from The Sarashina Diary

Mount Fuji is in this Province. In the Province where I was brought up I saw that mountain far towards the West. It towers up painted with deep blue, and covered with eternal snow. It seems that it wears a dress of deep violet and a white veil over its shoulders. From the little level place of the top smoke was going up. In the evening we even saw burning fires there. The Fuji River comes tumbling down from that mountain. A man of the Province came up to us and told us a story.

"Once I went on an errand. It was a very hot day, and I was resting on the bank of the stream when I saw something yellow come floating down. It came to the bank of the river and stuck there. I picked it up and found it to be a scrap of yellow paper with words elegantly written on it in cinnabar. Wondering much I read it. On the paper was a prophecy of the Governors to be appointed next year. As to this Province there were written the names of two Governors. I wondered more and more, and drying the paper, kept it. When the day of the announcement came, this paper held no mistake, and the man who became the Governor of this Province died after three months, and the other succeeded him."

There are such things. I think that the gods assemble there on that mountain to settle the affairs of each new year.

At Kiyomigaseki, where we saw the sea on the left, there were many houses for the keepers of the barriers. Some of the palisades went even into the sea.

At Tagonoura waves were high. From there we went along by boat. We went with ease over Numajiri and came to the river Oi. Such a torrent I have never seen. Water, white as if thickened with rice flour, ran fast.

It would be very difficult even for a saint to dream of his prenatal life. Yet, when I was before the altar of the Kiyomidzu Temple, in a faintly dreamy state of mind which was neither sleeping nor waking, I saw a man who seemed to be the head of the temple. He came out and said to me:

"You were once a priest of this temple and you were born into a better state by virtue of the many Buddhist images which you carved as a Buddhist artist. The Buddha seventeen feet high which is enthroned in the eastern side of the temple was your work. When you were in the act of covering it with gold foil you died."

"Oh, undeservedly blessed!" I said. "I will finish it, then."

The priest replied: "As you died, another man covered it and performed the ceremony of offerings."

The Sarashina Diary is a mixed-form text—memoir, collection of poems, and diary—written by an unnamed lady-in-waiting of Heian-era Japan. She is conventionally referred to as “the daughter of Sugawara no Takasue” or “Lady Sarashina,” after a geographical region briefly alluded to in the text. Her Diary contains one of the first examples of travel writing, and is a classic of Heian-era Japanese court diaries, which provide a generous view of women’s lives in eleventh-century Japan. Soon after her husband’s death, about 1059, the author of the Diary ceased writing. Nothing is known about her remaining years or death. We have here used the 1920 translation by Annie Shepley Omori and Kochi Doi, originally published by Houghton Mifflin.