My depressions in “Konpukuji Temple”

Oh, how did this happen?
After leaving Keibunsha, I was walking beside Professor Masaki, biting my lips tightly, trying to hide my heartbeat like the rippling sea. How stupid of me, to say such a thing as “take me there”, even though I said that in the heat of the moment. After all, although we did know each other’s faces, it was the first day to have a conversation. I could not be more presumptuous, to have the professor to guide me around Kyoto, since I am only one out of his many students.
I caught a glimpse, of the professor walking right beside me. From earlier, we could not keep up our conversation. As soon as my mouth opens, the words, just disappear like popping bubbles. Right after saying something, it fades out. How, faint, can words be?
Simply walking east on the Manshuin Street, and then following a tangled pathway, suddenly we came upon stone stairs. On the stone monument beside it, is carved “佛日山 金福寺 (Butsunichisan Konpukuji)”. This, is the “Konpukuji Temple” where the professor was talking about. The place, I do not know, yet.
When we were going up the stairs, I saw a gate saying “芭蕉庵 (Basho-an)” on the right-hand side. Does Basho stand for MATSUO Basho, the haiku poet from the Edo period? I wonder if that means, Konpukuji has something to do with Matsuo Basho. I was thinking vacantly, when I realized that the professor had unnoticeably, paid the admission fee for both of us.
“I’m sorry, thank you”
I bowed my head in a hurry, and then received the pamphlet. I feel like running away, having to be in dept to him like this.
Right after we got past the gate, meow, a cute cry reached my ears. I looked around, finding a calico cat, relaxing on the veranda of the main building of the temple. The cat seemed to be welcoming us, walking slowly towards this way, blinking sleepily many times.
“Hi, I haven’t seen you in a while”
The professor stroked the calico cat’s back softly, as if greeting an old friend. The calico cat snuggled its’ cheeks to the professor’s arm, purring like it was fawning on him.
“Do you know each other?”
“This is Fuku-san from this Konpukuji. Now, you say hello, too”
The cat, called Fuku-san, looked at me like in a way of looking at a rival in love. It seems like the cat is on guard against me. Nice to meet you, I bowed, and cautiously, reached out. Fuku-san meowed, only once, and ran into the main temple as if getting away from my reach.
“You seem to be hated”
The professor sneered at me, seeing that my hand reached out, has no place to go. Well, you did not have to say it in a rude way like that. I puffed up my cheeks, annoyed by the unexpected toxic words. All these things, they are kind of, hard to swallow.
We took off our shoes then went in the main temple, and absent-minded, enjoyed the view of the simple and refined garden. A simple karesansui (dry landscape garden), of a hill of azaleas and white sand. The professor said, that it would never be crowded except for the tourist season. Exactly as he said, not a soul was to be seen, besides us. The only sounds that can be heard, were the whispering like noise of trees swaying, and Fuku-san, meowing like a monologue.
Warm light, from the deep spring, making each grain of sand, sparkle brilliantly. The rustling
sound, of the wind shaking the trees quietly, is absolutely, pleasant. Fuku-san, who came out to the veranda heavily, gave a big yawn, curled up, and started taking a nap. I wonder if this is Fuku-san’s daily routine, basking in the sun and taking a nap. Dunking in the nice and warm sun, dozing peacefully. Isn’t that, the highest of luxuries?
Being careful not to disturb Fuku-san, the professor and I quietly climbed down from the main temple. Beating the ground with the toes of my shoes, going tap-tap-tap, by chance, I noticed something was there, just by the gate. I was so distracted by Fuku-san earlier, that I had completely missed it. A hishaku (dipper) was on it, and water was in it. I vaguely, recognize this. I think, the name is probably tsukubai, a wash basin. However, somehow it is different from what I am familiar with. It is a strange shape, like resembling an ancient coin.

“Professor Masaki, what is this?”
When I unintentionally asked, the professor said, oh, and stopped his feet that were about to go on.
“That is, ‘Chisoku Tsububai’. The center 口(kuchi: ‘mouth’ in kanji) is shared by the others. Try reading them clockwise”
“’吾唯足知’……Ware(myself), tada(just), taru(enough) wo shiru(know)?”
“That’s right. Chisoku, or taru wo shiru, means to know that one has enough. To know your own place, and not to produce greed in your heart. This can be seen in many temples, but the one in Ryoanji Temple is particularly famous”
I took the camera in my hand, while being impressed by the lecture like explanation. If the professor would not teach me, I could probably, not read a single letter shown there. When I took one picture and faced up, the professor who was supposed to be beside me was gone. I found the broad back going ahead briskly, and went after it in a hurry.
“Do you know a book called ‘Hana no Shogai (the life of a flower)”, by FUNAHASHI Seiichi?”
While going up the slope to the hill, the professor, asked me like talking to himself. He is asking, but probably, not expecting any answers from me. As evidence, before I can open my mouth, he quickly continued talking.
“It is a history novel that was made into a Taiga Drama (historical TV series). The place that MURAYAMA Takajo, the heroin of the story, became a nun in Buddhism, and ended her life is said to be here, Konpukuji Temple”
“Hmm……it surely is a wonderful place, being such as a setting of a novel”
I looked back at the main temple, part way through the slope. This, humble main temple and garden, different from bigger temples. This site that is not too big, must be, one of the reasons that make our hearts feel peaceful. The relaxed sleeping face, of Fuku-san curled up snugly, comes into view. The quietness that a cat can relax calmly, is the very reason for Konpukuji Temple’s charm. I kind of understand, the feeling of the writer who wanted to set his story here.
What stood before us when we got to the top of the slope, was a thatched-roof hermitage, which history can be felt. As if it was waiting for us to come, for hundreds of years. The heavy figure, surrounded by the green trees, even makes me feel nostalgic. I can almost hear it say, I’ve been waiting for you.
“This is the Basho-an, or Basho Hermitage. Priest Tesshu, who restored Konpukuji, and Matsuo Basho, is said to have discussed tastefulness here”
“Did Matsuo Basho come here?”
“Yes. Priest Tesshu and Matsuo Basho, they had close friendship. The building got ruined as time went by, so YOSA Buson, who admired Basho, revived it with his clan. In his poem, “Jimokuhaicho, kokoni tamamaku, Basho-an (Putting all of my body and soul into this Basho Hermitage, I hope for the future of haiku will be lit, like the basho (Japanese banana plant) leaves opening up)”, Buson’s strong determination is put into it, aiming for the revival of Basho’s Haikai spirit.
“……Wow, you sure do know a lot”
“It’s no big deal”
It seems as though he is unwilling to take even compliments genuinely. Somehow, his impression is quite different from that of his lectures. How he sits on the veranda like that, crossing his long legs. How his eyes are tinged with sorrow, glancing at the drifting clouds as if he is thinking of someone in a far place. How he appears to be, is faultlessly picturesque, and matches his image, but once he opens his mouth, words that seems inappropriate for his appearance come falling out. It feels very, strange, because I think I caught the glimpse of the part of him that is undecorated, the part where he would never show in his lectures.
Taking a seat next to the professor, I briefly let myself sink into silence. Surrounded by the breathing like greenery, softly, I closed my eyes. The sound of the wind rustling the leaves, and, the sunlight. Everything stimulates my five senses, clearly than earlier. I did not know, that spring, felt this pleasant.
Oh, come to think of it, I was surrounded by tender greenery like this in Mo-an, too. I was remembering vacantly about what had happened, at the beginning of May. Back then, we did not exchange a single word. We did not, even make eye contact. But now, we are here visiting Konpukiji together, sharing the same time. Might this be, what is called an en, something like a chance encounter or even a fate of connection? If it is, would our encounter at Mo-an, or our encounter at Keibunsha, be a deed of, that en? You never know what will happen, in life.
“……Now, don’t you sleep in such a place”
By the professor’s disgusted like voice, all of a sudden, my consciousness was pulled back into reality. When I opened my eyes, the professor beside me, was looking at me with his eyebrows drawn together.
“Isn’t it still, too early for a nap?”
“I, I wasn’t sleeping. I was just closing my eyes”
Feeling my cheeks blush, I jabbered excuses. Sure enough, my voice did not seem to reach the professor, because he walked away quickly. These conversations, seem a bit, broken. We are supposed to be exchanging words, but somehow it feels, one-way. His back moving far away, certainly is different from that of what it looks like in his lectures, and in some way, I feel like I do not know this person. Well, it is not like I knew anything about this person, from the start though. Thinking about these things, I rose from my seat, and followed the professor.
When I came to the back of Basho-an, in the bushes, the professor was looking at something fixedly. I wonder what he is looking at. Curious, I peered in from behind. There was a sign board, put up quietly with a haiku written on it.
“うき我を さびしがらせよ かんこ鳥(Uki warewo, sabishigaraseyo, kankodori)”
“……Isn’t this, a rather, sad song”
It was a haiku, which Basho is said to have written. Oh cuckoo, deepen the loneliness of my depressions with your lonesome songs. What, was Basho thinking about, when he wrote this haiku? What, was he so sad about? Though I turn my thoughts to him, it is too difficult for my tiny self to even imagine how he felt.
“……I like this haiku, very, much”
The drop of voice, which leaked from the professor’s mouth, was as small as a single kompeito (star-like shaped small candy) that fell from the bag, and sounded just as depressing, as Basho’s haiku.
“Why is that?”
I asked from curiosity, but the professor stayed silent, and said no more.
We went on deeper into the bushes, then suddenly, fierce wind, stroked us like hitting us on our skin. I shut my eyes immediately, and after the wind passed through, opened them again.
---The scenery, stretching in front of me.
That is, my apartment. Keibunsha where we had been earlier. And, the pathway I had walked with the professor. Everything, was settled in my view. This view of Rakuchu, inside the old capital Kyoto, that spreads like the sea, which I missed the chance to see, in Mo-an. Filling my sight, is the place for me.
Oh, now I see.
This, is the city I dreamed of.
I do not know why, but I felt the heat spread, from the bottom of my heart. I was driven by busyness that I seem to have forgotten. I have always, always longed to be here. I put away the camera I love, studied without sparing time for sleep, wavered between hope and despair depending on how I did in the trial examinations—and then, finally gained this place.
I am, now living, in Kyoto.
I held up my camera that was in my hand and, snap, released the shutter. The professor who was absent-mindedly looking at the area of the old capital, turned around as if he reacted to the sound of the shutter.
“Would you like to see it?”
“……Isn’t it you, that would like me to see?”
Feeling annoyed by his devious way of saying, I pushed the camera towards the professor. He looked at me and the camera in turns, and looked into the camera like checking the value of the picture. I could almost hear his inner voice saying, now, let’s see, how well you can do. But, I am not the kind of person who would be shaken by threats like that. Because, I have always, been handling cameras. The only one specialty, for a normal person like me. That is this, taking pictures.
The black eyes like the night sky, sparkled, like they reflected jewels. As if he was looking into a jewelry box, he brought his face close to the camera, and inspected every corner of the picture. His eyes, showing curiosity, impression, and excitement. The moment I saw that boy-like expression, again, a strong wind stroked my heart.
The professor muttered quietly, like a sigh.
“It’s no big deal”
I took the opportunity and threw my chest out, trying to get even with him from earlier. But the professor, still had his eyes fixed to the camera. It seems as though he is trying to burn it onto his retinas. I felt happiness, blooming like cherry blossoms in my heart, and once again, looked at the scenery of Rakuchu.
2 months has passed since I moved into Kyoto, but I did not even know the least bit of it.
How clear the sky is. How slow the clouds move. How gentle the wind blows. How lonesome the history feels. And how the professor ---
“What is it?”
“Kyoto, is nice”
“Have you realized that now?”
The black eyes behind the glasses, gently, gently, wraps around me. The soft expression, lured me into laughing, huhehe.

Temple Name Konpukuji
Sango (honorific mountain name) Butsunichisan
Denomination Rinzaishu Nanzenji-ha
Principal Image of Buddha Shokannon Bosatsu
Founded 864 (6th year in the Jogan-era)
Address 20 Saikata-cho, Ichijoji, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto
Access The nearest public transportations areEizan Dentetsu: Ichijoji Station
Kyoto City Bus: Ichijoji Sagarimatsucho Bus Stop    
TEL +81-75-791-1666
Opening Hours 9:00~17:00
Closed 1/16~1/31、8/5~8/20、12/30~12/31
URL none
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