Shiogama Temple, or jinja, is a Shinto shrine founded before 927 in the town of Shiogama. Shiogama is in Miyagi Prefecture in northeastern Japan, just as Bashō described it in The Narrow Road to the Deep North. The shrine is first mentioned in Bashō’s travels and it has been preserved just how he describes it.
“Its pillars stood huge and majestic, brightly painted rafters sparkled, and stone steps rose up flight after flight. The crimson fencing was dazzling in the morning sunlight” (44).
Bashō seems to be the only one to mention the temple specially in his travel literature, but Mitsu writes about site seeing in Shiogama, which means that she and her family most likely visited the shrine (Ezaki and Shiba, 45). Today, the Shiogama temple is one of the places on the Basho walking tour remains a popular and preserved tourist site most likely because of the fame Basho has given it.
The Narrow Road to the Deep North excerpt on Shiogama Shrine:
“As we came to Shiogama Bay, the evening bell was tolling. The sky had cleared a little after steady rain. Under the faint rays of the evening moon, the island of Magaki could be seen not far from shore. A line of small fishing boats came rowing in. I could hear the voices of the fishermen as they divided up their catch. And I understood now what the poet meant who wrote, ‘It catches the heart – a fishing boat pulled to shore’.
That night, I listened to a blind singer reciting a north-country ballad to the accompaniment of his lute. It was not like the stories of Heike, or traditional dancing songs. He was performing close to my bed, and I found the rustic tones of his voice very noisy. But then I realized how admirable it was that such fine old customs were still preserved in this distant land.
Early the next morning, we visited the Shrine at Shiogama, which had been restored by the governor of the province. Its pillars stood huge and majestic, brightly painted rafters sparkled, and stone steps rose up flight after flight. The crimson fencing was dazzling in the morning sunlight. How wonderful it was, I thought, that in this land of ours, the divine powers of the gods should show themselves even in so remote a place as this.
In front of the sanctuary, there was an old lantern with an inscription on its iron door, ‘Presented by Izumi-no-Saburō in the third year of Bunji ’. It was strange how these words brought back things unchanged for over five hundred years. Izumi-no-Saburō had been a brave and honourable soldier, a loyal and loving son. His fame has lasted to the present day, and there is no one now who does not honour him. How true it is that, if men strive to walk in the way of truth and uphold righteousness, fame will follow of itself” (44).
“Shiogama”. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2016.
Ezaki, Motoko, and Shiba, Keiko. Literary Creations on the Road. Blue Ridge Summit, US: UPA, 2012. ProQuest ebrary.
Contributor: Lauren Clemett
(Edited by Elle Marsh)