The Onion Field …………………………………………. by Dimitar Anakiev
If you happen to be walking in the northern part of Kyoto, known as Kitayama, you may notice near the Botanical Gardens a middle-aged man watching over an onion field located right beside his house. His name is Branko Manojlovic, a Serbian poet who has been living in Kyoto for quite some time now. Although the onion is an essential part of Serbian culture – I can’t recall a dish that has no onions in it – these were planted not by Branko but by a nameless neighbour. Two years have already passed since the planting, yet the onion is still unharvested.

I, too, was taken with this field. During my stay in Branko’s house, I watched it every day from the window of my room: a field that through its very existence seemed to hint at something that, although not obvious, was at the same time significant.
Looking out of the window – the onion field still wet after rain – I wrote a haiku:

In its second year
onion languishing – who will
come and harvest it?

At breakfast, Branko looked moody and with dark bags under his eyes from lack of sleep. As I was stirring my tea with a questioning expression he swigged his coffee in a hurry and, before going off to work, handed me a folded piece of paper: “Last night’s haiku”, he said. After he left I opened the paper, it read:

Unable to get back
to sleep… the onion field
lashed by storm

I noticed that Branko had a special relationship with the onion field, but we did not discuss it. One afternoon I noticed him pacing about the field as though looking over each stem, each green leaf that was pointing toward the sky. The following morning, I got another piece of paper that read:

A group photograph:
we are the onions
hanging under eaves

I myself wrote haiku on the subject of onions, which seemed to have dominated our thoughts and emotions. On the other side of the street, where the bus no. 4 was passing, I noticed a small Shinto shrine set there perhaps because of some superstitious belief. Like some Christian chapels, such shrines would often have been established by local people, and this particular one was leaning against a neighbour’s house.
When I was leaving Kyoto, I left Branko this haiku:

In Kitayama
the onion field watched over
by some Shinto god

I do not know if this field still exists today. If by chance it does, I’ll bet Branko is keeping an eye on it.



Onions …………………………………………………………. by Branko

Out of snow
green tails of onion stalks
slicing the wind

How past repair
this aging onion field…
how the umbels
still hold on for bees
and swooping swallows!

By the field’s edge
he glances left and right,
uproots an onion,
stuffs it in the plastic bag
together with his conscience

8 Responses to “Onions”

  1. A very special feeling in all of this!

  2. Really lovely. Wonderful story and haiku. Thank you.

  3. The ‘very special feeling’ that Colin mentions above is surely due to the perfectly haiku-style content of an overgrown onion field and to both Dimitar’s and Branko’s inimitable expression. Dimitar also stayed with me for a night in late March – alas, not long enough to write another haibun, though! Icebox readers will be grateful to both for sharing this fine work.

    More recently, on 18 May, I dropped in on Branko in my van on the way to setting an ike’ishi (生け石, stone arrangement) exhibition up in Ishikawa. Driving off merrily northwards, I wrote the following onion haiku, which I feel I ought, as a sort of tribute, to add here:

    By an onion field
    gone to seed,
    a gypsy music CD

    Thanks for that loan, Branko. It made a difference to the long drive. Dimitar, the haibun, which B has here beautifully translated, is a masterpiece.

  4. Thanks Dimitar. I liked the cross-cultural references in the introduction. Also, after reading your haibun, I wondered if those onions felt fortunate that because of the caring eyes of Branko, and the shrine god, they could live out their lives naturally.

  5. Margaret Mahony Says:

    I love this, it took me there.

  6. Dimitar Anakiev Says:

    Thanks guys, I am delighted reading your comments. I must say Stephen and Branko were wonderful hosts. I stayed a bit longer with Branko so I was able to explore my empathy in both personal and metaphysic level and that is really a blessing. If anyone of you can jump to June 22nd to take part in our International Advanced Haiku Workshop welcome! Here is the FB link to the event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1607091526101304/1607530502724073/?notif_t=plan_mall_activity&notif_id=1559513806924847 (Otherwise Stephen can link us) It is really a pleasure to know you!

  7. I enjoyed reading this piece of haibun for I too noticed some overgrown onions about a month ago and wrote the following haiku poems.


    In a quiet corner
    A field of spring onions
    With sea-urchin heads!

    Spring onions are
    Utterly unromantic
    But so powerful.

    Late spring onions
    Overgrown with no scruples
    Have some white flowers.

    I am glad that some farmers still leave overgrown onions in their fields and that some people enjoy to look at them.

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