Arrival

Half moon, insect song —-
one small, lustrous cricket
joins our dinner table

Travel-weary is how I felt as we began to unpack boxes in our new house. Yet from the veranda, where we were soon hanging out our washing, there’s a glad prospect out across to distant Mt. Katsuragi, birthplace of En no Ozunu (1), with the gracefully curving gables of Tachibana Temple (2) rising out of the foreground green-gold rice terraces just across the Asuka Stream. I recall the taste of ‘arrival’ savoured on so many rough journeys in India and the Middle East; how one would check into a backpackers’ lodge after thirty-six or forty-eight hours on the move and ask for a room with a view. The effects of moving house after so many years feels strangely similar to the aftermath of long, sleepless, jolting rides on Afghan trucks or Laotian buses. Asuka (3), where I now live, is right up with all those nicely underdeveloped Asian travel destinations of yore.

The occasional couple appears pushing their rented bikes up the slope towards our house, and then past it, on their way enjoying the shadows cast on the lane by the unkempt grove of Okamoto-tei, a deserted, ramshackle property once apparently famed for its literary parties and its waterwheel.

I place a glass of water on an improvised stool and gaze out sighing, acknowledging to myself that all the ancient lithic sites (4) are now arrayed nearby, that the charming rolling scenery of Manyō (5) hills already encircles us with its greens and blues, and that tonight will be immaculately silent apart from the gurgle of irrigation water and the field crickets’ tintinnabulations. So, why not rest here for a few days, then? A new place before journeying on.

One red flower on the hibiscus. The afternoon is hot. Butterflies, damselflies, dragonflies visit—a magic seems to well.

Just then, a sharp wind comes down from the peak of Tōnomine (6) and I notice the black clouds behind me and sense a heavy rain. Potsu-potsu fall the first drops onto the veranda roof …

September lightning—
the compass-points
around our house,
each receives a bolt!

(Oka, Asuka, completed 12.9.22)

Notes:
1. En no Ozunu, the seventh century mountain ascetic and founder of Shugendō religion; Mt. Katsuragi itself will be climbed by Hailstone haiku hikers on Oct. 8 this year.
2. Birthplace of Shōtoku Taishi, the late sixth century imperial regent-statesman, who ensured that Buddhism took root in Japan.
3. Ancient capital of Japan ca. 538-710.
4. Sakafune-ishi, Ishibutai, Mara-ishi, Kame-ishi, Nimenseki, and so on; Asuka is famed for its mysterious ancient stones.
5. Manyōshū, the first great anthology of Japanese poetry, compiled early in the eighth century, mentions a number of such mountains—Miwa, Otowa, Amanokagu, Amakashi, Unebi, Miminashi, Katsuragi, Nijō, etc., all of which can be seen from Asuka.
6. Site of Danzan Jinja, shrine and spiritual resting place of Fujiwara Kamatari, the seventh century statesman and founder of the Fujiwara clan.

Water Haiku: falling, swallowing, rising

梅雨出水渓を転がる石の音
Flooded by the rain,
Stones rolling down the valley
With muffled voices.

猛暑来て水腹苦し食は枯れ
A heatwave arrives—
By drinking too much water
My appetite is lost.

猛暑来て浴びてみたしや滝飛沫
A waterfall spray—
How I yearn to bathe in it
In this hot season!

ナイヤガラ奈落に落ちて空に舞う
Niagara Falls—
Falling into an abyss,
Rising to heaven.

Sosui = Nobuyuki Yuasa. Haiku composed in June 2022 at Nakamurada, Gunma

Of Mangoes and the Sea Breeze

Here are a few haiku from the long summer in the seaside city of Chennai, South India. ……. (Geethanjali Rajan)
.

summer dawn
many songs
from the Asian Koel

left-overs
from the squirrel’s feast
scent of ripe mangoes

sultry noon
the fan’s groans
punctuate snores

the jasmine leaf
is a baby praying mantis
evening stillness

orange dusk
the gentle swish
of coconut fronds

end of summer –
the sound of the waves
in my conch

from the Icebox inbox – 51

Happy 2022, dear readers!

It’s about time to gather some of the more resonant offerings posted as comments at our current Submissions page. Thank you for sending them in.

summer noon —
the sound of cowbells
outside my home

.. Mira, India

purple loosestrife
stillness of a heron
in autumn sun

.. John Parsons, UK

a grey heron
walks magnificently …
flies off
with a metallic sound

.. Yoshiharu Kondo, Japan

twilight in Salamanca —
a cacophony of birds
all the way home

.

between mossed trees
white turn arrow on asphalt
points to the moon

.. Sydney Solis, Spain

Colorful silk thread
Thrown across the vast sky —
Dusk’s weaving wheel

.. Sowmya Hiremat, India

How swift the seasons!

It was winter when I last posted on Icebox, and in what seems the blink of an eye it’s October already! Let me share three haiku spanning this summer and autumn.

Cicadas’
cacophony—a song of
blistering skin

Sweet-smelling grass,
a tiny brown frog leaps
among it all

Paddies at dusk,
crows flee a rising
gibbous moon

And finally, a light-hearted non-seasonal haiku inspired by a statue in a park. (A “tribute” to what birds do best!)

Brave man in bronze
white-lipped, mute to
the birds’ disrespect

Haiku from The Tokyo 2020 Olympics

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)

Tattooed eagle
on the Olympian’s arm
cleaves the water —
the final length (YA)

peeking over
the ping-pong table
a tiny girl’s happy face —
training for the Olympics (TY)

Neptune’s billow
brings the surfer to …
glory on the beach (HS)

a climber, hung
upside down
poised for the next move …
sweat beads on her cheeks (AK)

To watch the bobbing heads
of BMX cyclists …
illegal crowd
on a distant bridge (T)

Kyoto Isshu Trail Haike VI

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.

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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

somewhere
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.

A Parcel of Plums

Dear Stephen and Kazue-san,

The season of our plum harvest has returned.

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!

Tomonoura

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.

Octopus traps…

Fleeting dreams

Under summer’s moon

                           Basho

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.

Looking for one thing

finding another

octopus traps

Late Summer, 2015

kuhi – a haiku stone on which a poem is engraved

The past three months

.. 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

 

 

Himuro

外は夏あたりの水は秋にして内は冬なる氷室山かな (藤原良経)

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.

神秘そも人にはとかじ氷室守(蕪村)

A veritable mystery,
yet he’s not about to let the secret out —
the ice-hut guardian
……………………..  (Buson)