Asuka-in-Kyoto Ginko

21 Nov. ’21. Katabiranotsuji Tram Station. In autumn sunshine, off we went in search of the largest remaining Hata tomb, Hebizuka Kofun, a rival of Ishibutai in Asuka. A short stroll along Daiei St. brought us to a colossal statue of an ancient warrior. Someone had recently climbed up to the face and fixed a large white corona mask, on which had been written, in two emphatic characters: “Crush the Plague.”

Thanks to Kazue, we eventually found the elusive tomb. Only its enormous central stone chamber remains, dwarfing the semi-detached houses cropping up like a mushroom circle all around. Here and there, yukimushi (snow midges) drifted in the morning rays.

Toward sunlight               …… A snow midge                      ……….. Ancient tomb
a tree grows                   ……. slips through the wire—      ……….. cicada shell
out of tomb rock            …….. warm day at Hebizuka                    . stuck to rock
.. (Branko)                        ……. (Richard)                              ……….. (Kumiko)

Arriving at Kyoto’s oldest temple, Kōryūji (formerly, Hachiokadera), we found the peace and autumn colour we had been hoping for. The only crowd was us (15 contemplative poets). This was one of the seven great temples founded in the late sixth and early seventh centuries by Shotoku Taishi, Asuka statesman and promoter of Buddhism. His righthand man in Kyoto Valley (largely then in the province of Kaduno) was Kawakatsu Hata, whose immigrant clan held most of the land, founded its grand shrines, and had been responsible for the introduction of sericulture. At one time during the Asuka Period, Kawakatsu Hata had even held the purse strings of the nation.

Stout wooden scaffolding          In Kōryūji’s precincts
for a temple building:                .two pigeons’ tree feast—
autumn renovation                   .shiny black berries
.. (Kyoko)                                   ..(Richard)

– click on any circle to enlarge and thence use arrows to see all the pics –

Inside the Treasure Hall, once our eyes had adjusted to its twilight conditions, we found devotional wooden statues of both the Prince and the Minister. We also noted a great number of weapon-bearing, armour-clad guardians of the directions, as well as Lakshmi (Kishōten) and other Indian divinities.

Protected by                                      ..Miroku Bosatsu
heavenly guards with weapons,          arises from the darkness—
the ancient Bodhisattva!                    ..mantra overhead
.. (Shigeko K)                                        .(Yaeno)

The real treasure here is the Korean-style sculpture of Miroku Bosatsu (Maitreya Boddhisatva) carved from red pine and seated in the hanka posture (with one leg propped restfully on the other). Its blissful head appears to be supported in a ‘thinker’ style by the fingers of the right hand. It is thought to be the very image presented by Shotoku to Kawakatsu at the foundation of the temple back in 603. Before it, in ones and twos, the poets all prayed for an end to the pandemic … and no doubt much besides.

Down the years
hoping to meet the Maitreya:
here,
like a pink-tinged apple
.. (Teruko)

Outside, the autumn blazed.

Holy place—                             Staying with me
wherever I go                           .by a dark pool under maples:
persimmon leaves fall              .that archaic smile
.. (Tomiko)                                 ..(Tito)

Rumour had it that at the local tram-stop, Uzumasa-Kōryūji, there was a curious machine. A few poets then went off to see.

Vending machine
by the temple gate:
not tobacco
but gods for sale!
.. (Kazue)

We took lunch in a lively neighbourhood restaurant, Arara. The upbeat chef was friendly and persuaded many of us to order his burger-and-prawn dish of the day by parading the ingredients around on a metal tray.

After coffee and a short haiku sharing, those with more time were offered an additional stroll to see two ancient Hata shrines nearby. We walked part of the way on Taishi-michi (Prince’s Way, named after Shotoku). The tiny Osake Jinja enshrines the spirits of the legendary ancestors of the Hata clan, including Yunzu no Kimi, Sake no Kimi, and even the first Chinese Emperor, Qin Shi Huang, famed for the Terracotta Army buried along with him near Xi’an. This day had steadily revealed to us an incredible ancient pantheon of gods and worthies.

There is a poem by Shiki:

山茶花や鳥居小き胞衣の神
sazanka ya / torii chiisaki / ena no kami
Sasanqua flowers—
through the tiny torii, a shrine
to the Placenta God

Tito related that ena no kami derived from a legend about Kawakatsu, in which he first appears as an embryo in a terracotta pot someone finds by the gateway of Miwa Shrine in Yamato. Eighty years or so later, after his exile and subsequent death, Kawakatsu himself had become a wrathful deity who needed to be propitiated. This tiny Kyoto shrine did not seem to be the one about which Shiki had versified, however, for we noted that Kawakatsu was not enshrined here. More likely, Shiki had written his haiku at (or about) the eponymous Osake Jinja in Ako, Hyogo, from where one can spy Kawakatsu’s resting place, the tiny wooded isle of Ikishima.

Pondering over
the glory of the Hata Clan—
winter sunlight
.. (Yaeno)

Several hundred metres further down the road, in the ancient grove of Kaiko no Yashiro (the Silkworm Shrine), we noticed a pile of rocks in a small dried-up pond. Above this omphalos, fencing it in, is a triangular construction made of three conjoined torii (sacred Shinto archways) aligned, we were told, with the three grand shrines of ancient Kyoto (Matsuo, Kamigamo and Inari). This shrine’s full name is Konoshima-nimasu-amaterumitama Jinja, an old Yamato name if ever there was one!

Sasanqua flowers—
now, just three directions
in a numinous wood
.. (Tito)

Autumn’s here

As autumn progresses, allow me to offer a few observations from my part of the world (over 9,000 kms. away, in Macedonia), yet not so very different, one imagines, regarding Mother Nature’s universal brilliant show of colour and latent scent of gradual decay.

warm winds of autumn
busy sweeping leaves
into tidy corners

….. tree roots
….. along the woodland path
….. an old man doffs his cap

………………………… edge of the lake
………………………… poplars on tiptoe
………………………… admiring their reflections

autumnal breath
golden aspens
shivering

breezy stroll
prattling on
a brittle leaf keeps pace

approaching storm
lake swans busking
next to shriveled reeds

A Matter of Ownership

It was a muggy day when I first noticed something unusual at my house. I glimpsed it in a nook of the porch, but lazily dismissed it thinking it was nothing serious. There were some spotted stains on the tiles, too.

Several weeks later, I was startled to see that the spots had spread. I lifted my eyes along the drainpipe towards a dark corner.

Something in a row
something in a huddle:
strangely silent
nest of bees

Carefully opening the door, I slipped into the house, regretting my laziness. I googled how to get rid of bees. Then, I conferred with my wife and concluded the best way would be to call in an exterminator.

The next day, I searched to find a suitable professional, but before I called, remembered that the bees had never actually attacked us nor done any harm. It was in part sympathy for the bees and in part my laziness again that made me change my mind. So we opted to leave the nest as it was and see how things went.

A weary bee
basking on the porch -
an autumn field

It’s been one month now, but, so far, living together with the bees, sharing the space on both sides of the wall, is going well. Although their numbers have seemed to dwindle as the days get colder, I am happy with our decision.

We live in a new residential area, which once used to be grasses, bushes, and bamboo groves. Now it’s all houses, apartments, hospitals, malls, and roadways. It makes me sad to realize that we’ve been changing the rules and destroying the environment for our own benefit. Humans move and buy ownership of a house. Bees move and make their houses where they please. Mankind is just 1 of 1.75 million species cohabiting the Earth. Sometimes, I have to remind myself of this.

Square silhouettes
before an autumn sunset -
concrete field

 

Tengus, Ninjas, Yogis, Strongmen, Dutchmen, Bodhisattvas

Granite sometimes weathers into marvellous rounded boulders perched atop hills. In Britain, we call them ‘tors’, and Konzeyama in southern Shiga prefecture has many. Such places often prove a source of inspiration. This year’s annual Autumn Haike (haiku hike) was Hailstone’s 20th and, since the 1st had also been in Shiga on the opposite side of Lake Biwa, it seemed somehow right to celebrate here. On 23 October, nine poets and would-be poets showed up at the main rendezvous in Kusatsu.

One autumn day
this Dutch dame, excited
about a Dutch dam (Margarite)

Before the stone structure, our organizer, Margarite Westra, told us the story of how C19th Dutch engineer, Johannis de Rijke, had built this dam in the river to help prevent floods.

Autumnal skies –
an elusive mountain runner
like a ninja (Akihiko)

Our tenth haiker, David, had just appeared wearing black. He told us he had run all the way from our destination at Konshouji and that the trail was rough. Much later in the day, he sped away from us again!

Two stone Buddhas
doing headstands –
and I do, too (Tito)

Sakasa Kannon was the first of a number of Buddhist monuments scattered across the mountain and dating from as far back as the Nara Period (C8th). The boulder into which the figures had been incised must have rolled and come to rest centuries ago with the enlightened ones now unfortunately displayed upside down.

October breeze –
from solid stone
a spray of red berries (David)

Silver grass swaying
gently pushing my back …
life proceeds (Miki)

From this point, we began climbing through tinted-tip trees along the upper reaches of a tributary stream… until we came to a huge boulder with much finer carvings: Komasaka Magaibutsu, an Amitabha trinity showing Korean influence.

Cliff-carved Buddha –
his one lichen eye (Richard)

Ascending further through the forest, we emerged at a tor and met the autumn wind.

Along the autumn ridge
awaiting a flying nimbus
holding your ashes tight (Moto, written for Rainier)

The view from Kunimi’iwa was splendid, so we ate our bento boxes and sandwiches there. From our granite perch, we could look out over Shiga and Lake Biwa. To the south, across into Iga, Basho’s homeland; to the north, past Mt. Mikami towards the Umibe no Michi along the lake’s north-eastern shore; and to the west, we could make out Mt. Hiei, and further away Mt. Hira, where we had begun our autumn haikes all those years before.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Presently, we moved on to Kasane’iwa.

Two huge rocks
balancing on a cliff:
they hold the warmth
of Indian summer (Akihiko)

The party then split into two, then three, then four, as some of us attempted to reach the massive white promontory tor of Tengu’iwa, the metaphysical highpoint of our journey. It was rock climbing in part and only six made it there.

Mt. Konze –
on the strange rocks
a tengu dancing (Mitsuko)

Tengus are prancing long-nosed, red-faced wildmen, and by this time, believe me, a few of us had become quite goblin-like in our movements and expressions! This heavenly rocky spot is one of the hidden wonders of Kansai.

The summiteers shimmied back, picking up the stragglers, until all reached the Pavilion of the Horse-headed Kannon (Batokannon-do). But there was nobody there and nothing to see through the slats.

A kilometre or so further on, we found the entrance to the Nara Period temple Konshouji, whose cedar-lined, stone-stepped approach ends in a gateway, on either side of which were illuminated Nio, wooden ripple-muscled Buddhist guardian strongmen. An assortment of fine sculptures of gods and saints greeted us from wooden halls scattered through the temple’s numinous grounds.

When the talking stopped
in the sea of moss
silence spoke (Margarite)

The priest had told us that he would hold up the last bus to ensure most of us could visit his temple. As we left the precinct, sure enough, a Meguri-chan coach was waiting. Buying tickets on board was not an easy matter, however, for the conductor had purloined four of the precious passenger seats as his ticket booth and was making quite a meal of it! Subsequent passengers boarding after us had to stand, but the goofy conductor maintained his four-seat ‘office’ to the bitter end. Lurching as it went, the little bus plunged away down the mountain and into the gathering dusk.

Late mosquito –
it lingers on the man
doing a simple sum (Tomiko)

Kyoto Isshu Trail Haike VII

Having dodged another typhoon, we had fine if unseasonably muggy weather for our haike on Sunday 3 October. I led Tito, Mayumi, David, and Akihiko Hayashi on a hike through the northern Higashiyama hills, with Akira and Shigeko Kibi joining us at the beginning.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We met at the intersection of Imadegawa and Kitashirakawa Sts at Kyoto Trail marker 52-1, just to the west of the Philosopher’s Path and Ginkakuji. This section of the trail follows the Shirakawa River upstream towards its mountain source, passing Kitashirakawa-tenjingu Shrine 北白川天神宮. The locals were preparing its mikoshi portable shrines for the harvest festival held on the first Sunday of October.

now free of the Emergency / fragrant olive’s / fresh greeting (Akira)

Saying good-bye to the Kibis, we entered the trailhead, pausing soon again at a pair of shrines, Oyamatsumi-jinja 大山祇神社 and Chiryudaimyojin 地龍大明神, quiet and shaded by the treetops. The trail rose steeply from here, guiding us to the Hakuyushi Ruins 白幽子旧跡, where the eponymous hermit, who taught naikanhou 内観法 introspection, lived out his final years in the Edo period.

The mystery / at the hermit’s cave — / who placed the tangerine? (Tito)

After another climb past tilting bodhisattva statues, we came out on the peak of Mt. Uryu (瓜生山, 301m). ‘Cucumber Peak’ is so named because cucumber-favouring Gozu Tennoh 牛頭天王 (guardian god Susano-o スサノオ) apparently manifests in bull form on the mountain. A shrine (光龍大権現) associated with Shogun Ashikaga Yoshiharu 足利義春 sits on the summit. Here is his death poem:

五月雨は 露か涙か 不如帰 我が名をあげよ 雲の上まで

An early-summer rain: but is it dewdrops or my tears? Little cuckoo, take my name up with you, high above the clouds!

The first signs of autumn tinged the foliage, and we were rewarded with a refreshing breeze as we took our lunch under a tree, with good views south to Mt. Daimonji, site of the previous Isshu Trail haike.

Autumn breeze — / Dancing leaves, running leaves / On the top of Mt. Uryu (Mayumi K)

Rather than descending to the famous Tanukidanifudoin Temple 狸谷不動院, we continued northeast on the Isshu Trail ridgeline for some time, almost having the beautiful path to ourselves.

Mt. Hiei trail / following monks’ footprints — / an autumn ridge breeze (Akihiko)

One clearing was bedecked with tangy green perilla (shiso). And there were other culinary delights waiting on a fallen log:

Red fungi and acorns / Spotlit in the sun — / Forest banquet (Mayumi K)

At marker 69, by the Mizunomi taijin-no-ato 水飲対陣跡 monument, we turned off the Trail and descended steeply into Shugakuin. It was the hottest time of the day.

Wiping sweat from my eyes — / the path scattered with acorns (David)

We made three crossings of a limpid stream. Tito was taken with a certain item, which passed among us for the rest of the descent.

Our rucksacks, / straining with the big grey rock / eased from a mountain streambed (Richard)

In a charming little park on the banks of the Otowa River 音羽川 near the Imperial Villa, we settled onto the benches and shared our trail haiku as the hot afternoon began to wind down.

How swift the seasons!

It was winter when I last posted on Icebox, and in what seems the blink of an eye it’s October already! Let me share three haiku spanning this summer and autumn.

Cicadas’
cacophony—a song of
blistering skin

Sweet-smelling grass,
a tiny brown frog leaps
among it all

Paddies at dusk,
crows flee a rising
gibbous moon

And finally, a light-hearted non-seasonal haiku inspired by a statue in a park. (A “tribute” to what birds do best!)

Brave man in bronze
white-lipped, mute to
the birds’ disrespect

Haiku from The Tokyo 2020 Olympics

We had 兼題 (suggested topic) at both of the Hailstone English Haiku seminars in August: ‘Olympic sports’. As they watched on their TV sets, poets in both Kyoto and Osaka composed haiku and haiqua on athletics, swimming, cycling, skateboard, gymnastics, surfing, karate, table tennis, baseball, sports climbing, and so forth. To celebrate the Games’ conclusion, here’s a small selection of them after slight 添削 (tweaking).

August sun —
beckoning deities to her chest
her hop step  j  u  m  p! (KY)

Tattooed eagle
on the Olympian’s arm
cleaves the water —
the final length (YA)

peeking over
the ping-pong table
a tiny girl’s happy face —
training for the Olympics (TY)

Neptune’s billow
brings the surfer to …
glory on the beach (HS)

a climber, hung
upside down
poised for the next move …
sweat beads on her cheeks (AK)

To watch the bobbing heads
of BMX cyclists …
illegal crowd
on a distant bridge (T)

Kyoto Isshu Trail Haike VI

Typhoon weather forced postponement of our Kyoto Circuit Mountain Trail haiku hike from Aug. 9 to 10. Until that typhoon, we had had daily highs of 37-38C and the day after the haike we entered a period of unrelenting rains, so the 10th turned out to be a blissful window of fair weather, cooler and drier than anything on either side. Postponement, however, meant that we lost a couple of haikers (haiku hikers) to other commitments. Sorry for that.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

On the day, 5 haikers headed out from Keage Station in Higashiyama via Himukai Jinja, said to be one of Kyoto’s oldest shrines, a kind of mini-Ise for those who cannot get there. Near the entrance, we came across a friendly jewel beetle, tamamushi, who seemed to want to come along with us. We all walked through the slender Amano’iwatoya Cave and thence on and up through mountain woods towards a still-hidden skyline. The soundtrack to our walk was most beguiling. There was even a horagai-blower.

In a tall cypress forest,
pine twigs scattered
by yesterday’s storm
………. Tito

somewhere
among these hot hills
the sound of a conch
………. David McCullough

Like dewdrops below
Kyoto streets are glittering —
summer realization
………. Akihiko Hayashi

Cicadas and birds —
on a cool mountain breeze
their music melds
………. Margarite Westra

from the top of Mount Daimonji
my primal scream
over Kyoto
………. Duro Jaiye

The panorama from the summit of Daimonjiyama (466m) was superb – much of Kyoto, most of Osaka, a suspicion of the Inland Sea, Mts. Atago, Ikoma, Kongo, and even the cloud-capped Omine Range beyond Yoshino.

On the steep descent, we came upon a refreshing cascade at the head of Shishigatani Valley. After a brief stop there, we walked down into the vale as the sun began to set.

An impromptu haiku sharing was later held in a cafe near Ginkakuji. Deep red shiso (perilla) soda was its long, cool accompaniment. We look forward to seeing some of you on the Trail again for Part VII this autumn.

The Latest and Last Genjuan Anthology

The Cottage of Visions, Genjuan Haibun 2018-21 anthology, 160pp, lilac cover A5, ¥1,400 (US$18 incl. p&p), just published by Hailstone! Available in Japan via teruyama2014″at”gmail”dot”com and for overseas mailing via indigoapple28″at”gmail”dot”com. Short of funds, this time we will only send it free to those in the book itself – awardees for the 2018-21 contests + judges and officers. Content: 40 awarded haibun, 13 judge’s comments (incl. ones by Nenten Tsubo’uchi, Toru Kiuchi, Akiko Takazawa, Hisashi Miyazaki, Sean O’Connor, and Angelee Deodhar), 8 haibun pieces by the judges, 3 new translations of Basho, Kyorai and Kikaku, 10 illustrations by Buson & Taiga. From the Preface:

“The door of the Cottage of Visions is surprisingly light. As I push it shut for the last time, I wonder if there is any point in locking it. While I’m away, perhaps the wind might blow it open and an animal get in? Or, if the windows are not properly fastened, creepers might just extend through the chinks and take over what’s been left inside – a low table, an oil lamp, some woven rush cushions, and piles and piles of papers with scribblings on many of them in both red and leaden grey.
At this time of year, the Genjuan is framed in vivid green. And this is how I shall remember it: a little thatched hut somewhere on a viridian hillside with the hint of a view across a distant lake.
Through breeze-rocked
new-leaved trees,
a world now short of breath
For ten years now into this hut have flown stories and haiku, the visions of so many good souls around the world…”

There will be no Genjuan International Haibun Contest next year. This has nothing to do with the epidemic; simply that all judges and the officer wanted a rest! The organizers (Hailstone Haiku Circle) have decided at this point to call it a day. We have tried to provide a bridge between Japan and the rest of the world in the field of haibun. Thank you for your creativity and enthusiastic support these past 10 years (13, if we include the first 3 as Kikakuza). Icebox will of course continue to publish and promote haibun in English. Enquiries can also be made, via comments below or on our Publications page.

A Parcel of Plums

Dear Stephen and Kazue-san,

The season of our plum harvest has returned.

Due to the rain and our delay at harvesting, some of the ripened ones may be bruised. Sorry for that. We selected those relatively young and green to avoid the above mishaps. Please water-wash their surface before taking a bite.

Akira and Shigeko, the residents of Rakuki-sha (落李舎)


Sleepless night,
another impact on the ground …
Ah, the ripened plums!