The Last of My Wandering Journeys – Part IX Ashikaga Girls

.. On my way home, I took another deluxe train, this time to Tochigi. There, I found I had to change to an ordinary commuter train to get to Takasaki, where I live. The latter was practically empty, so I occupied two whole seats reserved for elderly people, and fell asleep.

.. Somewhere near Ashikaga, however, I was awakened by the noise of high school girls getting on the train. They all sat down and pulled out their smartphones. I had no way of knowing what they were doing with their phones, but they were so intent on their operations that no one talked or laughed. The whole train was as silent as a prison, and I was rather perturbed by this. When I was young, trains were full of noise.

.. Before long, the girls began to leave the train, in threes or fours, disembarking without even saying goodbye. Some girls, though, stayed on board for a long time. After more than an hour, when the train reached Takasaki, I still had a few of them around me. I wondered why they had to travel so far every day and what they would expect to learn at school. But both of these questions were beyond my own capacity to answer.

A fine autumn day—
My highland river journey
Full circle, achieved.

The tour is over,
Yet my heart, still a-dancing
With the autumn leaves.

4 responses to “The Last of My Wandering Journeys – Part IX Ashikaga Girls

  1. This is the final instalment of Sosui (Nobuyuki Yuasa)’s haibun, “The Last of My Wandering Journeys.” It has given me much pleasure over the months to read this epic journey made using public transport of all types, including boats, through the northern Kanto and southern Tohoku area.
    The details he shares with us and the sentiments expressed throughout reveal an acute awareness of natural beauty and history, as well as a warm sympathy for the locals he encounters along the way: all very much as we would perhaps come to expect of one of Japan’s greatest English translators of Basho and Issa. This is part of his very own “Oku no Hosomichi.”
    If you’ve also enjoyed this recent journey, another of his haibun series which bears a resemblance to this one was the 4-part, “My Trip to the North,” posted here in 2016-17. You can find it through the search box.
    Thank you, Nobuyuki!

    • Dear Stephen,
      Thank you very much for inviting me to post this piece of haibun on the Icebox. Thank you also for your patient editing. I wrote this in Japanese first and then translated it into English, but thanks to your editing, the English version looks better than the original Japanese version. I am eighty-eight now, so I do not think I can enjoy a trip like this again, nor do I think I can write another piece of haibun like this. I am closing the group called Shinpu Kukai (榛風句会)which I have been running with my friends in Tokyo. We have exchanged a piece of haibun every month for seven years! It seems you are pondering on the possibility of closing some your own groups. Well, it is a pity. I strongly believe we need someone like you who can bring together so many people from different parts of the world. I am closing my group, but I will keep on writing haibun so long as I have something to write about.

  2. This haibun has so much space for mystery….'” had no way of knowing what they were doing; … I wondered…why…what…But both of these questions were beyond my own capacity to answer.”

  3. The depiction of the train journey is atmospheric and the alienating silence on the train, sadly familiar. Generations of people who stare into their gadgets with such unfathomable purpose. Whatever it is, it surely beats what they may ‘expect to learn’ at school.
    Oh, and the guilty pleasure of sprawling over two seats reserved for the elderly.