I eventually fell asleep to the thwacking sound of tennis balls hit back and forth. I woke several times in the night, but eventually found sleep. In the morning, I lay in bed for several minutes trying to identify the sound I had been hearing even in my sleep. I made a provisional conclusion that it was a burglar alarm on somebody's motorbike saying "Watch out. Stand back. Watch out. Stand back," in a vaguely electronic male voice.
Nanae met me early for a visit to a museum honoring Kobo Daishi, the great Buddhist monk who traipsed around the Shikoku island establishing temples along the way, 88 of them, in the 9th century. Many people still make the pilgrimage to these temples, 3 of which are in or adjacent to Matsuyama, mostly by bus these days, but also on foot, arriving every day. The museum is an ultra-modern facility which contains artifacts and relics a thousand years old. Kobo Daishi's absolutely beautiful calligraphy is preserved on several scrolls on which he copied ancient sutras. It is good we went early. In the hour or two that we were inside, the waiting line to enter the exhibit area had grown into a waiting crowd, and there was a line forming outside just to enter the building. Kimiyo joined us there, and we went to the shopping district near the Dogo hot spring in order to find a few little souvenirs for my family. We stopped for lunch, where I ordered spaghetti. It was not prepared exactly the way my mother used to prepare it, but it was good. After lunch, the three of us returned to the Shiki museum to attend the meeting of a group of people organized to translate Shiki's work, their current project being a selection of 100 of his haiku. Ruth Vergin conducted the meeting, and I think I made a reasonable contribution to the proceedings. Back at the hostel, I discovered the complimentary computer and used it to check my email. Another guest, in town for classes in ballroom dancing, practiced his English on me. He also patted my thigh in an overly friendly manner. I am still clucking to myself over his bravery.
I woke early Saturday morning to the same electronic guardian warning me "Watch out. Stand back," as I had the previous morning. But it sounded closer. It turned out to be some kind of bird, about the size of a mourning dove and drab, on the telephone wire outside my room. Hiromi collected me and took me to Tobe pottery, where I bought a few little things for my wife. Hiromi is a competent driver, but he wasted several perfectly good opportunities to commit vehicular assault on a variety of pedestrians and cyclists and other motorists. The traffic in Japan, or at least in Matsuyama, operated in a strangely cooperative mode, at least during my visit. I asked Hiromi to stop at a Mcdonalds for lunch. The menu did not include my usual selection: the quarterpounder. In its place was something that could have been a beef teriyaki sandwich. I settled for a big mac meal. How different fries dipped from perfectly fresh oil taste.
The Shiki team gathered for a party at Mrs. Mukai's house Saturday evening. Observing the people gathered around the table, ordinary people, and considering their accomplishments as a team, importing me from halfway around the world for one, I could only marvel, just marvel. I alsodrank my share of sake.
Either Saturday or Sunday, Hiromi took me to visit the final home of another famous poet whose name is associated with Matsuyama, where I heard that same call, "Watch out. Stand back.". I asked him about it.
at Isso-an (Santoka's last house)
end of summer
a snail has left its shell outside
The last full day of my visit was September 19th, the anniversary of Masaoka Shiki's death. Hiromi and Kimiyo took me to a temple where a remembrance was held.
in front of Shiki-do
the incense can not decide
which way to go
the door swings
at my elbow
the stone steps
at Shiki's room
a priest chants
two green sponge gourds
on the monument
the shakuhachi competes
with oscillating fans
coxcombs 98 years later