This Sunday is May 21st, which means that the popular flea market known as Kobo-san will be held at To-ji.  It’s a busy bustling and packed affair, quite different from the To-ji which Gary Snyder depicts in his poem below.  In a 2011 visit to Japan, at the age of 82, he recalled the Kyoto of 1957 when he practiced Zen in the city as being dusty and poor, with people dressed shabbily and relaxed in manner. (Pic by John D.)

TOJI (Gary Snyder)

TOJI-Shingon temple,Kyoto
(Gary Snyder)

Men asleep in their underwear
Newspapers under their heads
Under the eaves of Toji,
Kobo Daishi solid iron and ten feet tall
Strides through, a pigeon on his hat.

Peering through chicken wire grates
At dusty gold-leaf statues
A cynical curving round-belly
Cool Bodhisattva-maybe Avalokita-
Bisexual and tried it all,weight on
One leg, haloed in snake-hood gold
Shines through the shadow
An ancient hip smile
Tingling of India and Tibet.

Loose-breasted young mother
With her kids in the shade here
Of old Temple tree,
Nobody bothers you in Toji;
The streetcar clanks by outside.


Another of his poems from the same period concerns the vapour trails that he saw while in Kyoto coming from US military aircraft passing overhead from the large bases in Japan.

Vapor Trails
Gary Snyder

Twin streaks twice higher than cumulus,
Precise plane icetracks in the vertical blue
Cloud-flaked light-shot shadow arcing
Field of all future war, edging off to space.

Young expert U.S.pilots waiting
The day of criss-cross rockets
And white blossoming smoke of bomb,
The air world torn and staggered for these
Specks of brushy land and ant-hill towns—

I stumble on the cobble rockpath,
Passing through temples,
Watching for two-leaf pine
—spotting that design.