Archive for the Autumn Category

Persimmons – part 2

Posted in Autumn, Haibun with tags on February 3, 2018 by sosui

. Nowadays I feel persimmons may be losing their popularity among consumers. Shops sell only a few varieties — two kinds of sweet persimmons called Fuyugaki (Prosperity Persimmons) and Jirogaki (Jiro Persimmons), and one kind of dried persimmon called Ichidagaki (Ichida Persimmons). Prosperity Persimmons are produced mainly in Gifu Prefecture, but they were originally developed from the Goshogaki (Imperial Palace Persimmons) very popular in Nara Prefecture. An enterprising Gifu farmer took a seedling back from Nara, planted it in his orchard and made further improvements. Mizuho City in Gifu Prefecture commemorates this with a stone monument, which reads “The birthplace of Prosperity Persimmons”. I am very fond of Prosperity Persimmons, and, whenever I see them in shops, I cannot resist the temptation to buy them. They are especially tasty just before they begin to mature. When they feel slightly soft, they are ready to eat, for it is then that they are at their sweetest and juiciest. Jiro Persimmons were originally developed in Mori Town in Shizuoka Prefecture. A farmer named Matsumoto Jirokichi found a young seedling on the bank of the Ota River and planted it in his back yard. It grew into a tree and bore fruits, but they tasted so awful that no one cared for them. When his neighbour’s house had a fire, the tree was burned down. But fresh buds appeared the following spring, and within a few years the tree began to bear fruit again. When Jirokichi tasted one of them, he was surprised how good it was. Thus a new variety was born, named ‘Jiro Persimmon’ after its owner, but strictly speaking, it was the product of an accident! Now they are widely produced aound Toyohashi in Aichi Prefecture. I think Jiro Persimmon is as good as its rival, Prosperity Persimmon, in size, colour and taste.
………………  Prosperity Persimmon —
………………  My mother is peeling it
………………  With her supple hands.
. Ichida Persimmons are produced in the village of Ichida in Nagano Prefecture (now a part of Takamori Town). They are relatively small dried persimmons, but very good in taste and colour. We have another kind of dried persimmon called Anpogaki, which look more like jelly because so much moisture is retained. They were originally made in Date City in Fukushima Prefecture, but now they are produced in other places as well, such as Wakayama and Toyama. What is common to the two types is that they are exposed to sulphur fumes in the manufacturing process. Perhaps because of this, they retain their beautiful orange colour. I live at the foot of Mt. Haruna, an area famous for plums, peaches and pears, but we also produce persimmons as a side line. In late autumn each year I buy big sour persimmons from a local grower and dry them. First I peel them, then hang them on strings to expose them to the sun. In several weeks, they will have a white powder on their surface and will be ready for eating. In sweetness, they are as good as Ichida and Anpo Persimmons, but, alas, they are black in colour and are rather difficult to make. If dried too long, they become hard, and if exposed to rain, they become mouldy. When they are well-made, however, I take special pleasure in eating them.
………………  The sunny orange
………………  Lines of drying persimmons —
………………  How they cheer the eaves!

(to be continued)

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Persimmons – part 1

Posted in Autumn, Haibun with tags on December 16, 2017 by sosui

. I have a persimmon tree in front of my room. This year, it has produced a rich harvest. In fact, like many other fruit trees, it bears a lot of fruit every other year. However, the persimmons this tree produces are very small, less than the size of ping-pong balls. I believe this tree was here long before the garden was made, and that it belongs to the species called Yamagaki (Mountain Persimmon). Its fruits are probably very sour and nobody cares for them, but as autumn deepens, their colour also deepens, till birds come and peck at them. This is the tree’s only use, but when I see it growing in the shadow of a big cherry, doing its best to survive, I cannot help cheering it on.
………………  Time for persimmons
………………  To mature and redden —
………………  The sky is so blue.
. I have been close to persimmons since my childhood. We had a persimmon tree in our garden when I was at primary school. My father fastened sturdy ropes around one of its branches and made a swing for me. I was very proud of it and happily swung back and forth on it, but one day the branch broke off without warning and threw both the swing and me to the ground. Fortunately, I landed on a soft lawn, so I escaped with only scratches to my knees. This experience taught me, though, that persimmon trees were easily broken, and since then I have made it a rule not to climb them.
. During our wartime evacuation, I enjoyed sweet persimmons. The earliest kind we had was called Bongineri (Bon-Festival Sweet Persimmon). Its fruits were small and had lots of stones, but their flesh, strewn with black flecks resembling sesame seeds, was delicious. Later in autumn I would enjoy large persimmons that had been sweetened in rice chests — so big and sweet that I found them satisfying in every sense. Occasionally I enjoyed the special variety called Saijogaki (Saijo Persimmons), which I thought to be a real treasure.
………………  The sweet persimmons
………………  With dots like sesame seeds —
………………  Everyone eats laughing.

………………  Sweetened persimmons
………………  Melt on our tongues, so slow to
………………  Reach our stomachs.

(to be continued)

Hailstone’s 16th Autumn Haike: Mt. Aoba

Posted in Autumn, Event report, Walking with tags on December 7, 2017 by Ursula Maierl

Takahama-Ōi 高浜町ー大飯郡 district of Wakasa Bay, Fukui Pref. We travelled there and back in three cars.
Nov. 11 (Sat.) – a clutch of nine poets congregated on a day of autumn showers: the six men scaling the heights of Aobayama (693m) for five rigorous hours, while the three women enjoyed the more sedate pleasures of the mountain-foot herb garden. The evening culminated, at Loghouse Akioya, in a rollicking poetry reading of the day’s experiences, that some haijin of earlier centuries might surely have related to.
Nov. 12 (Sun.) – the following morning, as the sun came out, we composed further haiku near the site of Takahama Castle and the eroded arch of Meikyodo beside the Japan Sea’s pounding surf. Two cars then drove over to Ōshima on the leeward side of the Ōi Peninsular, where a harbour stroll was had.
Here follows a selection of our poems, in rough sequential order, with each poet represented.

greeting five hundred
invisible bears
between Kyoto and the sea
……………………….. Ursula

empty forest —
one bird sings
to the steady rain
……………………….. David McC.

here
at the edge of the world
all things are covered in gold —
the sound of bamboo grass
rustling
……………………….. David

tangle of grasping roots —
frozen struggle
of a mountain-top tree
……………………….. William

a friendly hand
wet from rain
pulls me over
the abyss
……………………….. David

at our first proud summit,
the faded clipping:
“Old Man Climbs A Thousand Times”
……………………….. Richard D.

somewhere through
this mountain’s heart —
the sea, crashing
……………………….. Tito

slippery path:
our feet swallowed
by coloured leaves
……………………….. Branko

long legs
short legs
three legs
arse slide
……………………….. Tito

descending Mt Aoba,
light rain turns to hail:
a whispered goodbye
……………………….. Richard

two claps, two bows:
imparting to the god
my full name
and postal code
……………………….. Branko

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between this world and the next —
a gateway framing sky and sea
……………………….. Tomiko

by the slack silver harbour
a fisherman offers me his rod —
I catch his smile
……………………….. Tito

a globefish
dances around my float:
its tantalising orbit
……………………….. Tomo

acorns scattered
all over the herb garden —
immune from the nuclear plant?
……………………….. Kyoko

raucous poets —
hold the pickled mackerel,
pass the persimmon liqueur!
……………………….. Ursula

autumn mountain jaunt —
honouring my ursine name
with bear-like sleep
……………………….. Ursula

*slideshow photos by Tito, Branko, William, Richard & David

Autumn Haze

Posted in Autumn, Haiga on November 14, 2017 by Gerald

click on the picture to read the poem

Kompukuji Ginkō

Posted in Autumn, Event report with tags , on December 17, 2016 by Richard Donovan

Kompukuji (金福寺), near Keizan Ichijōji Station in Higashiyama, Kyoto, was founded in 864, and is the site of the Bashō-an (芭蕉庵), a hut that the poet visited in 1670 and that was afterwards dedicated to him. Yosa Buson (与謝蕪村) and his disciples helped restore the hut in 1760. On Buson’s death in 1783, his disciples erected a tomb on the hill overlooking Bashō-an and its adjacent well. Thus this little-known temple is something of a mecca for poets!

We were fortunate, then, that it was quiet on the Saturday afternoon (3 December) when we 15 Hailstones visited, led by Tito. We were able to take our time, even sitting on the engawa (perching boards) of the hut to compose our responses. The guest of honour was Maeve O’Sullivan of Haiku Ireland.

Thatched with water reeds
topped with maple leaves –
Basho-an, the poet’s hut                       Maeve

Peeling shōji
a corner thumbtack
holds sway                                   Albie

Perhaps it was the fact that the autumnal leaves were a little past their prime that staved off the crowds, but we were still surrounded by rich golden and scarlet hues, the light-blue sky above and the soft greens of the moss at our feet forming a poignant contrast.

Maple leaves
dying beautifully                              Branko

Lantern of Kompukuji’s
soft stillness –
lichen dresses you                             Christine

Footpaths through shadows
leave the bright colors behind –
Buson’s resting place                          Peter

A high wire fence
Through burning maple leaves –
No deer by the gate                            Tito

Framed by the temple gate
Deer and mountain silhouette –
The sinking sun
shika nagara / saneimon ni / iru hi kana
This was Buson’s original, alluded to above in Tito’s haiku.

After our extended visit to the temple, we repaired to Café Anone, near the train station, joined by co-organiser Ursula for coffee and cake and the recital of haiku and haibun.

[Notes: ginkō – composition stroll; shōji – paper window screens]

Sweeping the leaves

Posted in Autumn, Haiga on December 6, 2016 by Gerald

sweeping-the-leaves-2-icebox-2016                          click on the picture to read the poem

A Path Through Autumn Hills

Posted in Autumn, Event report, Walking with tags , on November 29, 2016 by Tito

Asuka (or Tōtsu ‘Distant’ Asuka, in Nara prefecture), Japan’s first state capital, is a name to conjure with, though few perhaps will have heard of Chikatsu Asuka (‘Nearby’ Asuka, in Osaka prefecture), through which the Takenouchi Kaidō passes on its way from Naniwa. This was Japan’s first state road, plied by emperors and emissaries as they travelled between Yamato and the kingdoms of Korea and empires of China further to the west. Naniwa (Osaka) was the entry/exit port.

Autumn clouds
sailing in the shape of
an ancient mission boat ……………. Miki

Day 1. November 12th , Bashō’s death anniversary and the first day of this year’s Hailstone Autumn Haike, had us passing through a landscape dominated by huge, moated imperial tumuli and early Buddhist temples that had seen better days. At the first of these, Fujiidera, a prayer for our journey in clouds of incense smoke. At another,

Someone tolling
the Yachūji bell:
by my feet, a few
rustling leaves ……………. Branko

One tumulus we rested beside was Shiratori no Misasagi (the White Bird Tumulus) made in the fifth century for Prince Yamatotakeru, perhaps the greatest of the Yamato heroes, whose exploits are recorded in the Kojiki. When he died, his spirit became a swan, and we were amazed to see some large swan haniwa (terracotta statues) in an archaeological display nearby. We paid our respects to him at nearby Shiratori Shrine.

The Takenouchi Kaidō proved somewhat difficult to follow in places, and we had to use a combination of maps, GPS and talking to the locals to navigate through the surprisingly urban first few hours. Richard’s hard work and a measure of good fortune allowed us to eat our packed lunches in a pleasant autumn-tinted park neatly sandwiched between a sewage works and a rubbish incineration plant!

We had just crossed the Ishikawa River on Garyū Bridge, from where we had spied the twin peaks of Mt. Futagami (Nijō) and a more rural, hilly landscape up ahead. Blessed with an idyllic ‘Indian summer’ day.

In the time it took him
to count the three clouds …
there were only two ……………. Tito

Found the rather creepy Morimoto Jinja, but overlooked, alas, its mysterious rat-headed courtier stone, Hayato-ishi.

Bare lightbulbs hanging
where lanterns used to be —
neglected shrine ……………. Candace

As the afternoon wore on and our feet began to get weary, golden vine leaves appeared beside the road. Although the harvest was already in, we did not need the signboards for ‘Asuka Wine’ to know that we were entering a land of grapes. The vines scrolling around their metal frames reminded some of us of the seventh century budō karakusa patterns on the black bronze Buddha’s pedestal in Nara’s Yakushiji. Around 3, we picked up Kyoko at Kaminotaishi Station.

The man perhaps most responsible for the introduction of Buddhism to Japan was Prince Shōtoku, and it was to his final resting place at Eifukuji Temple that we were now headed – uphill. The spacious temple precincts command a fine view out across the Valley of Kings and its imperial mausolea.

So still at Eifukuji:
only the huge sun sinking
behind the pagoda ……………. Branko

Down some steep steps … and up another flight beyond, brought us to the little nunnery of Saihōin, our last port of call for the day. The bus from the hotel soon came to collect us.

The nuns have left
the gate open wide –
November moon ……………. Tito

Taishi Onsen was where we bedded down for the night, now joined by David, who had walked up  from the railway station through late afternoon fields. The hot-spring waters and the local food and wine set us up for an open-mic haiku sharing.

Reciting the day’s poems
with a karaoke echo:
last of the autumn wine ……………. Richard

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Day 2. The 13th dawned, crisp and clear.

Morning bath
in the open air,
a yellow leaf falling
as I close my eyes ……………. Miki

At Kaminotaishi Station we waited for the arrival of the Osaka train and found Akira and Shigeko almost immediately. Somehow, though, Hisashi slipped through the radar and had a quiet smoke just behind us while others continued to hunt for him! The ten of us proceeded eastwards along the Kaidō, paralleling the glittering Asuka Stream.

Now I am alone
but the snowflies
have found their sunbeam ……………. David

Passing the thatched roof of the Yamamoto House, we climbed a lane to the humble but commendable Historical Museum of the Takenouchi Road. Inside, many were entranced by a holographic presentation of local history, which even introduced Bashō ghosting his way through the area!

In clearing the loose rock
he trips on another –
a path through autumn hills ……………. Tito

Arrival at the busy fishing pond of Dainichi. A short rest, and then a stiff climb over Mt. Futagami, decked in its November best. Lunch was taken on a rocky peak with marvellous views back towards Fujiidera, from where the walk had begun.

Bending in the wind
tall pampas grass:
we vote for a left turn ……………. Branko

Somewhere between the 13-tiered solid stone pagoda of Rokutanji and Iwaya Pass on this, the 13th of the month, u n f o r t u n a t e l y we got lost. To reconnoitre, both Richard and David hared off up different rocky paths. The former came back to tell us that he’d met an old man who had warned him, “You’ll never get through before dark!” We descended the mountain as far as Route 166 and slogged along it to Takenouchi Pass.

Bashō’s checkpoint:
on the Nara side
smoother asphalt ……………. Branko

A pleasant descent past a large pond with a kingfisher … to the outskirts of Takenouchi village. There, we debated the merits of making a detour to take in the Hakuhō period temple of Taimadera, along the so-called “Bashō Path”. David voted with his feet, and we were soon all off behind him!

A farmer’s
long-winded explanation
about the highway shortcut –
Indian summer ……………. Hisashi

At the temple, we prayed before its main image, the huge tapestry-weave Taima Mandala of Amitabha’s Pure Land. Hisashi writes, “The precincts were packed, as that day local agricultural cooperatives were holding an autumn fair. Caught in the crowd, I was attracted by a dry, leafless plant a metre long, carried by a young girl and bearing on its tips fluffy white cotton seeds. I recalled that Taimadera was adjacent to the district of traditional cotton production in Osaka. I imagined the girl would go home with the plant and arrange it carefully in her tatami-mat room.”

Leaves of foreign words
floating away
In the autumn breeze ……………. Miki

We hurried back to Takenouchi and there, altering our pace, began to amble down, backs to the sunset, through the hometown of Bashō’s early travel companion, Naemura Chiri. It seems not to have greatly changed since the visits of the haiku master: an evocative place. In 1684, accompanied by Chiri on his journey of the ‘Weather-exposed Skeleton’, Bashō had stayed at the house of the village headman, Aburaya Ki’emon, and complimented him with the hokku

Watayumi ya / biwa ni nagusamu / take no oku

The cotton-beating bow –
as pleasing as the plucking of a lute
deep in the bamboo

A cotton-growing area indeed.

Hanging above
our full array of grins,
a line of drying onions ……………. Tito

After a group photo (see the slideshow), and a short reading by Stephen of Bashō’s haibun and verse related to the area, we meandered along our final stretch of the Kaidō towards its junction with the Katsuragi Road at Nagao Shrine. Looking back, we could see the range we had come over – Kongo, Katsuragi, Futagami – a rearing mountain wave against the afterglow. Prayers of thanks for safe completion of our journey. From Iwashiro Station, the train-ride home.

Nara Basin –
stubble smoke rising
from the end of
the Silk Road ……………. Akira

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