Persimmons – part 7

. I should like to end my haibun with a paragraph or two on kakishibu (persimmon varnish). I do not know exactly how it is made, but suppose it must be by condensing and fermenting persimmon juice. It is used mainly as a coating for traditional Japanese paper, thereby not only strengthening it but also making it waterproof. Thus a raincoat called kamiko came to be made, first for the priests of the Risshu sect to wear, but later for warriors and travellers as well. It was both light and warm. It was one of these raincoats that Basho took on his journey to the North. Persimmon varnish is also used to coat paper umbrellas. Seeing pictures of them on the Internet recently, I was surprised by the variety of designs. The traditional colour was brown, but now they seem to come in bright colours like red and green and make good decorations for restaurants and hotels.

. I have fond memories of persimmon-varnished fans. They were always sturdy ones and kept me very cool. I always used to pick out a fan of this type from the bamboo case in which we kept our fans at home. Nowadays, the Internet shows fans of this kind in many different colours, but mine was dark brown. I prefer this traditional colour. When summer comes again, I will probably buy a new one.

Let me take a nap,
Using a fan coated with
Persimmon varnish.

this instalment concludes Nobuyuki Yuasa’s haibun 

Persimmons – part 3

. Persimmons are used for making different kinds of confectionery. Dried persimmons are rolled with yuzu (citron) peel to make makigaki (rolled persimmons). Sweet persimmons are ground and mixed with bean-paste to make kakiyoukan (persimmon bean-paste). In Hiroshima there was a Japanese confectionery shop famous for kakiyokan on the main street. Its name was Toraya (Tiger’s) and they had a big paper tiger in the window to attract customers. Alas, the shop is no longer there. I used to buy rolled persimmons at Yuki Hot Spring. I thought the combination of citron peel and dried persimmons was exquisite. I visited this hot spring many times to enjoy trout fishing. When I left Hiroshima my last visit was to say goodbye to the fireflies.
…………….  The transparent streams,
…………….  The fragrance of yuzu peels
…………….  And persimmon rolls.
……………………………………….  They are here no more  —
……………………………………….  The persimmon bean-paste and
……………………………………….  The paper tiger.
………………………………………………………………….. Across the river,
………………………………………………………………….. And over the rice paddies —
………………………………………………………………….. The fireflies are gone.
. It is said persimmon leaves have germicidal properties. In Kansai, they wrap sushi with persimmon leaves to make kakinoha-zushi. Originally this kind of sushi was made in the valley of the River Ki, but now the custom has spread to many other places. I used to make a point of buying a box of persimmon-wrapped sushi whenever I went to Kyoto. I loved its soft flavour, so characteristic of Kyoto. Along with the saba-zushi (vinegared fish) of Tsuruga, for me this is still an unforgettable food. After World War II, it was rumoured in Hiroshima that persimmon vinegar was effective against radiation sickness. I do not know whether it really worked or not, but in the family home to which I had been evacuated, the eldest son died in the explosion, although his sister survived with heavy keloid scars. She is still alive today, aged more than one hundred. Perhaps her longevity may have something to do with persimmon vinegar.
…………….  I enjoy sushi
…………….  Wrapped up in persimmon leaves,
…………….  Outbound from Kyoto.

Seagull Post

Here is a recent selection of 5-7-5 poems received from Kamome (nesting somewhere on the coast of Britain). The pen name means ‘Seagull’.

Getting rid of books –
Above the charity shop
The blue sky, boundless.

Meadow grass darker,
Buttercup faces brighter
In the setting sun.

Old priory moat –
The tree’s reflection erased
By rising bubbles.

Swallow in a church –
I open for it to leave:
In walks a beetle.

Seagull banks westward,
Its wings’ leading edge flashing
In the setting sun.

Apartment sorted –
After eight years, once again
The urge to move on.

……………………. Kamome

Renku session by-products

Here are some of my verses that were not used in the recent renku session held at Tearoom Sen on May 3rd.

On the roof top terrace
A fresh wind
blows away my tears

Make a wish
To a twinkling river in the sky —
Sweet summer dream

In the dusk
A dog barks and chases
The shadow of a dragonfly

An orange color
Rises in the moonlight —
Ripe persimmons

Green dots shoot
Up through the snow —
A breath of life.IMG_0111

Nine floors

“We commonly do not remember that it is, after all, always the first person that is speaking.”—Thoreau

Nine floors below me
A moth flirts with a streetlamp—
Two more cigarettes.

—四条堀川、京都 Midnight  11.21.2010

from the Icebox inbox – 16

loosening the storm crowflight in the rain     (Stuart Quine)

in the window
Rodin’s “Thinker”
and the far-off hills  (Ken Jones)

Under the bushes
A sleek slim grey bird …
Is its nest nearby?        (Jane Wieman)

evening breeze
did you see?
the leaves are free         (Priyanka Bhowmick)

Town full of sea fret –
Dew-bespangled in the sun,
Beachy Down glistens.       (Kamome)

(sea fret = sea mist;  Beachy Down = the ‘shoulder’ of Beachy Head, tallest chalk sea-cliff on the south coast of England)

V to U
a parliament of rooks
shift their flight       (Alan Summers)

(parliament = group; rooks = white-billed member of the crow family)

from the Icebox inbox – 14

cat

riding home

in the bicycle basket

– the glowing gibbous moon

………….……………………….. (Ursula Maierl)

Arrêt à Gadagne –

Jeune fille aux baskets rouges

Balance sa jambe.

…………………………………… (Kamome)

(Halt at Gadagne - / Young girl in red sneakers / Swings her leg.)

I heard your fiddle

Bow ensnarled in raven hair

The last song we wrote

With neither bang nor whimper*

Some things just end-–unnoticed

………..…………………………. (David Sinex)

*Borrowed from The Hollow Men, T. S. Eliot

lotus position–

in my ears

heartbeats

………..…………………………. (tori inu)

From Hawai’i & Shikoku

At dawn in Waikiki:

Pale water pooled –
To the lattice manhole lid
The bill of a dove

蒼き水マンホールのくぼみに鳩漱ぐ
.
The debut of a new period drama series, “Ryoma”, reminded me of how in 2008 I had driven alone to search for a secret road crossing the Shikoku mountains, through which Sakamoto Ryoma had fled from the Tosa domain:

Repaired stone wall
Of the escape road from the fief,
Already mossy

脱藩の道整えし石垣既に苔生す

Reparations

On Easter Sunday last year, I heard an American soldier speak in the Catholic church on Kawaramachi street. He was uneasy, only twenty-four, and by avocation a photographer. The translator hobbled him somewhat, but he had presence, and he told his story––a story of how, south of Baghdad, his unit killed three goats and one child, in error; and of how, in reparation, the Army paid out $200 U.S. for the girl, and $1,200 more for her father’s livestock. The soldier had made his stop in Kyoto, on a long walk from Hiroshima to Tokyo, with a group of Buddhist monks––a walk undertaken for whatever it might accomplish in the name of peace.

After the meeting, the soldier stepped outside for a smoke, and took a seat beside me on the steps. A young Japanese woman approached him. She said she spoke no English––a fact for which she apologized in English. She extended her hand to touch his. “You have beautiful eyes,” she said.

No desert mirage,
in this sorry botch of a war––
three goats dead, one child.

From Hardy to Haiku: A Friendly Exchange

Stephen (Tito) and I lately had an exchange via e-mail that may be of interest to readers of the Icebox. I sent him a favorite short poem of mine by his countryman Thomas Hardy. Hardy is better known in Japan as a novelist. But in fact he wrote some of the best poetry we have in English from the early part of the 20th century. (Hardy died in 1928.) In this poem, Hardy “updates,” or echoes, a passage from the Old Testament of the Bible (Job 14:14): “If a man die, shall he live again? All the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come.” I say that Hardy “updates” the Old Testament text because he alludes to it in full awareness of what modern science had revealed: that even the stars have life cycles and die; in short, that everything is mortal––in heaven as on earth. Stephen then rewrote Hardy’s poem as a haiku, reproduced here below the original. I especially like the way Stephen catches the nuance of Hardy’s “For all I know” in the second line of his haiku: “we shrug our shoulders.” One final point of interest: the noun “change” used to mean (among other things) “The passing from life; death.” That sense of the word itself passed out of use––or met its own “change”––in the mid 19th century. Thomas Hardy is reviving its older sense, if I may put it that way with mild irony.

Waiting Both”  (Thomas Hardy)

A star looks down at me,
And says: “Here I and you
Stand each in our degree:
What do you mean to do,—
Mean to do?”

I say: “For all I know,
Wait, and let Time go by,
Till my change come.”—”Just so,
The star says: “So mean I:—
So mean I.”

Tito’s fine rendition of the poem in haiku:

the star & I ––
we shrug our shoulders,
let time go by