Saigyo Hoshi Cherry Blossoms

[ . BACK to Worldkigo TOP . ]

Cherry Blossom Lake 大垪和の池の花見

The Cherry Blossoms were very dear to Saigyo, a priest-poet in the Heian Period.
Here I want to show you our lake and some poems of Saigyo.
Sato Norikiyo 佐藤義清

This world so dear
cannot be cherished enough
I leave my life to save it

Warrior Norikiyo Satoh left his worldly life on October 15, 1140.
His Buddhist name was Saigyo.


I take a new path this year
to visit the cherry flowers
I have yet to see

Saigyo lays under the branches of a cherry blossom tree
and gazes at the flowers to his heart's content.

He watches the flower petals scattering in the air,
and recalls the days of his past.


Travelling is life.

Life is travelling.

Chanting sutras to hide his loneliness, he came to the banks of the Tozu river and there, the cherry blossoms welcomed him with their branches streched out,
all in full bloom.


Live with the cherry blossoms.
Die with the cherry blossoms.

When one hears the name Saigyo, cherry blossoms come to mind.
Indeed, Saigyo composed an unusual number of poems
about these spring flowers during the course of his life.

Especially when he sings of the falling flowers,
his mind seems to be taken into another world.


Among the scattering petals, Saigyo saw a sacred world.
Unable to keep his mind from floating away with the petals,
he continued to sing of cherry blossoms until his death.


If I may
I wish to die

under the cherry blossoms in spring
just around the full moon

in April

It was day 16 of the second lunar month of the year 1190.
Saigyo was 73 years old.
It is said that he died at the Hirokawa temple in Kawachi 河内 in central Japan (now Osaka).

.. .. .. Namu Amida Butsu ... 南無阿弥陀佛

Photos from Tanjoo-Ji Temple, Okayama Prefecture

© Photos by Gabi Greve, April 2005


kaze fukeba ada ni nariyuku bashooba no
areba to mi o mo tanomu beki yo ka

. Banana leaves and transience .

takeuma o tsue ni mo kyoo wa tanomu kana
warawa asobi o omoide tsutsu

. 竹馬 stilts and memories .



A clear mirror
with just a speck of dust -
yet the eyes
have caught it, the world
having become what it is.

With a honkadori haiku by Matsuo Basho

. Basho and Saigyo .


Text quoted from here:


深き山に 心の月し すみぬれば
鏡に四方の 悟りをぞ見る

fukaki yama ni kokoro no tsuki shi suminureba
kagami ni yomo no satori o zo miru

Deep within the mountains
the mind's moon
shines so bright.
It's light mirrors all things
like the enlightened mind.


SAIGYO, Saigyoo Hooshi (西行法師)

1118年(元永元年) - 1190年3月23日(文治6年2月16日))

Saigyo Memorial Day, Saigyoo Ki 西行忌 (さいぎょうき)
En-I Ki 円位忌(えんいき)

kigo for mid-spring
SAIJIKI for Memorial Days

Some sources place the exact day on February 15 or 16, others on March 23, according to the use of the Asian or the Western Calendar.

February 15 is also celebrated as the day when Buddha Shakyamuni entered Nirvana and is auspicious to die around this date.


Saigyō Hōshi (西行 法師) Saigyo Hoshi
(1118 – March 23, 1190)

Born Satō Norikiyo (佐藤義清) in Kyoto to a noble family, he lived during the traumatic transition of power between the old court nobles and the new samurai warriors. After the start of the Age of Mappō (1052), Buddhism was considered to be in decline and no longer as effective a means of salvation. These cultural shifts during his lifetime led to a sense of melancholy in his poetry.

As a youth, he worked as a guard to retired Emperor Toba, but in 1140 at age 22, for reasons now unknown, he quit worldly life to become a monk, taking the religious name En'i (円位).
He later took the pen name, "Saigyō" meaning Western Journey, a reference to Amida Buddha and the Western paradise. He lived alone for long periods in his life in Saga, Mt. Koya, Mt. Yoshino, Ise, and many other places, but he is more known for the many long, poetic journeys to he took to Northern Honshū that would later inspire Basho in his Narrow Road to the Deep Interior.
He was a good friend of Fujiwara no Teika. Some main collections of Saigyō's work are in the Sankashū, Shin Kokin Wakashū, and Shika Wakashū. He died in Hirokawa Temple in Kawachi Province (present-day Osaka Prefecture) at age 72.
© More in the WIKIPEDIA !

見立て西行童子 Saigyo as a child
Fushimi 赤もの Akamono Doll

. akamono, aka mono 赤もの red things (for good luck) .

Saigyo and Matsuo Basho at Tarui-juku 垂井宿
. Nakasendoo 中山道 The Nakasendo Road .


. Yosa Buson 与謝蕪村 in Edo .

Remembering Saigyo:
. Kyoto Imperial Palace (京都御所, Kyōto Gosho)


十六日桜 - There are a few in the temple gardens of Japan.

Some more links to Saigyo and his poetry

Ryoo-0nji Temple (The cherry blossoms of Izayoi) .. 龍穏寺(十六日桜)..

西行 Saigyo

. . . . .

plant kigo for the New Year

juurokunichi sakura 十六日桜
cherry blossom on the 16th day
(of the first month of the old lunar calendar)

In Matsuyama town at the temple Tentoku-Ji 天徳寺.

uso no yoo na juurokunichi sakura saki ni keri

almost impossible
on the sixteenth day (of January)
the cherry tree blossoms

Masaoka Shiki 正岡子規


Yoshino and Saigyo

The Tale of Saigyo - illustrated beautifully

digital 西行庵
With many photos about Yoshino Mountain. Very extensive material !

Cherry Blossoms (sakura, Japan) ...
... and many related kigo in the WKD


The Monk Saigyo viewing Mount Fuji from Yoshiwara
 "The 53 stations by two brushes" (雙筆五十三次, Sohitsu gojusan tsugi)
 Kunisada ga / Hiroshige ga.


. donkorogoma どんころ独楽
Donkoro spinning top for gambling .

It has the images of symbols of good luck to make a bet on.
一富士 Fuji、ニ鷹 Hawk、三なすび/茄子 eggplant、
四だるま Daruma san 五虚無僧 Komuso monk、六西行 poet Saigyo.
Gamblers bet on one side to come up as top and if it does, they get their money back about sixfold.


- #saigyo -


Anonymous said...

new cherry blossoms
with the branches streched out
mother chants sutras


Gabi Greve said...

800 sun trips --
still the blossoms fall
on his footprints

Laryalee, Canada


Thank you so much, Lary.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your lovely site. I walked through falling cherry blossoms a few days ago at a Zen retreat at Grailville in Ohio, USA.

large round snowdrops
on the yew

Anonymous said...

Lovely pictures, Gabi.

It suddenly strikes me how many of the masters 'suffered' from loneliness and bore this burden by focusing on the beauty of their natural surroundings.

gathering dusk
outside my window
the cherry tree

spring morning
the cherry tree branches
heavy with birds


Gabi Greve - Issa said...

Kobayashi Issa

hana ja mono ware mo kyou kara nijuukyuu

because of blossoms
I, too, from today hope for
twenty-nine years

This hokku was written in the 3rd month (April) of 1813, when Issa is fifty-one, so he is hoping to live until he's eighty. Two months earlier he received half of his father's house and land, though he is spending most of his time on the road visiting students in various towns near his hometown, so on one level Issa is probably hoping to live many more years so he can make a new life and start a family in his hometown. However, there is almost surely a more specific reason why Issa wishes for exactly twenty-nine more years of life. This reason is indicated by "because of" and is clearly stated by "I, too," a phrase that seems to refer to the Buddha, who was said in East Asia to have died and experienced parinirvana or "complete" nirvana at the age of eighty on the 15th of the 2nd lunar month -- at a time, in Japan, when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom and beginning to fall. Among scattering cherry petals, temples around Japan carry out important memorial services on this day. Issa therefore wishes to die at eighty at the time the cherry blossoms are beginning to fall so he can feel closer to the Buddha, whom he loves and deeply respects. Issa isn't simply expressing the wish to see many more cherry-blossom seasons. He wants to live longer for the sake of eventually dying together with the Buddha under the blossoms at the same age as the Buddha. In actuality, of course, Issa died at age sixty-five after his house burned down and he was forced to move into his barn during the coldest part of winter.

Tr. and comment by Chris Drake

Gabi Greve - Buson said...

Fujimi Saigyoo 
富士見西行 Priest Saigyo gazing at Mount Fuji

Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

Shikoku Henro

Nr. 72 - 我拝師山 Gabaijizan 延命院 Enmei-In 曼荼羅寺 Mandara-Ji

香川県善通寺市吉原町1380-1 / 1380-1 Yoshiwarachō, Zentsūji-shi, Kagawa
- quote

Statler records that the poet/priest Saigyo stayed here, and wrote this poem after finding a pilgrim's hat hanging on a pine--perhaps this one--in the yard:

Long-living pine,
Of you I ask: everlasting
Mourning for me and
Cover for my corpse; here is no
Human to think of me when I am gone.

Gabi Greve said...

Kotaki Kaido 小滝街道 Kotaki Highway
A waki kaido side road from the Yonezawa Kaido, Yamagata prefecture.
Already walked by Saigyo !