Keiji Minato writes…
I wrote the article below before the big disaster hit the northern part of Japan. I guess you might find it strange to read about something very small with a tremendous incident on the background, but I will post it anyway. It must be very important for us to calm ourselves before rushing toward unnecessary actions.
As you know from travel guidebooks, Kyoto City has many beautiful rock gardens or dry landscape gardens (枯山水; kare-sansui). It is said that they show you the essence of Zen Buddhism in the abstract form with rocks, white stones or sand, and sometimes some green. Visiting one of them you always find a brochure that explains the meaning of the garden, or someone, probably a tour guide or taxi driver, will be giving tourists a variety of interpretations.
Where is the most famous of the rock gardens in Kyoto? Probably, you know the answer: In Ryoanji Temple (龍安寺), which attracts a lot of visitors, both domestic and from overseas. Well then, guess which temple has the smallest kare-sansui? The answer is Daitokuji Temple (大徳寺), not far from Ryoanji Temple. The garden, called Tôtekiko (東滴壺), is in a narrow space between two buildings, and its size is just about 7 square meters!
This rectangular garden has five rocks. Three of them (one flat and two rather high) form a group on the southernmost side, and the other two (not so high) are put together on the other side. The composition represents the instant a drop of water hits the ground and widens to become one with a big ocean (which is the state of satori, the great enlightenment, in Zen Buddhism). Well, this is just one interpretation, of course, but it is certain that you feel some force circulating and magnifying while you watch the still movements of the stones and sand there.
Australian poet Javant Biarujia visited Tôtekiko in 1984 and wrote a poem with the same title. It is as enigmatic and thought-provoking as the garden itself. I wrote an unnecessary commentary on the garden above, so let me avoid interfering with the working of the poem with another:
Daitokuji is one of the biggest temples in Kyoto and has a lot of small temples (塔頭; tacchû) inside. So, don’t get lost! Tôtekiko (東滴壺) is in a tacchû named Ryôgen-in(龍源院). It is said that the garden is most beautiful around noon, with the sunlight coming in from between the walls of the buildings.
* Javant Biarujia, “Tôtekiko” in Brennan, Machael, and Peter Minter, eds. CALYX: 30 Contemporary Australian Poets. (Sydney: Paper Bark Press, 2000): p.57. (The poem first appeared in Autumn Silks (Melbourne: Nosukumo, 1988).
* Javant Biarujia is represented in The Penguin Anthology of Australian Poetry, while Pointcounterpoint: New & Selected Poems 1983 – 2008 (Salt Publishing, Cambridge UK: 2007) is his latest book.”
This text and images by Keiji Minato. Keiji writes a guest blog for Deep Kyoto once a month introducing Kyoto’s poets and poetry. You can find former articles by Keiji Minato here.
Of Related Interest:
One Hundred Poets on Mount Ogura, One Poem Each
Introducing Keiji Minato
Songs and Stories of the Kojiki retold by Yoko Danno
Japan International Poetry Society
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