Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Ancient Road

In ancient times, there was a road connecting the ancient capital of Nara with Asuka region along the foot of verdant  hills on hills in the east of Nara Basin. It's called Yamanobe-no-michi and thought to be the oldest road in Japan.

Now you can feel the world of ancient myths and legends found in Kojiki or Nihonshoki; the ancient chronicles, and in the Manyoshu collection of poetry; the anthorogy compiled in 8th Century.
Especially  from Isonokami Shrine in Tenri City to Miwa Shrine in Sakurai City, many temples, shrines, remains, huge old tombs are lining along the road which runs in pastoral landscape or through mandarin fields or houses on either side.

Mt. Miwa with the smooth gradual ridge line has been worshiped and admired as a sacred mountain since ancient times. It is a symbolic figure of Yamanobe-no-michi.

A stone monument inscribed with a Manyoshu Tanka by Nukata-no-Okimi;

三輪山を しかも隠すか 雲だにも 情(こころ)あらなむ 隠そうべしや

When the capital was relocated from Asuka to Oumi in 667 (now Shiga prefecture), the people concerned  were so reluctant to leave the place. She wrote this tanka with a feeling of painful farewell, meaning; "Mt. Miwa began to be lost to my view, oh, clouds, if you have a heart, please don't hide Mt Miwa I've adored."

                                                                                                            image from Wikipedia

                                                       Hibara Shrine
                         An ancient form of Torii gate made only with two posts and a rope called "Shimenawa". It is the affiliated shrine of Miwa Shrine and there's no main building. Once it was dedicated to Amaterasu Omikami before she settled at Ise Shrine. So this shrine is called "moto ise"

     It is one of few shrines that has a "triple torii" on its ground.

Looking back from torii, Mt.Nijyo with two tops like a camel with two bumps comes in sight, which has also been admired and worshiped and often written in Manyo Tanka.  The winding road seems to be leading you all the way to that mountain. Around the Vernal and Autumnal Equinox Days, the sun sets exactly between two bumps of that mountain. I can easily imagine how people those days, still now, were awe-inspired and thankful to the nature and gods within nature.

   Though not exactly Mt. Nijyo since equinox is more than a month away, the setting sun was          
   really beautiful.

                              Idera Pond near Hibara Shrine
Those mountain ranges from Mt.Nijyo (from right side) to Mt. Katsuragi and Mt. Kongo are in your sight far away  all along Yamanobe-no-michi.

At this pond stood this stone monument inscribed with a song by Yamato Takeru, legendary hero. (written by a well-known novelist Yasunari Kawabata)

大和は 国のまほろば たたなづく 青かき 山ごもれる 大和しうるわし

In the closing days of his life, he must've thought of his native place from afar as a perfect place surrounded by verdant peaceful beautiful mountains.

                            Roubai, Chimonanthus praecox, means winter flower in Greek.The fragrance of them scented  the air. (a week ago in Asuka)

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