Toribeno Cemetery



Daruma Pilgrims Gallery


Toribeno Cemetery

Toribeno 鳥辺野, とりべの 鳥べの
Toribeno burrial grounds

CLICK for more photos CLICK for more photos

Toribeno is an old burrial ground since the Heian period in the Higashiyama 東山 area near Mt. Amidagamine 阿弥陀峰 in Kyoto.
TORIBENO has been a word used in poetry since the "Pillow Book" of Sei Shonagon and the Tales of Genji.

The grave of emperess Fujiwara no Teishi 皇后藤原定子 is there, together with a large burial area of unknown or executed people.
In olden times, dead bodies where exposed here to the birds, but when Buddhist priest Kobo Daishi Kukai passed here in 811, he taught the local farmers to burry the deat in the ground and pray for them. He founded the temple GochiYama Nyoraiji 五智山如来寺 for this purpose.

Later Saint Honen came to this area and it came to be known as Temple Adashino Nenbutsuji 化野念仏寺. (See below.) There are more than 8000 grave stones and mounds in the area. Every year on August 23, 24 a special light service is held for the souls of the dead.

The graveyard was later relocated to Western Kyoto, near Temple Kiyomizu.
The living quarters of Issa in Gion, Kyoto where close to this location.

Japanese Reference


The present day Toribeno is an extensive graveyard near Temple Kiyomizu-dera. It has been relocated here by Taira no Kiyomori.
Nearby is the Temple Rokuhara Mitsuji 六波羅蜜寺. Rokuhara area was the headquarters of the Taira clan at the end of the Heian era.

In the Evening Faces chapter of The Tale of Genji, Koremitsu and Genji ride past Toribe Moor on their way to see the body of Yugao, who had died suddenly after being carried off by Genji.
 © www.taleofgenji.org


The Tale Of Genji
by Murasaki Shikibu

Due to changes in the palace politics, Genji abruptly decides to leave for exile to the remote coast of Suma. Before leaving he visits his deceased wife's residence, where his friend, the First Secretary's Captain lives. While there, Genji, visiting with the women who had served his wife, decides to stay the night with one of them.
At dawn, the traditional time of parting was made even sadder by knowing Genji might never return here again. When the Great Princess sent him a note saying it was a pity he could not stay to see his son, Lord Evening Mist, Genji whispered as if to himself while he wept:

moe shi keburi mo
magau ya to
ama no shio yaku
ura mi ni zo yuku

if going to
shores where fisherfolk's
salt fires burn
there is smoke rising
as from the cemetery

Poor people, usually women, living along the coast derived some income from boiling sea water down for its salt or burning gathered sea weeds for minerals contained in the ash to be used as fertilizer. Though the work was hard, wet and dirty, poets found a wealth of images in the process: dripping wet sleeves, briny tears, fires on lonely beaches, smoke like that of the crematoriums. Mount Toribe (toribeyama) was the customary place of cremation and burial for Kyoto.

More is here
Death and burial in pre-1600 Kyoto


Kyoto welcomes back the dear departed

Bon, the Buddhist Festival of the Dead, is celebrated throughout Japan, but exact dates vary from region to region. Kyoto traditionally observes Bon Aug. 7-16, and, not surprisingly, given its more than 1,200 years of history and strong Buddhist traditions, the town has some unique ways of paying tribute to the holiday.

As Bon approaches, the main guests, the o-shorai-san (Kyoto dialect for ancestral spirits) must be summoned from "the other side." In Kyoto this entails paying a visit to either Rokudo Chinkoji or Senbon Shakado, two temples traditionally assumed to be able to perform this intermediary service.

Located near the famous cemetery of Toribeno, Rokudo Chinkoji 六道珍皇寺(Rokudo-no-Tsuji, square in front of the Chinno-ji) slumbers for most of the year in relative obscurity. During the period Aug. 7-10, however, the temple precincts witness a steady stream of people arriving between 6 a.m. and midnight to ring the temple bell. Unlike those of other temples, Chinkoji's bronze bell is struck by pulling, rather than pushing, its wooden "clapper." By ringing this bell, you are said to be able to pull your ancestors' spirits back to this world.

The WELL at Chinkonjp ... Click for more photosChinkoji's role as an ancestor summoner seems to have derived from its associations with 9th-century statesman Ono no Takamura, who, the story goes, made a trip to the underworld via a well located on the temple grounds. On his return, Takamura was allowed by Enma, the king of the dead, to bring some souls back with him. As a mode of conveyance, Takamura is said to have utilized a branch of koyamaki, or yew, which explains why sprigs of this tree are to be found on sale here during these four days. Back when almost every Kyoto home had its own well, the koyamaki purchased here was taken home and dropped down it.

Two other temples in the vicinity, Rokuhara Mitsuji and Saifukuji, will also be busy at this time hosting parishioners engaged in Bon preparations.

Temple Rokuhara Mitsuji, whose main hall dates back to the 12th century, is well worth a visit if only to see the statue of its founder, Kuya, housed in its museum. A mendicant priest, Kuya roamed the streets of the often epidemic-scourged capital preaching the nenbutsu, a democratic doctrine promising rebirth in the Western Paradise to anyone who simply chanted Amida Buddha's name. Rokuhara Mitsuji's somewhat startling statue depicts the wizened holy man, staff in hand, regurgitating a row of six tiny Buddhas from his mouth, each little Amida image representing a syllable of the nenbutsu chant.

Nearby Saifukuji 西福寺 houses several statues of Jizo, a protective deity who consoles the souls of dead children. Between Aug. 8-10, however, the main attraction at this tiny temple will be its display of jigoku-e (hell pictures), which graphically depict the decay of corpses as well as the torments awaiting sinners in the next life.

Read more here
 © Japan Times, 2000

Saifukuji Jizo, Click for more
Temple Saifukuji, Jizo Bosatsu


. . . . . H A I K U

Haiku by Kobayashi Issa

Toribeno no Jizo i no warabi kana

at Toribe cemetery
the bracken near
the Jizo Well

Toribeno no Jizo Bosatsu no warabi kana

at Toribe cemetery
the bracken near
Jizo Bosatsu

I found two versions rather similar.
Tr. Gabi Greve

toribeno ya shiko hototogisu shiko karasu

Toribe Field--
ugly cuckoo!
ugly crow!

by Issa, 1824
Tr. David Lanoue

Toribe Field (Toribe no no) is a place near Tokyo's Tooyama's Shimizu Temple; Issa zenshuu (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 3.224, note 1.
In this ideal location, Issa (comically) sees only ugly birds.

清水寺 reading

(しみずでら)Temple Shimizu-dera in Kyoto

(せいすいじ) Temple Seisuiji in Edo /Tokyo
江北山. Daitoo-Ku Matsugaya 台東区松が谷

灯遠く 鳥達の宴
tomoshibi tooku toritachi no en 

light is far away
birds begin to party

© Haiga and renku by Sakuo Nakamura


Cuckoo and Cemeteries

Compiled by Larry Bole, Translating Haiku Forum

I'm curious about why Issa says "shiko hototogisu" (ugly cuckoo). Generally, haijin usually want to hear the hototogisu, since it's a harbinger of summer.

I can understand Issa saying "shiko karasu" (ugly crow) since in many cultures the crow is associated with death, being a scavenger. Even Basho speaks of the "higoro nikumu karasu" ("usually hateful crow"-- Henderson's literal translation; "every-day disliked crow"--
Barnhill's literal translation).

Lanoue's speculation that "In this ideal location, Issa (comically) sees only ugly birds" doesn't seem to me to be a satisfactory explanation of "shiko hototogisu" (ugly cuckoo).

But after doing some research, it appears that the cuckoo also has some negative connotations associated with it, particularly an associaton with death.
Here are some examples:

Lewis Mackensie, in his book entitled "The Autumn Wind: A Selection from the Poems of Issa," translates the following haiku, with a note germane to the poetic associations that hototogisu have:

Yakamashi ya Oikake oikake Hototogisu

What a noise you make!
Chivvying hither, chivvying thither
O Cuckoo, Bird of Time!

Issa, trans. Mackenzie

Mackenzie's note:
In Heian times the cuckoo was sometimes associated with 'the hill of death'.

Buson has the following haiku:

hototogisu hitsugi o tsukamu kumo ma yori

A 'hototogisu',
Snatching at the coffin,
From between the clouds.

trans. Blyth

a mountain cuckoo
snatches at the coffin
from between clouds

trans. Ueda

Blyth and Ueda have similar comments; I will give Ueda's:

"The... hokku is another example of Buson's gothic taste, as it describes a funeral procession on a cloudy day. Suddenly from the black clouds there comes a mountain cuckoo's sharp cry, so ghastly that it sounds as if it were reaching for the coffin. The image evokes legends and folktales of that tell of a sky monster stretching its arm from the clouds and snatching up a corpse carried on a bier."

Blyth mentions that, as a result, "the spirit will be left without a body."

Then there is a haiku by Kyorai:

kyoodai ga kao miawasu ya hototogisu

A 'hototogisu' called;
The brothers turned
And looked at each other.

Kyorai, trans. Blyth

Blyth explains that this is based on a well-known revenge story involving the Soga brothers. Blyth then says:

"Here Kyorai imagines the two brothers as they approach the tent of Suketsune [upon whom they are seeking revenge]. A 'hotototgisu' suddenly cries, as if in omen of the coming death, and the two brothers instinctively turn their faces to each other in the darkness."

Then there is this anonymous haiku:

sono ato wa meido de kikan hototogisu

Ah, 'hototogisu'!
I will hear the rest of the song
In the land of the dead.

Anonymous, trans. Blyth

And a death poem by Fufu, in Yoel Hoffmann's "Japanese Death Poems":

tsure mo ari imawa no sora no hototogisu

My companion in the skies
of death,
a cuckoo.

Fufu, trans. Hoffmann

Further discussion of the Toribeno Haiku
Translating Haiku Forum, January 2008, Message #2243

© Kokinshu Spring Companion

lesser cuckoo , Oriental cuckoo 時鳥、ほととぎす (hototogisu, Cuculus poliocephalus) and common cuckoo 郭公、かっこう (kakkoo, Cuculus canorus)

And finally, here is a picture of the hototogisu, "in its typically wooded environment." The bird is hard to make out clearly, but it doesn't seem particularly ugly. A note accompanying the picture says:

"The hototogisu is associated in some myths and stories, and poems, as a messenger for lonely souls in the world of the dead."

WKD : More about the cuckoo as kigo
Cuckoo, little cockoo (kankodori, hototogisu)


Toribeno no ato ni konbini ichoo chiru

near the ruins of Toribeno
now a convenience store -
gingko leaves fall

..... www.gendaihaiku.gr.jp/

Tr. Gabi Greve


 © PHOTO Shigeru Kommy


. Japanese Legends - 伝説 民話 昔話 – ABC-List .

kikai 奇怪 something strange
In 1828, there came a mudslide down from 地蔵山 Mount Jizoyama at Toribeno 鳥辺野. It came all the way down to a place sacred to Yamanokami. The villagers found a large 壺 pot, but thought it quite strange but tried to dig it out completely. Suddenly there was a sound coming out of the ground. The laborer who heard this died on the spot. Later other villagers and even children got ill and died.
An old nun was asked for an oracle. When she fell in trance, they put 幣 a ritual wand in her hands. She begun to talk, saying the soul was a relative of 明智 Akechi and had been buried on the mountain and then called "Yama no Kami", but was still full of anger. So they held rituals at the Jizo hall and buried the pot there, but there were still people dying in the village.

- - - - -

Once the daughter of a man died and was brought to Toribeno. But she came out of the coffin and went back home.
This repeated many times until her soul finally found peace.


WKD Reference

Adashino, Temple Nenbutsu-ji and Haiku 仏野念仏寺

Kuya Shonin Kuuya Shoonin, Saint Kuya 空也上人

... ... ... Jizo Bosatsu 地蔵菩薩

The Tale of Genji, Genji Monogatari  源氏物語

Daruma Pilgrims in Japan


- #toribeno -


Anonymous said...

Interesting site, Gabi. Memorial parks definitely differ from one country to another.

What I especially appreciated, though, was the tanka. That was, and still is, a learning moment for me.

near his mother's tomb
an old man
in the fishing village
the scent of smoked eel

Ella Wagemakers

Unknown said...

Thank you Gabi san for your futuring my haiga and renku to your fine site.



Gabi Greve said...


More about

Fufu, Fufuu, 湖白庵浮風, 有井浮風