Archive for the Haibun Category

The Last of My Wandering Journeys Part III – Shimizu Tunnel

Posted in Autumn, Haibun, Travel with tags , on June 21, 2019 by sosui

.. 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 …

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「イヌピアット語のレッスン」

Posted in Book, Haibun, News with tags , , on June 11, 2019 by Hisashi Miyazaki

It is unusual to use Japanese language for the title of a posting, but this is a Japanese language book! For those of you who cannot read Japanese, the title says “Inupiat Lessons”, taken, with permission, from Doris Lynch’s Genjuan Haibun Contest 2015 Cottage Prize-winning haibun reproduced in Jap. trans. on page 22 of the book. It is about her experiences while living in Kivalina, in northwest Alaska. The original English haibun was reproduced on p.10 of the recent Genjuan anthology, “From the Cottage of Visions“. The new 176-page book is basically a Japanese translation of the earlier English language book, pub. by Hailstone. It has been translated and edited by Hisashi Miyazaki with assistance from Stephen Henry Gill and Nenten Tsubo’uchi. It includes new greetings/foreword by the Contest’s two founders, Nobuyuki Yuasa & SHG (Tito), a new afterword by NT, and an augmented overview of haibun history can be found within HM’s new appended Commentary. This is an attempt to awaken the interest of Japanese readers in haibun, which, as a literary form, although of Japanese origin, has in recent decades mainly been developed overseas. It is fascinating to see what foreigners have made of a Japanese genre. The obi (yellow paper band wrapped around the book) says enticingly, “Haibun? What is that?” (NT).

The book was published in April 2019 by Zonomori Press 像の森書房 in Osaka. It is available from Amazon Japan here or from Hailstone here . It costs ¥1,500 if you buy it at a Hailstone seminar or event or in a bookshop in Kansai. It might be of interest to some Japanese readers to compare the original English found in “From the Cottage of Visions” with the Japanese text in “Inupiat Lessons”. Please support this project, financed largely by donation, including one from Hailstone. Get your copy while they last!

Onions

Posted in Haibun, Haiku, Tanka with tags on May 27, 2019 by Branko

.
The Onion Field …………………………………………. by Dimitar Anakiev
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If you happen to be walking in the northern part of Kyoto, known as Kitayama, you may notice near the Botanical Gardens a middle-aged man watching over an onion field located right beside his house. His name is Branko Manojlovic, a Serbian poet who has been living in Kyoto for quite some time now. Although the onion is an essential part of Serbian culture – I can’t recall a dish that has no onions in it – these were planted not by Branko but by a nameless neighbour. Two years have already passed since the planting, yet the onion is still unharvested.

I, too, was taken with this field. During my stay in Branko’s house, I watched it every day from the window of my room: a field that through its very existence seemed to hint at something that, although not obvious, was at the same time significant.
Looking out of the window – the onion field still wet after rain – I wrote a haiku:

In its second year
onion languishing – who will
come and harvest it?

At breakfast, Branko looked moody and with dark bags under his eyes from lack of sleep. As I was stirring my tea with a questioning expression he swigged his coffee in a hurry and, before going off to work, handed me a folded piece of paper: “Last night’s haiku”, he said. After he left I opened the paper, it read:

Unable to get back
to sleep… the onion field
lashed by storm

I noticed that Branko had a special relationship with the onion field, but we did not discuss it. One afternoon I noticed him pacing about the field as though looking over each stem, each green leaf that was pointing toward the sky. The following morning, I got another piece of paper that read:

A group photograph:
we are the onions
hanging under eaves

I myself wrote haiku on the subject of onions, which seemed to have dominated our thoughts and emotions. On the other side of the street, where the bus no. 4 was passing, I noticed a small Shinto shrine set there perhaps because of some superstitious belief. Like some Christian chapels, such shrines would often have been established by local people, and this particular one was leaning against a neighbour’s house.
When I was leaving Kyoto, I left Branko this haiku:

In Kitayama
the onion field watched over
by some Shinto god

I do not know if this field still exists today. If by chance it does, I’ll bet Branko is keeping an eye on it.

 

 

Onions …………………………………………………………. by Branko

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Out of snow
green tails of onion stalks
slicing the wind

*
How past repair
this aging onion field…
how the umbels
still hold on for bees
and swooping swallows!

*
By the field’s edge
he glances left and right,
uproots an onion,
stuffs it in the plastic bag
together with his conscience

Round the Table

Posted in Haibun, Haiku with tags on May 17, 2019 by David Stormer Chigusa

How odd that we who aspire to or pride ourselves on our knowledge, wisdom, originality and insight find that simplest and most universal of phenomena, mortality, so difficult to come to terms with.

We deal with it like a sudden exorbitant bill that arrived in the mail – a bill, no less, for utilities we have made lavish use of. It is there on the table. We knew it would come some day. Yet it still doesn’t seem fair. We wish we had never even seen or touched it, let alone opened it.

Or is this simile trite? Isn’t death more like fire: another natural phenomenon, familiar, intrinsic and essential, that is nevertheless apart, ineffable, unpredictable and fearful? That leaps from where it was softly glowing – a little dinnertable flame. Knocked over, it is a writhing snake in your lap in the time it takes you to blink. Venom without antidote. Even the most levelheaded of us leap back with boomerang eyebrows.

Circumstances, both my own and others’, are such that death has been smoldering in my mind for the past few weeks, and appearing in warm conversations.

Things that could be
better we speak of as
things that just are

Things that may lead
to death we speak of as
part of our lives

Round the table
we share the good, the bad
as music plays

The Last of My Wandering Journeys: Part II – Minakami

Posted in Autumn, Haibun, Travel with tags on May 10, 2019 by sosui

.. 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 …

Genjuan International Haibun Contest 2019 Results

Posted in Haibun, News with tags , on April 18, 2019 by Tito

The results of the 8th Genjuan Haibun Contest are as follows.  It was a good year for Canadian writers! We received 94 entries from a record 19 countries this year. Our gratitude goes to all entrants and congratulations to the awardees. We also wish to thank our new judge, Toru Kiuchi, for his hard work and insightful remarks. The five prize-winning 2019 entries have now been posted to the Icebox on a separate page (find orange link at top right). Hopefully you will enjoy them as much as the judges did.

Grand Prix

Memories of a Coal-Miner’s Grandson   Bryan D. Cook  (Canada)

An (Cottage) Prizes

Wigan Flash    Judy Kendall  (UK)
Come and See   Sean O’Connor  (Ireland)
White Out   Marcyn Del Clements  (USA)
Seeing in Darkness ..Branko Manojlovic . (Serbia/Japan)

Honourable  Mentions

House of the Sun   Jeff Doleman  (USA)
An Aura   Diana Webb  (UK)
Food for Thought    Ignatius Fay  (Canada)
The Beggar near the Palma Cathedral   Joan Prefontaine  (USA)
Cherries   Terry Ann Carter  (Canada)

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

Posted in Autumn, Haibun, Travel on April 13, 2019 by sosui

.. 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 …