Haipho works for NHK Haiku Masters in Kyoto 2. ‘Buddha’ team

Posted in Spring, Haipho with tags , , on March 22, 2018 by Branko

Hailstone Branko+William haipho

Photo by Branko Manojlović, haiku by William Russell

For the Icebox event report Click here
For the NHK report, here


Persimmons – part 3

Posted in Haibun, No/All season with tags on March 5, 2018 by sosui

. Persimmons are used for making different kinds of confectionery. Dried persimmons are rolled with yuzu (citron) peel to make makigaki (rolled persimmons). Sweet persimmons are ground and mixed with bean-paste to make kakiyoukan (persimmon bean-paste). In Hiroshima there was a Japanese confectionery shop famous for kakiyokan on the main street. Its name was Toraya (Tiger’s) and they had a big paper tiger in the window to attract customers. Alas, the shop is no longer there. I used to buy rolled persimmons at Yuki Hot Spring. I thought the combination of citron peel and dried persimmons was exquisite. I visited this hot spring many times to enjoy trout fishing. When I left Hiroshima my last visit was to say goodbye to the fireflies.
…………….  The transparent streams,
…………….  The fragrance of yuzu peels
…………….  And persimmon rolls.
……………………………………….  They are here no more  —
……………………………………….  The persimmon bean-paste and
……………………………………….  The paper tiger.
………………………………………………………………….. Across the river,
………………………………………………………………….. And over the rice paddies —
………………………………………………………………….. The fireflies are gone.
. It is said persimmon leaves have germicidal properties. In Kansai, they wrap sushi with persimmon leaves to make kakinoha-zushi. Originally this kind of sushi was made in the valley of the River Ki, but now the custom has spread to many other places. I used to make a point of buying a box of persimmon-wrapped sushi whenever I went to Kyoto. I loved its soft flavour, so characteristic of Kyoto. Along with the saba-zushi (vinegared fish) of Tsuruga, for me this is still an unforgettable food. After World War II, it was rumoured in Hiroshima that persimmon vinegar was effective against radiation sickness. I do not know whether it really worked or not, but in the family home to which I had been evacuated, the eldest son died in the explosion, although his sister survived with heavy keloid scars. She is still alive today, aged more than one hundred. Perhaps her longevity may have something to do with persimmon vinegar.
…………….  I enjoy sushi
…………….  Wrapped up in persimmon leaves,
…………….  Outbound from Kyoto.

Icebox 10th Anniversary & Tohta’s Passing

Posted in Japanese Modern, News, Tribute with tags , on February 23, 2018 by Tito

Last night, Hailstone Haiku Circle held a Committee Meet in Osaka to talk about such things as sales of our latest book Persimmon, future publications, the Genjuan Haibun Contest (a record 133 entries), and a venue for one of our seminars. It was also pointed out that our Icebox site was launched on 23 February 2008, exactly ten years ago! The recent death of the much-respected poet, Tohta Kaneko on 20 Feb., aged 98, was also mentioned and some appreciative comments passed. So, both a happy and a sad time last night.

Icebox – looking back this February along the path we’ve trodden, I wonder if you’d agree that our main achievement these past ten years might have been to provide a glimpse of what it means to be a haiku poet in today’s Japan, whether you are Japanese or a resident foreigner – and not only ‘at the desk’. It has to be respectful, genuinely creative and fun. Japan is, of course, an ace place to grow rich in haiku and its spirit. ‘Risk’ and ‘wonder’ are also perhaps two keywords, describing both our haiku and our activities as a whole. We have also hopefully given you a taste of Japan’s deep seasons. I see from my WordPress dashboard that we’ve so far had 468 posts from our contributors, almost 3,000 comments (anyone can leave these), created 32 special pages (see top right, on subjects such as haiku, haibun, renga, haiga), added 50 links to other recommendable haiku or related sites (see blogroll), a search facility, archives, a publications page (where you can find out how to order one of our books – including the Kikakuza and Genjuan Haibun anthologies), a poll on what you think are the 3 most important characteristics of English haiku (click on ‘results’ to see how it is going!), an events page (for those of you who can speak at least a little English and are in W.  Japan), and a submissions facility (via the reply box/comments on the Submissions – NEW! page). Yes, you can submit to be included in the regular ‘from the Icebox inbox’ postings! There are also experimental spaces where attendees at our two main seminar groups (in Kyoto and Osaka) can get comments on work-in-progress. After ten years at this game, perhaps you’ll allow the Icebox team a quick “Banzai!” Let me also express gratitude to my fellow editors, Gerald Staggers (aka Duro Jaiye) and Hisashi Miyazaki; to David McCullough for helping to start the site;  and also, to our contributors (notably Nobuyuki Yuasa, or ‘Sosui’) who try to keep this weblog up there with the best haiku sites there are. A timely bow.

With snow all around
The crimson berets of cranes
Stand out in the sun ……………………………….. (Sosui)

Tohta – as many of you will know, he was one of Japan’s  greatest modern haiku poets, a leader of the Gendai Haiku Association, an opponent of war and political revisionism, a charming and humorous man, who had several foreign followers who for long studied under him. I never had that opportunity, alas, as not in Tokyo, but I do have two treasured memories of him, in both of which I can still clearly see the twinkle in his eye and his real passion for the art of haiku. The first was after a paper I’d delivered to an international conference in 1997 attended by most of the prominent poets from the haiku organizations in Japan and America. I was the British interloper who spoke about ‘Haiku as Poetry and Sound’. When I’d finished, from his seat in the front row, he raced up to the lectern and said in a loud, jovial way, “Gambare!” (‘At a boy! Keep it up!) and proceeded to explain that ongakusei (cadence or musicality) was to him one of the three most important aspects of haiku. One of the others, by the way, was fiction, which not many foreign haiku poets believe in – certainly not for haiku! The second vivid memory of Tohta was when I went to interview him for a BBC Radio programme I was making on the recent history of haiku (both in Japan and abroad), Close to Silence Very soon after we got started, he got out a haiku he’d just composed that day and asked me, somewhat feverishly, what I thought about it, as if it was much more important than the interview itself – he, a venerable and well-respected leader of haiku in the Land of Haiku; I, an ex-Events Officer for the British Haiku Society! He was all ears, though.

sangurasu no Paburo Pikaso ni mitsubachi
……… Wearing sunglasses
……… Pablo Picasso, confronted by
……… A honey bee! …………………………………………….. (Tohta)

In my imagination, Picasso must be wearing one of his trademark hooped T-shirts to somehow match the bee! I laughed loudly that day and I still laugh at this now. We will miss him greatly.

Haiku Requiems

Posted in Haiku, Japanese Classic, Music with tags on February 11, 2018 by Tito
.. Following the inclusion of a long haiku sequence, ‘Singing Carmina Burana‘, in our most recent book, Persimmon, some of you might be interested to learn that a few of your singing poet friends are now enrolled to perform Faure’s Requiem with the Kyoto Muse Choir this July. Deadline for enrolment is March 2.
.. Practising, I was reminded of another beautiful, currently popular Requiem: one by British composer, Karl Jenkins. Its first performance was in London in 2005, so it is 21st Century music, but 5 of its 13 movements are based on Japanese haiku-style death poems (辞世) by, respectively,
.. Gozan 吾山 (Koshigaya, 18th cent.) in movement 3: The snow of yesterday / that fell like cherry blossoms / is water once again 花と見し雪はきのふぞもとの水
.. Issho 一笑 (Kanazawa, 17th, disciple of Basho) in 6: From deep in my heart / how beautiful are / the snow clouds in the west 心から雪うつくしや西の雲
.. Hokusai 北斎 (Edo, 18-19th, ukiyo-e artist) in 8: Now as a spirit / I shall roam / the summer fields 人魂(ひとだま)で 行く気散じや 夏野原 
.. Chiyo-ni 千代尼 (Matto, Kaga, 18th, most famous haiku poetess) in 10: Having seen the moon / even I take leave of this life / with a blessing 月も見て我はこの世をかしく哉 
.. and Banzan 晩山 (Kyoto 17-18th) in 12: Farewell / I pass, as all things do, / like dew on the grass まめでゐよ身はならはしの草の露
and are sung in Japanese, the last two with traditional Latin Requiem words woven in! If your interest or time is limited, just listen to those 5 haiku-based movements from the complete work. Surely, it is a successful blending of West and East. There is a shakuhachi 尺八 and taiko 太鼓 in there, too. English translations are from Hoffmann’s book, Japanese Death Poems, which is where Jenkins probably found them, too.
.. There are one or two live performances of this haiku-replete Requiem available on YouTube, but nothing special. The studio version you can listen to here is well performed by a choir and orchestra in Kazakhstan! Best to copy and paste the link below into a parallel tab; then you can look at the haiku here and think of the poets while you listen …

Persimmons – part 2

Posted in Autumn, Haibun with tags on February 3, 2018 by sosui

. Nowadays I feel persimmons may be losing their popularity among consumers. Shops sell only a few varieties — two kinds of sweet persimmons called Fuyugaki (Prosperity Persimmons) and Jirogaki (Jiro Persimmons), and one kind of dried persimmon called Ichidagaki (Ichida Persimmons). Prosperity Persimmons are produced mainly in Gifu Prefecture, but they were originally developed from the Goshogaki (Imperial Palace Persimmons) very popular in Nara Prefecture. An enterprising Gifu farmer took a seedling back from Nara, planted it in his orchard and made further improvements. Mizuho City in Gifu Prefecture commemorates this with a stone monument, which reads “The birthplace of Prosperity Persimmons”. I am very fond of Prosperity Persimmons, and, whenever I see them in shops, I cannot resist the temptation to buy them. They are especially tasty just before they begin to mature. When they feel slightly soft, they are ready to eat, for it is then that they are at their sweetest and juiciest. Jiro Persimmons were originally developed in Mori Town in Shizuoka Prefecture. A farmer named Matsumoto Jirokichi found a young seedling on the bank of the Ota River and planted it in his back yard. It grew into a tree and bore fruits, but they tasted so awful that no one cared for them. When his neighbour’s house had a fire, the tree was burned down. But fresh buds appeared the following spring, and within a few years the tree began to bear fruit again. When Jirokichi tasted one of them, he was surprised how good it was. Thus a new variety was born, named ‘Jiro Persimmon’ after its owner, but strictly speaking, it was the product of an accident! Now they are widely produced aound Toyohashi in Aichi Prefecture. I think Jiro Persimmon is as good as its rival, Prosperity Persimmon, in size, colour and taste.
………………  Prosperity Persimmon —
………………  My mother is peeling it
………………  With her supple hands.
. Ichida Persimmons are produced in the village of Ichida in Nagano Prefecture (now a part of Takamori Town). They are relatively small dried persimmons, but very good in taste and colour. We have another kind of dried persimmon called Anpogaki, which look more like jelly because so much moisture is retained. They were originally made in Date City in Fukushima Prefecture, but now they are produced in other places as well, such as Wakayama and Toyama. What is common to the two types is that they are exposed to sulphur fumes in the manufacturing process. Perhaps because of this, they retain their beautiful orange colour. I live at the foot of Mt. Haruna, an area famous for plums, peaches and pears, but we also produce persimmons as a side line. In late autumn each year I buy big sour persimmons from a local grower and dry them. First I peel them, then hang them on strings to expose them to the sun. In several weeks, they will have a white powder on their surface and will be ready for eating. In sweetness, they are as good as Ichida and Anpo Persimmons, but, alas, they are black in colour and are rather difficult to make. If dried too long, they become hard, and if exposed to rain, they become mouldy. When they are well-made, however, I take special pleasure in eating them.
………………  The sunny orange
………………  Lines of drying persimmons —
………………  How they cheer the eaves!

(to be continued)

Genjuan International Haibun Contest 2018 – deadline approaches!

Posted in Challenge!, Haibun with tags , on January 21, 2018 by Tito

Ten more days till the deadline for entries into this year’s Genjuan International Haibun Contest. Details here. The office is usually lenient with entries arriving a few days late. The four judges will read your works without knowing authors’ identities. They will be looking for haikai style, best understood by reading examples. Check out our haibun pages through the page links at top right. Click the hailstones ‘Icebox’ header photo to return to this top page anytime. Good luck!

Haipho works for NHK Haiku Masters in Kyoto 1. ‘Snow’ team

Posted in Haipho, Winter with tags , , on January 16, 2018 by Mayumi Kawaharada



Photo by Mayumi Kawaharada, haiku by Albie Sharpe

For the Icebox event report Click here
For the NHK report, here