Rakushisa is the cottage of Genroku poet Mukai Kyorai. Kyorai was one of ten disciples of the haiku poet, Matsuo Basho. Basho once referred to Kyorai by saying, "In Kyoto, there is Kyorai, who is in charge of haikai in Western Japan." Kyorai was the most important poet to continue Basho's authentic style after the master died.
The cottage was listed in the Shui Miyako Meisho Zue, an Edo period travel book that listed famous places to see in Kyoto. The name of the place is derived from a story of how Kyorai achieved enlightenment. As the story goes, Kyorai had forty persimmon (kaki) trees planted around the hut. One autumn, when they were heavy with fruit, he had arranged to sell the persimmons. But during the night before they were to be picked, a great storm arose. The following morning, not a single persimmon remained on the trees. As a result Kyorai was enlightened and from that point forward called the hut and garden, Rakushisa or 'the cottage of the fallen persimmons'. The poem he wrote for the occasion is inscribed on a stone in the garden:
kozue wa chikaki
Master of Persimmons
Treetops are close to
There's a bit of word play here. Arashiyama is a mountain near Kyoto but it means literally 'Storm Mountain'.
Basho visited here three times, in 1689, 1691 and 1694. On the second occasion, from April 18 to May 5, the diary he kept became known as the Saga Nikki and was published in 1753 (Horeki 3). His last visit here was about four months before his death. In the western corner of the garden, a poem is inscribed in a stone:
kabe no ato
trace of a poem card
torn off the wall
The garden is littered with poem stones by various masters that have lived and visited here including Takahama Kyoshi, Shaku Hyosai, Kudo Shiranshi, and Hirasawa Ko. Shaku Hyosai was both a journalist for the Asahi Shinbun (the equivalent of the New York Times in Japan) and an accomplished practitioner of haiga (haiku + painting). He made a significant contribution to the conservation of the Rakushisa site, which is now managed by the Rakushisa Conservation Association.
Kyorai's gravestone is in Kogenji graveyard, about 100 meters north of Rakushisa. It is a small stone marked with simply 'Kyorai'.
Sunlight sparkles on the dancing water
Spring warms the garden wall
Plum buds smile like red lips,
But the gate-willow has not yet
Grown her eyebrows.