Archive for the Japanese Classic Category

‘Emperors & Generals’ Ginko

Posted in Event report, Japanese Classic with tags , on December 22, 2015 by Mayumi Kawaharada

December 11th, a torrential downpour. The following morning, however, a bright sunny start to the day. Six haiku poets set out with fresh hearts ready to pen their thoughts on a walk that would traverse the course of centuries: the route from Tambabashi to Fushimi Momoyama took in the burial mounds of the first and last emperors to be associated with Kyoto, and two shrines with imperial connections. It normally takes an hour and a half; the Hailstones managing to spin it out to five hours, with two participants even staying on a while longer in a saké bar.

Its last fruit weighed          P1020327 quince
Against December blow:
The quince tree

– Branko

There are few visitors to Kammu’s grave, yet the founder of Kyoto surely deserves recognition for the extent of his historical legacy. For lovers of the city this is an awe-inspiring spot, and by the side we found a persimmon tree laden with fruit, as if in honour. Nearby, the tower of the rebuilt castle of Hideyoshi’s time could be seen through the trees. Kammu’s grave, like other imperial mounds, typifies the blending of ancestral worship and animism that form the twin pillars of Shinto. Through placing the corpse in the earth, the deceased evolves into the landscape, and the imperial spirit is transformed into a true ‘spirit of place’.

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Emperor’s mound
The sound of birdsong
Like gagaku

– John


On the green moss path
Autumn leaves spotlighted
By morning sunshine

– Mayumi

From Kammu’s grave it’s a short walk through pleasant woods to the burial mound of Emperor Meiji. Here is evident the pomp and glory of State Shinto, as the Restored Emperor at the centre of the Meiji regime was given a full-scale burial designed to impress. You only have to stand at the bottom of the huge stairway leading up to the shrine to appreciate the grandeur. As Mutsuhito, he was the last emperor to be born in the city, and the last who could be considered a Kyoto man. His father died when he was 14, making him emperor; he was ‘restored to power’ at the age of 15; he shifted the capital to Tokyo and married at 16. Quite a start to life! Meiji was something of a poet, and after paying respects at the grave of his father, Emperor Komei, he penned the following:

月の輪のみささきまうでする袖に松の古葉もちりかかりつつ
Visiting the family tombs
At Tsukinowa;
On my baggy sleeves
Old pine needles, cast off,
Collecting …

Out of view, and discretely located to one side, is the burial mound of Meiji’s chief wife, Empress Shoken, who died two years later. She had no children of her own, whereas her husband had fifteen by his concubines, or official mistresses. So she adopted the son of one of the other ‘wives’ and brought him up as heir apparent (later to become Emperor Taisho).

P1020597Pine seedlings
Sprouting here and there –
The childless empress

– Kyoko

Not far away from the imperial mounds is the shrine of Meiji’s devoted servant, General Nogi, who served as governor of Taiwan. He was the last person (together with his wife) to commit junshi, ritual suicide to follow one’s master into death. After distinguished service against the Chinese in 1894, he was made commander of the forces who took Port Arthur from the Russians a decade later, thus helping cement victory against the Europeans in the 1904-5 war. He was appalled, however, at the loss of life of those under him and sent a letter to the Emperor requesting permission to commit suicide. Though the request was refused, he and his wife felt obliged to take their lives in 1912 immediately following the funeral of Emperor Meiji.  Some praised him highly for loyalty and devotion; others saw it as a retrograde act of feudalism.

…. After stories of war
…. At the General’s shrine,
…. Free tangerines.

…. – Tito

Gokonomiya is not one of the better-known shrines of Kyoto, though in any other town it would certainly be a focus of attention. Said to have been built on the site of an imperial villa, the connection is further reflected in its enshrined deities, the Empress Jingu and her son, Emperor Ojin (also known as Hachiman). Spring water with a particularly fresh aroma gushed out of the earth here in 863  – hence the name ‘Shrine of Fragrance’. The water is treasured by parishioners, who bottle it for home consumption.

The haiku poets were able to find a condusive corner of the shrine in which to compare their writings for the day, perched on large rocks taken from the remains of Hideyoshi’s castle. As the sun went down on what had been a fine outing blessed with good weather, we were able to pick over what we had gathered from the day.

Late autumn
Sunset sinking
Into the vermilion torii

– Lawrence

At Gokonomiya, we happened on a haiku monument bearing poems by both Basho and Kyorai. Though none of us could decipher the cursive writing, a check on the Internet later revealed what was inscribed.

梅が香にのつと日の出る山路哉
Scent of apricot blossom –
Suddenly the sun comes up
On the mountain road.

This was written by Basho in Fushimi in 1694, the year of his death. The second haiku on the Gokonomiya stone was by Kyorai (both Eng. trans. by SHG).

応々といえど敲くや雪の門
‘Alright, alright!’ I shout,
But the knocking goes on
At the snow-cloaked gate.

Report by John D. and Mayumi K.

212 new Buson haiku discovered!

Posted in Book, Japanese Classic, News with tags , on October 18, 2015 by Tito

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Tenri Library (near Nara) announced on 14 Oct. that they had discovered two new books of original haiku by Yosa Buson: one volume of Spring & Summer poems, the other of Autumn & Winter ones. Altogether, they contain just over 1,900 haiku, of which 212 are previously unknown! The name of the missing collection is Yahantei Buson Kushu. ‘Yahantei’ (Midnight Teahouse) was an alias inherited from his teacher, Hajin, which, later in his life, he used alongside his better-known one of ‘Buson’ (Turnip Village). Above is the first page of the Spring volume, bearing critical marks said to have been made by the poet himself. The book was once owned by his Kyoto disciple, Hyakuchi. They will go on show at the Library, along with many other Buson-related works, until Nov. 8. Hailstone is planning a trip there on Oct. 25 (Sun.). Free entry. Contact SHG (Tito) for details, or leave a message in the reply/comments box below.

To put the find into some sort of context, Stephen was interviewed over the phone by BBC Radio 4 on 16th and you can hear the resultant 3-4 min. passage in the arts programme, ‘Front Line’, (available on the i-player: wait until it has loaded, then fast forward to 17:48′) http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06gxysv.

One of the new haiku is:

傘も化て目のある月夜哉
karakasa mo bakete me no aru tsukiyo kana

The torn paper umbrella
has just become a ghoul …
with moonlit eyes!

(trans. SHG)

Turning up the heat

Posted in Haibun, Japanese Classic, Summer with tags , on August 8, 2014 by Tito

The youngest man to have become a disciple of Bashō was surely Izumiya no Kumenosuke. At the age of 14, Bashō conferred upon him the haiku name, Tōyō. The poet had been soothing his aches and pains at the Izumiya Inn in the little hot-spring town of Yamanaka towards the end of his Narrow Road journey of 1689 and had found young Kumenosuke to be the new keeper. Kumenosuke had convened a haikai session there in Bashō’s honour.

Although we are currently in the heat of August, and the last thing I would think of is a hot spring, my wife happened to book us in to stay in Yamanaka last Sunday night. The following morning, at the Bashō no Yakata (Bashō Mansion, which stands by the site of the Inn), its windows open wide  …

The transpicuous house–
a squally wind ruffling
…… a summer garden

……………. (Tito)

… for the grand sum of ¥350, I bought a very slender volume, entitled 山中蕉門:桃妖俳句集 (Haiku by the Yamanaka Bashō-school Poet,  Tōyō).

Every night since then, back in stifling Kyoto, before turning my head against the pillow and closing my eyes, I have enjoyed reading a few haiku by this most poetical of inn-keepers, around whom a lively haiku circle had grown in the mid Edo period.  I doff my hat to whomever it was that researched and made this tiny white booklet of lightness and air. No one at all is credited.

鼻からたばこ吹きけり雲の峰 (桃妖)
Exhaling tobacco smoke
through his nose–
…… cumulonimbus

……………. (Tōyō)

 

sekirei & hamanasu

Posted in Haiku, Japanese Classic, Summer with tags on July 24, 2014 by Tito

Buson had once written sekirei no/ o ya Hashidate wo/ ato nimotsu 

Tail of a wagtail—
Left behind in Hashidate
My luggage
…………. (trans. Makoto Ueda)

Today, I walked the same strand as he had done one quarter of a millennium before and found myself humming

Before a sea of Prussian blue
Hips of the wild rose …

…………. (Amanohashidate, 23.7.14)

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Lake Yogo haiku

Posted in Haiku, Japanese Classic with tags , on October 21, 2013 by Tito

I had brought a haiku by the mendicant poet, Rotsū (1651-1739), on the autumn haike (see posting below) to share at Lake Yogo, but forgot to do so.

.. 鳥どもも寝入っているか余呉の湖
toridomo mo neitteiru ka Yogo no umi

 In its stillness
…… even the waterfowl
……… seem to be sound asleep —
………… the Lake of Yogo

How little has changed! Many of the wild ducks were indeed asleep as we walked by.
Rotsū accompanied Basho on the final leg of his Oku no Hosomichi journey using the Hokkokudo Road 北国道 between Tsuruga and Ogaki, passing Lake Yogo on the way. From the peak of Shizugatake we caught sight of that mountain road running along the neighbouring valley to the northeast. The last stretch of Basho’s ‘Narrow Road’ had been framed, briefly, beneath a rainbow!

Wakanoura Ginkō 和歌浦吟行 & Annular Eclipse 金環日食観察

Posted in Event report, Haiku, Haiqua, Japanese Classic, Spring on May 29, 2012 by Richard Donovan

20th May 2012. A bus from JR Wakayama Station takes 12 Hailstone poets to 不老橋 Furō Bridge opposite 塩竈神社 Shiogama Shrine, whose ancient sanctum is carved out of the striated cliffs and topped with a gnarled pine tree that seems an extension of the rock itself. 

Low spring tide
at Shiogama Shrine –
still the schist flows
…………………..Kittredge Stephenson

There, we watch the priest bless first an infant; then, a dog.

In a cave decorated by past waves,
all wish happiness for the newborn.
………………………………………Hiroko Okamoto 

We visit 玉津島神社 Tamatsushima Shrine, one of the three patron shrines of 和歌 waka and repository of a designated natural monument – an ancient tree (another pine?) writhing in fantastic tortured shapes. Here, we observe a wedding; the bride in traditional white bonnet, white gown.  One hundred steps above the shrine, the view from 奠供山 Mt. Tengu, which Emperor Shōmu climbed with the poet, 山辺赤人 Yamabe no Akahito, early in the eighth century, unscrolls Wakanoura Bay before us.

若の浦に潮満ち来れば潟(かた)を無(な)み 葦辺(あしべ)をさして鶴(たづ)鳴き渡る (山辺赤人 CE. 724)
As the tide flows in / To Wakanoura Bay, / Sandbars are lost beneath the waves … / Cranes fly crying / Towards the reedy shore. (trans. SG)

We then cross 三断橋 Sandankyō Bridge to the tiered pagoda 海禅院 Kaizen’in on 妹背山 Imoseyama islet … 

…. the mudflat
…. all to herself –
…. clamdigger
……………………. – Gerald 

A convivial lunch is washed down with drinks of fresh ginger; and we are soon walking again, along あしべ通り Ashibe St. beside a tidal canal (punctuated by derelict wooden fishing boats) towards Wakanoura port, where we turn off through 御手洗池公園 Mitarai-ike Park. Beyond are the steep, nobly weathered green stone steps leading up to 和歌浦天満宮 Wakaura-Tenmangū, one of the nation’s three chief Tenmangū shrines, each dedicated to 菅原道真 Sugawara no Michizane, a Heian scholar and diplomat later deified as 天神 Tenjin, God of Learning. Wakanoura is the port from where he left on exile.
老(ろう)を積む身は浮き船に誘(さそ)はれて 遠ざかり行く和歌の浦波 (菅原道真 CE. 901)
My weary old body has been bidden / To depart aboard this bobbing ship: / I can now but watch the waves / Beating against the Waka’ura shore / As it recedes into the distance. (trans. SG) 

………………..  plum blossoms long gone,
………………..  but two black butterflies
………………… vie above Tenmangū –
………………… Michizane’s spirit soaring?
…………………………………………..Richard Donovan 

We head west, following the coastline,  past near-deserted docks, around a pristine cove of clear water, through a booming tunnel, past a beach crowded with locals enjoying their Sunday barbecues … all the time, haunted by the district’s strange green stone.

toward the sand bar
kissing rocks form an arch –
Wakanoura
…………………………..Akira Kibi

…………………………………. Deserted hotels
…………………………………. In green vines –
…………………………………. The sound of waves
……………………………………………………Mayumi Kawaharada

All too soon it is time for the daytrippers amongst us to catch their return bus. Those who remain press on for 番所庭園 Bandoko Gardens, a ‘nose’ (番所の鼻) of lush green sticking out into the Pacific Ocean. 

………………………………………………….. Finding the open quiet
………………………………………………….. At the end of today’s trail –
………………………………………………….. My friend’s deep sigh.
…………………………………………………………………………………….Tito 

Flanked by four islets, the tiny peninsula is an oasis of calm, a world apart from the busy industrial portland coming into view away to the north.

…. Across the Bay of Saika
…. candy-striped towers
…. belching smoggy floss
…………………….Michael Lambe

………………………………………………….. fishing-boat rumble fades …
………………………………………………….. again, the softly breaking waves
………………………………………………….. at Bandoko Cliffs
…………………………………………………………………………………Richard Donovan

Checking in at Manpa Hotel, the first rain begins to fall. What weather will the day of the eclipse bring us, we wonder. Haiku written during the day are later shared, grinned and beared.

The 21st dawns fine, with but a few small veils of light cloud, soon melting off. We move to our various stations, sun-viewing sheets in hand. Two of the remaining party climb a nearby hill;  others mount a giant rock at the seashore.

By 7:30 am, the moon is upon us, the light on the sea now an amber early evening cast. 

………………………………………………….. Eclipse
………………………………………………….. Through new cherry leaves …
………………………………………………….. My scimitared shirt.
…………………………………………………………………………..Tito

a golden carp leaps out
just to see it …
eclipse of the sun
……………………Jiko

The Spirituality of Haiku

Posted in Event report, Haiku, Japanese Classic with tags on October 31, 2011 by John Dougill

I wonder if I could draw members’ attention to a piece on my blog… It includes a short account of the classical-style renku session at
Kitano Tenmangu last Saturday, put on as part of Kyoto City’s Bunka-sai, followed by a quotation about the spiritual nature of haiku which I think practitioners might find inspirational.
Please see here. Thank you, JD.