Streets of Miyako¹

by | Feb 1, 2021 | Poetry

To appear in Echoes 2020: Writers in Kyoto Anthology #4, which will be available from Amazon

Horikawa-dori2 at the grave of Lady Murasaki3

her guardian tree
spreading its yukata4

Horikawa-dori at the grave of Lady Murasaki

grizzled gray visitor
hands gloved in white gauze
bandied legs spread wide apart

slow short steps to the grave
and bows as deep as he is able

Horikawa-dori at the grave of Lady Murasaki

alpha raven comes to call –
his reasons are the same?
I wonder

Horikawa-dori near Imadegawa 

red face, white helmet
tengu5 nose, orange baton
he bows – I return

Rokkaku-dori at Rokkaku-do6

telephoto lens
penetrates the temple –
rapist who leaves no scar

Shishigadani-dori near Eikando

laden down with bags
chattering in foreign slang –
the happy shoppers

Tetsugaku no Michi7

fat white bird
nibbles early berries –
branch bowing under weight

The path to Ishiyama Dera8

with heavy brows
this rock rebukes
my petulence and pride

Golf Road near Shibutani-kaido

parting mothers
voice a crescendo
of bye-bye’s and mata-ne’s9


  1. Miyako, (lit. “capital”) is an ancient name for Kyoto, dating back to the time when Kyoto was the imperial capital.
  2. The suffix -dori means street or avenue.
  3. Lady Murasaki Shikibu (973 – 1014) was a poet and novelist of the Heian Period.  She is best known as the author of  The Tale of Genji.
  4. A yukata is a cotton kimono, worn in the summertime or in the evening at home.  The bark formation at the trunk of the tree resembles a spreading kimono.
  5. The tengu is a Japanese mythological creature, noted for its ferocity.  Typically depicted with a scarlet face and an extremely long nose.
  6. Rokkaku-do (lit. “six corner temple”) is a hexagonally shaped temple in central Kyoto.  It is reputed to be the site of Shinran’s visionary encounter with Kannon, the bodhisattva of mercy.  For more on this encounter, see the forthcoming “Crazy Fuckers” article on Shinran.
  7. Tetsugaku no Michi (lit. “path of philosophy”) is a walking path alongside a canal that runs from Kyoto University and Ginkakuji southward to Nanzenji.  The name honors the Japanese philosopher and Kyoto UniversityNishida, who used the path frequently for walking meditations.
  8. Ishiyama-dera is a temple along the shore of Lake Biwa just outside Kyoto.  It is best known as the place where Lady Murasaki conceived the idea for The Tale of Genji.
  9. Mata-ne (lit. “see you again”  is a common Japanese expression on parting.  Japanese women also frequently use the English expression “bye-bye”.  Often, both are used together, in alternating sequence.

About Mike Freiling

Mike’s interest in the connections between different cultures and their philosophies began during his year as a Luce Scholar (1977-1978) at Kyoto University, when he first learned the meaning of the shimenawa and translated the Heian Period poems of the Hyaku Nin Isshu into English. In 2020, he founded Shimenawa no Michi to leverage his experience as an investment advisor into a broader initiative to help people navigate the challenges of life, love, and the search for transcendence. Mike also holds a PhD in artificial intelligence from MIT and a Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA®) designation from the CFA Institute.