Blinded by Leaves

Since 2002, we in the Hailstone Haiku Circle have walked an annual haike (haiku hike). Each autumn we throw ourselves into the rich colours of the Japanese countryside and let the poetry flow.

This year, nine of us gathered for a scaled-back hike in the remote village of Hanase, far to the north of Kyoto city.

We had hoped to begin the day with a visit to the dramatic, stilted temple of Bujoji. Unfortunately, the combined effects of corona virus and typhoon damage had closed the temple. But with autumn in full blaze we set off on a gentle riverside walk.

Autumn shade — / a spider pretending to be / a leaf  (Kumiko)

Beneath a slate gray sky / trees flaunt their colors, / as if in defiance (Ted)

Wandering along a forest path, slowly ascending, our senses were captured by the fruits of autumn.

Crab* zigzags / up her small hand, she says / like soft needles (Branko)

hundred-year-old maple tree, / still so young / above the clean river (Tomiko)

Bridge of trees, / a typhoon offering / to foxes and bears (Minori)

At the end of the climb we lifted our eyes to three enormous cryptomeria* that seemed to rise from a single trunk. These are the tallest trees in Japan, sheltered from storms amid a cleft in the mountains.

The fifteen storeys / of Sanbonsugi: / homes of flying squirrels, / homes of owls (Tito)  

We slowly descended to our starting point, from where we visited a forest park for a fine lunch, including wild mushrooms.

after the autumn amble, / kissing my wooden staff / farewell (Ursula)

Round a chestnut table / our masks slip off / one by one (Branko)  

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Fully refreshed we returned from deep countryside to the charming village of Hanase … to be greeted by blue skies and ever richer colours.

Man up a ladder / proofing tiles on his roof … / masked poets file by (Tito)

Rows of pampas grass, / catch light and sway — / the autumn wind (Kyoko)

Reaching the middle of the village we ascended a long, grass staircase to pay our respects at the rustic sanctuary of Miwa Jinja.

from dark forest / behind the mountain shrine — / echoing laughter (David)

Sudden sunbeam / spills through the gate, / ferns bow (Ted)

The day concluded with a safe return to Kyoto City. At Cafe Dorf in Iwakura we shared our compositions round the hearth.

Notes: crab* – land crabs are encountered in the mountains here in Japan; cryptomeria* – sugi in Japanese.

David Cobb (1926~2020)

It is with a heavy heart that I have to report that a friend of many decades, co-founder of the British Haiku Society, close colleague in its early years, haibun pioneer, and 2020 Genjuan Haibun Contest Grand Prix winner, David Cobb, passed away quite naturally in his sleep surrounded by family in Essex, England on 6 November. He was 94. His son, Thomas, kindly wrote to me to bring this news, confiding that his father had been “thrilled with winning the Genjuan award this year and told all his friends and family about his achievement” and that “although ever the perfectionist, he had continued to “improve” Snow in Advent with each telling. I think he felt that winning the prize showed he still had the touch.” We judges were overjoyed when we found out it was his piece! He had both a wonderful sense of humour and a great sensibility to the seasons, as borne out by the concluding haiku in his Grand Prix work:

snowballs / even the rose bushes / starting to throw them

David had visited Hailstone in autumn 2004 to deliver his Sasakawa Prize Lecture here in Kyoto on the subject of his fledgling Almanac of Season Words Pertinent to England. We had hired a room at Hachidai Jinja for the purpose and guided him on a visit to the Basho-do and Buson’s grave in nearby Konpukuji Temple. On another day, I had joined him for an international haiku event in Basho’s birthtown, Iga-Ueno, where we were on the same renku table. I have never forgotten the verse he offered us for a winter stanza. It depicted “snow settling on a sensitive part” of Michelangelo’s David statue in Florence! That contribution certainly raised a few eyebrows in Iga.

His contribution to English haiku was immense and he will be sorely missed by family and friends, and in haiku journals and websites worldwide. My dear Old Turnip (Ko-bu), rest in peace.

Hailstone will attempt, if coronavirus allows, to do a renga in his honour in the near future and, if worthy, to send it to Thomas and sister Alison as a memento next year.

children panicking — / out of the tiger cage / a wasp!

pear leaves fall: / a landscape starts to form / between the branches

Imashirozuka Hisashi Memorial

Ancient tumulus – / clay figures on parade / as memories return   (Akito Mori)

17 October, 2020, Settsu-Tonda, Osaka. 14 poets gathered for a haiku stroll and memorial event for Hisashi Miyazaki. It rained all day long. The ginko itself had originally been planned by Hisashi and Akito Mori, but with Hisashi’s sudden passing (from pneumonia), I (Akira) offered to help Akito, and we decided to go ahead, feeling that H. would have wanted that. We planned to stroll around the famous tumulus and later to commemorate our dear friend in his own neighborhood on the very day when his ashes were being interred by his family in a temple nearby (四十九日).

Haniwa carry his soul / into the celestial age – / a rainy autumn day   (Ayako Kurokawa)

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We began our stroll by visiting the Imashirozuka Ancient History Museum to orientate ourselves. The tumulus itself was constructed in the early Sixth Century and is believed to be the grave of Japan’s 26th emperor, Keitai*. It is a fine example of the large, keyhole-shaped moated tombs from the Kofun Period and is famous for its ceramic haniwa sculptures of soldiers, dancing women, wrestlers, animals, birds, houses and so forth.  The Museum has a fine collection of artifacts from the site.

black hole eyes / stare straight in front – / timeless haniwa   (Reiko Kuwahata)

Sacred maiden / praying with arms stretched out: / after fifteen centuries / headless   (Kyoko Nozaki)

the clay pot’s trumpet lip – / the ancients, too, adored / the morning glory!   (Richard Donovan)

Later that morning, we walked around the moat and some climbed through the autumnal woods onto the top of the colossal gravemound itself. Unusually, here it is permitted to do so. Lunch was taken nearby in a couple of local restaurants.

Haniwa ducks / stoic in the rain: / just arrived on the moat / their whistling cousins*   (Tito)

the bosky mound – / running down / its animal trails / autumn rainwater   (Mizuho Shibuya)

standing atop / an ancient emperor’s tomb / soft autumn rain   (Duro Jaiye)

We held our afternoon memorial meeting for Hisashi at the Community Centre, where we had reserved a room. The autumn rain continued to fall outside as we began with a minute’s silence, refreshing our memory of him. We then went round the table, with all participants managing to share a precious memory of H or to read aloud one of his haiku or haibun works. He was a multi-faceted person – poet, translator, editor, pharmacologist, climber, fisherman. We found in many of his haiku the scientist’s mind, aware both of minute details and of the larger processes at work in the history of the Earth and stars. One attendee affectionately mentioned H’s traits – both as a person and as a haiku poet – with the words ‘slowly, vaguely, smilingly’. With artful ambiguity (bokashi), he always managed to leave room for the reader’s imagination, so that we could better feel his poems and appreciate the meaning behind them. Other participants mentioned the ‘boyish twinkle in his eye’, his humour, and his enthusiasm for exploring new fields.

haniwa festival – / some are praying / that your next world / will also be amusing   (Teruko Yamamoto)

Towards the end of the meet, we were invited to share verses created during the morning’s ginko. Everyone struggled to spin the thread of time that has passed since the days of haniwa and kofun 1,500 years ago … and to weave that into the present moment through our haiku poems.

requiescat in pacem / beloved poet, Hisashi-san / Mr. Turtle   (Ursula Maierl)

Notes: *E. Keitai 継体天皇 (r. 507-531), whistling ducks = wigeon 緋鳥鴨

Kyoto Isshu Trail — Part III

Wed. 16 Sep. (a day earlier than planned because of weather concerns): I led Tito, Kazue and David on the third Kyoto Isshu Trail Haike of the year, meeting outside Kinkakuji and concluding at Togano-o near Takao. We walked up the road past Hidari Daimonji (the 大 character near Kinkakuji that features in the annual fires lit on the hills of Kyoto for Obon) and paid a quick visit to my new home before heading on upstream along the Kamiya River to the trailhead on the Tokaishizen-hodo (東海自然歩道), which soon links up with the Isshu Trail. There are many carpenters and joiners along this road, and also a jizo shrine with a delicious spring.

…. Cypress shavings smoulder
…. by the stream-side rowan —
…. berries, small this year
…………………………… Tito

Soon after beginning our trail ascent, we observed the remnants of devastation from the typhoon of two years ago, tree trunks lying like tossed ‘pickup sticks’ across the valley, and some still encroaching on the trail. Further evidence could be found at the marker, where the main route to Sawanoike Pond (沢ノ池) was closed due to a large landslide. However, we stepped over the warning tape and scrambled up an alternative route that David had found, coming across a beautiful yamamayuga (山繭蛾), a Japanese silk moth, slumbering on the far side of the yawning cavity left by the landslide. Close by, Tito tended to a near-forgotten shrine.

…. Dead end on the Kyoto Trail:
…. he brushes the cobwebs
…. from the bodhisattva
…………………………… Richard

– click on any photo to enlarge –

We approached the pond from the north along a forestry road, heading along its east bank, past the odd tent, until we reached the far end of the gourd-shaped body of water, a reservoir fashioned in the Edo Period to provide for Kyoto. No obvious evidence of the construction remains; it is a charming place, reflecting the sky and the slowly turning foliage, though its waters are murky. We all braved them for a refreshing swim, some emerging more scathed than others.

…. Mountain afternoon —
…. his toes now nibbled
…. by fish in the lake
…………………………… Tito (after/for David*)

Over lunch we sat in admiration of such a tranquil, enigmatic spot mere kilometres from downtown Kyoto. Tito told us there had been a village here in Jomon times.

…. The wide green lake
…. skimmed by red dragonflies:
…. who will see this
…. when I have gone?
…………………………… David

The sun came out, as if urging us onward, etching the trees luminously on the water’s surface and raising temperatures to the low-30s. It made for a hot walk along the ridgeline to the south of the lake, with fine views of Kyoto and the rolling hills of Saga as we headed west towards Takao. As we emerged onto the Fukugatani-rindo (福ヶ谷林道), David zoomed off ahead of us to attend a university Zoom meeting. We three remaining haikers sauntered down to Togano-o (栂ノ尾), where we took another dip, this time in the pristine Kiyotaki River.

…. on the hook on the end of the line by the rock on the river
…. someone’s sweetfish** dinner
…………………………… Richard

We spent a silent moment thinking of our recently departed haiker friend Hisashi, then had a leisurely drink and a snack at one of the pretty restaurants looking out across the river, brushing up our poems and pondering the day’s refreshing excursion. A JR bus took us back into Kyoto.

* David’s earlier haiku, to which this is a complement, was Mountain morning — / my face tickled / by spiderwebs
** ayu

Hisashi Miyazaki (Kame-san)

(click photos to enlarge)

This will come as a shock to many of you, but I have to tell you that our dear friend and colleague, Hisashi Miyazaki, passed away suddenly of a respiratory infection (not corona) in Takatsuki, Osaka last Friday, 3 September, aged 80. He was only ill for two days. Hailstone Haiku Circle members will know him as a former assistant editor of the Icebox, a judge of the Genjuan Haibun Contest, and he was still serving on the Hailstone Committee helping to make decisions for our group. He is irreplaceable and will be hugely missed. Our hearts go out to his wife, Keiko, and the rest of the family. He was co-organizer of a forthcoming event in Takatsuki to be held on October 17th and we will have to redesign it as a Hisashi 亀さん (Kame-san) Memorial event. The character with which ‘Hisashi’ is written means ‘turtle’. Mr. Turtle.

Hisashi was born in Dec. 1939 in Osaka. He read biology at Kobe University and joined their Mountaineering Club, a passion he still had well into his seventies. He also loved fishing and haiku. He led several Hailstone Autumn Haikes. He became a Doctor of Pharmacy and worked as a research scientist testing new drugs in the Dainippon Seiyaku labs. After retirement, he did freelance medical translation work. His translation skills were to the fore in several haiku projects, too, most notably perhaps, the recent Japanese version of the Cottage of Visions haibun anthology, entitled イヌピアット語のレッスン, Inupiat Lessons, 2019. He also published an entertaining haiku collection in Japanese entitled 未来書房 The Future Bookstore, 2003, and a fine haibun collection オロロロの丘 Zigzag, 2010.


He co-edited our Hailstone anthology, Seasons of the Gods, 2007 and did the Japanese translations we published in Enhaiklopedia, 2005. He was responsible for bringing his Japanese haiku teacher, Nenten Tsubo’uchi onto the judges’ panel for the Genjuan Contest for four years. Above all, perhaps, he was that happy man who always made others feel relaxed and improved everything effortlessly… ‘light’ in all his dealings.

– R I P –

Three of his haiku, in Hisashi’s own English translations, from The Future Bookstore:

a snake creeping ………………….. temptation ………………………………….. deliquescence
up the stone mound — …………… on the mountain top: ……………………… of a manganese salt —
translation in progress ……………. to step onto ………………………………… August’s end
………………………………………. the spring rainbow

The past three months

.. The rainy season continued until the beginning of August this year.

………………………… though the rain stopped
………………………… the wind roars at night:
………………………… lingering rain front

.. During that long rainy season, I received sad news. One of my cousins had passed away. When I was a little girl, he was kind enough to take care of me, playing chess and Hanafuda. The memory stays with me, emerging today into this deep foggy morning.


………. dense fog
………. even the castle mountain
………. loses its frame
 

.. Then the severely hot summer came in. But no matter how hot it was, the spread of COVID-19 did not ease.  

………………………… meaningless
………………………… as a symbol of the winter,
………………………… facemasks

.. Everyone faithfully wore those masks, feeling almost choked in the middle of the summer.  

………. a dry fallen leaf
………. stuck in the scorching asphalt,
………. patience with pride

.. Recently, a huge typhoon passed by. It has made us feel that we may now have taken a step back down the stairs. 

………………………… one degree Celsius
………………………… I can tell the difference
………………………… late summer room

 

 

New Icebox Theme & Genjuan 2021 Guidelines

Some of you might have noticed that for a few months now, the Icebox seems to have lost Archives, Categories and the Poll from our right sidebar. Our server WordPress has told us that it is because the theme we have been using these past 12 years is beginning to break up and we should change to a new one. Please don’t be surprised to find Icebox looking different at the end of this month! It will be revamped, though all content will be preserved.

The Guidelines for next year’s Genjuan International Haibun Contest can now be read here https://hailhaiku.wordpress.com/genjuan-international-haibun-contest-2021-guidelines/ or via the page link above. (To return to the top page after reading, just click the Icebox title photo of hailstones on wood.) Please note that entries will not be accepted before Dec. 1, only 2 max., and that they must be submitted in the body of an email. This is to suit the Covid circumstances we live in and our new Officer, Junko Oda, but will no doubt also make it easier for most of you to submit! The three judges remain the same as last year.

Himuro

外は夏あたりの水は秋にして内は冬なる氷室山かな (藤原良経)

The air about, that of summer;
its flowing stream water
has an autumnal feel:
but beneath the ground, Mt. Himuro
is winter to its core
…………………….. (waka by Fujiwara Yoshitsune)

Being admin. ed. of a haiku space that goes by the name of the “Icebox,” I’m always on the lookout for Himuro Jinja (ancient Ice-hut Shrines) … and, so far this year, I’ve managed to visit two.

At the first, not far from Todaiji in Nara City, you can have your fortune told by sanctified ice. You pick your fortune from a box, but it looks blank until you place it onto the block of ice before the worship hall. Then the words come through …

Close by the second shrine, what is perhaps the original Himuro Jinja (at Fukuzumi in Tsuge-mura, near Tenri), there’s an ancient-style 氷室 himuro still used for ice storage till the summer, …

… though they no longer provide ice to the Emperor, as they used to back in Nintoku’s time (early Kofun Period). As a sacred place, the shrine itself is said to go back 1,600 years. The ice, cut as blocks from a nearby pond in winter, is stored underground beneath the hut’s ‘floor’. It is further insulated with bundles of straw.

神秘そも人にはとかじ氷室守(蕪村)

A veritable mystery,
yet he’s not about to let the secret out —
the ice-hut guardian
……………………..  (Buson)

Considering Sōseki’s「京に着ける夕」”Kyō ni tsukeru yūbe” as a haibun

In the first part of Natsume Sōseki’s account of a visit to Kyoto in the spring of 1907, the author and his hosts run their rickshaws ever further north. At the same time, Sōseki and his thoughts rush onwards across the psychological terrain of memory and conjecture, a palimpsest of his summer visit many years before with his poet friend and mentor Masaoka Shiki, of his current early-spring visit without him, and of the cultural and literary associations of Kyoto he has accrued over a lifetime. Even when he is at last in bed at his host’s residence in the woods of Tadasu no Mori, near Shimogamo Shrine, his mind is still in motion:

In the middle of the night, the eighteenth-century clock on one of the staggered shelves in the alcove above my pillow chimes in its square rosewood case, resonating like ivory chopsticks striking a silver bowl. The sound penetrates my dreams, waking me with a start; the clock’s chime has ended, but in my head it rings on. And then this ringing gradually thins out, grows more distant, more refined, passing from my ear to my inner ear, and from there into my brain, and on into my heart, then from the depths of my heart into some further realm connected with it—until at last it seems to reach some distant land beyond the limits of my own heart. This chilly bell-ring perfuses my whole body; and the ringing having laid bare my heart and passed into a realm of boundless seclusion, it is inevitable that body and soul become as pure as an ice floe, as cold as a snowdrift. Even with the silk futons around me, in the end I am cold.

A crow cawing atop a tall zelkova tree at daybreak shatters my dreams for the second time. But this is no ordinary crow. It doesn’t caw in the usual mundane way—its call is twisted into a grotesque cackle. Twisted too its beak, into a downward grimace, and its body hunched over. Myōjin, the resident deity of Kamo, may well have imposed his divine will to have it caw like that, so as to make me all the colder.

Shedding the futons, shivering still, I open the window. A nebulous drizzle thickly shrouds Tadasu no Mori; Tadasu no Mori envelops the house; I am sealed in the lonely twelve-mat room within it, absorbed within these many layers of cold.

Spring cold—

Before the shrine,

The crane from my dreams

[Original haiku: 春寒(はるさむ)の社頭に鶴を夢みけり]

The fact that this piece consists of prose narrative concluding with a single haiku, and hence is technically a haibun, means we can see it as a tribute to Sōseki’s haiku mentor, who had died four years before. One of the work’s strongest themes, loneliness, is perhaps counterbalanced by a note of optimism in the 季語 kigo of the concluding haiku, the crane, which is associated with winter. The crane is a migratory bird that comes south to Japan to overwinter but then heads north again in spring. Sōseki’s Kyoto remains inescapably cold during his visit, but it is the cold of early spring. Here, at the end, the crane has roused itself, as if from the author’s dream, and stands before the shrine ready to be on its way. Winter is coming to an end, and taking its place is the promise of regeneration. Even as he complains bitterly of the cold, and of the parallel loss of his warm friendship with Shiki, Sōseki is perhaps also acknowledging the healing power of time. If the crane represents Shiki’s spirit, Sōseki is acknowledging that it once spent time with him as the corporeal Shiki, but will now move on, as too must Sōseki.

(The above commentary and translation are adapted from my book Translating Modern Japanese Literature, which was published in 2019 and is available from the publisher, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, or on sites such as Amazon. If you are interested in obtaining a copy at a discount, please contact me directly at donovanrichardn [at] hotmail.com.)

a bird… a bird haiku – to raise funds for Indian labourers made redundant by Covid-19

.. Long an admirer of his unassuming, timeless haiku, many of which I had read in Presence magazine, I had sought out K. Ramesh at the Krishnamurti Vasanta Vihar in Chennai in Dec. 2014 on a visit with my wife to Tamil Nadu. We had walked together through the wooded grounds talking of haiku. Sentinel of / a soft forest shower — / mongoose on the wall. This was the verse I had sent him from our memorable stroll.

.. He had later (2019) written to me that he was to visit Kyoto, and we had planned to go together to Rakushisha. Circumstances changed, however, and he had had to cancel his trip, assuring me that he would come to Japan at a future time.

.. Most recently, in an email, he told me of his concern for the many labourers made redundant in TN by the Covid-19 epidemic and of how he and his daughter, Anita, had just made a book of haiku and photos of birds (all by Ramesh) and had just launched it on Amazon: here. It is only available in Kindle digital form and costs $3.49. Profits will be used to support local labourers with no income.

I downloaded my copy just now! The book is beautiful. Here are a couple of Ramesh’s bird haiku from within it:

Vedic chants… / a heron glides to a rock / in the misty lake

daybreak…. / a farmer taps the goose’s head / on the way to the barn

Please support this worthy project.

Bilingual Complex – a new book

Hailstone Haiku Circle member, Kyoko Norma Nozaki, has recently published a book, Bilingual Complex – Essays & Notes featuring English Haiku, ISBN 9784779514296, pub. Nakanishiya Press, Kyoto, 90pp, B6 size, ¥2,000. In it, she writes of her grandparents (Japanese immigrants in Hawaii), parents (father, a Nisei American; mother, a Japanese who emigrated to marry him); herself (born and educated in California, later a Prof. Emer. at Kyoto Sangyo Univ. specializing in Nikkei studies) and her family today. The book is sprinkled with haiku from S.E. Asia, Japan, America, Germany and elsewhere.

Acorns scattered / All over the herb garden– / Immune from the nuclear plant?

January 3rd– / Promising prosperity, / A flurry of snow

Lettuce fields gone– / The Silicon Valley / Covered with California smog

今日からは日本の雁よ 楽に寝よ(一茶)From today / You are a Japanese goose, / So relax and sleep in comfort (Issa, quoted in the author’s research note, ‘On Immigration’)

“The process of writing this book”, Kyoko divulges in her Afterword, “has made me aware once again that I am a product of two cultures …. and my thoughts naturally shift between the two very different languages: the ambiguity of Japanese and the preciseness of English.”

For further details or purchase go here: http://www.nakanishiya.co.jp/book/b492956.html