Hailstone Haiku Circle once did a series of events on the theme ‘Four Corners of Kyoto’. That was in 2004. It just so happens that this spring we have been out on the edge of Kyoto again a couple of times: April 16 in Ohara (NE corner), participating in a poetry-reading party (sharing some of our favourite spring poetry) hosted by David McCullough … and then, on May 20 in Oyamazaki (SW corner), with a ginko-no-renga event hosted by Hisashi Miyazaki and Akito Mori. Both were blessed with wonderful weather. I thought someone should leave a short account here so that absentees can get an idea of what happened. Both were full of creativity and fun.
Ohara – the cherries were still in full bloom along the river flowing past David’s rural home. We ate and drank outside. Notable attendees included John & Peggy McAteer (over in Japan from Oregon) and Yuko Yuasa (for the first time in many years). David kicked off the reading session inside with the opening passage “When that Aprille with his shoures soote…” from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, followed by his two young twins, Kenji and Minori, each reading a classical tanka. Here’s one of them in David’s translation:
Led on and on
by the image of blossoms,
I have crossed peak beyond peak
to find nothing
but white clouds ……………… (Fujiwara no Shunzei)
This was followed by Tito reading some famous cherry-blossom haiku and then, teaming up with Ursula and Tomo, singing the vernal Veris Leta Facies from Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana. Duro Jaiye then read an impressive poem translated from the Korean and John McAteer recited to great effect – yes, you’ve guessed it! – Yeats. And so on, via many other voices, through a myriad shades of spring! At least 14 Hailstones read. We hear that the last guest to leave, well after dark, was Gerald (Duro) in his pink-of-pinks shirt. Many thanks to David and Atsumi for including us in the ranks of other friends and family members. A memorable day.
Oyamazaki – the new green leaves (shinryoku) were almost blinding against the deep blue sky. A ginko (composition stroll) was enjoyed in the morning, followed by the compilation of some of the 3- and 2-line verses we had just written into a renga (linked verse) in a room in the Oyamazaki Furusato Centre in the afternoon. Twelve poets came. Notable attendees included Noriko Kan from Matsuyama, Kayo Fukuda from Gunma and her Scottish friend, Graham, just off the plane! Perhaps in Graham’s honour, we briefly visited the Suntory Whisky Distillery. Also, the beautiful garden of the Asahi Oyamazaki Sansō, written about by Natsume Sōseki and replete with kakitsubata (rabbit-ear) iris flowering beside a stream.
To that honourable figure
I shall make a bow –
the purple iris flower ……………… (Bashō)
Bashō was referring to Yamazaki Sōkan, an early haiku poet who lived in Oyamazaki and whose haiku monument we also visited. Along with Moritake, he was one of the two pioneers of the haikai-no-renga tradition, on which haiku itself is founded. Later, we were permitted to step into the earthen-floored entrance hall of Myōki-an, a haunt of another of Basho’s heroes, the tea-master Rikyū, part of which is said to have been constructed on the site of Sōkan’s hut. We had not made a prior reservation and so, instead of entering the tea-house, strolled around the nearby Rikyū Hachiman Shrine.
Hands flat on the ground in front,
reverentially he recites his poem –
the frog! ……………… (Sōkan)
At Takaradera (also known as Hōshakuji Temple) earlier, some of us had paid our respects to Enma-Daiō (the King of Hell) and his truly intimidating Court, a marvellous set of wooden sculptures sitting in its own ‘courthouse’ high on Mt. Tennō. Far below, we had glimpsed the confluence of the three rivers, Katsura, Uji and Kizu, which flow on as the Yodo, on whose banks Buson was born. Lunch was taken in a Chinese restaurant nearby. Hisashi Miyazaki and Richard Donovan then took on the respective roles of sabaki (chief compiler) and shūhitsu (associate ed./scribe) as we began our creative work at the Furusato Centre. It is hoped to share the resultant renga later. For now, then, here is the hokku/wakiku:
A clear sky …
sprouting green leaves
breathe with us ……………… (Akito)
The sound of ice
being dropped into a glass ……………… (Tito)