Archive for the Haibun Category

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?

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 …

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 …


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!


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

The Onion Field …………………………………………. by Dimitar Anakiev
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

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