Sightseeing in Sendai: The house of Bansui Doi (晩翠草堂) - Vikingess Voyages

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Sightseeing in Sendai: The house of Bansui Doi (晩翠草堂)

Sendai is Northern Japan's largest city, and it is situated in the Miyagi prefecture approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes away from Tokyo by the bullet train (Shinkansen).

During the Japanese Silver Week I had the chance to go traveling to Miyagi prefecture with my friend Amee, and we had decided to spend one day in Sendai. We arrived in Sendai in the morning without any concrete plans for the day, and since the weather was good we decided to walk to our hotel to drop of our luggage.
House of the famous poet Bansui Doi
On the way to our hotel we passed by an interesting traditional Japanese building that was situated next to an UNESCO building, and just because we liked the atmosphere of the place we decided to check out what it was. Imaging our surprise when we entered the house and were greeted by a guide who could tell us that this used to be the home of the famous poet Bansui Doi (土井 晩翠).
Doi's house (turned out quite dark unfortunately) with the UNESCO House in the background
The guide, mr. Kikuchi, could also tell us that the UNESCO building also was a part of Doi's land, and that UNESCO had received approval to use the space which resulted in the Sendai UNESCO House opening in 1957. Unfortunately the building was heavily damaged during the Great East Japan Earthquake and has not been in use since.

A statue of Bansui Doi seen from his house
The guide seemed very enthusiastic and happy to have visitors (perhaps in particular because he could talk with us without having to to use English), and gladly taught us the whole life story of Bansui Doi.

Doi was born in Sendai in 1871, and started studying Chinese already in his early childhood. During his youth he spent many years living in Europe. According to our guide he was also a friend of the famous novelist Natsume Soseki, who also was living in Europe during the same time, and they regularly exchanged letters.
Some of Doi's works, including the translation of the Iliad and Odyssey

Naturally Doi was influenced by European culture and writings, and as a master of many languages he translated a number of Greek and Latin classics into Japanese. Among the titles were famous works such as Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. But he also published his own poetry, and together with Shimazaki Toson his epoch-making works sat the standard for this period.
Some of his famous works include the poem and song "Kojo no Tsuki" (The Moon over the Ruined Castle), the poetry collections "Tenchi Ujo" (Emotion in the Universe) and "Gyosho" (Morning Bell).

Bansui Doi's bed. Notice the garden and statue of Bansui Doi in the background
Unfortunately for Doi his house and many of his books were lost during the fire bombing in World War II. His students and supporters helped build the Bansui Sodo house on the site of his former residence in 1949, and he spent his last years in this house until he passed away in 1952.

The house is still kept the way it was in 1952, and entrance to the house is free. If you're spending some time in Sendai and are interested in Japanese poetry and writings this house will be well worth a visit.

Here is the English version of Doi's famous "Kojo no Tsuki" (The Moon over the Ruined Castle) (credit: Norio Shimizu from Lyric Translate)

The Moon over the Ruined Castle 

Flowery feast in spring high up in the castle
Cups were passed around with moonlight reflected on the surface of sake
The moonlight shined through the old pine branches
Where is that old moonlight now?
 Encampment in autumn was white covered with frost
A number of geese honked as they flew across the sky
The moonlight shined on the swords thrusted upright into the ground
Where is that old moonlight now?
 Now at midnight the moon is right above
For whom does it shine like in the past?
Nothing remains on the rampart but some ivy
Nothing to hear but the rustle of pine branches in the storm
Up in the sky the moon and the stars remain unchanged
But in the earthly life, rises and falls come and go
Does the moon hang there to reflect those changes?
Ah! the midnight moon over the ruined castle

The bed where Bansui Doi passed away
1 Chome-2-2 Omachi, Aoba Ward, Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture

Recommended Hotels in Sendai

Sendai Washington Hotel
Sendai Washington Hotel
The Westin Sendai Hotel
The Westin Sendai Hotel
Mitsui Garden Hotel Sendai
Mitsui Garden Hotel Sendai
Sendai Royal Park Hotel
Sendai Royal Park Hotel

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About Anette
Anette came to Japan as an exchange student in 2010, met the love of her life and got stuck. From her base in Tokyo she writes about her experiences as a full-time worker in Tokyo and about her travels in Japan and abroad. She's a free-spirited adventurer who enjoys both the great outdoors and her urban lifestyle.

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Adventures ofAnette

A modern day shield-maiden who loves to explore the unbeaten paths of the world. From her base in Tokyo, Anette takes on both rural and urban challenges, and goes by the motto "No challenge too big, no adventure too small"!
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