Archive for October, 2013

from the Icebox inbox – 30

Posted in Haiku, Submissions with tags on October 22, 2013 by Hisashi Miyazaki

joker’s moon
always laughing
to keep from crying

Michael Henry Lee

Again and again
From inside the fuchsia bush
A young dunnock* calls


After a hike on the hill
cotton balls brush my face
a sudden spell of rain

Neelam Dadhwal

dunnock = hedge sparrow; call is ‘seep, seep’.

Lake Yogo haiku

Posted in Haiku, Japanese Classic with tags , on October 21, 2013 by Tito

I had brought a haiku by the mendicant poet, Rotsū (1651-1739), on the autumn haike (see posting below) to share at Lake Yogo, but forgot to do so.

.. 鳥どもも寝入っているか余呉の湖
toridomo mo neitteiru ka Yogo no umi

 In its stillness
…… even the waterfowl
……… seem to be sound asleep —
………… the Lake of Yogo

How little has changed! Many of the wild ducks were indeed asleep as we walked by.
Rotsū accompanied Basho on the final leg of his Oku no Hosomichi journey using the Hokkokudo Road 北国道 between Tsuruga and Ogaki, passing Lake Yogo on the way. From the peak of Shizugatake we caught sight of that mountain road running along the neighbouring valley to the northeast. The last stretch of Basho’s ‘Narrow Road’ had been framed, briefly, beneath a rainbow!

Hailstone Autumn Haike 2013: Uminobe no Michi (湖の辺の道)

Posted in Autumn, Event report with tags , on October 20, 2013 by Richard Donovan

The tranquil beauty of the Uminobe no Michi belies its blood-spattered past. Following the ridgeline of a range of small mountains along the northeastern edge of Lake Biwa in Shiga Prefecture, the trail runs south from the foot of storied Shizugatake Peak at the southern end of tiny Lake Yogo to Mt. Yamamoto, a distance of some 10 kilometres. While a canopy of trees shields Lake Biwa from constant inspection, there are a number of lookout spots. The nine Hailstones who walked Uminobe no Michi for the annual Autumn Haike were rewarded with fabulous views of the lakes and Chikubushima, and little, if any, blood was added to the trail in the process, though plenty of sweat.

October 12th. We arrive at JR Yogo Station around 10:45 am and skirt the northern edge of Lake Yogo, passing a gnarled willow tree that features in one version of the ancient legend about an angelic maiden and her heavenly robe (天女の羽衣 Tennyo no Hagoromo).


When the woman, attracted by the lake’s beauty, came to bathe in it, a local widower found her robe, transparent as a dragonfly’s wing, hung on the willow. Meanwhile, back in our modern world, an equally pellucid shower freshens the unseasonably warm October morning.

diaphanous the drops
rain blown bent across tall trees
sowing summer snow

– John McAteer


Fruit trees, persimmon and kiwi, line the western edge of Lake Yogo. But the pretty fruit proves hard or otherwise inedible.

渋柿を 笑ひて渡す 湖畔哉

With a grin,
passing him
a bastard persimmon –
edge of the lake

– Okiharu Maeda

Nearing the southern end of the lake, before the Shizugatake trailhead and the start of the hike proper, we are further inveigled by a sign at the bottom of a mysterious trail, tersely labelled「俳句の道」haiku no michi. But

the road of haiku
is muddy & steep
we do not walk it


– Jiko

While fishing is banned at many places around the lake (also known as 鏡湖 Mirror Lake), there is a designated spot at the southern end, and it is being made use of.

Fisherman’s line
pulls the reflection
to the lake shore

– Haruka Hasaba


While we have dawdled a little circling one half of the lake, we make up time on the rather steep 300-metre ascent of Shizugatake, arriving before 1:00 pm. At the summit (421m) we are rewarded with spectacular prospects of Lake Biwa, Lake Yogo, and, indeed, the ridgeline of the entire hike ahead of us, all the way to Mt. Yamamoto.

We do not remain unchallenged for long, however. A sudden, gusty shower hits more heavily than the spritzing around Lake Yogo, and sends us running for cover.

賤ヶ岳 余呉から秋が 攻めてきた

Shizugatake –
from Lake Yogo, autumn
has mounted its attack

– Kazue Gill


In May 1583, Shizugatake was the site of a fierce battle (賤ヶ岳の戦い Shizugatake no Tatakai) between the forces of Hideyoshi Toyotomi and Shibata Katsuie, resulting in many casualties on the strategically important summit. One memorial depicts the spears of the seven generals of Hideyoshi who successfully routed the challengers.


Despite the grim history, there is an almost miraculous ‘silver lining’ to be found in the changeable weather:


change the seven spears
for seven rainbow colors
and bind them in a bridge

– Miu Takahashi


When we have had our fill of lunch and the panoramic views, we return to the trail. As most visitors ascend and descend Shizugatake via the ropeway near the summit, we soon have the path to ourselves. Or do we?

for fear of bears
and lacking bells
I ring the stones with a stick

– Michael Lambe

Soft underfoot and tree-shaded, the chestnut- and acorn-strewn path occasionally debouches into a clearing with expansive views.

Flat wind
pushing off the lake
and through an oakwood …
became a silver comb

– Tito

The main evidence of the trail’s historical past is frequent tumuli, tenebrous bulges on the treeline. The trail itself is mostly level, albeit with occasional undulations.

on Biwa’s ancient battlefields,
the scattered armour
of chestnuts

– Richard Donovan

In the middle of the afternoon, Maeda-san decides to explore a secret trail that descends steeply to the west, coming out near lonely Uro Shrine 有漏神社 on a seldom-trodden shore of Oku-Biwa. I accompany him on the foolhardy scramble up and down the crumbling, rock-strewn path, while the other members rest before forging ahead on the main trail, Tito kindly staying behind to mind our packs. We gain some grand, uncommon views of the lake, but not much else.


About an hour later, the party reunites, and commits to the final push up Mt. Yamamoto, which proves to be almost as steep as the Shizugatake ascent, though the summit, at 324m, is considerably lower.

The hard climb separates the party into small groups strung out along the trail. I am first to join Jiko on the windy summit for the day’s last great vista.

Biwa fruit
across the lake
ripe sunset

– Jiko


There are two possible descents, and we choose the lesser-used one to the west allowing us a last glance of the effulgent lake. This proves costly, as the path is slippery with dry, sandy gravel, and must be taken painstakingly slowly in the advancing twilight. We reach the bottom by 5:40 pm, but after a mad dash along the road there is no sign of the promised bus to Kawake Station, so eventually we hire two taxis to Nagahama Station. After a lot of hunting, we chance on a decent izakaya with a private room, perfect for a postprandial haiku-sharing session. It has been a demanding one-day autumn haike, but a memorable one.

The path will take us there:
all we have to do is walk
towards this autumn’s
mesh of light

– Tito


Participants: Tito, Kazue Gill, John McAteer, Michael Lambe, Miu Takahashi, Jiko, Haruka Hasaba, Okiharu Maeda and Richard Donovan (organiser). Thanks to Michael, Tito and Maeda-san for the photos.


Posted in Autumn, Haibun with tags , , on October 17, 2013 by David Stormer Chigusa

It was nighttime, two nights ago, the evening of the day Typhoon Wipha struck Tokyo. I was walking home from a (subway) station I never use but had had to because the JR (i.e., overland) lines couldn’t run.  It was no longer blowing a gale, but wind buffeted at every few paces in small powerful eddies that lay in wait wherever willed by the city’s stony cast.

It was quite a bright night with just enough room between the half-scattered surging clouds to let the gibbous moon shine through. Head down, just starting to get rained on, I reached Kuramaebashi Bridge.


Clouded moon
A still distant
outline of home



October is the driest month since May. And it is starting to get what in Japanese is called skin-cold (hadazamui, as opposed to bone-marrow-chillingly cold, or honemi ni shimiru hodo samui). The enveloping heat of summer that some think of as enervating actually works, I read recently, to increase physical activity. Conversely, lower temperatures make us less likely to jump out of bed. Besides all that is the face of a typical October: that huge languid airiness, that even if clouded is still higher than a paper kite on a lightly tugging string. No more cicadas, no more fireworks letting off, and even the noises that are – of trains, sirens, and schoolyards – seem reduced to the smallness of the details you can now make out in the clearer air.

Awoken by
curtained dawn
I yawn with October

Kyoto: the forest within the gate

Posted in Haiku, Haipho, News with tags , on October 13, 2013 by Tito

FWGcover-Announcing a new book of beautiful poems, including haiku, by Edith Shiffert with photographs full of the quality of seijaku by another long-term Kyoto resident, John Einarsen. Highly-recommended! You can support the project and ultimately order your copy here: