Archive for June, 2012


Posted in Senryu on June 30, 2012 by Tito


Young Otis

Holding a placard

And looking forward

To being four.

……………………….. (with Mark Oseland’s son, …… on a demonstration in Kyoto, 29.6.12)

* The placard reads ‘PLEASE PROTECT US CHILDREN’.  This demonstration (outside the Kansai Power Co. HQ) was in Kyoto, just 60km downwind of Ohi, home of two nuclear reactors due to reactivate from July 1st, only 15 months after the Fukushima Disaster. In a land of earthquakes, this is clearly against the will of the majority of people here. 40,000 + marched in Tokyo!


Posted in Haiku, News, Tanka with tags on June 22, 2012 by Tito

 Rejoice! … Our most recent book, One Hundred Poets on Mount Ogura, One Poem Each (published jointly in 2010 by Hailstone Haiku Circle and People Together for Mount Ogura), has just been awarded the 2011 Kanterman Merit Prize for Best Anthology by the Haiku Society of America (to my knowledge, the oldest English-language haiku association in the world).  Good news, methinks! The chief judge this year was Michael Dylan Welch. For your interest, then, here is the bulk of the announcement list:

Merit Book Awards for 2011 (for books published in 2010) 

Best Individual Collections

First Place
Tenzing Karma Wangchuk. Shelter/Street. Port Townsend, Washington, 2010.

Second Place
John Parsons. Overhead Whistling. Bungay, UK: Labyrinth Press, 2010.

Third Place
Christopher Herold. Inside Out. Winchester, Virginia: Red Moon Press, 2010.

Best Anthology

Stephen Henry Gill and Okiharu Maeda, editors. One Hundred Poets on Mount Ogura, One Poem Each. Kyoto, Japan: People Together for Mt. Ogura and Hailstone Haiku Circle, 2010.

Best Book of Haibun

Cor van den Heuvel. A Boy’s Seasons. Portsmouth, New Hampshire: Single Island Press, 2010.

Best Book of Translation

Ruth Franke, translated by David Cobb and Celia Brown, paintings by Reinhard Stangl. Schwerelos Gleiten/Slipping Through Water. Schwinfurt, Germany: Wiesenburg Verlag, 2010.

Some of you may remember Individual Collection Second Place awardee, John Parsons, for his Kikakuza International Haibun Contest Grand Prix masterpiece in 2009. You can read that work via the Kikakuza ’09 Winning Haibun page link at top right.

There are still a few copies of our anthology, One Hundred Poets on Mount Ogura, in stock here in Kyoto.  For enquiries/mail orders, see our Publications page (via link at top right). For those of you who don’t know it, it is bilingual (Eng.-Jap.) and includes a mixture of haiku and tanka, although the former predominate. It sings the praises and cries the shame of the famous mountain.

木洩れ日の 細き山道 鳥の声  町の暮らしを しばし忘れし

As light plays through trees
along the narrow mountain path,
the calls of birds:
.. for a while, I can forget
.. the city life I’ve left behind

…………… (Kazuyoshi Kohiyama)

Saigyo’s tears –
.. rammed down his well,
.. plastic pipes

…………… (John Dougill)

The Sound of Water (IV): Lakes and Ponds 1. Crater Lakes in Hokkaido

Posted in Autumn, Haibun on June 10, 2012 by sosui

Japan is a volcanic country, so we have many crater lakes. They can be easily identified on a map, for they are usually round in shape. Some of them are quite large, while others are very small. Extremely small crater lakes are called okama (cauldrons) in Japanese, which, I think, is an appropriate name, for we can often see steam rising from them. Their colour varies, but many have tinges of yellow resulting from their sulphur content. Perhaps witches are boiling some kinds of poisonous concoction in them. Large crater lakes, on the other hand, may be truly beautiful. Their water is so calm and transparent that they mirror the surrounding mountains and trees as if they had been printed on them. They also reflect the blue sky. It would hardly be an exaggeration to call them “angels’ looking glasses”.

My favourite crater lakes in Hokkaido are Lake Mashu and Lake Toya. Lake Mashu is situated in the northeast of Hokkaido, not so far from the largest crater lake in Japan, Teshikaga. The unique feature of Lake Mashu comes from the fact that it is isolated from human dwellings, and is not fed by any rivers. It is close enough to the Sea of Okhotsk for thick fog to flow in frequently on an easterly wind, causing the spectacle of fog cascades pouring down from its surrounding mountain rim. I once visited this lake on a beautiful autumn day. The trees were in bright colours, which heightened the blue of the lake. While I stood breathless on the observation platform, I felt I was close to the Ainu goddess, Kamyush, whom they believed to have dwelled on a small island in the middle of the lake. She had once been a lady belonging to one of the Ainu tribes. On their defeat in a war, she had run away with her grandson, but they had soon been separated. The old woman subsequently lived by herself on this island till at last she was deified. It is a sad story, but somehow it resonates with the isolated beauty of this island in the lake.

Lake Toya is a larger crater lake in the southwest of Hokkaido. It also has an island in the middle, where deer may be seen wandering about. I was told, however, that they had been introduced to please visitors. Man’s effect on this lake does not end there. In days gone by, the lake was polluted by the construction of mines and dams, so that the water became very acid. Ironically what saved the lake was the 1977 explosion of Mt. Usu, which dropped so much alkaline ash on the lake that its water was neutralized and became suitable for fish to live in once again. When I saw the lake in late autumn, the hot-spring resorts were empty, and I could enjoy wandering alone on its shore. I saw the Windsor Hotel on top of a hill overlooking the lake, but it seemed rather alien to its surroundings. However, this hotel was chosen by Prime Minister, Yasuo Fukuda, as the venue for the Summit Meeting he chaired in 2008. I hope the leaders of the world who gathered there were able to enjoy the bird’s-eye view of the lake and the beautiful cone of Mt. Yotei soaring opposite. I am afraid, though, they were not able to prevent the political upheavals and conflicts that followed.

Ainu songs are sad
Like this deep blue crater lake
With fog cascading.

This blue crater lake
Will be laid in sleep before long
Under ice and snow.

Left on the islands
Deer starved when they ate up
All the greens they had.

Mines and dams destroyed
But volcanic explosions revived
This precious lake.

Rice-bran rain

Posted in Haibun, Summer on June 9, 2012 by Tito

Yesterday, was it? Someone said to me – the rainy season’s begun. Today, many of us here in Japan found out that, yes, it certainly had! Heavy downpourings, low, low cloud and, interspersed, a rain so light as not to be rain at all: vagrant p a r t i c l e s of water, each one with a minute, barely palpable prick for the cheek or the forearm exposed.

Looking back across Kawai Kanjiro’s patio garden from the potter’s sheds on its far side, against the black of the old Kyoto eaves, today I saw it clearly – konuka-ame, 小糠雨 rice-bran rain. When I mentioned it to a Hailstone friend, she said it might be soba-flour. The way the Japanese have evolved names for the finest categories of precipitation! Once, I made a radio programme entitled simply, RAIN. It covered many of these categories and most were illustrated with a haiku. Perhaps someone can leave a rice-bran rain haiku as a comment to this, which I could later incorporate, … but I confess I failed myself to write one. It was a dreamy day.

How then, to end? I vividly recall a renga session I once held in a Nepalese farmhouse on a miserable afternoon in ’72 with two British friends, Jon and Mick, with whom I was trekking through the Himalayas. The last verse from that will have to do:

The day erased
by hand unseen;
light rain washes
the paper clean.