Archive for the Japanese Modern Category

When Tuna Die

Posted in Haibun, Japanese Modern, Translation with tags , on November 25, 2015 by Hisashi Miyazaki

Nenten Tsubo’uchi’s haiku group, Sendan, held a Japanese language haibun contest to run parallel with the Genjuan one earlier this year (Judges were NT, SHG, HM and two others). The winning piece, by Haruaki Kato, has now been translated into English by the author himself with help from SHG. We hope you will find reading this recent Japanese haibun both interesting and enjoyable.

 

…. “People say that tuna have to keep on swimming because they’d die if they stopped. I wonder what exactly happens, though, when a tuna dies of old age?” If my wife had not said this to me one day in a low, tired voice, I suppose I wouldn’t have thought about this issue so seriously.
…. We had just heard the news about the ‘mass death’ of tuna in a gigantic tank, the main feature of a famous aquarium. They were saying that the cause of death was still under investigation, and that a wide variety of hypotheses— including virus, stress, and even radioactivity— were flying about. For me, to be honest, the cause of the death didn’t really matter: I was shocked by the event itself. It was the simple realization that tuna die, just as we do, that had made me upset. I suppose the word ‘tuna’ had always conjured up to me either the image of a great shoal of them swimming freely across the ocean, or the vision of something being taken out of the freezer ready to be served as delicious sashimi. I had really never thought seriously about how fish passed away. And it was not only fish, but with any kind of wild animal, I’d always supposed they must die in a dramatic incident—being preyed on, perhaps, by a ferocious natural enemy or caught by a brave hunter or fisherman—just like I’d seen in art-house films.
…. Yet it is not like that at all. They might actually die, say, of liver disease, or of unfortunate food poisoning, or perhaps by bumping into a rock in an accident. It is simply the ego of humans, who desperately desire a peaceful ending of their own lives, to imagine other animals die in dramatic fashion. And it’s also true that most of us aren’t particularly concerned about the deaths of ordinary, inconspicuous creatures, for whom a dramatic end might seem rather out of place.
…. Death is all around us, and countless are the lives being lost at this very moment. The only way for us to survive in this world is to ignore such deaths, just as we do not consider the air as we breathe it in. Only occasionally might we bring to mind a highly dramatic or a deeply peaceful death and be moved thereby. This is rather like whales, still surfacing for air time and again, although their ancestors chose to give up the land for the ocean long ago. We need to think of death sometimes so as not to drown in life’s breathless waters.
…. Anyway, that is what I thought to myself as I stood there in a supermarket at the corner of the seafood counter, holding packed shelled oysters which were floating inside their sealed bag filled with water. The oysters appeared to me as if they might be enjoying zero gravity while refusing to ‘belong’ to either life or death. They seemed so calm in the airless tension.
…. When I looked up from my reverie, my wife was already in front of the meat counter far ahead. I put the packed spacewalking oysters back onto the counter, and weaved my way over to her through the crowds.

The oysters, too—
their spirits prepared
for whatever may come

Surrealism at Stillhollow Pond

Posted in Challenge!, Event report, Japanese Modern, Summer with tags on July 31, 2015 by Tito

As luck would have it, this month’s Senri Bunka Centre (Osaka) Eigo de Haiku class fell on the sensei’s birthday, July 23. It had been decided to meet a little early at the secretive jewel that is Nagatani-ike for some LIVE composition. KC4F0026As is the sensei’s wont, he first launched a single birthday  balloon, which fell back quietly to the surface of the pond, coming to rest beneath some bankside trees (click on photo: centre left).
A handout listing a sample of previous birthday balloon launches (from mountain-tops, cliffs, shores, boats, bridges, or as offerings to rocks or trees) was given to each participant. Today’s was no. 46 in the global series, which, incidentally, did not begin when Tito was 1 year old! Poets were then requested to wander around the pond and through the bamboo groves and attempt to capture the wayward object and its slightly surreal interaction with something else. As a pointer to the type of poem required, a 1937 haiku by Yamaguchi Seishi was read out (although his one is absolutely real).

夏の河赤き鉄鎖(てっさ)のはし浸(した)る  (誓子)

….. The summer river –
….. a red iron chain,
….. one end immersed

…………… (Yamaguchi Seishi, trans. JW Carpenter)

When we entered the classroom back at the Centre, some redrafting took place …  and soon we had a nice selection of slightly surreal haiku to write on the whiteboard.  KC4F0014 How much more resonant is a slightly surreal haiku than a totally surreal one! The reader is free to imagine his own story. Here are four of about a dozen haiku composed that evening. Which one do you like best? Please leave a comment to tell us!

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….. after summer rain
….. amidst the green, left behind
….. one blue thing

…………… (Takashi)

….. the ripples here
….. from a grebe
….. and there
….. from a curious blue balloon

…………… (Hisashi)

….. commemorative balloon
….. drifting on the pond …
….. golden carp look up

…………… (Senji) 

….. blue sky
….. through breaks in the cloud –
….. a fallen blue balloon

…………… (Mizuho)

Genjuan 15 deadline, 12-14 booklet, Nenten’s hippos

Posted in Book, Japanese Modern with tags , on December 25, 2014 by Tito

Happy Christmas: to all our readers! May 2015 be a year full of haikai spirit.

Reminder: just over one month to go until the submissions deadline for the Genjuan Haibun Contest (31 January). The Contest officer usually waits 2-3 extra days before sending the judges all the entries.  Entry is free and there are prizes and certificates. See the page link to the right (Genjuan International Haibun Contest 2015 Guidelines).

Apology: Genjuan was hoping to have the booklet presenting the past three years’ awarded haibun ready before the New Year, but the editors have been too busy. It is now hoped the booklet will be ready in the spring. It will be announced here. It should also contain some haibun by Buson, Issa, Kyorai, etc.

New judge’s haibun: with Nobuyuki Yuasa’s retirement, the remaining two judges have been joined by Nenten Tsubouchi. An English translation of an excerpt of one of his haibun on the subject of hippos has just been posted on the Longer Haibun page. See the page link to the right.

My friend’s haiku

Posted in Haiku, Japanese Modern, Workshopping on September 27, 2012 by Nori

I went to my former apartment to have a talk with some residents there. It felt like old alumni meeting up.

During our four hours of chat, one person asked me to translate her haiku. They are important to her because she made these when she was recovering from illness. She wanted to see how they sounded in English. So I tried some translations, but I’d appreciate others’ feedback.

月燃えて地に光の矢放ちけり
Down to the globe
The blazing moon shoots
Arrows of light

宵闇をきらきらと縫ふ翼の灯
Lights of the wing
Twinkles like a stitch
Dark evening sky

Hailstone Urban Ginko, Kobe

Posted in Event report, Japanese Modern, Spring with tags on March 26, 2012 by Hisashi Miyazaki

東風の波埠頭の鉄鎖濡れそぼつ (誓子)
March waves
at the pier head
drenching iron chains   (Yamaguchi Seishi)

 

4th March, 2012. Nine Hailstones gathered one by one in front of Kobe Motomachi Station, where organizer, Akira Kibi greeted us. A raindrop – kigo of spring rain, implying stillness, suggestiveness – then, later on, an insistent pouring onto buds and flowers. With this rain, our ginko stroll took us from the Station, down to the port (Naka Pier), from where we took a cruise around the Harbor (altitude 0 m). On disembarking, we walked back up to Chinatown to have lunch. Afterwards, we wandered through the City heart, nicely recovered from the Quake Disaster of 1995, taking in an old Mosque, and on further uphill to the Kitano district and Ijin-kan Street (altitude 150 m), where Western-style buildings and former residences of early foreign settlers are preserved. We came back downhill later to a café to share our haiku. A few of our poems are below, though no one seems to have written down Emily Campbell’s verse.

Mount Rokko, still
and mist-enveloped:
remembering the Quake   (Lake)

Forlorn lamp posts –
the waves have lapped
a million times about them
since that Day   (Eiko) 

spring tide in the shipyard
soon, a vessel to be born   (Hisashi)

…….. from the harbour
…….. to the top of the hill
…….. walking with bravado –
…….. spring rain   (Mari)

By a red lamp post
Dumpling steam:
Poets
Sheltering in doorways   (Tito)

…….. spring rain
…….. wetting the mosque dome –
…….. its entrance, locked   (Akira)

Under spring drizzle …
the old foreigners’ quarter,
our port’s heritage, too   (Akito)

through rainy trees
a foreign house rots –
yet, its garden camellia!  (Shigeko)

More Classic Stuff

Posted in Haiku, Japanese Modern, Poem on February 9, 2011 by Richard Steiner

You’ll remember that I was editing some translations of Santoka’s haiku and shared a few with you all. Here’s more, plus a bonus of works by Hosai, Santoka’s contemporary, and a lovely Chinese poem I wrote long ago when my name was Liu Tsung Yuan.

Santoka’s 8 haiku:

A dragonfly atop a sedge hat; I just walk on.

On a rainy day, walking barefoot thru my hometown.

Into my iron bowl also falls a shower of hailstones.

His back soaked by the rain; still, he just walks on.

In a rain shower, I walk to a nearby mountain.

Santoka was the prime modern example of Walking Zen, following Ikkyu’s example set in the Muromachi Period, tho S. only walked for a few years, whereas I. probably walked for over 20.

At a loss what to do, I walk alone on this country road.

Thinking nothing, just tasting the water gushing from a wayside spring. (Is this zen, or what?)

When the leaves begin falling, the water will become tasty.

Hosai’s 6 haiku:

I have a loud cough, all alone in this quiet hut.

Such a bright moonlit night; in bed alone, still I can enjoy the view.

I can see a little of the sea through a small window, the only one in my hut.

Tomorrow is New Year’s Day; only Buddha and I will greet it in this lonely hut.

The pine’s branches are all hanging down; I chant the Name.  (the Name of Amida Buddha, presumably.)

Winds singing thru the pines; at dawn and at sunset I toll the temple bell.

Hosai passed away almost 20 years  before Santoka. Both were recognized in their lifetimes to be superior poets.

An old Chinese poem: ‘On a Snowy River’

Birds have ceased wheeling thru the mountains,
Footsteps are no longer seen on any snowy path.
An old man, strawclad, is seated in a small boat,
Engaged in fishing alone on the snowy river.

Such nice morsels to chew on. And here’s a haiku written with the name, Richard:

Beside the winter river
neither birds nor fish are seen;
nothing beside myself.

Maudlin to  be sure; must be the influence of some earlier poets. But hearing the call loudly in my ears for contributions, just had to pen something out.

The Woodchopper

The Meaning of the Mount

Posted in Japanese Classic, Japanese Modern, News, Winter with tags , , on February 8, 2011 by Tito

Here is the link to click for a listen to Stephen’s BBC Radio programme about the literary heritage and present grim state of Japan’s Mount of Poetry, Mt. Ogura in Kyoto. This mountain was the subject of Hailstone’s most recent book, One Hundred Poets (see Publications page). The name of the programme is The Essay: The Meaning of Mountains: 1. Japan, for it is part of a five-part series. You can probably hear them all at this site for another week, possibly more. The programme itself begins 1 min. 15 secs. in (fast forward) and lasts just under 15 mins. Please enjoy listening to waka and haiku by Tsurayuki, Saigyo, Teika, Basho, Shugyo Takaha, Sachi Amano, and three Hailstones – Nobuyuki Yuasa, John Dougill, and Tito!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00y6hwp/The_Essay_Meanings_of_Mountains_Japan/

石仏の首から首へ虎落笛(もがりぶえ)

About the necks
Of stone Buddhas in a line,
Winter wind
Whistling like a flute.

鷹羽狩行 Takaha Shugyo