Of Michio, Toshi and the Village of Mizuo

Mountain valley —
chancing upon
the Shangri-La
of a spring in citron-trees

……. (Michio Sano)

The full moon
over the harvested rice fields —
villagers sleep

……. (Toshi Ida)

There were two Hailstone journeys undertaken recently which passed, under high blue skies, through the mountain village of Mizuo (水尾lit. ‘Water Ridge’) that nestles beneath a shoulder of Mt. Atago. As Michio’s 1998 haiqua (above) intimates, Mizuo is famous for its citrons and is often referred to as 柚子の里 Yuzu no SatoKC4F0040

The first journey, on October 19, was a most solemn occasion: a break on the way to visit the late Toshi Ida’s house in Chitose-cho (千歳町, 30 mins beyond) and offer prayers before his funeral altar. Toshi was a founding member of Hailstone Haiku Circle and close friend of so many of us. We soaked up the autumn sun in Mizuo, where chestnut tiger butterflies still flew around. Arriving eventually in Chitose-cho, the Hailstone delegation of the day – Keiko, Ursula and Tito – was graciously welcomed by Toshi’s wife, Michiko. Later we met their son, and were shown around Toshi’s study and the vegetable patch now immortalized in his collection, Plain Living, Happy Singing. Secrets were revealed, hugs were given and tears were shed.

October field —
mantes, too
their sickles pressed together
praying for a poet’s soul

……. (Keiko Yurugi)

It’s autumn —
yet the bells he used
for warning bears
now hung on the wall

…….  (Tito)

a yellow rose,
his home-grown mikan, goya and
book of verse

……. (Ursula Maierl)

The second journey, held on October 26 in association with People Together for Mt. Ogura, was a happy hike along the Rice Buyers’ Way (米買の道 Komekai no Michi) from Mizuo to Ochiai, and then up over Rokucho Pass 六丁峠, skirting Mt. Ogura, and finally dropping down into Adashino. The 9 participants began by visiting the 9th Century Emperor Seiwa’s Shrine in Mizuo.

Spilled rubies —
fallen pomegranate
from the neighbour’s tree

……. (Richard Donovan)

The trail climbed out of Mizuo through woods in early autumn colours. After cresting Koujin Pass at about 400m, we descended to a mossy spot by a stream.WIN_20141026_102432a- Sunbeams pierced tall cypress trees whose distant tops were slightly moving against the sky. There we ate our packed lunches.

Water striders
gliding on a stream …
illusion of drizzle

……. (Kyoko Nozaki)

Twinkling diamonds
stud a tiny mushroom —
morning dew

……. (Mayumi Kawaharada)

To what tune
does the spider spin
this disc that snares the light?

……. (Michael Lambe)

At Ochiai, we saw the poem monument for Basho’s Kiyotaki ya haiku about green pine needles. After watching boats shooting the rapids on the Hozu River, we climbed up past the now almost-cleared rubbish tips of Mt. Ogura. KC4F0036

In Adashino, participants were offered the chance by a local PTO supporter, Mrs. Matsuyama, to pick their own citrons from a thorny tree standing by the NPO’s rubbish collection tools storehouse just outside Nenbutsuji Temple.

That evening, belated news happened to come through from the wife of another founding member of Hailstone, Michio Sano (of Yao in Osaka). He had passed away, aged 86, on January 15 this year!

Full circle:
a citron now floating in the bath,
a new devouring grief

……. (Tito)

Michio, how much we learned from you! How deep and elegant was your haiku oeuvre. In Shangri-La eternal, please now rest in peace. 合掌

Jumping from
the harvest bonfire —
a sooty frog

……. (Michio Sano, from Seasons of the Gods, 2007) KC4F0058


8 responses to “Of Michio, Toshi and the Village of Mizuo

  1. It is to be regretted that Sano-san has passed away. He was a fine gentleman with wide knowledge. I remember when he was well and I was a beginner at the Osaka haiku class, he admirably translated English haiku into Japanese 5-7-5 impromptu! Now I can only pray for the peaceful repose of his soul. 合掌

  2. October 26: a gorgeous 秋晴れ day made merrier by Mayumi’s miraculously light plastic bottle of good French red wine at lunch. Bookended by nature’s seasonal gifts — the pomegranate and citron — but also sadly by the passing of two kindly poets. 合掌

  3. “It’s autumn –
    yet the bells he used
    for warning bears
    now hung on the wall

    ……. (Tito)”

    Quite evocative, I feel like I am there. I wonder why he is not out doing his fall hike, is he sick or is he dead? It does not matter, that part is up to me to decide. That is what is wonderful about this poem.

    • Glad you like my haiku, Speedbump, although it is intrinsically sad. To answer your question about Toshi, please see the post four before this one (scroll down to September 23), where Toshi’s death is reported and some of his work is featured. I hope you have time to look at that post and like something there, too.

  4. With all due respect – and much gratitude – I remember our Vestiges kukai. We learned so much, were inspired, and set upon a path for a life time. I hope we meet again.

    • Yes, Toshi helped me to organize our end of that international event and won third prize. He is sorely missed. We shall meet again, but not with Toshi. And you should try to meet Hailstone Jane Wieman in Madison some time perhaps? We hope all’s well with you.

  5. On Oct. 26, we walked the route known as the ‘Rice Buyers’ Way’, not fully appreciating that the last part of it was actually what used to be known as the ‘Sweetfish Way’ 鮎の道. It was along this road that for 500 years ayu caught in the headwaters of the Hozu (Katsura) River were carried across the mountains to the palaces and restaurants of Kyoto. It is possible that Hailstone and/or P.T.O. will organize a longer walk one day along this even more famous trail.