We had 兼題 (suggested topic) at both of the Hailstone English Haiku seminars in August: ‘Olympic sports’. As they watched on their TV sets, poets in both Kyoto and Osaka composed haiku and haiqua on athletics, swimming, cycling, skateboard, gymnastics, surfing, karate, table tennis, baseball, sports climbing, and so forth. To celebrate the Games’ conclusion, here’s a small selection of them after slight 添削 (tweaking).
August sun —
beckoning deities to her chest
her hop step j u m p! (KY)
on the Olympian’s arm
cleaves the water —
the final length (YA)
the ping-pong table
a tiny girl’s happy face —
training for the Olympics (TY)
brings the surfer to …
glory on the beach (HS)
a climber, hung
poised for the next move …
sweat beads on her cheeks (AK)
To watch the bobbing heads
of BMX cyclists …
on a distant bridge (T)
Typhoon weather forced postponement of our Kyoto Circuit Mountain Trail haiku hike from Aug. 9 to 10. Until that typhoon, we had had daily highs of 37-38C and the day after the haike we entered a period of unrelenting rains, so the 10th turned out to be a blissful window of fair weather, cooler and drier than anything on either side. Postponement, however, meant that we lost a couple of haikers (haiku hikers) to other commitments. Sorry for that.
On the day, 5 haikers headed out from Keage Station in Higashiyama via Himukai Jinja, said to be one of Kyoto’s oldest shrines, a kind of mini-Ise for those who cannot get there. Near the entrance, we came across a friendly jewel beetle, tamamushi, who seemed to want to come along with us. We all walked through the slender Amano’iwatoya Cave and thence on and up through mountain woods towards a still-hidden skyline. The soundtrack to our walk was most beguiling. There was even a horagai-blower.
In a tall cypress forest,
pine twigs scattered
by yesterday’s storm ………. Tito
among these hot hills
the sound of a conch ………. David McCullough
Like dewdrops below
Kyoto streets are glittering —
summer realization ………. Akihiko Hayashi
Cicadas and birds —
on a cool mountain breeze
their music melds ………. Margarite Westra
from the top of Mount Daimonji
my primal scream
over Kyoto ………. Duro Jaiye
The panorama from the summit of Daimonjiyama (466m) was superb – much of Kyoto, most of Osaka, a suspicion of the Inland Sea, Mts. Atago, Ikoma, Kongo, and even the cloud-capped Omine Range beyond Yoshino.
On the steep descent, we came upon a refreshing cascade at the head of Shishigatani Valley. After a brief stop there, we walked down into the vale as the sun began to set.
An impromptu haiku sharing was later held in a cafe near Ginkakuji. Deep red shiso (perilla) soda was its long, cool accompaniment. We look forward to seeing some of you on the Trail again for Part VII this autumn.
Due to the rain and our delay at harvesting, some of the ripened ones may be bruised. Sorry for that. We selected those relatively young and green to avoid the above mishaps. Please water-wash their surface before taking a bite.
Akira and Shigeko, the residents of Rakuki-sha (落李舎)
Sleepless night, another impact on the ground … Ah, the ripened plums!
In this most unhurried, most forsaken of villages where not a single shop seems worthy of the term, where a ferry timetable hangs redundant, we are trying to locate a Basho kuhi. When at long last we bump into a local fisherman, and ask about Matsuo Basho, he looks dismayed: ‘There’s nobody by that name around here.’ Must rely on instinct. An hour later you spy a flight of stairs leading up a verdant hill. To reach the shrine on top one must tiptoe through a minefield of dozing cats in front of a grey torii.
Under summer’s moon
The octopus is said to be one of the most intelligent creatures of the sea, able to figure its way out of all kinds of mazes, puzzles and traps. Long ago, however, the Japanese figured out the invertebrate’s love of hiding in small spaces and devised a deceptively simple contraption for catching them: a baited cylindrical clay pot lined with a mesh net and a trap door. These takotsubo (蛸壺, octopus pots) can be found piled and stacked up against seawalls in towns and villages along the Seto Inland Sea, where octopus is part of the daily diet.
.. The rainy season continued until the beginning of August this year.
………………………… though the rain stopped ………………………… the wind roars at night: ………………………… lingering rain front
.. During that long rainy season, I received sad news. One of my cousins had passed away. When I was a little girl, he was kind enough to take care of me, playing chess and Hanafuda. The memory stays with me, emerging today into this deep foggy morning.
………. dense fog ………. even the castle mountain ………. loses its frame
.. Then the severely hot summer came in. But no matter how hot it was, the spread of COVID-19 did not ease.
………………………… meaningless ………………………… as a symbol of the winter, ………………………… facemasks
.. Everyone faithfully wore those masks, feeling almost choked in the middle of the summer.
………. a dry fallen leaf ………. stuck in the scorching asphalt, ………. patience with pride
.. Recently, a huge typhoon passed by. It has made us feel that we may now have taken a step back down the stairs.
………………………… one degree Celsius ………………………… I can tell the difference ………………………… late summer room
The air about, that of summer;
its flowing stream water
has an autumnal feel:
but beneath the ground, Mt. Himuro
is winter to its core ……………………..(waka by Fujiwara Yoshitsune)
Being admin. ed. of a haiku space that goes by the name of the “Icebox,” I’m always on the lookout for Himuro Jinja (ancient Ice-hut Shrines) … and, so far this year, I’ve managed to visit two.
At the first, not far from Todaiji in Nara City, you can have your fortune told by sanctified ice. You pick your fortune from a box, but it looks blank until you place it onto the block of ice before the worship hall. Then the words come through …
Close by the second shrine, what is perhaps the original Himuro Jinja (at Fukuzumi in Tsuge-mura, near Tenri), there’s an ancient-style 氷室 himuro still used for ice storage till the summer, …
… though they no longer provide ice to the Emperor, as they used to back in Nintoku’s time (early Kofun Period). As a sacred place, the shrine itself is said to go back 1,600 years. The ice, cut as blocks from a nearby pond in winter, is stored underground beneath the hut’s ‘floor’. It is further insulated with bundles of straw.
A veritable mystery,
yet he’s not about to let the secret out —
the ice-hut guardian …………………….. (Buson)
Screen doors start sliding as temperatures rise, relieving indoors of heat, keeping papers from fleeing and birds and insects at bay, partially filtering the air let in, and casting a fine blur, a moiré, over the view outside.
Beyond the screen door Blues, yellows in a vase A sky of cloud
Gasping curtains Suck to the screen door Sudden breezes
A small whiff of A neighbor’s cigarette A screen door slams
Slankamen (lit. ‘Salt-rock’) is a port village sandwiched, like a slice of ham (today roasted), between precipitous loess hills and an inlet of the Danube, where the water hardly moves at all. Mum and I approach the village on a descending serpentine road incised into brittle, yellowish sediments. Alas, no chance to stop the car to take in the postcard view… of red-tiled houses, boats and small yachts dotting the bay, and a church spire dominating the village as might a German governess.
Ten minutes later, we are pacing along the riverside. The Danube is teeming with swans, gulls, pigeons, ducks. The birds have found their cool respite.
We come across a man in an orange baseball cap, checked shirt, slacks and tall rubber boots. He has just locked up his small, shabby boathouse and is now on the move: in his left hand, a sizeable shopping bag. All smiles, as he gives us a rundown of the village’s main points of interest.
‘We’re looking for a weekend house to buy’, I say. ‘There seem to be plenty of empty ones’.
The man points at a couple of houses across the street, says they are on sale.
‘That one over there? 25 grand, the asking price. But, if you ask me, I’d forget it’. Indeed, the broken windows and heavy patina speak of decades of neglect.
‘Must be off now’, the man says. ‘Hunters’ meeting to attend.’
I sneak a look into his bag: it is filled with bottles of the local ‘Deer Beer’. I begin to wonder about this ‘hunters’ meeting’ on such a scorching afternoon.
‘So, what do you hunt in these parts, then?’
‘Partridge, hare, duck. You name it!’
The heat is relentless: Mum, now so dazed by sunlight she forgets where we are walking to. At last, the floating restaurant, ‘Quay’, with a terrace overlooking the stagnant inlet and its legions of birds.
As Mum and I gorge on pan-fried perch, a large fish jumps from the Danube’s muddy shallows, each time falling back with a loud splash. I sense it may be pleading, ‘Hey, that’s my cousin you’re eating there!’