Shozo Fujii

Gio-ji Temple, Kyoto: Part 2 of 4

The gifted dancer and a fickle heart

Shozo Fujii
Justin Velgus   - 3 min read

Gio-ji Temple is more of a hermitage than a temple. The tiny building consists of just one kitchen sandwiched between two Japanese style rooms. Looking at the preserved temple building and imagining it was probably more shabby back when originally built, it is remarkable to think four people were living here. Spread gently along the slope on the east side of the main hall is a vivid scene of lush moss.

Continued from part 1....

Kiyomori reluctantly accepted the wish of the persistent youth.

He ordered, "Let me hear you recite (Heian-style) poetry!"

The submissive Hotokegozen stood proud and began to sing:

For the first opportunity to meet you,

I have waited more than 1000 years.

A small white pine tree, I am.

To the lord's pond in Kameoka,

the cranes flock to play.

Hotokegozen's clear voice rang out in the quiet garden.​

"I am not impressed. I want more. Show me your dancing skills immediately," Kiyomori beckoned.

Matching the rhythm of the drum, Hotokegozen performed a light dance. The subdued beauty of her gentle flowing fingers resembled cherry blossom petals fluttering towards earth. At the same time her masterful foot movements and stomping seemed unmatched.

Everyone in attendance was stunned by the performance. A silence lingered in the ecstatic atmosphere. The lustful Kiyomori was already deep in thought about having his way with her inside his sleeping chambers.

Not seeking consent or refusal, Kiyomori proclaimed in a cheeky voice, "Ah, Hotokegozen. It is settled then. You will work for me from now on. Isn't that great?"

"I am afraid I must refuse. This time I was grateful to sing and dance in front of master Kiyomori. It is more than enough. Please let this be."

"So that's how it is going to be. Need I remind you that what I decide is not to be argued against. If Gio follows my wishes, I intend to replace her with you as my highest ranking concubine."

Having said that, Kiyomori faced Gio and cold-heartedly confessed, "Gio, now you may do as you please. I don't desire you in my residence anymore. There is no reason we need to meet again."

Gio, who had always offered a gentle smile towards her lover, now displayed such a cruel scowl that one would think she was a different person.

To think such a day like this could come was beyond belief. She would have to leave the mansion and lifestyle she had grown accustomed to for the last 3 years. Tears streamed from Gio's blurry eyes as the tatami rice mats became dampened.

Gio left the room and wrote a tanka poem on a sliding door before her departure:

The sprouting bud,

much like the withering surrounding plains,

in due time, will turn pale in autumn.

Gio left the mansion still in tears without giving an explanation to her sister or mother, which had to hear it from the servant. The entire residence sunk into a gloom of despair. (.....continued on part 3)

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Justin Velgus

Justin Velgus @justin.velgus

Justin Velgus (ジャスティン ベルガス) is a long-term resident and promoter in the Tohoku region. He has been a content producer for since 2012 and was the Miyagi Prefecture Regional Partner 2013-2015. Justin’s over 300 published travel and culture articles come from a background ...