとも 言うな絶えねそ A boat is sitting at a port in Sakitama. Even if its mooring rope breaks from strong winds, may the line of letters from my loved one not be cut off.
(2) Manyo Stone Monument at Kosaki-numa
On the shore of Osaki-numa, which is depicted in a poem in Manyoshu, there is a stone monument with poems inscribed on it. This monument has the same two poems that are found on the lanterns at Sakitama Shrine. It was built by an Oshi Castle lord Abe Masachika, who loved Manyoshu and wanted to pay tribute to it.
(3) Manyo Stone Monument in Hachiman-yama Park
At the entrance of Hachiman-yama Park, there is a stone monument on which two tanka poems from Manyoshu are inscribed. One was written by a man who had to leave his family for years and go to a western region of Japan as a soldier to protect his country from the Mongolian invasion. Such soldiers are referred to as “sakimori”. The other was by his wife. Before he leaves his house, they exchanged farewell poems like following.
the husbandふじわらべのともまろ：足柄のみ坂に立して 袖ふらば いはなる妹は さやに見もかも I wonder if my you(=his wife) can clearly see me from our house if I wave my sleeves at the top of Ashigara mountain path on my way to Kyushu.
the wifeもののべのとじめ： 色深く背なが衣は 染めましを み坂たばらば まさやかに見せ I should have dyed your clothes more brightly so that I would be able to see you on the mountain path.
(4) Ishida-zutsumi: Ishida Mitsunari’s embankment
Ishida-zutsumi is a remaining part of the embankments which were built in 1590, when a warrior Ishida Mitsunari attacked Oshi Castle with his flooding strategy. The construction of the 14 kilometer-long embankments was said to have been completed in quite a short time by connecting the naturally elevated areas around the castle using the mud of some ancient burial mounds nearby. However, this operation did not work out because the embankments often broke in some places, and Oshi Castle survived. Some scenes are depicted in the movie “Nobo no Shiro”.
(5) Places Related to Tayama Katai
・Stone Monument in Suijo-koen Park
Tayama Katai is a famous writer who wrote a novel “Inaka Kyoshi”, “a rural teacher”, which takes place around Kumagaya, Gyoda and Hanyu area. This novel depicts the life of a young teacher named Hayashi Seizo. You can find a stone monument which commemorates this novel in Suijo-koen Park.
Eel Restaurant Maruoka
In the novel Inaka Kyoshi, Seizo commutes to his middle school in Kumagaya on foot. On a hot summer day, he takes a rest at a tea house on his way, and he is impressed by the delicious melon he ate there and remembers it later. The tea house is now a restaurant named Maruoka, which specializes in eel dishes.
・ Mihoko’s parents’ house The heroine of the novel is Mihoko, whose parents’ house is described as following. “The house was facing a broad field beyond a wide country road, and it had an old black gate.” He modeled this house after a real house in Gyoda. It was a house of a scholar of Chinese classics who moved here from Kuwana in today’s Mie prefecture in 1823.
(6) Matsuo Basho’s Stone Monument in Takahashi Residence
On this monument a haiku poem by Matsuo Basho is inscribed: 名月の花かと見えて綿ばたけ. Under a bright moon, I thought I found flowers blooming, but it was just a cotton field. This monument was erected in 1876, therefore we can assume that there used to be many cotton fields around here and supported the tabi industry of Gyoda.
(7) A Haiku-engraved stone lantern in Osawa Kyuemon’s residence
The Osawa family used to deal in indigo-dyed cotton cloth and was the richest wholesale merchant in the Oshi-han(a feudal domain). In the garden of the residence is a stone lantern which consists of two columns. On each column, a haiku poem composed by Matsuo Basho, a prominent poet in the Edo era, is engraved. The lantern was designed by Sakai Hoitsu, who was also a famous poet and painter. He was a friend of an ancestor of the Osawa family.
The longer column of the lantern has a hole in the shape of the sun near the top, and the haiku is engraved in Hoitsu’s calligraphy. It means “I’m greeting the new year now, and I remember my trip to the Sarashina region, during which I visited in Ubasute some terraced rice paddies filled with water. As I walked around at night, I saw a beautiful moon reflected on each paddy. Now those paddies should be reflecting the new year’s sun. I wish I could see it.”
The shorter one has a hole in the shape of a crescent moon, and the poem on it means “It has stopped raining and the clouds are running fast in the wind. On the twigs of trees, dewdrops are reflecting the beautiful moon light.” Unfortunately, the residence is not opened to the public today to enjoy these beautiful poems. It is believed that the house and the thick-plaster storehouse were built toward the end of the Edo era. These two buildings helped prevent flames from spreading during the great fire in 1846. It is now the oldest existing tabi warehouse in Gyoda.