Archive for the Haibun Category

The Last of my Wandering Journeys Part VI – Oze Miike

Posted in Autumn, Haibun, Travel with tags on November 17, 2019 by sosui

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.

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To be continued …

November Sky

Posted in Autumn, Haibun with tags , on November 12, 2019 by David Stormer Chigusa

November sky
Quite as blue as over
April’s blossoms

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My partner and I have been together for over a decade. For several years now, this has been a miracle that, like most miracles, has come to seem everyday.

Yawning blue I
Never tire of you, oh,
Tire not of me

Salt Rock

Posted in Haibun, Summer with tags on November 5, 2019 by Branko

Slankamen (lit. ‘Salt-rock’) is a port village sandwiched, like a slice of ham (today roasted), between precipitous loess hills and an inlet of the Danube, where the water hardly moves at all. Mum and I approach the village on a descending serpentine road incised into brittle, yellowish sediments. Alas, no chance to stop the car to take in the postcard view… of red-tiled houses, boats and small yachts dotting the bay, and a church spire dominating the village as might a German governess.

Ten minutes later, we are pacing along the riverside. The Danube is teeming with swans, gulls, pigeons, ducks. The birds have found their cool respite.

We come across a man in an orange baseball cap, checked shirt, slacks and tall rubber boots. He has just locked up his small, shabby boathouse and is now on the move: in his left hand, a sizeable shopping bag. All smiles, as he gives us a rundown of the village’s main points of interest.

‘We’re looking for a weekend house to buy’, I say. ‘There seem to be plenty of empty ones’.

The man points at a couple of houses across the street, says they are on sale.

‘That one over there? 25 grand, the asking price. But, if you ask me, I’d forget it’. Indeed, the broken windows and heavy patina speak of decades of neglect.

‘Must be off now’, the man says. ‘Hunters’ meeting to attend.’

I sneak a look into his bag: it is filled with bottles of the local ‘Deer Beer’. I begin to wonder about this ‘hunters’ meeting’ on such a scorching afternoon.

‘So, what do you hunt in these parts, then?’

‘Partridge, hare, duck. You name it!’

The heat is relentless: Mum, now so dazed by sunlight she forgets where we are walking to.  At last, the floating restaurant, ‘Quay’, with a terrace overlooking the stagnant inlet and its legions of birds.

As Mum and I gorge on pan-fried perch, a large fish jumps from the Danube’s muddy shallows, each time falling back with a loud splash. I sense it may be pleading, ‘Hey, that’s my cousin you’re eating there!’

 

From time to time

the flap of outstretched wings –

a windless afternoon


Arima: a letter to Michael

Posted in Autumn, Haibun with tags , on October 16, 2019 by Tito

Dear Michael,
It was very good to spend some time together. How vivacious is Miu!
Kaz and I enjoyed our night at Gekkouen Inn (we imagine it must be the original part that we stayed in, as smaller and slightly rusty and rickety, but nice). Meals were Viking Style (at long tables with knives drawn), thus the reasonable price. The riverside bathing pool, though shallow, was iron-stained and wonderfully relaxing, safe behind a screen from prying eyes. The forest trees, long-limbed, a canopy above.

…….. From the window
…….. of the covered bridge,
…….. an autumn-scented stream

…….. Black clouds swirl
…….. before the high full moon:
…….. who stays
…….. in the turret room tonight?

This morning, before the bus back to Kyo, we visited Kameno-o Shrine:

…….. A turtle’s tail
…….. of red trickling water …
…….. I frame it for a friend

Best regards, ….
Tito …..

Genjuan International Haibun Contest 2020

Posted in Challenge!, Haibun, News with tags , on September 15, 2019 by Tito

We are pleased to announce that the Genjuan International Haibun Contest 2020 will be open for submissions from Oct. 1 till Jan. 31 (arriving a couple of days late is usually OK). This year we have a new Officer, Yaeno Azuchi, and therefore a new address: 53-56 Izumigawa-cho, Shimogamo, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto 606-0807, Japan. Much gratitude goes to her predecessor in Hyogo, Eiko Mori, for many years of bright, efficient service.

We also have two new Judges, both haiku poets: Akiko Takazawa & Sean O’Connor. Akiko, a disciple of Murio Suzuki (1919-2004), leads the Karinka 花林花 group and lectures on haiku at NHK Gakuen in Tokyo. She is also a fine translator of haiku, both Japanese into English and vice versa. Sean is the author of Even the Mountains – Five Years in a Japanese Village, amongst other memorable books, and has a good grasp of the Japanese view of haiku and haibun. He is also the founding editor of The Haibun Journal, published in his native Ireland.

We must thank the two judges stepping down, Toru Kiuchi and Hisashi Miyazaki, for all their hard work. The latter particularly has made a huge contribution to haibun exchange between Japan and the English-speaking world. His humorous and shrewd judges’ comments will be sorely missed. The most recent compilation of awarded works in the Contest (2015-17), Cottage of Visions, he recently translated into Japanese as イヌピアット語のレッスン Inupiat Lessons, and we are currently selling this book. It makes an excellent Christmas/New Year present for Japanese friends. If interested, leave a comment below (or at the earlier posting), and we can tell you how to order. The book is an attempt to showcase to the Japanese haiku world what ‘haibun’ has become abroad – something of which we can all be proud.

Complete Guidelines for entering the 2020 Contest, which is free, are given here. We look forward to receiving your haibun entries this autumn and early winter.

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

Posted in Autumn, Haibun, Travel with tags on September 5, 2019 by sosui

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?

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To be continued …

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

Posted in Autumn, Haibun, Travel with tags on July 27, 2019 by sosui

.. 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 …