The Last of my Wandering Journeys Part VI – Oze Miike

My boat soon arrived at its destination, Oze Guchi (Entrance to Oze). Oze is a famous national park. There is a popular song about it which lives in the hearts of many young people. I am very fond of it, too. But not many people know the origin of its name. It derives from a courtier named Oze Saburo Toshifusa. His father was the Minister of the Left, but after Emperor Nijo’s death, he and Taira no Kiyomori became rivals in courting the young widow. Toshifusa lost and was banished to Echigo. He eventually came to this remote mountain area, giving his name to the place. I do not know how true this story is, but the people believed it and erected two statues of him, one at Ginzan Daira and another at Hinoemata. After his death, it is said that he became a Buddha of the Empty Sky.

…………………… Oze Saburo,
…………………… He was the ruler, no doubt,
…………………… Of a marshy moor.

A bus was waiting for me at the pier. When the driver called me by name, I was rather embarrassed for it seemed I was his only passenger. He had driven his bus for more than an hour in order to pick me up, and now he had to go back the same way. The road was paved but very narrow. For about twenty minutes, we followed the Tadami River, so I could enjoy its beauty. Here the river was still in its original state—rapids and pools followed each other, and rocks in different shapes and colours. Now and then I saw small streams coming down from the mountains and joining the river. If I had followed the river all the way, I would have reached the Oze National Park, but the road diverged.

Soon the bus crossed a bridge and started to climb a pass. This part of the road was very dangerous, but the driver seemed completely at home. He drove the bus calmly and skillfully round sharp bends and up steep slopes. The whole area was so thickly forested that I was quite unable to get a glimpse of Mt. Hiuchi. Instead, I enjoyed a cascade of red and yellow leaves. In this upper part, the trees were already in their autumn glory. When the bus reached its final stop, Numayama Pass, the driver told me that there was a shuttle service that would take me on to Oze Miike. I had a good lunch there, and looked at the museum. I also chatted to some people who were dressed for mountain-climbing and had heavy knapsacks on their shoulders—retired people enjoying their freedom!

…………………… A tall mountain ash —
…………………… Its leaves and berries, scarlet
…………………… From top to bottom.

…………………… For my souvenir
…………………… A brown bag of buckwheat tea —
…………………… Its rustic flavour.

…………………… Good to hear again
…………………… Hikers’ bear-alerting bells —
…………………… They sound refreshing.

I had wanted to see Sanjo no Taki (Three Streaks Waterfall), but it was six hours’ walk from here, so I decided to get on a local bus to a station from where I could catch a train to Kinugawa Hot Spring. This bus ride was longer than I had expected though, and again I was the only passenger! The bus soon went through Hinoemata, a small hot spring on the Ina River; then, turning left, began to follow the Tateiwa River, whose colour was blue-green in contrast to the Ina River which had been a muddy white after the typhoon. I knew from my past experience that this kind of river was good for trout fishing. We soon came to a place where magariya (L-shaped farmhouses) still stood. Although I could not stop to see them, their very presence told me that I had entered the Tohoku region. I recalled once having seen some fine magariya at Tono in Iwate Prefecture. I was also pleased to see, here and there, groves of healthy red pine. In Southern Japan, blight has decimated their numbers.

…………………… In the whirlpools of
…………………… The Tateiwa River,
…………………… Fallen leaves spin round.

…………………… Seeing red pine groves,
…………………… I now indulge in a dream …
…………………… Pine-mushroom growing!

At last, the bus arrived at Aizu Kogen Noze Guchi, a small station on the Yagan Line, perched high on a mountainside. There was a long flight of steps from the bus stop, so I reached the station out of breath. I got on an express going all the way to Tokyo—one of those luxury trains advertised in travel magazines. I sat in a comfortable seat, enjoying the ever-changing views from a large window. At one point, I was able to look down upon a big arched bridge. Now I knew we were in the Kinu River Valley.

…………………… Back to modern life
…………………… Traversing iron bridges —
…………………… This autumnal day.

.
To be continued …

4 Responses to “The Last of my Wandering Journeys Part VI – Oze Miike”

  1. A splendid haibun, full of vivid life and diversions. Great examples of 5-7-5 haiku – I didn’t notice the syllabification till the end – good sign – when I decided to count on my fingers like a little child.

    • Yes, it is interesting how Nobuyuki (Sosui) began with the 4-line form (viz. his Penguin Classic Basho and his Univ. of Calif. Press Issa translations, both of which profoundly influenced me, of course) … and eventually settled on the 3-line, 5-7-5 (or as near as poss.) style (which I think is your favourite mode). Perhaps N. will feel able to leave a comment on this matter here?

  2. I agree these are wonderful examples of 5-7-5. They are not padded, and are inherently musical. I am interested in Nobuyuki’s journey from the 4 line form mentioned by Tito to this 5-7-5 form in English. I recall many debates in the past about which form is most suited for English language haiku.

  3. Sosui (Nouyuki Yuasa) Says:

    Thank you for reading my haibun about my last wandering journey. I went on this journey about a year ago, but revisited Lake Okutadami two weeks ago, this time on a short trip with two friends of mine. We had a car, so we were able to cross the Shiori Pass, whose name derived from the legend in which a mysterious guide broke branches along the way to help Oze Saburo, who had lost his way in this deeply forested area. In Japanese, branches are called eda or shi, and the act of breaking them is called ori. Hence the name of the pass. We were able to see the lake and the surrounding mountains at the very height of their autumn glory. There is now a recent photo I took embedded in part V of my haibun piece, although a year ago the colours were not quite as full.
    As for the 5-7-5 syllable structure, it is best when it is not noticed. I was criticized by Japanese critics when I used a four-line form in translating Basho’s poems. So in writing my own English haiku, I wanted to demonstrate that I could use the traditional syllable structure when I wanted to use it. I find some English haiku loose, as if written without any sense of form. So I wanted to demonstrate, too, that a severe sense of form is required in writing haiku. I am glad that you enjoyed my poems. Thank you!

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