As one of the four haiku masters of Japan and the most recent, it’s not surprising that Matsuyama takes pride in its poetic son and seeks to memorialize his very short sojourn here. The Matsuyama Municipal Shiki Memorial Museum is a huge edifice in Dogo, with lights and glass cases. In comparison, this shrine to Shiki is a fraction of the size and could easily be overlooked. But the Shikido (Shiki Hall) is perhaps a more fitting tribute, because it captures the small scale at which the man himself lived, even if his impact and activity was great. As one of the characters who appears in the novel Clouds Above the Hill, the Shikido is one of the stops on the walking trail that places the novel in its context.
The Shikido is a tiny one-storey building tucked in amongst the old district that still survives to the east of Takashimaya Department Store. It’s a reconstruction of the house where Shiki lived until he was seventeen years old. It stands on one side of a large gravelled square with a temple, and sundry other buildings of post-war vintage. The Kururin Ferris wheel looks imposing from here. As you approach the Shikido, a disembodied voice from a pillar directs you to the little booth across the square next to the drinks vending machines to buy your ticket. In front of the Shikido is a peculiar little display of a Botchan Train carriage and a bust of the author Natsume Soseki, a friend of Shiki.
Inside, the Shikido is very fusty and dusty, with glass cases of faded artefacts lining the walls. But the exhibits are quite interesting. There are black and white and sepia photos of Shiki and his companions, original manuscripts with corrections, excellent drawings of people, buildings and vegetables, and even a death mask. One room is a reconstruction of the room where Shiki worked, with a number of his personal belongings.
In his latter days when he was incapacitated by illness, Shiki spent a lot of time sitting or lying down, and that’s how he appears in many photos. The furniture of the Shikido, consisting of nothing but floor space and thin cushions, is strongly suggestive of Shiki’s supine later life. If visit the Shikido in the warm season when all the doors and windows are open letting in mosquitoes from the garden, some of them may bite you. Indeed, Shiki wrote a haiku that goes “Bitten by mosquitoes, I have written a draft analysing political parties”. It must have been this very same closeness to nature, for better or worse, that informed Shiki’s poetry and made them seem familiar to so many people.
Next to the Shikido is an interesting graveyard with a fine memorial to Shiki.
Name in Japanese: 子規堂
Address: 16-3 Suehiro-cho, Matsuyama, Ehime 790-0023