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The Yugyo Yanagi (Yugyo Willow Tree) and Sessho-seki Course

The Yugyo Yanagi (Yugyo Willow Tree) and Sessho-seki Courseの写真
Type:
hiking drive
Time Required:
2 h 15 min.
Distance:
24.5 km
Encounter the legends of Nasu and retrace the footsteps of the haiku poet Basho.

Course Outline

Nasu Town is home to several famous locations mentioned in poet Matsuo Basho’s book, Oku no Hosomichi (The Narrow Road to the Deep North), as well as historical spots passed down in legends since ancient times. The Yugyo Yanagi, or Yugyo Willow Tree, is a famous site that has appeared in many waka and haiku poems written by famous Japanese poets, including not only Basho, but also late Heian Period poet Saigyo and Edo Period poet Yosa Buson. When you arrive in Nasu Onsen Town area, you can retrace the footsteps of Basho and visit historical hot springs. From Nasu Yuzen Shrine, continue down a mysteriously desolate path where no vegetation grows until you reach the Sessho-seki, a famous location from the Japanese myth of the nine-tailed fox. With the chance to follow the paths of famous Japanese poets like Basho and encounter the legends of Japan, this course is perfect for enjoying the history and folklore of the Nasu area.

Highlights

The willow tree celebrated in Saigyo, Basho, and Buson’s poetry
The willow tree celebrated in Saigyo, Basho, and Buson’s poetry

Yugyo Yanagi (Yugyo Willow Tree)

The Yugyo Yanagi (Yugyo Willow Tree) is famous from one of Basho’s haiku poems in which he describes parting from a willow tree surrounded by fields being planted with rice seedlings. A stone carved with the haiku was erected here by Shungi Inoue in April 1799 during the Kansei Era of the Edo Period. His name is carved near the bottom of the stone. Basho’s haiku alludes to Saigyo’s poem which describes Saigyo pausing before a stream beneath the willow by the roadside. Basho’s haiku further suggests that while Basho is lost in contemplation of Saigyo’s poem, an entire field is planted with rice. In Buson’s poem, he describes a scene where leaves fall from the willow and the stream has dried up, exposing the stones at the location.

The legend of the nine-tailed fox
The legend of the nine-tailed fox

Sessho-seki (the Killing Stone)

This legend tells of an evil nine-tailed fox who was turned into a huge stone by a diviner who saw through the fox’s disguise. The stone, seeping with the fox’s evil aura, was broken into three pieces and scattered by the thundering cry of a Buddhist priest. The Sessho-seki is said to be one of the pieces. Because the ground seeps with toxic hydrogen sulphide gases, no vegetation can grow around the stone. In his book, Oku no Hosomichi, Basho writes “The Sessho-seki is located in a mountain recess where a hot spring flows forth. The stone’s poisonous air still remains and the ground is covered in so many dead bees and butterflies that you can barely see the color of the sand.” His haiku about the stone describes how the foul fumes scorched the summer grass red.

A historical hot spring area along the river
A historical hot spring area along the river

Shikanoyu Onsen

Shikanoyu Onsen is said to have been discovered in the early 7th century by a local official hunting in the mountains who was pursuing an injured deer, hence the name “Shikanoyu,” which means “deer’s hot spring.” The poet Basho also wrote about visiting the spring in his book, Oku no Hosomichi. With a bathhouse built during the Meiji Period (1868–1912) and entranceway built during the Taisho Period (1912–1926), the present day Shikanoyu Onsen is a quaint, wooden-structured hot spring facility that embodies the atmosphere of traditional Japan.

Course Map

The Yugyo Yanagi (Yugyo Willow Tree) and Sessho-seki Course

Course Time

Starting Point
1
Yugyo-an Parking Lot
5 min.
0.3 km
2
Yugyo Yanagi (Yugyo Willow Tree)
5 min.
0.3 km
3
Yugyo-an Parking Lot
34 min.(Drive)
20.6 km
4
Yugawa Municipal Parking Lot
5 min.
0.2 km
5
Asahibashi Bridge
36 min.
1.2 km
6
Konpaironoyu Onsen
10 min.
0.4 km
7
Sessho-seki
10 min.
0.4 km
8
Shikanoyu Onsen
25 min.
0.9 km
9
Asahibashi Bridge
5 min.
0.2 km
10
Yugawa Municipal Parking Lot
Terminus
*Course time and distance are estimates.