Waka-no-ura

Sort of a wistful passage from a 109 year old travel guide to Japan. This view disappearing even then. One imagines it must be gone by now. From page 323, in the Osaka area…

Waka-no-ura

A sandy peninsula, narrow and fantastically overgrown with pines, enclosing a little bay, and having islands or hills near to it, is the Japanese beau ideal of scenery, their taste being not for savage, Alpine, overpowering grandeur, but for the esthetic, the soft, the well-proportioned in form and line – the civilised, if one may so express it. Poets have sung the  beauty of this spot ever since Japan had a literature. The following stanza of Akahito is familiar to every Japanese adult: –

Waka-no-ura ni
Shio michi-kureba
Kata wo nami
Ashibe wo sashite
Tazu naki-wataru

that is, rendered literally,

On the shore of Waka
When the tide comes flowing in
There being no dry land,
Towards the reedy place
The storks fly across crying.

The reeds of a thousand years ago are commemorated chiefly in the name of a inn, the Ashibe-ya; there are now few, if any storks left, for the law which protected them as sacred birds lapsed when feudalism fell : and most of the pine trees on the peninsula were hewn down when they, too, ceased to be protected by immemorial custom.

I wonder what is left now 109 years later…

doug


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