Monday, February 9, 2009

Fujisan-ki (富士山記)

Translation from a modern Japanese version of the full original kanbun text by Miyako no Yoshika

Mt Fuji is in the province of Suruga. The peak is sculpted as if by a sword-blade and soars up until it touches the sky. Its height is immeasurable. There is no higher mountain, as you will see if look through this or that written record. This soaring peak rises out of thick forests and seems to touch the edge of heaven, towering over the ocean.

The base of this extraordinary mountain extends for thousands of leagues, so that travellers must journey for several days until they have passed it by. Even then, when they look back, they are still at the mountain’s foot.

This must be a place where hermits disport themselves. As I’ve heard, during the Shōwa era (834-848), pearls and jewels rolled down from the mountain, each jewel with a little hole through it. These were probably beautiful gems that once adorned the reed screen of a hermit’s cell.

On November 5th, in the 17th year of Jōgan (876), the officials and people were celebrating a festival in accordance with an ancient rite when, as the day wore on towards noon, the sky cleared wonderfully. Looking up towards the mountain, they saw how two beautiful maidens robed in white danced above the summit, seemingly a foot or more above it. Several local people saw it; a very old man passed on the tale.

Mt Fuji takes its name from that of the district. Its deity is the Great God Asama. As for its height, it rises so far above the clouds that nobody knows how high it is. The summit is flat and about a league across. It is sunken in the middle, in shape like a rice-steaming pot (koshiki). At the bottom of this pot, there is a mysterious lake and in the middle of the lake, a large rock. The rock is strangely shaped, just like a crouching tiger. Vapour rises incessantly from the crater. The lake’s colour is a pure and deep blue. If one looks into the crater, it’s as if the water is seething. Looking from afar, one often sees smoke and flames too.

That summit pond is ringed with bamboo, which is a lush green and pliable. The snow never melts in spring or summer. Below the middle of the mountain grow small pine trees, but there are no trees above that level, only white ash. People can climb the mountain to its middle level, but it’s impossible to go further because of the ash which is always slipping downwards. It is said that En-no-gyōja once climbed the mountain but, after that, everybody has stopped at the middle level.

A great spring issues from the lower part of the mountain, which feeds a large river. The flow of water never varies, in hot season or in cold or in drought. At the eastern foot of Mt Fuji is a small mountain, which the local people call the new mountain. Originally this was flat ground, but in March of the 21st year of Enryaku (803) black smoke and steam came churning up and, after 10 days, the new mountain was formed. Probably a god created it.

Back to main article: Journey to the centre of Mt Fuji

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