The Poetic Journeys of Tagami Kikusha (1753-1826)

Volume 1: Spring

I spent the new year season in the capital, and at the end of the first month, when I calculated the many years since I began my journeys as an itinerant nun, I realized truly thirty-three years have passed from the time I became entranced with the way of poetic elegance. I first traversed the provinces of Sanetsu and Ôu,[1] then I crossed over the barrier to the East[2] “of the chattering birds,” and the Ôsaka barrier, “undeceived by the false rooster’s crow.” In Edo I put aside my travel staff for three years, and there I learned all that I could of the Way of comic haikai. Afterwards, longing to collaborate with more partners on the haikai Way, many times I even crossed the Moji barrier, and traveled toward the distant lands of the Western Seas to Tsukushi of the “unknowable fires.” There I made friends of course with haikai poets, but also met priests who wrote verse in Chinese, and at the place I stayed in Tama-no-ura I obtained even texts by Chinese writers. I had so many in my rucksack and my satchel that I sent them for safekeeping in my hometown Chôfu, and now the number of them has so quickly multiplied that I cannot guess how many I have.

Having journeyed in this way to many famous places, historical spots, ruins, and mountain passes spoken of by persons of high reputation, I now trust to my travel-case’s ink-stained brush. With some hesitation, I think I might as well get these jottings inscribed on worthless blocks of wood and published, and I mutter to myself with a smile. The year is Bunka 9 (1812), in the season of late spring, when young plants are just starting to grow lush.

–Ichiji-an Kikusha-ni of Nagato


Hand-picked Chrysanthemums 1

I lost my husband when I was still young, and because we had no child to inherit the household I adopted a relative’s son and left to him the duties of maintaining the estate. Now that I had nothing to occupy me in this uncertain world, I ended up undertaking a solo journey just as I had imagined on the day it occurred to me that I wanted to make a pilgrimage to temples and shrines at famous places all over the realm.

I wish I could journey
with the moon as my travel hat —
a wanderer’s sky

tsuki o kasa ni kite asobabaya tabi no sora


Written at Hitomaru Shrine in Nagato-shi, Otsu.

make my travel hat
even more melancholy —
rain in cicada season

waga kasa ni sabishisame ya semishigure

my writing brush
will become stained even more deeply —
when the persimmon leaves are lush

somete ikan fudegaki no ha mo shigeritoki

I passed through Shizu-ga-ura[3] and took a boat from a place called Kayoi, and without incident arrived at Hagi Castle. Here I benefited from the kindness of a monk from Seikôji temple; I became his disciple, and received his courteous teachings on the world to come. Afterwards I took the tonsure, and wrote:

the dust of the unreliable world
blown away
in the autumn wind

akikaze ni ukiyo no chiri o haraikeri

An old acquaintance by the name of Chikuô-sha Kion lives here. He has always enjoyed haikai. He was moved when he realized I wished to learn his style, and he kindly appended a word of introduction on my behalf in a letter to the Mino haikai master called Sankyô. At Suô Tenmangû Shrine I wrote:

colorful in autumn also,
are the branch’s two leaves a sign of promise?
the plum tree’s crimson foliage

somaru aki mo futaba no sue ka ume momiji

I will learn from it —
the pure heart
of a pond’s water

narai ikan sumeru kokoro ike no mizu

In the middle of the Tenth Month I took a boat from Mitajiri and we rowed toward Osaka.

In the shallows at Suma:

traveling along the sea routes —
at both Suma and Awaji,

funaji yukeba Suma ni Awaji ni chidori kana

At the beginning of the Eleventh Month I arrived at Osaka. I intended to visit the famous places there, but so as not to be late to attend the Memorial Ceremonies for the Holy Founder I hurried on to Kyoto. At Hongan-ji Temple I spent seven nights and days attending the sutra readings, and wrote:

feeling gratitude
lightens the load —
snow on my travel hat

hôon o omoeba karoshi yuki no kasa

now, what more
than being here?
Memorial Ceremony

ima wa tada mairu bakari Hôonkô

Shortly after the sutra readings were over, I returned at once to Osaka, and on New Year’s Eve I went to Kôzu Shrine and wrote:

above all
I visited the shrine at the summit —
first light on New Year’s day

takakiya o mazu ogamikeri hatsu hikage

A man called Tani Kiyobei lives here. His manner is extremely gentle. He was moved by my status as pilgrim, and from the day that I first arrived in Naniwazu, he kindly looked after me and letting me stay with him for a long time. When I finally decided to get back on the road, I wrote:

I begrudge departing too —
wearing traveling clothes
at Naniwa of the plum blossoms

tatsu mo oshi ume no Naniwa no tabigoromo

I returned to Kyoto and became friendly with the female haikai poet Wasen, and one day we went to a plum-blossom filled valley at Fushimi, and looking at the blossoms I wrote:

too bad the scent
is blowing away —
wild plum blossoms

fuku kata e kaori oshimanu yabai kana


to which of these thatched cottages
shall we ask it to go —
plum blossoms

— Wasen

warabuki no dochira e kowamu ume no hana
藁葺のどちらへ乞はむ梅の花   倭泉

I left Kyoto, and on the road I took resuming my journey, I wrote of the capital’s opulent spring scenery; from the Shiga mountain crossing I followed the Ômi road; I caught sight of the spring colors of the lake and it was full of charm.

along the lake
wholly visible —
a blizzard of blossoms

mizuumi ni hate wa miekeri hana fubuki

Around the end of the Second Month, I arrived at Mino Province, and wrote this when I first went to visit haikai master Sankyô:

blooming flowers
now in reach —
I’m simply happy

saku hana ni ima todoku te tada ureshi

[1] Echizen, Etchû, and Echigo provinces.

[2] Shirakawa.

[3] 紫津ヶ浦, Ômi-shima, Nagato-shi, Yamaguchi-ken.

[4] Nintoku’s waka: 高き屋にのぼりて見れば 煙 ( けぶり ) 立つ民のかまどはにぎはひにけり(新古707)