A Parcel of Plums

Dear Stephen and Kazue-san,

The season of our plum harvest has returned.

Due to the rain and our delay at harvesting, some of the ripened ones may be bruised. Sorry for that. We selected those relatively young and green to avoid the above mishaps. Please water-wash their surface before taking a bite.

Akira and Shigeko, the residents of Rakuki-sha (落李舎)

Sleepless night,
another impact on the ground …
Ah, the ripened plums!

Imashirozuka Hisashi Memorial

Ancient tumulus – / clay figures on parade / as memories return   (Akito Mori)

17 October, 2020, Settsu-Tonda, Osaka. 14 poets gathered for a haiku stroll and memorial event for Hisashi Miyazaki. It rained all day long. The ginko itself had originally been planned by Hisashi and Akito Mori, but with Hisashi’s sudden passing (from pneumonia), I (Akira) offered to help Akito, and we decided to go ahead, feeling that H. would have wanted that. We planned to stroll around the famous tumulus and later to commemorate our dear friend in his own neighborhood on the very day when his ashes were being interred by his family in a temple nearby (四十九日).

Haniwa carry his soul / into the celestial age – / a rainy autumn day   (Ayako Kurokawa)

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We began our stroll by visiting the Imashirozuka Ancient History Museum to orientate ourselves. The tumulus itself was constructed in the early Sixth Century and is believed to be the grave of Japan’s 26th emperor, Keitai*. It is a fine example of the large, keyhole-shaped moated tombs from the Kofun Period and is famous for its ceramic haniwa sculptures of soldiers, dancing women, wrestlers, animals, birds, houses and so forth.  The Museum has a fine collection of artifacts from the site.

black hole eyes / stare straight in front – / timeless haniwa   (Reiko Kuwahata)

Sacred maiden / praying with arms stretched out: / after fifteen centuries / headless   (Kyoko Nozaki)

the clay pot’s trumpet lip – / the ancients, too, adored / the morning glory!   (Richard Donovan)

Later that morning, we walked around the moat and some climbed through the autumnal woods onto the top of the colossal gravemound itself. Unusually, here it is permitted to do so. Lunch was taken nearby in a couple of local restaurants.

Haniwa ducks / stoic in the rain: / just arrived on the moat / their whistling cousins*   (Tito)

the bosky mound – / running down / its animal trails / autumn rainwater   (Mizuho Shibuya)

standing atop / an ancient emperor’s tomb / soft autumn rain   (Duro Jaiye)

We held our afternoon memorial meeting for Hisashi at the Community Centre, where we had reserved a room. The autumn rain continued to fall outside as we began with a minute’s silence, refreshing our memory of him. We then went round the table, with all participants managing to share a precious memory of H or to read aloud one of his haiku or haibun works. He was a multi-faceted person – poet, translator, editor, pharmacologist, climber, fisherman. We found in many of his haiku the scientist’s mind, aware both of minute details and of the larger processes at work in the history of the Earth and stars. One attendee affectionately mentioned H’s traits – both as a person and as a haiku poet – with the words ‘slowly, vaguely, smilingly’. With artful ambiguity (bokashi), he always managed to leave room for the reader’s imagination, so that we could better feel his poems and appreciate the meaning behind them. Other participants mentioned the ‘boyish twinkle in his eye’, his humour, and his enthusiasm for exploring new fields.

haniwa festival – / some are praying / that your next world / will also be amusing   (Teruko Yamamoto)

Towards the end of the meet, we were invited to share verses created during the morning’s ginko. Everyone struggled to spin the thread of time that has passed since the days of haniwa and kofun 1,500 years ago … and to weave that into the present moment through our haiku poems.

requiescat in pacem / beloved poet, Hisashi-san / Mr. Turtle   (Ursula Maierl)

Notes: *E. Keitai 継体天皇 (r. 507-531), whistling ducks = wigeon 緋鳥鴨

Haipho for Kaze-no-Ryokosha

On Feb. 11, Tito and I attended a travellers’ luncheon party in Osaka held by 風の旅行社, at which there was a traveller’s fashion contest and a travel photo contest. There were about 35 attendees at the Silk Road restaurant in Juso, each allowed to enter just one ‘work’. Both of us entered a haipho to display in the impromptu exhibition. Tito’s (apparently using a photo taken by Kazue Gill in Nepal on 1 May 2019, the first day of Japan’s new imperial period) won 4th place. Here they are. Click on each one to enlarge.

April Fools’ Day Tea Party

Proclaiming the dawn
of April Fools’ Day
a bluebird* on the roof! ……………….. Tito

Lured by a spring breeze and white cotton clouds in the blue sky above, we gathered at Oyamazaki Station and set off on a composition stroll.

The old brown teahouse wall—
blossom in the wet stone basin ……………….. Richard

We started by visiting Myōki-an, a Zen temple said to have been built on the site of the hermitage of Yamazaki Sōkan, a great haiku poet of the Muromachi Period, and one of the founders of haikai-no-renga. Kneeling in the tatami-mat room, the priest welcomed us and briefed us about the temple itself and the tea room named ‘Taian’, designed by the fountainhead of the Japanese tea ceremony, Sen no Rikyū. Bashō admired both Sōkan and Rikyū. Oyamazaki is also well-known as the site of a famous battle between Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Akechi Mitsuhide. The victor, Hideyoshi, who soon had himself installed as a virtual King of Japan, had been invited more than once to Taian, where Rikyū himself had served tea for him and his subordinate samurais. There, he must have looked upon its slanting ceilings, walls hiding pillars, shitaji-mado (skeleton window), and eaves without gutters allowing rain to fall from the roof as a curtain: tea master Rikyū’s small universe. Each time the master invited guests, it was meant to be for all a fresh, once-in-a-lifetime encounter (ichigo-ichie), never to be staged again. This, we understood, was the essence of Rikyu’s chakai (tea meet).

Spring shade:
a two-tatami tea-room became
a work by Mondrian ……………….. Tomiko

We had lunch in a cozy local restaurant, “Tabitabi,” enjoying the reunion of haiku friends and their families, which included Lawrence (Jiko) and Isabel’s 6-month-old son, Taiyo.

The Easter hare …
see how she leaps
over cherry clouds ……………….. Jiko

Rubbing cheeks,
her grandson looking up …
a cherry-petal blizzard! ……………….. Shigeko

Afterwards, we strolled up the early spring lane to the Asahi Oyamazaki Sansō, where we enjoyed composing haiku in its cherry-blossom water garden and in the mock Tudor main house museum with its exhibition of ceramics by Shōji Hamada.

“Good morrow!”
the greeting came from the ground—
sun-lit periwinkle ……………….. Akira

Red passion
tulip growing—
a mother’s love ……………….. Isabel

Floating petals—
the carp, too
are cherry blossom viewing ……………….. Jiko

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The museum has a third floor terrace with panoramic view northeastwards toward Kyoto. In the middle distance, we perceived a veil of cherry blossoms extending along the river, “Sewari-no-sakura,” which some of us subsequently visited for an evening stroll.

From Sewari’s cherry-trees
petals fall as a blizzard—
our April Fools’ Day stroll  ……………….. Kyoko

Petal waves
blowing down
from mountain to river—
a transient delight  ……………….. Mayumi

There, on the terrace, over cups of English tea and cakes, occasionally visited by a spring zephyr, the fourteen of us shared and discussed the haikus we had made. One of these (given below) was subsequently broadcast (April 18) on B.B.C. Radio Four’s arts magazine show, Front Row. Listen here:  https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09z1d9t (below the photo, click “Chapter: Japanese Cherry Blossom” to go straight to the haiku section)

Wishing the cherry petals
to fall to rest …
on the baby’s eyes ……………….. Tito

‘Green Leaves and Water’: Ginko-no-Kukai at Mino

We chanced on one sunny morning  in the rainy season for our Ginko (June 11), a haiku stroll in the Mino Valley, N. Osaka. Ten poets turned up at the Station, and in less than five minutes we were in a green forest with fresh leaves and a clean stream. We enjoyed the murmuring water, birdsong, cool air, and tree-filtered sunlight. We glimpsed a wedding ceremony at one of the old Japanese-style inns on the way, and gazed up at the huge rock, Toujin-modori-iwa, which, as the legend goes, because of its formidable aspect made a group of Chinese visitors in the Qing Dynasty give up their attempt to reach 33m-high Mino Falls. Eventually, a silver waterfall came into sight. There, a monkey was hiding in the trees, attracting even more visitors than the cascade itself.  After enjoying the Falls, we walked back to the town of Mino, some of us taking a short dip in a hot-spring foot-bath on the way.

That afternoon, we were to hold a Kukai on the pre-selected theme of ‘Green Leaves and Water’ in the newly-opened Ii-ichi-nichi Café, the owner of which, Mr. Kinoshita, was a friend of one of our members. At lunchtime, poets wrote down some of their haiku from the morning’s Ginko, and the scribe and event organizer (yours truly, Akira) chose a few of them to add to the Kukai sheet (part-prepared from submissions already received, including a couple from a poet currently abroad). This sheet soon had 25 haiku inscribed on it (a maximum of two for each participant) and copies were made in a nearby store. Everyone had to choose their favourite (2 pts.) and three other haiku they liked (1 pt. each). The votes were then tallied by the scribe, and over coffee the session chairman, Branko Manojlovic, then read out the winning haiku and asked those who voted for it to say why they had liked it. Soon, we moved onto the runner-up, and so on down the scale of popularity, managing to cover most of the poems that had attracted at least two votes. Tito presented the author of the winning haiku, Hisashi Miyazaki, with a dyed cloth iwana fish. It seemed an appropriate prize for the clear waters of Mino.

we watch the fall–
it watches us,
a lone monkey ………… (Hisashi Miyazaki, 5 pts.)

the last drop poured,
…….. spreading
……….. scent
. of fresh picked tea ………… (*Mizuho Shibuya, 4 pts.)

The Mino Fall/ behind the maple leaves/ a shy monkey
(Teruko Yamamoto, 3 pts.)

Going deep into the greenland/ at its goal/ waterfall’s white spray   ………… (Eiko Mori, 3)

clear water…/ the fish under the bridge/ cooling in the shade   ………… (*Duro Jaiye, 3)

new leaves above and below:/ a cart of three-year-olds/ crossing the mirror paddy ………… (Richard Donovan, 3)

Strolling the valley…/ a faint light on the stream,/ clear still water ………… (Akito Mori, 3)

* authors with asterisks were not present on the day; click on any photo to enlarge