Shortia flowers at Mt. Seki, Shirakawa, April 7, 2019. (白河の 関山で イワウチワ 開花 2019年4月7日)

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(Shortia habitat at Mt. Seki, Shirakawa, April. 7, 2019. 白河 関山 イワウチワ 4/7/2019)
Today I visited Mt. Seki (618m) or Sekisan at Shirakawa. The mountain is famous that a legendary haiku poet Matsuo Basho visited the mountain in 1689 on the way of his journey to Michinoku or Tohoku region. It is also known that a part of the mountain slope is a natural habitat for a mountain plant Iwauchiwa or shortia. At this time around the plant starts blooming. Picture above shows a view of the plant just started to bloom with its cute pink flowers.

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(Basho's memorial at Mt. Seki, Shirakawa, April. 7, 2019. 白河 関山 芭蕉 自筆の碑 4/7/2019)
Today I approached Mt. Seki from the north. At the trail head, there stood a memorial stone for Basho as shown above. A short passage from his travel essay “Okuno-hosomichi”, which meant “unbeaten track through Tohoku region”, was inscribed on the stone with Basho’s own writing. It said “It has been uneasy through this travel so far, but as I passed the Shirakawa-no-seki milestone I was determined to continue.”
今日は、関山には北から入りました。登山口には、写真の芭蕉(とその弟子曽良)の記念碑があります。芭蕉の紀行文「奥の細道」からの一節が、直筆で彫られています。「心もとなき日数を重るまゝに 白河の関にかかりて旅心定まりぬ」

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So I started walking on the trail from the north and I took a right-hand route when I came to a branch shortly later and made to the summit. Then I descended on the other route and halfway on the route there was a large sitting Acala stone statue as shown above. A mountain slope in the back of the Acala statue was the habitat of Iwauchiwa or shortia plant as you can see a narrow trail on the right.

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(Shortia habitat at Mt. Seki, Shirakawa, April. 7, 2019. 白河 関山 イワウチワ 4/7/2019)
Some close-up views of the shortia flowers today are shown above.

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(Shortia habitat at Mt. Seki, Shirakawa, April. 7, 2019. 白河 関山 イワウチワ 4/7/2019)
I also found white flowers as shown above.

The trail head was located near the JR bus stop “Sekibe”. We can take the bus either from Shirakawa or Shinshirakawa Station. Today’s GPS trace is shown in the map at the bottom.

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Shirakawa City is qualifying people in terms of knowledge about local history and culture. There are three grades, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade. If you pass the official test conducted by the city office then you get a certificate such as shown above depending on the grade you are qualified. Any people can take this test, no conditions. This was very useful not only for studying Shirakawa but also for all Fukushima and even for all Japan.

The exact route and locations are shown in the map below. The map can be scaled up and down with a click and scroll.
20190407白河関山イワウチワ (560x420)

Following Basho’s track in Fukushima and Kunimi, May 22, 2017 (芭蕉 の 福島 と 国見 路を追って 2017年5月22日)

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Basho left Kitamachi, the central part of current Fukushima City, and continued his journey. Photo above was an old Oshu Highway Site remained as it was in Kunimi Town. The site is located about 200m apart from the current National Route 4 and is called Nagasaka Site of an old Kunimi Pass. Basho traveled through this route and his memorial monument stood there.

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The first destination of Basho after leaving Kitamachi was Mochizuri Kannon in the east of Fukushima City. As I visited there today, I found Basho’s statue in front and his monument of Haiku poem in the central precinct as shown above.

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The old historic temple dates back more than 700 years. Since then many historic buildings and monuments had been built at the site. A board above tells us the history.

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Then he visited Ioji Temple in the west which was located in the current Iizaka Onsen district. The temple started in 826 as described in a board above. The precinct was large as shown in the picture above.

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Basho then visited hot spring site of Iizaka Onsen. I went to the site he was said to have visited, where a panel shown above stood. It said that this site called Takinoyu Site had long been considered Basho’s bathing and staying place at Iizaka Onsen. But the recent research showed that he might have been to other places such as Sabakoyu or Tozayu, both of which were within this hot spring resort.

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Finally, he headed toward Miyagi Prefecture in the north. There was a historic site in Kunimi Town where he traveled on the way as I introduced at the beginning. At Nagasaka Site of an old Kunimi Pass not so far from border with Miyagi Pref., there was a board as shown above which described his hard journey in his own words from “Okuno-hosomichi”. He said that he struggled through Kunimi Pass getting some illness and recognizing his long way ahead north. But he managed to pass the route with his innocent and vital spirit.

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The picture above shows the current border between Fukushima and Miyagi, where I ended this journey which followed Basho’s tracks in Fukushima.

The exact route and locations are shown in the map below. The map can be scaled up and down with a click and scroll.
20170522芭蕉_福島から国見 (560x419)

Following Basho’s track in Koriyama and Nihonmatsu, May 21, 2017 (芭蕉 の 郡山と二本松 路を追って 2017年5月21日)

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After leaving Sukagawa, Basho’s first destination was Otsujigataki Falls of the Abukuma River. The waterfall was located on the border of today’s Sukagawa City and Tamakawa Village and the view as of today looked as shown above. Seeing the waterfall, Basho created a Haiku poem which said “Samidareno Takifuriuzumu Mizukasakana”, which meant the waterfall was abundant of water with seasonal rain in June.
須賀川を立ち、芭蕉の最初の目的地は、阿武隈川の乙字ヶ滝でした。滝は、今の須賀川市と玉川村の境界にあり、写真は今日の姿です。滝を見て、芭蕉は「五月雨の 滝降りうづむ 水かさ哉」の句をつくりました。梅雨の時期で、水量が多かったようです。

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Then Basho and Sora traveled along the old Oshu Highway to Koriyama. On the way, they stopped at Tamura Shrine, which was located in the southern Tamura district of the city. The shrine looked as shown above today and a board in the precinct told us about his visit here in 1689.

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They continued their journey northward and arrived at Hiwada district of Koriyama. They visited Asakayama which was a small hill along Oshu Highway. The name was famous as it had appeared a number of times in Tanka and Haiku poems. Basho was looking for small iris flowers, which was called Hanakatsumi in Japanese or its academic name was “Iris gracilipes”. This was explained in a board above.

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I found some of Hanakatsumi iris flowers on the slope of Asakayama as shown above. There also was a board which told us that the flower was designated as the flower of Koriyama City.

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Basho also visited Asakanuma Swamp close to Asakayama and looked for the same flower. Asakanuma Swamp site was no more swamp today and all the area were rice fields as shown in the picture above. The condition was similar even when Basho visited more than 300 years ago as the “Asakanuma Swamp Site” description board above told us.

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Then Basho traveled further north to Nihonmatsu. His destination was a historic Kurotsuka Site. There was an old story of merciless witch who lived in Kurotsuka Site, but finally she was killed and buried under Kurotsuka Mound. Her large stone house called “Iwaya”, and Kurotsuka Mound were preserved at the site. Photos above show an outside view of the site, Iwaya stone house, and Kurotsuka Mound.

Actually, Basho stayed a night at Hiwada post village, and the next day he moved to Nihonmatsu and finally to Kitamachi of Fukushima City where he stayed another night. Today, I traveled from Sukagawa to Fukushima in a day and stayed a night near Kitamachi area. Tomorrow is the last journey for me traveling through the northern part of Fukushima Prefecture.

The exact route and locations are shown in the map below. The map can be scaled up and down with a click and scroll.
20170521芭蕉_郡山から二本松 (560x420)
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