The first memorial service

My father passed away last August and my family had the first memorial service the day before yesterday. My mother, who is a poet, selected 66 tanka related to her husband, composed during those four last years when she had known about his disease, and compiled them into a handmade booklet. In Japan, it is customary to offer a gift to participants at the service. So the booklet was added to a box of sweets, without any special word.

I don’t write tanka or haiku that much. So I tried a little translation instead.


Just like I used to do / all those decades ago / when child-raising, / I go out to the grocery / leaving an invalid sleeping inside


He was watching a broadcast / of the high-school baseball tournament, / his hometown players darting around: / this, only four short days / before his end

“100 Poets on Mount Ogura, One Poem Each” Publication Celebration

Just past noon on 8th August, in Restaurant Arashiyama’s upstairs dining hall, our latest publication – a joint one with the NPO, People Together for Mt. Ogura – was launched at a lunch party. In spite of very hot summer weather, 36 came. 25 of these were poets with a verse in the book. Akito Mori, Okiharu Maeda and Stephen Gill shared the MC role, and there were speeches that included the reading of  ‘favourite poems’ from the collection.  Maeda chose #78, a Japanese tanka by Akira Daikanyama 空き缶や廃材見つけて拾いつつ / 歌枕の小倉山登る (trans. as)

Finding drinks cans, / builders’ rubbish … / and picking them up: / we climb the Mount of Ogura, / itself a rhetorical word!

Gill chose #71, an English haiku by Michael Jamentz

The Seto Brook trickles … / beneath lush green muck drips / battery acid

trans. as 瀬戸の源流 / 苔色の土に垂れている / バッテリーの酸

Yoshio Kawagoe (whose kiri’e scissor-cut illustrations embellish the book) chose #68, a Japanese haiku by Jin Matsumoto  虫たちの昨日の宴野菊策 (trans. as)

Remains of the party / the crickets had last night: / wild chrysanthemums bloom

Sean O’Connor (who assisted Stephen with selection of the English poems in the book)  chose #24, an English haiku by Moya Bligh

Through the trees, a boat; / glimpse of another world

trans. as 木々の間の / 舟に展ける別世界

The book is the fruit of six years of environmental work on the hill in Western Kyoto, where Fujiwara Teika once compiled the famous Hyakunin Isshu classical waka collection. The mountain is in bad shape, but things have looked up since the formation of PTO. Half the rubbish illegally discarded on the mountain has now been cleared. Volunteers, including more than 30 Hailstone poets, have written verse for the collection over the years. It is one of the first bilingual collections of tanka and haiku, and perhaps illustrates a role for poetry in the future: as a tool in environmental campaigning. Certainly, it is a rich and varied anthology, recording both the delightful and the disturbing faces of this famous, yet long-unloved patch of rural Kyoto.

Purchasing details for the 136-page book are given on our Publications page accessed via top right of the top page. ¥1,400 or $ 15.  Some of the money raised through sales will go towards continued nature conservation there.