KANSAI Close-up

[Columns]Year-end, I felt like visiting Mr.Shiba’s place when strolling Kyoto forest (written by Junzo Tanaka)

The year is drawing to a close. One of the features of this season is the casual recollection of people who passed away in the rush at the end of the year. Strolling in the Higashiyama area in Kyoto deeper into Kiyomizu Temple for late autumn-leaf viewing, I reached a place of stone monuments to the deceased: in other words, gravestones.

There were many gravestones standing side by side almost as far as the eye could see. Since I suddenly realized that Mr. Ryotaro Shiba’s final resting place was also in the area, I searched for his gravestone in the hope of visiting his grave for the first time in a long while, and apologizing for my long silence.

Mr. Ryotaro Shiba was a well-known history writer. Even after he passed away suddenly in 1996, the number of his books being published has continued to increase, with his writings often being made into movies and TV dramas. His popularity is high even now. As one of his subordinates at a newspaper company, I was under his care until his death.

From my memory of visiting his grave last time, it must have been located in an extended part of a hill commanding a fine view that included something like an expressway. Based on that memory, I searched for his grave, but it was difficult to identify the location. Remembering that his brand new gravestone had a refreshing design, which was quite rare for a gravestone, I beat the bushes for his grave.

I met several people who had come to visit someone’s grave. I asked these people about the location of Mr. Shiba’s grave, but they just tilted their heads saying that they had no idea. Some of them followed me, saying, “If Mr. Shiba’s grave is near here, I would also like to visit it with you.”

Since I had difficulty finding his grave, I went back to the guard station at the foot of the hill and asked a security guard about the location. “Well, I have heard that Mr. Shiba’s grave is here somewhere… But as for the exact location…. you might want to ask at the office,” the security guard responded in an apologetic manner

Mr. Shiba’s huge gravestone should be in the forest there. So the security guard might have had difficulty pointing out the exact location in the forest. We asked a female worker in a place that appeared to be the office. At that point, my legs felt as heavy as lead due to my being out of shape. Part of my mind gave up on finding his grave partly because of my fatigue.

Thankfully, she gave me a positive response. “OK. Wait a moment,” she said and fetched a sheet of paper from a drawer at the back. It was a copy of an outline map of “the Gravestone of Ryotaro Shiba.” Relying on the map, we entered the extensive graveyard again.

His gravestone was standing upright in a place a little distance away from the area we walked around beating the bushes for it before. New gravestones that had been erected around Mr. Shiba’s gave the atmosphere of the area around his grave a different feeling from what it was before. It was no wonder that I got lost, since I have no sense of geography. However, his grave was still at a location from which we could see the expressway connecting Kyoto and Shiga beyond a valley. The place was quiet with the sound of automobiles rarely heard, probably because of trees and thickets around it.

His grave had flowers offered by someone who had probably visited there just before us.
Standing before his grave, I folded our hands in reverence of Mr. Shiba, then headed for home.
Junzo Tanaka(Left) and Ryotaro Shiba(Right)