Blinded by Leaves

Since 2002, we in the Hailstone Haiku Circle have walked an annual haike (haiku hike). Each autumn we throw ourselves into the rich colours of the Japanese countryside and let the poetry flow.

This year, nine of us gathered for a scaled-back hike in the remote village of Hanase, far to the north of Kyoto city.

We had hoped to begin the day with a visit to the dramatic, stilted temple of Bujoji. Unfortunately, the combined effects of corona virus and typhoon damage had closed the temple. But with autumn in full blaze we set off on a gentle riverside walk.

Autumn shade — / a spider pretending to be / a leaf  (Kumiko)

Beneath a slate gray sky / trees flaunt their colors, / as if in defiance (Ted)

Wandering along a forest path, slowly ascending, our senses were captured by the fruits of autumn.

Crab* zigzags / up her small hand, she says / like soft needles (Branko)

hundred-year-old maple tree, / still so young / above the clean river (Tomiko)

Bridge of trees, / a typhoon offering / to foxes and bears (Minori)

At the end of the climb we lifted our eyes to three enormous cryptomeria* that seemed to rise from a single trunk. These are the tallest trees in Japan, sheltered from storms amid a cleft in the mountains.

The fifteen storeys / of Sanbonsugi: / homes of flying squirrels, / homes of owls (Tito)  

We slowly descended to our starting point, from where we visited a forest park for a fine lunch, including wild mushrooms.

after the autumn amble, / kissing my wooden staff / farewell (Ursula)

Round a chestnut table / our masks slip off / one by one (Branko)  

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Fully refreshed we returned from deep countryside to the charming village of Hanase … to be greeted by blue skies and ever richer colours.

Man up a ladder / proofing tiles on his roof … / masked poets file by (Tito)

Rows of pampas grass, / catch light and sway — / the autumn wind (Kyoko)

Reaching the middle of the village we ascended a long, grass staircase to pay our respects at the rustic sanctuary of Miwa Jinja.

from dark forest / behind the mountain shrine — / echoing laughter (David)

Sudden sunbeam / spills through the gate, / ferns bow (Ted)

The day concluded with a safe return to Kyoto City. At Cafe Dorf in Iwakura we shared our compositions round the hearth.

Notes: crab* – land crabs are encountered in the mountains here in Japan; cryptomeria* – sugi in Japanese.

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

Kyoto Isshu Trail — Part III

Wed. 16 Sep. (a day earlier than planned because of weather concerns): I led Tito, Kazue and David on the third Kyoto Isshu Trail Haike of the year, meeting outside Kinkakuji and concluding at Togano-o near Takao. We walked up the road past Hidari Daimonji (the 大 character near Kinkakuji that features in the annual fires lit on the hills of Kyoto for Obon) and paid a quick visit to my new home before heading on upstream along the Kamiya River to the trailhead on the Tokaishizen-hodo (東海自然歩道), which soon links up with the Isshu Trail. There are many carpenters and joiners along this road, and also a jizo shrine with a delicious spring.

…. Cypress shavings smoulder
…. by the stream-side rowan —
…. berries, small this year
…………………………… Tito

Soon after beginning our trail ascent, we observed the remnants of devastation from the typhoon of two years ago, tree trunks lying like tossed ‘pickup sticks’ across the valley, and some still encroaching on the trail. Further evidence could be found at the marker, where the main route to Sawanoike Pond (沢ノ池) was closed due to a large landslide. However, we stepped over the warning tape and scrambled up an alternative route that David had found, coming across a beautiful yamamayuga (山繭蛾), a Japanese silk moth, slumbering on the far side of the yawning cavity left by the landslide. Close by, Tito tended to a near-forgotten shrine.

…. Dead end on the Kyoto Trail:
…. he brushes the cobwebs
…. from the bodhisattva
…………………………… Richard

– click on any photo to enlarge –

We approached the pond from the north along a forestry road, heading along its east bank, past the odd tent, until we reached the far end of the gourd-shaped body of water, a reservoir fashioned in the Edo Period to provide for Kyoto. No obvious evidence of the construction remains; it is a charming place, reflecting the sky and the slowly turning foliage, though its waters are murky. We all braved them for a refreshing swim, some emerging more scathed than others.

…. Mountain afternoon —
…. his toes now nibbled
…. by fish in the lake
…………………………… Tito (after/for David*)

Over lunch we sat in admiration of such a tranquil, enigmatic spot mere kilometres from downtown Kyoto. Tito told us there had been a village here in Jomon times.

…. The wide green lake
…. skimmed by red dragonflies:
…. who will see this
…. when I have gone?
…………………………… David

The sun came out, as if urging us onward, etching the trees luminously on the water’s surface and raising temperatures to the low-30s. It made for a hot walk along the ridgeline to the south of the lake, with fine views of Kyoto and the rolling hills of Saga as we headed west towards Takao. As we emerged onto the Fukugatani-rindo (福ヶ谷林道), David zoomed off ahead of us to attend a university Zoom meeting. We three remaining haikers sauntered down to Togano-o (栂ノ尾), where we took another dip, this time in the pristine Kiyotaki River.

…. on the hook on the end of the line by the rock on the river
…. someone’s sweetfish** dinner
…………………………… Richard

We spent a silent moment thinking of our recently departed haiker friend Hisashi, then had a leisurely drink and a snack at one of the pretty restaurants looking out across the river, brushing up our poems and pondering the day’s refreshing excursion. A JR bus took us back into Kyoto.

* David’s earlier haiku, to which this is a complement, was Mountain morning — / my face tickled / by spiderwebs
** ayu

Secrets Shared

Back in May 2005, Hailstone had once organized an internet kukai (haiku tournament) in real time using phone/fax/email from Osaka, hooking up with Martin Lucas’ Roses group in Manchester: perhaps a world first?

7 June 2020 saw Hailstone’s first live online meeting – a rodokukai (reading meet) on Zoom, hosted by David McCullough in Kyoto. Thirteen were present at the two-hour meet, with another four contributing work (one from Florida, another from Mexico). It was good of Genjuan judge, Sean O’Connor, to get up and join us from Ireland at 7:30am! Using the share-screen facility, we were all able to see the work as it was introduced: this included haiku sequences, senryu, haibun, and haipho. The theme, chosen by Tito, was ‘Secrets and Discoveries’, a rich vein to mine from our lockdown days, when many were finding new meaning in things natural and close at hand.

苗代や短冊形と色紙形  (子規) photo by Tito

The rice seedling beds: / some the shape of tanzaku,  / others like shikishi (Shiki)

April shutdown: / solitudinous silence (Ursula Maierl)

opossum, too / exits / its sheltering abode / to cross the green lawn (Sydney Solis)

up a hill in early morning / stretch to grasp at the sky – / song of bush warbler (Akihiko Hayashi)

Onion stalks / outgrown by weeds… / the field in motion (Branko Manojlović)

haipho by Hitomi Suzuki

morning sun / shines in through / the pine and the maple (Noriko Kan)

anxious times – / the cries of newborn lambs / throughout the night (Sean O’Connor)

Frogs croak, begging for rain / Humans, secluded, pine for others – / Invisible corona virus (Reiko Kuwataka)

All the dreams I have / Secret under the strawberry moon – / Midsummer night hills (Masako Fujie)

Today— / tongues of deer / curl around / fallen magnolia petals (Tito)

Every morning you greet me, / Periwinkle (日日草) — / embodiment of Japanese name (Kyoko Nozaki)

Today’s fourth online class – / beneath buttoned-up shirt, / my cut-down shorts (Richard Donovan)

haipho by Akira Kibi

Music of baby sparrows / Resounds among the buildings — / The silent city center (Mayumi Kawaharada)

Red lanterns turn on / in barren, silent streets — / longing for shamisen (Peter MacIntosh)

my cup of tea / this is how you learn / to keep silent — / one sip at a time (Sergio Negrete)

Beneath the sparrow’s egg / a scrap of moss — / distant birdsong (David McCullough)

The Path of Birds: Kyoto Isshu Trail — Part II

May 17.

Five of us met, carefully masked, to walk the eastern section of the Kyoto Circuit Trail, from Fushimi Inari to Keage. With an end to the lockdown in sight more people were out, but the approach to Fushimi Shrine still quiet.

Sparrow-meat stalls*
closed by the Virus:
sparrows celebrate   (Tito)

Japanese visitors shared friendly, if slightly cautious, smiles as we walked through the shrine grounds.

Vermilion-faced foreigners
trooping down
the wrong torii tunnel   (Richard)

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Climbing past myriad shrines, fox statues and altars to the gods, we wound our way over Mount Inari.

Known to steal even
the shrine’s lighted candles,
crows in a spring wood    (Tito)

At Sennyuji we passed through an area of many imperial tombs, including the grave of Komei. His son, the Emperor Meiji, penned the following:

⽉の輪のみささぎまうでする 袖に松の古葉もちりかかりつつ
Tsukinowa no misasagi mode suru sode ni matsu no furuha mo chiri kakari tsutsu
Here at Ring of the Moon Cemetery
I visit the ancestral tombs
and onto my sleeves
ancient pine needles
are falling, falling*

For a while, we skirted the edge of the city before climbing onto the hills that rise above Kiyomizu Temple.

treetop birds —
even their laughter
keeps a safe distance    (David)

The day ended with a visit to Himukai Daijingu, the Sun-Facing Shrine, a source of holy water that once helped to ward off a ninth century plague.

At the foot of Himukai Shrine–
a white cockerel*
clucking under my caresses    (Richard)

Notes:
*Fushimi Inari is famous for its stalls selling grilled sparrows;
*falling pine needles indicates early summer;
*cockerels are sometimes kept at Shinto shrines dedicated to the sun goddess, Amaterasu.

Kyoto Isshu Trail – Part I

On Mar. 31, in spite of the corona virus scare, three Hailstones (of eight solicited) did actually hike about 14km of the Kyoto Circuit Trail between Takao and Arashiyama, much of it beside or overlooking water – Kiyotaki Stream and later Hozu River from the gorgeside trail on Mt. Ogura.

The mountain cherries were coming into bloom. Packed lunches were eaten on a huge rock in Kiyotaki Stream. Two of the hikers managed a few haiku, a flavour of which is given below.  Once the virus subsides, we hope to do some more of these not-too-vigorous hikes together, next time perhaps on the Higashiyama hills.

…………… Almost vulgar
…………… the azalea hillside’s pink —
…………… where Kukai’s brush* was thrown ……. (Tito)

………………………… as I wait
………………………… for tomorrow’s storm
………………………… the mountain burns with flowers ……. (David)

 

 

 

.
.
……. Waylaid
……. by watching red camellias
……. floating down the stream … ……. (Tito)

………………………………………….. girls in masks
………………………………………….. taking selfies —
………………………………………….. how deep the valley ……. (David)

CLICK ON PHOTOS TO ENLARGE!
* Kukai (774-835), the founder of Jingoji, Japan’s first Shingon Buddhist temple, threw his brush, already dipped in ink, from one side of the valley to the other, where magically it wrote the name of the new temple on a plaque. Or so the legend goes!

Snow Kukai

The Snow Kukai event held on March 8th turned out to be a very pleasurable afternoon. 14 poets gathered in the gorgeous pond-side setting of Shusuitei villa in Kyoto Gyoen to share and discuss snow-themed haiku submitted by no less than 24 different people.

David McCullough won first prize for his snow haiku. With 8 votes, it proved the most popular of those entered:

snow falls softly
onto the river —
last train passing by

Runners-up, both with 6 votes, were:

endless snow… …………………………………… Excavated remains —
I break the froth ……………………………….. into the postholes,
in a cup of cappuccino ………………………. snowflakes
….. (Yaeno Azuchi) …………………………………… (Keiko Yurugi)

Next, two poems that received 5 votes:

daybreak… …………………………………………. In the freezing rain
the muffled sound ……………………………… an old man living alone
of a raging snowstorm ………………………. picking peach blossoms
….. (Duro Jaiye) …………………………………………. (Yoshiharu Kondo)

And 3-pointers:

silky snow ………………………………………….. Lunchtime strollers
left on old tree — ………………………………. squint into the sun’s glare —
the clouds begin to break …………………. first snow flurries
….. (Akihiko Hayashi) ………………………………. (Jun Tsutsumi)

a morning of the cottage
everything with snow —
a straight track by a tiny hare
….. (Teruko Yamamoto)

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Poems that got 2 votes were:

oh no ……………………………………………………. snow vanishes…
snow in the deck-chair again ………………. as though an hour ago
insisting it’s winter ………………………………. never existed …..
….. (Ann Mari Urwald) ……………………………….. (Branko Manojlovic)

Twilight Venus
over the mowed garden —
the first snow
….. (Kiyoko Ogawa)

Poems with 1 vote were by: William Sorlien, Tito, Hisashi Miyazaki, Hiroko Nakakubo, Ursula Maierl, Kyoko Nozaki, and Eiko Mori. Alas, we didn’t have enough time to talk about these.

The event was well organized by Yaeno Azuchi and Tomiko Nakayama. Tito introduced the kukai, using snow haiku by Shiki, Meisetsu and Issa, and later gave the prize, a handmade Indian book for writing haiku. Branko Manojlovic debuted as discussion coordinator. He came up with the following haiku written during a tea break:

Still pond
touched by sunlight —
sharing snow haiku

Hailstone’s 18th Annual Autumn Haike: Mitarai Gorge and Mt. Inamura

A chilly November morning (23rd), and the first three Hailstone haikers arrived at the rendezvous site – cosy cafe Coccolo in 明日香 Asuka. Our haiku hike had had to be postponed for a month due to the intervention of Typhoon Hagibis, but summer was slow to surrender this year. Cracking the spines of our notebooks, we penned the weekend’s first haiku in a nearby park.

rustle rustle rustle … …………………… tree’s stalwart green heart
falling leaves hitting ……………………. battling the grip of autumn…
the colored branches below ……….. losing
.. Akira Kibi ……………………………………… William Russell

After lunch, now with the other seven poets, it was into the Kii Mountains for a trek through みたらい渓谷 Mitarai Gorge, where the Yamagami River has carved a breathtaking ravine, now crisscrossed with footbridges.

between two roads ………………………. Water gushing though
a field of pampas grass – ……………. Tapestry of autumn leaves –
colours I’ve never seen ……………….. The remains of the day
.. David McCullough ………………………….. Kyoko Nozaki

With the fading of the sound of the rapids and waterfalls behind and of the daylight above, we reached our stop for the night at 洞川 Dorogawa, a hot-spring village lined with traditional Japanese ryokan inns and bathhouses, many of them frequented in season by yamabushi, mountain ascetics.*

rising into the sky
the sound of my wooden clogs –
lured by orange lanterns
.. Shigeko Kibi

Dinner, drinks, baths and poetry were enjoyed before an early night, as we had a long day to come.

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The next morning, we rose to take on 稲村ケ岳 Mt. Inamura (1,726m), with the mist still clinging to its sides. 6 poets ascended the peak, slightly higher than neighbouring Mt. Ōmine, and open for both men and women to climb.** Meanwhile, 4 poets stayed in the valley, visiting caves, 天河大弁財天社 Tenkawa Daibenzaiten Shrine, springs and temples.

It was curious that the trailhead we sought that morning began at a temple called 母公堂 Hahakōdō (“Holy Mother’s Hall”). Ozunu’s mother, Shiratōme, had once come here from Katsuragi to try to find her son, and a vision of Amidha Buddha had appeared, assuring her of his safety but also warning her not to disturb him in his austerities on the mountain. Yet it is on the path leading up from behind this temple that women are presently allowed into the mountain to practice their own austerities.

On the climb, we walked through hushed ranks of cedar trees, clung to chains on rocky ledges, found rhododendrons amid the wintry deciduous woods higher up. At one point, we froze at the piercing call of an unseen deer. Everyone pushed themselves for four or five hours … and, thankfully, made it to the peak. From there, by drone, we were able to view the sea of clouds around us from an aerial vantage point (see video below). What would En no Ozunu have made of that? 

Acorns … …………………………………………. my walking stick
celebrating their birthdays ………………….. all the way
all over the place ……………………………………… to the summit
.. Tomiko Nakayama …………………………………… Duro Jaiye

This color ………………………………………… No breeze
Squeezed from sky and earth, ………. no water
A colored leaf falling ………………………. no sound,
.. Miki Kotera ………………………………….. only withering
…………………………………………………………….. Tito
Descending,
the cedar forest dims –
moss, electric green
.. Kazue Gill

Eventually, tired and silent, we made our way back down into the autumn colours again, past the spring Gorogoromizu, to rejoin the valley walkers for a final sharing of the day’s experiences and reading of our haiku: hot coffee and fresh persimmons in a small cafe in Dorogawa. We parted ways in afterglow as dew began to fall.

.
Notes:
* 山伏 yamabushi are the white-robed followers of the 7th century mountain priest, En no Ozunu, founder of the 修験道 Shugendō religion. They descend on Dorogawa every year during the late spring and summer to take part in rituals and mountain training.
** 大峰山 Mt. Ōmine has the Ōminesanji Temple on its summit. It is situated on a training route for the yamabushi and is one of the very few World Heritage sites where women are not allowed, an ancient taboo unbroken to this day. Women can climb Inamuragatake instead.
.

Okouchi Sanso Composition Strolls

On September 14 & 28 吟行 ginko were held in the beautiful West Kyoto garden of 大河内山荘 Okouchi Mountain Villa. Paradoxically, the 14th was cooler than the 28th, but both days stayed fine and at least half a dozen Hailstone poets came along.

In the morning they had kindly helped the nature conservation NPO, People Together for Mt. Ogura, with their brushwood fence repairs in the bamboo groves on the hill’s lower slopes – right outside the Villa’s front gate. Its traditional Japanese-style garden was laid out in the Shōwa era by the film star, Ōkouchi Denjiro. Thank you to all the volunteers who came, even if perhaps not everyone managed to write poems afterwards.

Putting up a ladder
to an autumn cloud —
clasping it ………. (Tomiko Nakayama)

Tourist’s scribble*
on the bamboo cut down:
“I love you” ………. (Mayumi Kawaharada)

Collaboration eases
our bamboo forest work —
cool autumn breeze ………. (Akito Mori)

The conversation lulls —
a mantis
and a lizard
come out to talk ………. (Tito)

Retirement
for a samurai actor:
contemplating persimmons ……… (Sydney Solis)

Silent welcome
at the bamboo gate —
weather-beaten Buddha ………. (Ayako Kurokawa)

A big blue heart
cut out from the mackerel sky …
birds singing ………. (Mayumi Kawaharada)

One red maple leaf
in the chōzubachi* —
Mt. Ogura ………. (Sydney Solis)

From the moon-viewing platform:
over northern Ōmi*
a band of cloud, lit-up ………. (Tito)

Notes:
scribble 落書き – graffiti incised into the skin of a bamboo that had been growing near the path.
chōzubachi 手水鉢 – hand-washing basin, usually made of stone; this haiku may also be taken to allude to waka no. 26 小倉山峰のもみぢ葉 in the Ogura Hyakunin Isshū collection compiled in the early C13th by Fujiwara Teika in his villa at Mt. Ogura.
Ōmi 近江 – old name of Shiga prefecture, including all of Lake Biwa, at its closest 30 miles away; Bashō’s grave is located there.

Summer, in the shade

Summer exhibition —
the folks assemble
dressed in blue-and-white ….. (Tito)

On 18th August, a scorching day, a few Hailstones got together for an art exhibition 真夏の芸術祭 held at Galerie Aube inside Kyoto University of Art & Design, where one of our members, Yoshiharu Kondo, was showing his creations. There were about 100 pieces on display; the majority, paintings. We walked around, each person choosing one or two favourites:

A school of ceramic salmon —
an Ainu Upopo, now sung
at the art festival ….. (Yoshiharu)

Dandelion seeds
enlarged in the painting …
he fears they might assault him
at night! ….. (Keiko)

A big brown pot —
written right across its body
in replicated characters,
“Seven Gods of Good Luck” ….. (Yoshiharu)

Cinnamon  background;
the dark-amber skeletons of
Chinese lantern pods ….. (Ursula)

Pleasingly, we all fell in love with Yoshiharu‘s two pieces, a ceramic tsubo-daiko and a handmade storybook featuring his own haiku and tanka.

Summer, in the shade —
A bisque-fired drum
Resounds through the hall ….. (Mayumi K)

Clear Moon —
in his poem,
a villa for his students
who’ve passed away ….. (Keiko)

 

Glad to report that the subsequent mishap that befell one of our number has now resolved itself!

Calling and calling
my lost cell phone —
no reply ….. (Ursula)

Matsuzawa Pond Ginko-no-renga

 

 

click on the picture to read the renga

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Matsuzawaike Ginko-no-renga was organized, and hosted by Teruko Yamamoto in Ibaraki, Osaka. 14 people attended, including two from distant Shikoku. The stroll took place on 3/31, a day of mixed weather, and featured a walk along the bank of the Pond, stops at local shrines, and a visit to Tadao Ando’s famous Church of the Light 光の教会 .

Gerald Staggers (Duro; sabaki), Mizuho Shibuya (shuhitsu)