The Snow Quest

Posted in Event report, Walking, Winter with tags on February 19, 2017 by Branko

Bright snowy mountains
came into my eyes –
silent morning
……………………. Mayumi K.

Prior to Sunday February 12th, Kyoto had seen intermittent snow for two days and nights, much of the city having been shrouded in white. A poetic adventure invariably on his mind, it didn’t take long for Tito to come up with an idea for a snow-viewing meet at two famous ponds in Saga. In spite of very short notice, six haiku wanderers showed up on what turned out to be a mostly dry and breezy Sunday. The snowfall, alas, had petered out by the early morning hours. All we were left with was white mountain-tops and an occasional patch of unmelted snow to marvel at along the way.

The shrine grove
still holding snow –
the wicked sun
……………………. Titoosawa-pond-snow

Four of us started our walk at Daikaku-ji in Ukyo ward, where a small shrine dedicated to Sugawara Michizane (Tenjin-san), the Japanese God of Poetry, sits on an island in Osawa Pond.

Praying for snow
before a toneless bell
of Tenjin-san
……………………. Branko

Nearby, a plum orchard, barely in bloom, was a welcome sight.

a day of teasing snow –
the small white buds
on this plum tree
……………………. Duro

b-w-tomiko-mayumi-ume-orchardYears ago, Tito used to live just around the corner from Daikaku-ji and, needless to say, knows the surrounding area like the back of his hand. He was kind enough to provide us with lots of information on local history, both ancient and recent. One such point of interest was a group of burial mounds (‘Kitasaga Shichi Kofun’) dotting the rural landscape of vegetable plots and rice-fields. After clawing our way to the top of one such tumulus, we were astonished to find a great number of badger burrows, some of them freshly dug. From each emanated a strong animal scent, and it was safe to say the nocturnal creatures were better off inside the mound than we were, standing frozen on its windy top.

Below the frost line
the ancient tomb
reclaimed by badgers
……………………. Branko

p_20170212_111844_vhdr_in-the-fields-ab

Without restraint
beating its own drum:
a speedwell
out-of-season
……………………. Tomiko

More plodding through the  fields, soggy with snow-melt, and the four who began at Daikaku-ji eventually reached Hirosawa Pond … for a perfectly timed rendezvous with Hitomi and Duro (Gerald). This pond is emptied every December and was that day still partly water-less, a landscape dotted with wading birds foraging across the shallows and mudflats.

Hirosawa Pond –
left and right
high over fish shadows
an osprey hovering
…………………….. Hitomi

a famous pond
drained for the winter –
such hollow dreams
…………………….. Duro

Our final stop was a rather stylish Japanese restaurant, a 15-minute walk from Hirosawa Pond. Have you ever dined at a place frequented by members of royal families? Well, apparently this was such a place! On the walls, large photos recorded visits from the Cambodian and Burmese Royal Families, those of Mongolian dignitaries, and even one from a Ugandan chieftain.

Looking at
framed pictures of royalty …
my oyster curry arrives
……………………. Tito

After a lengthy meal and a productive and fun haiku sharing, we had a group photo taken in the garden outside. No sooner had we said goodbye, than snow began to fall again!

* click on any photo to see it enlarged *p_20170212_154858_vhdr_the-dirty-half-dozen-abchirosawa-osprey-feb-12-2017b

from the Icebox inbox – 39

Posted in Spring, Submissions, Winter with tags on February 6, 2017 by Tito

cold morning moon
streaks of cloud discreetly veil
an absent face

K.B. Nelson

bare branches –
I carry the bin across light
scattered on gravel

Diarmuid Fitzgerald

a kestrel stoops –
the cutting edge
of a shakuhachi

Theresa Cancro

mounted on a rusted pole a rain-beat flag

Payal Aggarwal

First day of spring —
a stray monkey swaying
on the top of a pine

Yoshiharu Kondo

* Everyone is welcome to submit a haiku to the Icebox whenever they wish by leaving them as a comment (via reply box) either under this post or on the new Submissions 5 page (see link at top right of our top page, reached by clicking anywhere on the top I C E B O X photo). Please feel free to comment below on this selection. Some of the haiku are very open to interpretation!

My Trip to the North: 4. Lake Usori & the Land of Bliss

Posted in Haibun, Summer with tags , on January 24, 2017 by sosui

Emerging from the region of the Hells, I now came to the beautiful shore of Lake Usori, a large crater lake surrounded by steep mountains, with names such as Mt. Screen and Mt. Overturned Cauldron. The shoreline was one of white sand. They call it Gokurakuhama, the shore of the Land of Bliss. I was told that the name of the lake had derived from the Ainu word meaning ‘peaceful bay’, and that ‘Usori’ had turned into ‘Osore’. I thought this was a very ironic corruption, for ‘Osore’ means ‘fear’. The lake should not be thought of as a perfect paradise, however, for its water is acidic and only a single species of fish can live there. Just looking at it, though, the lake was surely beautiful enough for a gateway to the Land of Bliss.

……… The wind from the hills
……… Carried away from my nose
……… That smell of sulphur.

…………………….. Beyond the white shore,
…………………….. A belt of emerald green
…………………….. Lit by summer sun.

Genjuan International Haibun Contest Deadline

Posted in Challenge!, Haibun with tags , on January 10, 2017 by Tito

This year, our sixth as Genjuan (and ninth if we include its predecessor, the Kikakuza Contest), we welcome one new judge, Ellis Avery. The addition of an American female poet/writer to the existing panel of two Japanese and one British resident of Japan is sure to give our judging new impetus. Judge Emeritus is Nenten Tsubo’uchi, one of Japan’s most prominent and well-respected haijin. If you haven’t already done so, we urge you to send something off soon to our officer, Eiko Mori, as the deadline is January 31st. Usually she waits for a few extra days in case there are stragglers. The Contest is free, but there are real prizes and signed certificates. In due course, we aim to compile a book of the best works from 2015-2017. There are still some copies of our 2012-14 anthology available (see the ‘Publications’ page link at top right). Non-native writers, please note: perfect English is not a prerequisite for a piece to be considered for a prize or subsequently published. Full Contest details are given under the ‘Genjuan Guidelines‘ page link.   We look forward to reading your work next month. Good luck!

New Year Rambling

Posted in Haibun, New Year with tags on January 1, 2017 by Hisashi Miyazaki

Kigo (season words) generally contain a sense of time passing, and this is particularly so when a change of year is concerned. The season word, kozo-kotoshi 去年今年 (last year/this year), when used in a haiku, will conjure deep emotion for the changing of one year into the next on New Year’s Day. In a single night, yesterday will become part of the old year and today, the new. The New Year (kotoshi, or shin-nen) physically stands on the base of the Old Year (kozo, kyonen, or furutoshi).

The existence of time in this world is said to be the most perplexing enigma for the physicists to theorize over. How is it, for example, that two years can share a time border? And should such a boundary be accurate to the nearest second? Or can it be further refined to the nearest milli-, micro-, nano-, or even pico-second? Perhaps not, … although 1/∞ (infinity) second surely exists!

New Year hike –
my hot lunch at the summit,
cup noodles as usual

Old Year/New Year:
as the bullet train
passes Nagoya

Kompukuji Ginkō

Posted in Autumn, Event report with tags , on December 17, 2016 by Richard Donovan

Kompukuji (金福寺), near Keizan Ichijōji Station in Higashiyama, Kyoto, was founded in 864, and is the site of the Bashō-an (芭蕉庵), a hut that the poet visited in 1670 and that was afterwards dedicated to him. Yosa Buson (与謝蕪村) and his disciples helped restore the hut in 1760. On Buson’s death in 1783, his disciples erected a tomb on the hill overlooking Bashō-an and its adjacent well. Thus this little-known temple is something of a mecca for poets!

We were fortunate, then, that it was quiet on the Saturday afternoon (3 December) when we 15 Hailstones visited, led by Tito. We were able to take our time, even sitting on the engawa (perching boards) of the hut to compose our responses. The guest of honour was Maeve O’Sullivan of Haiku Ireland.

Thatched with water reeds
topped with maple leaves –
Basho-an, the poet’s hut                       Maeve

Peeling shōji
a corner thumbtack
holds sway                                   Albie

Perhaps it was the fact that the autumnal leaves were a little past their prime that staved off the crowds, but we were still surrounded by rich golden and scarlet hues, the light-blue sky above and the soft greens of the moss at our feet forming a poignant contrast.

Maple leaves
dying beautifully                              Branko

Lantern of Kompukuji’s
soft stillness –
lichen dresses you                             Christine

Footpaths through shadows
leave the bright colors behind –
Buson’s resting place                          Peter

A high wire fence
Through burning maple leaves –
No deer by the gate                            Tito

Framed by the temple gate
Deer and mountain silhouette –
The sinking sun
shika nagara / saneimon ni / iru hi kana
This was Buson’s original, alluded to above in Tito’s haiku.

After our extended visit to the temple, we repaired to Café Anone, near the train station, joined by co-organiser Ursula for coffee and cake and the recital of haiku and haibun.

[Notes: ginkō – composition stroll; shōji – paper window screens]

Sweeping the leaves

Posted in Autumn, Haiga on December 6, 2016 by Gerald

sweeping-the-leaves-2-icebox-2016                          click on the picture to read the poem