from the Icebox inbox – 49

with comments by Sosui (Nobuyuki Yuasa)

From a lot of new haiku submitted these past few months, I have selected the following eight and will comment on each of them. But first, I should like to tell you briefly what kind of haiku I prefer. Ezra Pound’s famous words “direct treatment of the ‘thing’” are often used to explain haiku, but I have always thought that this shows only one side of haiku. I much prefer William Blake’s famous lines “To see a world in a grain of sand / And a heaven in a wild flower”. They describe haiku much better. I believe that haiku must show infinity in an image of a moment. Of the many submitted, there are only a few that come close to my conviction.

two varied tits
came from the coppice
fused into cherry blossom

Yoshiharu Kondo, Shiga

I like this poem because it successfully conveys the joy we all have when cherry blossoms come to bloom. It would be better to put a dash at the end of the second line to separate the third line. In Japanese haiku we use kireji (cutting word), but I think you can get the same effect by using a dash. It shows the last line belongs to a different level of experience.

my new Jawa bike –
the dragonfly comes back
for a second look

Kanchan Chatterjee, India

I have always liked dragonflies since boyhood. There is something humorous about the dragonfly in this poem. Dragonflies have big compound eyes and they can see certain things very well – for example, another dragonfly far away. I wonder what this dragonfly saw in the poet’s bicycle.

hot sunny day …
ants changing their
course of action

Lakshmi Iyer, India

I chose this poem because a line of ants is a favourite topic in Japanese haiku. I feel, though, that this poem needs to be more precise in its presentation of ants’ action. “Changing course” fails to show us what the ants are doing. I suppose ants changed their course because of the heat. If so, you could say, “ants changed their course / going through the leaves.” You must think once more about Ezra Pound’s words I quoted above.

one pink Japanese
magnolia petal on
the black, wet road –
midwinter

Sydney Solis, Florida

I have chosen this poem for two reasons: first, because it has four lines and second, because magnolia is used as a midwinter seasonal word. I have no objection to four-line haiku. I sometimes feel three-line haiku too short and truncated, especially if each line contains only one word or just a few words. But the one-word line in this haiku, however, can be justified. My second point is about magnolia. In Japan it blooms in spring. Does it really bloom in midwinter in Florida? If the last line had been “midwinter weather”, it would have been easier for me to have understood the poem.

empty house
the sun’s rays light up
the lone gecko

Uma Anandalwar

This is an impressive poem. During World War II, I used to live in a farmhouse with a few geckos. In Japanese, a gecko is called yamori, which means “a keeper of the house”. Geckos used to frighten me, suddenly dropping down from ceilings and walls. A gecko is truly a symbol of an empty house. I am glad to see this poem.

arriving at a tea shop
after a long trek …
a puppy greets me

K. Ramesh, Tamil Nadu

This is a heart-warming poem. It is nice to have a welcome of this kind when you are tired. It would be even nicer if the author had given us a more detailed description of the puppy. I live in a home for aged people where no animals are allowed, but there is one cat that lives with us. Here is my poem about it:

On a balmy day
I whistle to the white cat —
My greeting ignored.

Sleepless night in spring
My love’s gentle breath is a
Melody of peace

Ulla Bruun

This is an impressive poem, soothing and heart-warming. The only thing I am worried about is the way the second line ends. It is better, I think, to close it as a complete line and use a dash to emphasize the last line; for example, “My love’s gentle breath is heard — / A melody of peace”.

wind picking up –
suddenly from glassy lake
Hokusai waves

Ingrid Baluchi, North Macedonia

In this poem, “Hokusai waves” are used very effectively, and the speed with which they rise from the glassy lake is impressive. The only thing I am slightly worried about is the lack of season word. Of course I am aware of the legitimacy of non-season haiku, but in describing a scene like this, the use of a seasonal word is desirable.

from the Icebox inbox – 46

Tito asked me to make the final selection as an editor this time. The short comments after the poems are all mine. …. Sosui (Nobuyuki)

Sunset…
I walk alone on the beach, the twilight deep on my eyelashes covering my face. Suddenly, I come across seashells, big and small. I sit flat on the wet sand… waves having just receded.

dark night
stars guide
the boatmen ….. Lakshmi Iyer, Kerala

(Ed. comment – Haibun excerpt: I did a bit of trimming in the prose to avoid over-excitement.)

almost spring . . .
a cuckoo starts
haltingly ….. Kanchan Chatterjee, Jharkhand

(This poem expresses our feeling well when we can hardly wait for the coming spring.)

Emergency extended –
school children in line too
at the food bank ….. Yoshiharu Kondo, Shiga

(What a pitiful scene! I feel this poem is the best among the poems submitted this time.)

Hare silhouetted
sharing the hillside
where I rest ….. Jane Wieman, Wisconsin

(This poem is peaceful and conveys the feeling of oneness of the universe. It would be nice, though, if we knew the time of the day.)

shimmering orange needles –
distant towers dance
in the fading sun ….. Albie Sharpe, New South Wales

(This poem describes a beautiful evening scene when everything looks different from what we normally know. I like the image and wording of the last two lines.)

feeling I just heard
a turtle’s whisper in the garden:
stay-home afternoon ….. Hisashi Miyazaki, Osaka

(This poem is imaginatively stimulating, but I wonder what exactly HM heard in the turtle’s whisper.)

summer morning
a skim-milk sky spills
over the sea ….. Joanna M. Weston, British Columbia

(A beautiful description of the sky, although I am not sure what it might predict. Is it a sign of another hot day or of a storm gathering far away?)

Three Haiku Poems on the Spring Moon

三句 春の月

ステイ ホーム! ここの老人ホームでは、我々はほぼ個室に閉じ込められている。しかし、幸いに窓からは山野と空が見える。春の月を眺めて、三句を得たので共有したい。
Stay home! Here at this home, we are more or less confined to our single rooms, but fortunately, we can see the mountains and fields, and above them a broad sky. Watching the spring moon, I managed to compose three haiku poems and would like to share them with you.

冴え返る空に鋭き月の鎌
In the cold spring sky
There is nothing but the sharp
Sickle of the moon.

星一つ孕みて霞む三日の月
A star in her womb,
The new moon, floating in mist
Like a sick woman.

春の朝酔い覚め顔の月沈む
Early spring morning;
The moon sets, its pallid face
That of a drinker.

Sosui (Nobuyuki Yuasa)

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.

The Last of My Wandering Journeys – Part VIII Kinu River Descent

.. Next morning, I rose early and went to the station, for I wished to descend the Kinu River in a boat. I had taken boat trips down rivers at many places and had always enjoyed myself immensely. Basho, too, had gone down the Mogami River in a boat.

.. There was a boat leaving at nine, so I thought I’d best go to the boathouse by taxi to catch it. But the woman taxi driver said to me, in heavily accented Japanese, “The boathouse is only five minutes’ walk from here. Look, you can see it around the corner! Why don’t you walk and save your money?” I was not sure if she was saying this out of kindness or if she preferred not to do short distances, but she was so firm in her attitude that I decided to follow her advice! Although I had to go down an awkward flight of steps, I did reach the boathouse in time, and walked down the final steep slope to the river. Some passengers were already in the boat, but there was plenty of space, so I stretched out my legs and leaned back comfortably against the side of the boat.

.. Soon we started to move, passing a couple of shallow rapids where the boat scraped the sands and stones of the river bed. A little later, we had showers of spray coming down on us! This was indeed an exciting way of starting a boat trip.

The foaming rapids —
A young boatman braced himself
Before going down.

.. We soon reached a pool, where the boat slowed. The older boatman told us to look ahead. Our eyes lighted upon a soaring pillar of white granite, sharply pointed at the top. This is known as Shield Rock. At this point, though, it looked more like a rocket waiting for lift-off. When the boat moved farther downstream and came alongside the Rock, its middle part did indeed look very much like a square shield. As we passed it by, the older boatman muttered jokingly that our journey had now come to an end! At the time, I did not really understand what he had meant. But later I realized that he was implying that the whole journey had no other scenery as fine as that of the awesome Rock.

.. At one point, the boat passed beneath a suspension bridge. We noticed some people on this bridge, but it was so high up that they appeared only as dots. The older boatman said, “Wave back”. And so we all did.

.. The last part of the voyage was moving through a reservoir behind a dam. Here, the boat had to be towed by another one equipped with an engine. At the end of our journey, everyone got up and left the boat. I too tried to stand up, but found my legs were numb! A young tourist saw me struggling and offered me his hand. He pulled me up with some difficulty. Another tourist helped me onto the pier. I gave both men my heart-felt thanks.

A great granite cliff —
I gaze up at it, laid back
In a river boat.

A bridge, high above —
Though the tourists looked like dots,
They were all waving.

.
To be continued …

The Last of my Wandering Journeys – Part VII Dragon King Gorge in Autumn Dusk

.. My next stop was Ryuou-kyo (Dragon King Gorge) in Tochigi Prefecture. I got off the luxury train at a small station perched between two tunnels. Fortunately, I spotted a row of lockers on the platform, and placing all my belongings in one of them, climbed to the exit. There were two or three souvenir shops, but no sign to show me the way to the Gorge. I spied a stone torii (shrine gateway) beyond the shops, and believing it to be the entrance to the Dragon King Shrine, I began to descend a steep, tricky trail. My original intention had been to hike all the way down to the river, but I found it dangerous to walk on the trail in half-light. Although still only about four o’clock, the foliage above my head was so thick that everything was dimmed. At a certain point, from where I could see the shadow of the shrine and a cascade coming down from a rock nearby, I decided to turn back.

.. Before I did so though, for a few moments, I stood there thinking about the fate of the Dragon King. The story is that his shrine had originally been at Lake Benten, high on Mt. Keicho, but leaving that place, that he had then wandered for some years … before he came to be enshrined at the present location. It is said that a rainbow can be seen at the waterfall on fine days, but there was no sunshine when I saw it.

Standing in darkness —
The roar of the waterfall
Sinks into my guts.

“Show me a rainbow,”
I howl to the Dragon King —
There is no reply.

.. Returning to the station, I took a local train to Kinugawa Onsen. This was another comfortable one, with large red seats, which enabled me to stretch out my tired legs. When I reached my hotel, I had another surprise. Although I had booked a single room, I was given a ten-mat room with two beds placed in an anteroom attached to it. It seemed to me that a group of ten people would have easily been able to sleep there! Perhaps this says something about the changing styles of travel in Japan? Formerly, people used to travel in groups on company excursions, but nowadays they tend to travel as small family units. The number of solitary travellers like me has also been increasing.

.. After enjoying a pleasant dip in the hot spring, and a buffet dinner (known as a ‘Viking’ dinner in Japan, perhaps originating from smorgasbord), I selected my bed and fell soundly asleep. In my dream, though, the Dragon King appeared, and spoke to me:

“As a river god
I love blue, but in anger
Become reddish brown!”

.. I prayed to him, “Kindly pacify your anger by tomorrow and show me a beautiful contrast between your true blue and the flamboyancy of the autumn leaves.”

.

To be continued …

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 …

The Last of My Wandering Journeys Part V – Lake Okutadami and the Submerged Mine

I was a bit put off when I saw the long flight of steps in front of me, but a man was howling at me from the entrance of what seemed to be a museum. When I went up to him, he told me that there was a small cable car that could take me to the boathouse on the lake side in just ten minutes, and that the fare was only one hundred yen. I would not have hesitated to take the cable car even if the fare had been ten thousand yen! It enabled me to see the Okutadami Dam from different angles. I was impressed by its height and breadth and by the beauty of the surrounding mountains. In terms of the amount of water stored behind it, this dam is the second largest in Japan. Of course, it was a pity that they had to build a dam in the heart of the mountains, but without this dam, I would never have been able to glimpse their beauty.

…………………… A concrete giant…
…………………… Holding back deep lake water,
…………………… Soundless in autumn.

Arriving at the boathouse, I told the woman in the ticket office that I had booked a boat trip to Oze Guchi and, from there, a bus ride to Oze Miike. The woman said, “Yes, you are Mr. Yuasa, aren’t you? The boat will leave soon. Please walk down to the pier, but take care on the steps.” A boat that could probably have taken fifty people was waiting, but that morning I was the only passenger. I saw an even larger boat in the offing, looking rather like an ocean-going steamboat, and it was moving slowly towards Ginzan Daira, the pier named after the once-flourishing centre of the silver mining. My boat, although smaller, was comfortable enough. It even had a guiding machine, from which I learned a lot about the area and its history.

The scenery was spectacular. The trees were just beginning to change their colours. The lake water was silvery blue and very calm. Overall, I found it somewhat haunting, though. This might have had something to do with the tragic history of the silver mine that now lay at the bottom of the lake. They had had frequent disasters in the mine, and it had finally been closed in 1862. That year, they had accidentally bored into the bed of the Tadami River, and more than three hundred miners had died in the resultant flood.

The mountains changed their shapes and colours as we moved. They became higher and higher; the ridge lines, sharper and sharper. The best view I had from the boat was where the lake divided into two forks and the silhouette of Mt. Arasawa and its range soared above the morning mist. On the promontory that divided the lake were a few white flags. The guiding machine informed me that a shrine was situated there. It had once belonged to a village nearby, which was now at the bottom of the lake. The villagers had moved the shrine to this promontory to save it before they had evacuated.

……………… The water so clear;
……………… Mountainsides, now slightly tinged
……………… With autumn colours.

…………………………………….. The melancholy lake —
…………………………………….. I think I hear the voices
…………………………………….. Of miners below.

……………… White flags still flutter,
……………… Though the villagers are gone
……………… And no house in sight.

…………………………………….. Mt. Arasawa!
…………………………………….. It has a white spot on top,
…………………………………….. Snow or silver ore?

.
To be continued …

The Last of My Wandering Journeys Part IV – The Silver Line

.. My train arrived at Urasa Station twenty minutes behind schedule. Shinkansen trains also stop here, so I was expecting modern amenity, but when I tried to pass through the wicket, I could not find a touchpad for my Suica travel card. The ticket officer told me that travelcards had not yet been introduced. I had to pay the fare in cash and ask the officer to erase my card’s embarkation memory, which he did at once. My hotel was on the east side of the station. I walked through a long corridor and went down some steps to get to the ground level. The hotel was visible two blocks away, but there was nothing in between except grass-covered land. Fortunately, the rain had stopped, so I walked to the hotel, and found it comfortably equipped.
.. Next morning, waking early, I looked out at the Uono River that ran close to the hotel. It was indeed a beautiful sight, though smaller than the Toné River. A friend of mine had told me that in winter, they set a weir to catch salmon, but it was not the season for that. I went to the station fifteen minutes earlier than the departure time of my bus, for if I had missed this bus for some reason, I would have spoiled my whole journey.
………. More like an hour
………. Every minute seems, waiting
………. For a country bus.
.. To my great relief, the bus came exactly on time. It followed the River Uono for twenty minutes or so, and then turned right and started to move along a country road. After about an hour, the bus arrived at a hot spring resort called Oyu Onsen. I saw a beautiful river coursing along the deep valley and classy hotels standing here and there on the cliffs overlooking the river. The bus made a roundtrip of this resort, but no one got off or on. In fact, I was the sole passenger on the bus.
………. A hot spring resort,
………. Too quiet in the morning
………. To prompt cheer in me.
.. I wondered why and when they had built so many hotels here, but before I could find an answer, the bus went through what seemed to be a former toll gate and began to ascend sharply. This road was called The Silver Line, but contrary to its name it was dark and rough. It covered a stretch of some twenty-two kilometres and had nineteen tunnels. More than two-thirds of the way would be in darkness. It was bumpy and dangerous with many sharp turns. Big red warning arrows appeared one after another like ghosts. Originally made to assist construction of the Okutadami Dam, it was completed in 1957 after three years of hard work and with a heavy toll of forty-four lives. The dam was finished in 1961, but it was not until 1977 that The Silver Line was opened to the public. The bus driver steered calmly through the tunnels and took me to the dam site. I thanked him sincerely when I got off.
………. Between two tunnels,
………. A glimpse of silver pampas
………. Shining in the sun.
………………………… The autumn wind blows
………………………… Sheets of fog into its mouth–
………………………… A long, dark tunnel.

 

To be continued …

The Last of My Wandering Journeys Part III – Shimizu Tunnel

.. When I got back to the station, I found my train already standing at the platform with some people on board. So I touched my Suica card against the checking machine and got on the train myself. The departure time came and went, but the train did not budge. Ten minutes later, a female conductor announced that the route had been under inspection and that they were now awaiting a green light from the central office. Five more minutes, and the train started to move, but soon the conductor announced that there might be more delays along the way. Fortunately, though, the train soon reached the southern end of the Shimizu Tunnel.
.. Actually, there are two tunnels. The first one was completed in 1931 after ten years of hard work. It is equipped with a loop bridge. The second one was completed in 1967 after four years of construction. This tunnel has some stations in it, and is now used exclusively by down trains, while the first tunnel is used only by up trains. I was on a down train, so we went through the second tunnel. Although the train was moving rapidly, it seemed to take a very long time before the darkness lifted.
.. What surprised me most, though, was that it was raining on the other side of the tunnel! Kawabata Yasunari writes, in a famous novel, “Once out of the long tunnel, I found myself in a snow country.” What lay before me, though, were misty mountains standing in the rain. For a while I doubted my eyes, but then remembered the difference in weather between the Pacific and the Japan Sea coasts. I should have realized this when I saw a cap of clouds over Mt. Tanigawa.
………. An old woman comes
………. Into the train, her bent waist
………. And wet umbrella!
.. The train soon stopped at Yuzawa Station, where a group of primary schoolchildren boarded. The atmosphere of the train was transformed. Two girls now sat in front of me. I was struck by the difference in their characters. One appeared sanguine; the other rather nervous. One was laughing all the time, but the other looked into my face as if she were worried about me. They left the train at Muikamachi Station, but when we said goodbye, they told me to put out my hands and they hit them with their hands exactly as baseball players do.
………. Noise and laughter sent
………. Autumn gloominess away,
………. Schoolchildren boarding.
.. When the train stopped at Ishiuchi Station, I was reminded of the bronze statue of Okamura Mitsugi that I had seen before standing near the station. He was a political leader and had spent all his money trying to build a tunnel at the place where the present Shimizu Tunnel stands. He died brokenhearted, but is still respected as a great man by the people of Niigata Prefecture. Tanaka Kakuei, the former prime minister from Niigata, once vowed that he would dynamite the mountains blocking the free passage between the coasts, thereby reducing the economic disparity of the two sides. Tanaka also died brokenhearted, yet he too is held in great esteem in Niigata.
………. Those two men live on,
………. Kakuei and Mitsugi,
………. Warm in local hearts.

To be continued …

The Last of My Wandering Journeys: Part II – Minakami

.. My train arrived at Minakami Station on time. I had two hours before the next train left, so I decided to look at the town. Minakami is a hot spring resort, and I saw many hotels around the station, but no people. I wanted to look at the River Toné, but there was no sign directing me to the riverside trail. So, I decided to walk to the bridge situated to the north of the station. The Toné, now the size of an ordinary river, was rushing past with sparkling waters.
.. When I got back to the station, I found a taxi and asked the driver to take me to the suspension bridge known for its Yosano Akiko poem monuments. On arrival there, I was surprised by the beauty of this place. Here, the River Toné makes a sudden bend, forming rapids as it flows on through a little gorge. From the suspension bridge, I was able to see Mt. Tanigawa and other mountains forming a range. For a moment, I thought I spied snow at the top, but soon realized it was white clouds covering the summits like a cap. I was disappointed by the monuments, though, disliking their childish designs, but one monument, standing below the bridge on a rock right by the river, did impress me. The poem inscribed on the black marble slab was so fine that I am tempted to quote it here.
………. Craggy rocks rear up,
………. Trying to block the river:
………. How useless they are!
………. The stream runs like an arrow,
………. The youthful Toné!
The poem proved a very accurate description of the scene before me.
.. I found one huge granite boulder beside the bridge and a single pine tree growing from it.
………. High, the autumn sky
………. Above a pine, whose trunk stands
………. Unshaken in the wind.

To be continued …

The Last of My Wandering Journeys: Part I – The Toné River

.. We had a lot of rain this summer. When autumn came, I was seized with a burning desire to go on a wandering journey. Already eighty-six, with weakening legs, I knew it was going to be the last of my journeys. From the very outset, however, I fully enjoyed this journey, for I had to plan it rather carefully. Wanting to go to remote places I had not seen before, I chose Lake Okutadami in Niigata Prefecture, Ozemiike Pond in Fukushima Prefecture, and Ryuoukyo Gorge and Kinugawa Spa in Tochigi Prefecture. I found out that it would be possible to visit all these places in three days by using local trains and country buses. Timing would be a bit tricky, though, as two typhoons were in the offing! Once the first one had passed, I decided to leave immediately, for there would surely be at least two fine days, perhaps three, before the next typhoon arrived. I had to hurry, though, because one of the buses I wanted to use would stop its service in less than ten days.
………. The typhoon gone by,
………. I watched my dreams revolving
………. Round my little room.
.. So, at Takasaki Station, I got on a local train on the Joetsu Line. Unfortunately, it was one of those rather uncomfortable commuter trains. The main attraction of this line was a long tunnel that lies on the border of Gunma and Niigata Prefectures and I had been wanting to travel through this for the first time in my life. With Takasaki soon behind me, I enjoyed the changing views of Mt. Haruna from the train window. I live at the foot of this mountain, but what I saw from the train window was an entirely different shape. Mt. Haruna has multiple peaks, so that as we move in relation to it, we never see the same mountain form.
.. Soon after the train left Shibukawa Station, I had a spectacular view of the River Toné. As its nickname Bando Taro (First Son of the East Country) indicates, it is one of the largest rivers in Japan. When it came into view, it was near flood level after the typhoon and was collecting the water of a major branch, too, thus almost doubling its size. T. S. Eliot once called the Mississippi “a brown god”. The River Toné was an angry brown god that day.
………. Trees and grasses bow
………. As an angry god cavorts
………. Headlong through the vale.
.. I continued to feel anxious, as I knew the train service could well be suspended before I had finished my journey. My experience told me, though, that the headwaters of the river might already be abating in this fine weather. And, sure enough, the River Toné became less and less brown as I travelled north.

To be continued …