My Trip to the North: 2. The Promontory of Oma

As the ferryboat approached Oma, I was able to see an island with a lighthouse and the Promontory of Oma, so flat that it seemed the sea was ready to swallow it up. Oma is famous for tuna fishing, but I did not sight any boats. After landing, our bus took us to the Promontory, the northernmost point of the mainland of Japan, where I saw a huge concrete image of tuna, and a stone monument to Ishikawa Takuboku with the following poem inscribed.

………. An Eastern Island:
………. On the white sands of its beach,
………. I weep by myself
………. Till I am wet with the tears,
………. Playing with scuttling crabs.

The Eastern Island mentioned in this famous poem was believed to be Benten Island. It had looked quite distant from the tip of the Promontory when I had seen it from the ferryboat, but now it seemed close enough to reach by swimming. The lighthouse was painted in stripes of white and dark green, and there was a red buoy dancing in the waves before it.

………. Tuna-abounding seas,
………. To the far horizon, blue,
………. Their summer colour.

……………….. The Eastern Island:
……………….. The lively June waves breaking
……………….. Wash its sandy shore.

………………………… On a sunny day
………………………… In the long monsoon season,
………………………… Gulls crossing the strait.

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9 Responses to “My Trip to the North: 2. The Promontory of Oma”

  1. Thank you, Nobuyuki. Beautiful pace and poetic ambience. I especially like the final haiku about the gulls crossing the strait. For those who read Japanese, the Takuboku tanka must be 東海の小島の磯の白砂にわれ泣きぬれて蟹とたはむる.

  2. The three haiku seem to compete for attention, and I found myself drawn to the last one in particular because of the suggestiveness of gulls taking advantage of the sunny day. I’m also intrigued by the way Takuboku is crying so profusely… is it for the tuna, is it spray from the nearby waves, is it loneliness, or is it something personal that we are not privy to?

    • We agree about the last haiku.
      I’m sure it was just a slip, but kindly sign into WordPress before commenting in order to reveal your identity. Perhaps you’d agree with me: anonymous comments just do not come across as well. (By the way, even after publishing a comment, you should be able to edit it on your dashboard and insert your name at the beginning or end of the body of the comment itself.)
      You pose a leading question (the tears), which, in time, perhaps Sosui will be able to answer.

  3. A very fine haibun indeed,angelee

  4. I also thought the third haiku was the best. Nothing gratuitous. The 5/7/5 is nicely served by the subject matter. There is that added touch of haiku-ishness in the insightful observation of the sunny interlude and the gulls taking the opportunity to cross the straight (as Anonymous also observed). It’s a simple, naturalistic haiku.

    The other two less so.

    “far horizon” The word “far” is gratuitous and only there for the sake of the syllable count. What horizon isn’t “far”, after all? it’s a cliche. The haiku is descriptive but lacks any insight. I also tend to dislike the sort of pigeon English ‘English Language’ haiku often fall into. In this case, once again, I think it was to conform to the 5/7/5 pattern.

    The second haiku’s two adjectives, “lively” and “sandy”, also strike me as gratuitous. “Lively” is a convenient adjective that pads the line count and “sandy” strikes me as redundant. A shore may not necessarily be “sandy”, but is generally assumed to be so.

    As to the prose portion, I enjoyed it. Informative, descriptive and, as far as my knowledge allows me to judge, in the tradition of other Japanese “travelogues”.

    • You are right. One has be very careful in the use of adjectives. However, if I drop ‘far’, the line becomes uninteresting. I am moving my eyes all the way to the horizon to check the colour of the sea. So I hope you will get the sense of movement through this word. You also object to ‘sandy’, but please notice that Takuboku used it in his famous poem. I am simply trying to show my poem is reflecting his poem.
       Another point you raise about 5-7-5 is also right. I am not writing my haiku to fit into this form. On the other hand, I am not perfectly happy with loose English haiku without any sense of form. Most of such poems should not be called haiku for they are simply free verse, I think. Of course, you do not have to write in the 5-7-5 syllable scheme in English. I am experimenting with 5-7-5 in English to show that if you acquire a bit of skill, 5-7-5 is not such a difficult form as is generally believed. The form is dead if you try to fit your poem into it. Yet, you cannot write haiku without some consideration about its form.

      • //Most of such poems should not be called haiku for they are simply free verse, I think.//

        In truth, I don’t think any “haiku” that’s not written in Japanese can really be called a haiku. That said, I’d say an English language haiku is best judged by its content and whether, if one were to try, it could be translated into a faithful Japanese haiku without loss or addition. And that said, I suspect the 5-7-5 form is too long to be faithfully translated into a Japanese Haiku, but I don’t know.

        More generally though, I hope you keep experimenting. My feeling is that your effort demonstrates that a 5-7-5 form in English is, contrary to your assertion, much more difficult than generally believed. The trick is to write haiku without twisting the natural word order; and without adding indefinite articles, adjectives and adverbs that only serve to pad the word count.

        //…you cannot write haiku without some consideration about its form.//

        Yes, but your haiku must appear as though you hadn’t given it the faintest thought; as if there were no other way it could have been written; as if the 5-7-5 form were a mere but inevitable accident. That’s the trick.

      • Thanks Nobuyuki. I appreciate the sense of movement following these three haiku. From the horizon, to the island, and finally to the sky. I think that 5-7-5, or some other consistent form for these haiku seems like a good way to help pace the images in the sequence. I see that water is the link between the three verses. It captures the place, and the moment. I understand what “far horizon” is asking me to do. I can pause, and take in that image. I also like the idea of heightening the action in the second verse. We get a hint of what the waves were like at the end of the prose – “red buoy dancing” but for me, the way the waves were described in the second verse seemed to disrupt the flow of the sequence. Was this done intentionally?

  5. I read this haibun and am impressed with ”the youngness ” through out the text and haiku. I also enjoyed a touch of karumi
    when Takuboku has been referred.

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