Sunday, December 08, 2019


"The reputation of a thousand years may be determined by the conduct of one hour." - Japanese proverb.

photo by dsnake1


Who would like to visit a graveyard when on a holiday tour? Not many, I guess.

But here I am, in one of the largest cities of the world, somewhere in Tokyo, on a cold balmy morning. Around me, are weathered gravestones with wooden votive plaques. Incense smoke rises from some holders. But this is not any graveyard. This is the resting place of the 47 ronin. I will not go into their legend. There are books and plays and movies. Yes, Hollywood has shot a movie about them with Keanu Reeves and though embellished with fictitious additions, it still try to stay true to the original incident. To the Japanese, the story of these ronin stands for duty, honour, courage and loyalty, the things that drive their psyche and soul.

I stand before these weathered stones, like the thousands and millions before me, bowing to them, trying to understand their courage and fears and sacrifices.

Perhaps we will never truly understand. Just like I do not understand how I navigated the chaos that is Shinjuku Station, the largest and busiest train station in the world, where I earlier had taken the train from.

An old lady comes, clutching a handful of incense. She walks with slow but determined steps up the stone stairs, to the graves. There are a couple of businessmen type there, in sharp black suits, and holding briefcases. They are sombre, silent, heads bowed before the graves. Perhaps they are seeking guidance on some difficult decisions?

The sky is threatening to rain. I walk down the stairs, out of the graveyard, and back to the main temple compound. Workers are trimming the ancient pine trees there. A teacher is bringing a group of young school-children, speaking in rapid Japanese. I do not understand his language to his charges. I just need to understand why I was here.

overcast skies -
a red maple leaf
falls from a branch.

written 21-11-2019
revised 07-12-2019

photo by dsnake1

It is 8°C in Kyoto when I leave for Tokyo. It is warm in the shinkansen train. I watched the countryside of Japan flashing by as I eat my bento meal. Power pylons, houses with satellite dishes, squares of tilled land, rivers, mountains with autumn hues of red, orange, yellow and green. I do not want to sleep, like most of the other passengers, and miss all these. Soon, after slightly more than two hours, the train rolls into Tokyo Station. Back into the cold, and the rush hour of Japan.

photo by dsnake1

© cheong lee san ( dsnake1 ) 2019

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Blogger Ron. said...

Haibun delectable!

08 December, 2019 23:53  
Blogger C. Sandlin said...

This was poignant--the question of why we find our way to places that feel important, why they feel important, is now humming in the back of my mind.

09 December, 2019 00:13  
Blogger Sherry Blue Sky said...

Lee San, it is so lovely to read you this morning. I felt like I was right there with you, seeing everything. especially loved the train ride (I long for a train ride but it is too expensive in Canada). I can never understand people who sleep or read while passing all the beauty. I once flew over the Coast mountains. Looking down, it was like flying over the Himalayas. I was glued to the window. Everyone else was reading the paper, ho-hum. Loved your poem. So happy to read you.

09 December, 2019 01:48  
Anonymous H. Hennenburg said...

What a beautiful and complete journey, including the ultimate question, why was I here? A question that perhaps can never be answered but the seeking, if done mindfully, makes us more HERE. I love how you take us to the cemetery and then back to the bustling city, carrying us through two completely different worlds and into history and back to present (are there any real differences). By the way, it is not unusual at all for me to visit a cemetery while on holiday. I find them wonderful places for reflection and connection to something bigger.

09 December, 2019 02:58  
Blogger Myrna R. said...

Thank you for sharing your experience. Japan is a country I would love to visit.

09 December, 2019 06:08  
Blogger Old Egg said...

How I delighted in reading this haibun, I really loved it. Curiously I have visited graveyards in other countries as well as my own but mainly to see where actors or writers have their last resting place or to go to war cemeteries to look for relatives.

09 December, 2019 07:59  
Blogger dsnake1 said...


thank you! :)


sometimes we may not know why we wanted to, but feel we need to. a pilgrimage, perhaps?


yes, the bullet train ride was certainly an eye-opener. It was very fast (max 300kph) but it feels like it was hardly moving. You can eat on the trains, they sell food and drinks from a lady pushing a trolley along the aisles. The toilets are very clean, and the train departs and arrives on the dot!

i would certainly not like to miss all those scenery going by the windows. :)

09 December, 2019 11:16  
Blogger Rosemary Nissen-Wade said...

A beautiful haibun and exquisite haiku. I like the vulnerability and uncertainty of this pilgrimage; and I too would have preferred looking out the train windows.

I didn't know the story of the 47 ronin, so you sent me on a Google search to educate myself. Interesting, the things that are considered virtues and points of honour in some cultures ... perhaps in all, at least historically.

09 December, 2019 14:00  
Blogger dsnake1 said...


yes, i enjoyed my two weeks in Japan. We (my family and i) went around on our own despite only one of us knowing the language.
i really wanted to visit that cemetery, though in our culture, these are the places we try to avoid. but it was different there, very quiet, very peaceful, though right in the middle of a busy city. why was i there? perhaps it will never be fully answered. perhaps i was there to pay my respects, perhaps i was curious, just to be near to the legends.
thank you for your comment. :)


yes, it is a fascinating country. imagine the amount of bowing i did there. how polite, how efficient the people are. yeah, and how they separate their garbage for recycling. :)


you too?
war cemeteries, and resting places of writers. yes, these i may go too.

09 December, 2019 21:17  
Blogger dsnake1 said...

interesting, isn't it, the things we learn from different cultures. :)

09 December, 2019 23:05  
Blogger ashok said...

Thanks for the post, Japan is a country u must visit soon...

10 December, 2019 15:15  
Blogger dsnake1 said...

Yes, Ashok, Japan is an interesting country. I was there for two weeks last month. :)

10 December, 2019 21:29  

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