Arrival

Half moon, insect song —-
one small, lustrous cricket
joins our dinner table

Travel-weary is how I felt as we began to unpack boxes in our new house. Yet from the veranda, where we were soon hanging out our washing, there’s a glad prospect out across to distant Mt. Katsuragi, birthplace of En no Ozunu (1), with the gracefully curving gables of Tachibana Temple (2) rising out of the foreground green-gold rice terraces just across the Asuka Stream. I recall the taste of ‘arrival’ savoured on so many rough journeys in India and the Middle East; how one would check into a backpackers’ lodge after thirty-six or forty-eight hours on the move and ask for a room with a view. The effects of moving house after so many years feels strangely similar to the aftermath of long, sleepless, jolting rides on Afghan trucks or Laotian buses. Asuka (3), where I now live, is right up with all those nicely underdeveloped Asian travel destinations of yore.

The occasional couple appears pushing their rented bikes up the slope towards our house, and then past it, on their way enjoying the shadows cast on the lane by the unkempt grove of Okamoto-tei, a deserted, ramshackle property once apparently famed for its literary parties and its waterwheel.

I place a glass of water on an improvised stool and gaze out sighing, acknowledging to myself that all the ancient lithic sites (4) are now arrayed nearby, that the charming rolling scenery of Manyō (5) hills already encircles us with its greens and blues, and that tonight will be immaculately silent apart from the gurgle of irrigation water and the field crickets’ tintinnabulations. So, why not rest here for a few days, then? A new place before journeying on.

One red flower on the hibiscus. The afternoon is hot. Butterflies, damselflies, dragonflies visit—a magic seems to well.

Just then, a sharp wind comes down from the peak of Tōnomine (6) and I notice the black clouds behind me and sense a heavy rain. Potsu-potsu fall the first drops onto the veranda roof …

September lightning—
the compass-points
around our house,
each receives a bolt!

(Oka, Asuka, completed 12.9.22)

Notes:
1. En no Ozunu, the seventh century mountain ascetic and founder of Shugendō religion; Mt. Katsuragi itself will be climbed by Hailstone haiku hikers on Oct. 8 this year.
2. Birthplace of Shōtoku Taishi, the late sixth century imperial regent-statesman, who ensured that Buddhism took root in Japan.
3. Ancient capital of Japan ca. 538-710.
4. Sakafune-ishi, Ishibutai, Mara-ishi, Kame-ishi, Nimenseki, and so on; Asuka is famed for its mysterious ancient stones.
5. Manyōshū, the first great anthology of Japanese poetry, compiled early in the eighth century, mentions a number of such mountains—Miwa, Otowa, Amanokagu, Amakashi, Unebi, Miminashi, Katsuragi, Nijō, etc., all of which can be seen from Asuka.
6. Site of Danzan Jinja, shrine and spiritual resting place of Fujiwara Kamatari, the seventh century statesman and founder of the Fujiwara clan.