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)

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.

20 responses to “Arrival

  1. What an elegant fusion on transitions, past and current.

    Very evocative; loving the dinner-companion crickets and lightning jolting each of the compass points!

    • Britain is going through a transition right now. I feel I may be flying the flag in exile by going in for a big transition myself. Small and big companions – crickets and the Thunder God!

  2. Your description of your new home location suggests peace, history and inspirational views. May it prove to be another home “of repose” for you both. Thank you for providing much more than a simple change of address.

    • Edward, many thanks for your good wishes. We are still working on that feeling of ‘repose’ for we’ve still a lot of cartons to unpack and ‘ropes’ to be learnt, but the gut feeling about the choice we have made is good.

    • Hi, Edward! Roger Haigh here, I hope all is well with you and your family.
      Tito’s new abode in Asuka sounds amazing. The Lake District, where I live, is still
      pretty nice, but too many second homes.

  3. I liked your haibun very much because you connected your travels in the Middle East, Afghanistan, India, and Laos with the idea of moving to a new home where you want to feel comfortable, peaceful, and fulfilled in this life. As Matsuo Basho said, life is a journey, no matter how far we move along the meridians of planet Earth or we move our body and spirit into a smaller area.
    I also liked how you manage in the opening poem, in the prose of the haibun and in the closing poem to unite the surrounding universe, the distant space with nearby space, the sky, lightning, insects, the house (engawa) and people into a unified whole. All seem to be like a strong brush stroke that a calligrapher starts to do an ENSO. The large space (your journeys to distant lands) melts into the small space (your new house, a hibiscus red flower, a butterfly, a dragonfly, first drops of the rain on the veranda roof).
    At the same time, the shape of this haibun leads me to the structure of a piece of instrumental music composed in three movements or three parts.
    My congratulations!
    Ion Codrescu

  4. Wish you a happy home in the ancient capital. Thank you for the beautiful descriptions on the history, the geography of the place and your own internal weather during the shifting from Kyoto. Wishing you lots of interesting times in your new home.

    I also look forward to the piece on Mt. Katsuragi after your hike.

    Warm wishes from Chennai!

  5. I have been in touch with Tito since he started to consider a move from Kyoto. When I heard about this house in the village of Asuka, my reaction was mixed. I had a beautiful memory of my visit to Okadera, an ancient temple on a small hill, within a walking distance from his house. I enjoyed a grand chorus of evening cicadas, walking down from the temple. I was sure that Tito would enjoy that in its season. On the other hand, I did not remember seeing any shop in the village, nor the bus service to the nearby station was adequate. Poor Tito and his wife, what will they do to commute to Kyoto where they have some work? This was the other half of my reaction. Now that they have made their decision to live in this house, I wish them my very best, hoping that they will enjoy the beautiful natural and historical environment in which this house is situated.


    At Oka Temple,
    The dreams of Manyo people
    Still alive today.

    • Thank you for your kind comments, Nobuyuki. Asuka Village has two museums for Manyo Culture, both very near to our house. Both are – that rare commodity in Japan today – free: Inukai Manyo Museum and the Nara Manyo Bunkakan. Takashi Inukai, a professor at Osaka University, who advanced Manyo studies and sent out thousands of students along the Manyo path, and Keizo Mii, who campaigned successfully to preserve the landscape of Asuka and prevent it from becoming yet another bed town for Osaka, should be praised, for it was people like them who enabled people like Kazue and me to fully enjoy such a traditional, historical, picturesque place already two decades into the 21st Century. For them and others like them, Asuka is a fortunate place… and it’s a privilege just to be here. If it became possible for you and Shigeko to visit us, do please come. So far the commuting, to and from Kyoto and Osaka, goes well.

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