Archive for the Haibun Category

The Last of My Wandering Journeys – Part IX Ashikaga Girls

Posted in Autumn, Haibun with tags on February 18, 2020 by sosui

.. 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

Posted in Autumn, Haibun with tags on February 6, 2020 by sosui

.. 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 …

Genjuan Haibun Contest 2020 Deadline Approaches

Posted in Challenge!, Haibun, Submissions with tags , on January 12, 2020 by Tito

Submissions deadline for the current Genjuan International Haibun Contest is 31 January. Entry is free. Pieces as short as 3 lines with a 3-line haiku + title are accepted. Much longer ones, too! Beautiful Japanese prizes, certificates, and inclusion in anthology (which will be sent to all entrants for free once published this year or next). Is there another haiku contest so generous to its supporters? This year we have a new officer and two new judges. For all details, see our Contest Guidelines page:

Please hurry now and send something in! Results will be posted here in the spring.

Twenty-twenty luck

Posted in Haibun, Haiqua, New Year with tags on January 7, 2020 by Tito

Happy New Year 20-20! MMXX. With a name like that, this is sure to be a really cool year — or so I told my haiku students at Kyoto University yesterday! It’s also the Year of the Rat, the first of the zodiac animals.

On January 1st, guided by the coolest of my Japanese friends, I went to the rocky islet of Miyado Benten in Loch Tōgō, Tottori, to pay my respects – as a poet might – to the goddess thought to preside over the Arts.

As we reached the sacred island, something unusual, yet truly auspicious, caught my eye. May my haiqua image bring you, too, some good luck!

New Year —
a water rat
swimming the periphery
of Benten’s isle

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

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

.. 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

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.

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


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