Haipho works for NHK Haiku Masters in Kyoto 3. ‘Maiko-haan’ team

Posted in Haipho, Spring with tags , , on June 16, 2018 by Tito

Photo by Peter MacIntosh, haiku by Tito

For the Icebox event report Click here
For the NHK report, here

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New Genjuan anthology, “From the Cottage of Visions” is out!

Posted in Book, News with tags on June 3, 2018 by Tito

.. From the Cottage of Visions, a compilation of the awarded works from the Genjuan International Haibun Contest 2015-17, was published at the end of May. 112pp, A5 size, 37 haibun from around the world, some written by Japanese, judges’ comments, a potted history of Japanese haibun, 4 illus. by Buson & Taiga, ¥1,300 (U.S.$13 incl. p&p).
.. This week, we will honour our commitment to all entrants of the Contest during those three years and airmail more than 100 free copies worldwide (photo shows Officer, Eiko Mori, and assistant, Teruko Yamamoto, doing the addressing!). Entry to our Contest remains free, but we have no wealthy sponsors. So, how have we managed to do this charitable act for all these years? The answer is threefold: some judges have made occasional donations, all labour is done in a spirit of volunteerism, and we have diverted some of the profits made through sales of other Hailstone publications (including Meltdown, Persimmon and our previous Genjuan anthology 2012-14) into covering some of our printing costs. We would certainly like you to buy a copy if you can! The book can be ordered through the channels outlined near the bottom of our Publications page. 

Persimmons – part 5

Posted in Autumn, Japanese Classic with tags , on May 19, 2018 by sosui

. There are also many paintings and decorated lacquer boxes in which persimmons are depicted, most dating from the Edo period. One, for example, is a painting by Sakai Hoitsu (1761~1828), included in the series called “Flowers and Birds of the Twelve Months” (owned by the Imperial Household Agency), and which relates to the month of September. It shows red persimmons hanging from the branches and a pair of pale green white-eyes on the trunk. The contrast of colours in this painting is superb, and there is a touch of playfulness in the attitude of the little birds.

. Haiku poets of the Edo period have also left some poems about persimmons:

…………… In this old village,
…………… There is not a house without
…………… Some persimmon trees. ………… Basho

……………………………… Lord of Persimmons,
……………………………… But his tree tops are too close
……………………………… To Mt. Arashi. ………… Kyorai

………………………………………………………. A ripe persimmon —
………………………………………………………. I felt autumn sinking deep
………………………………………………………. Into my stomach. ………… Shiko

…………… Entrusted with the
…………… Imperial persimmons,
…………… A scarecrow looks proud. ………… Buson

……………………………… The top branch still has
……………………………… One sour persimmon hanging —
……………………………… I feel so attached. ………… Issa

. Basho’s poem is a beautiful description of a happy village which has enjoyed peace for many years. Considering the fact that he spent most of his life in wandering, I think Basho must have had a rather complex reaction to the scene, which we might say is mixed with envy. Kyorai’s poem concludes “The Story of Rakushisha” (House of Fallen Persimmons), which he wrote to explain why he had chosen this rather unusual name for his cottage. Apparently, his cottage had forty or fifty persimmon trees standing around it, but the keeper whom he had hired to look after it had never sent him any persimmons. So, one year, he went to see for himself, and found the trees loaded with fruit. Soon a merchant came and offered a large sum of money for the persimmons. But a night storm knocked all the persimmons down. Next morning, the merchant came and complained that in his long career as a merchant he had never had such an experience, and asked Kyorai if he would return the money. Rather unwillingly Kyorai consented. So, the above haiku is not a simple description of his cottage. The present Rakushisha Cottage is a later reconstruction. We do not know the original site, but judging from the haiku quoted above, it may have been closer to Arashiyama (“Storm Mountain”). Anyway, Kyorai expresses his fear of the storm that comes from the mountain straight down to his persimmon trees. Shiko was the leader of the group of haiku poets called Mino-ha, but his poems are said to lack depth and complexity. The poem I quoted above is, I believe, derived from a poem by Basho, but it has neither the depth nor the complexity of the model. That is why I used the word “stomach” to translate harawata. This Japanese word is normally translated as “intestines” or “guts”. I felt that Shiko is simply referring to a physical, rather than a metaphysical, phenomenon. The Imperial Palace Persimmons mentioned in Buson’s poem are the sweet persimmons I referred to in an earlier instalment. I believe birds liked them very much. So a scarecrow was entrusted with watching over them. I wonder what kind of expression the scarecrow had on his face? He must surely have looked proud, but at the same time he would have known the limit of his power. So, I take Buson’s poem to be rather humorous. I only wish Buson had left a painting of this scene, too. Issa’s poem expresses not only his sympathy for the last persimmon hanging on the top branch, but also sympathy for himself. Issa says the persimmon is sour, yet sour persimmons usually become sweet in late autumn. The sour-sweet persimmon hanging from the top branch is a symbol of his own life. Issa has many poems about persimmons, and I am tempted to quote two more.

…………… In response to a call
…………… A small boy answers “yes” from
…………… The persimmon tree.

……………………………… The mentor priest goes
……………………………… To a hill; his pupil climbs
……………………………… A persimmon tree.

. These two poems recall Issa’s childhood experiences. How skilfully he describes a child’s point of view!

(To be continued…)

April Fools’ Day Tea Party

Posted in Event report, Radio, Spring with tags , on April 30, 2018 by kibiakira

Proclaiming the dawn
of April Fools’ Day
a bluebird* on the roof! ……………….. Tito

Lured by a spring breeze and white cotton clouds in the blue sky above, we gathered at Oyamazaki Station and set off on a composition stroll.

The old brown teahouse wall—
blossom in the wet stone basin ……………….. Richard

We started by visiting Myōki-an, a Zen temple said to have been built on the site of the hermitage of Yamazaki Sōkan, a great haiku poet of the Muromachi Period, and one of the founders of haikai-no-renga. Kneeling in the tatami-mat room, the priest welcomed us and briefed us about the temple itself and the tea room named ‘Taian’, designed by the fountainhead of the Japanese tea ceremony, Sen no Rikyū. Bashō admired both Sōkan and Rikyū. Oyamazaki is also well-known as the site of a famous battle between Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Akechi Mitsuhide. The victor, Hideyoshi, who soon had himself installed as a virtual King of Japan, had been invited more than once to Taian, where Rikyū himself had served tea for him and his subordinate samurais. There, he must have looked upon its slanting ceilings, walls hiding pillars, shitaji-mado (skeleton window), and eaves without gutters allowing rain to fall from the roof as a curtain: tea master Rikyū’s small universe. Each time the master invited guests, it was meant to be for all a fresh, once-in-a-lifetime encounter (ichigo-ichie), never to be staged again. This, we understood, was the essence of Rikyu’s chakai (tea meet).

Spring shade:
a two-tatami tea-room became
a work by Mondrian ……………….. Tomiko

We had lunch in a cozy local restaurant, “Tabitabi,” enjoying the reunion of haiku friends and their families, which included Lawrence (Jiko) and Isabel’s 6-month-old son, Taiyo.

The Easter hare …
see how she leaps
over cherry clouds ……………….. Jiko

Rubbing cheeks,
her grandson looking up …
a cherry-petal blizzard! ……………….. Shigeko

Afterwards, we strolled up the early spring lane to the Asahi Oyamazaki Sansō, where we enjoyed composing haiku in its cherry-blossom water garden and in the mock Tudor main house museum with its exhibition of ceramics by Shōji Hamada.

“Good morrow!”
the greeting came from the ground—
sun-lit periwinkle ……………….. Akira

Red passion
tulip growing—
a mother’s love ……………….. Isabel

Floating petals—
the carp, too
are cherry blossom viewing ……………….. Jiko

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The museum has a third floor terrace with panoramic view northeastwards toward Kyoto. In the middle distance, we perceived a veil of cherry blossoms extending along the river, “Sewari-no-sakura,” which some of us subsequently visited for an evening stroll.

From Sewari’s cherry-trees
petals fall as a blizzard—
our April Fools’ Day stroll  ……………….. Kyoko

Petal waves
blowing down
from mountain to river—
a transient delight  ……………….. Mayumi

There, on the terrace, over cups of English tea and cakes, occasionally visited by a spring zephyr, the fourteen of us shared and discussed the haikus we had made. One of these (given below) was subsequently broadcast (April 18) on B.B.C. Radio Four’s arts magazine show, Front Row. Listen here:  https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09z1d9t (below the photo, click “Chapter: Japanese Cherry Blossom” to go straight to the haiku section)

Wishing the cherry petals
to fall to rest …
on the baby’s eyes ……………….. Tito

Persimmons – part 4

Posted in Autumn, Japanese Classic, Tanka with tags , on April 25, 2018 by sosui

. At this point I should like to turn to the subject of how persimmon was treated in literature. Persimmon seeds have been dug up from some archaeological sites of the Jomon period. So I believe that persimmon trees must have existed in Japan long before the Man’yo period, yet the Man’yoshu has no poems about persimmons. Judging from his name, the poet Kakinomoto Hitomaro (柿本人麻呂, fl. ca. 680 during the reign of Emperor Tenmu), lived in a house standing beneath a persimmon tree. But he is silent about his persimmon tree. In the Kamakura period, Fujiwara no Tame’ie (藤原為家, 1198~1275) wrote the following poem:
……………………………… Autumn has arrived.
……………………………… I wonder about the leaves
……………………………… On higher mountains.
……………………………… Our garden persimmon trees
……………………………… Display deeply coloured leaves
. I like this poem because the poet expresses his concern for the leaves in the high mountains. He is wondering whether they have taken on their autumn hues like the persimmon trees in his garden, or whether they have already been scattered by the wind. Probably the latter was the case, and if so, he may have been equally concerned about the persimmon trees in his garden. In the Edo period, Ozawa Roan (1723~1801), who stood for tadagoto-uta (honest poetry), wrote the following poem about persimmons:
……………………………… Chestnuts are smiling.
……………………………… Persimmons are getting red.
……………………………… It is indeed time
……………………………… For short-haired children to be
……………………………… Proud, and enjoy the season.
. This poem is so cheerful that I cannot help laughing with the poet.

(To be continued…)

Genjuan International Haibun Contest 2018 Results

Posted in Haibun, News with tags , , on April 16, 2018 by Tito

グランプリ作品 Grand Prix 
The Forbidden Pet   (Branko Manojlovic, Japan)

庵賞作品 An (Cottage) Prizes
Way of Lilies   (Marietta McGregor, Australia)
Let there be Lightning   (Ignatius Fay, Canada)
Waiting for Christmas in Ohio   (Chris Bays, U.S.A.)

入選作品 Honourable Mentions
Lost   (Sean O’Connor, Ireland)
Brazilian Night   (Marina Bellini, Italy)
Red, Blue, White   (Dru Philippou, U.S.A.)
Coal Mines   (Beth A. Skala, Canada)
Flying   (Pearl Elizabeth Dell May, U.K.)
Reflections   (David McCullough, Japan)

審査委員   Judges
Nenten Tsubo’uchi, Stephen Henry Gill, Hisashi Miyazaki, Angelee Deodhar

Sincere thanks to all authors who sent in their haiku prose works: 133 in total from 15 countries. It is wonderful to find that this year’s Grand Prix winner is a member of our Hailstone Haiku Circle in Kansai, Japan – Icebox contributor Branko Manojlovic! Hearty congratulations. For the first time, the winner will actually be able to select from the Genjuan Prize folio the large and very fine ukiyo-e reproduction print he has won. Usually, we have to imagine what the particular author might like and airmail it in a super-large protective folder. The Forbidden Pet is a very fine piece, as indeed were all the Cottage Prize winning haibun. These four works are now available to read on a dedicated page on the Icebox and you can find out what sort of forbidden pet it is! Another of our contributors, David McCullough, has won an Honourable Mention. Ignatius Fay, who won a Cottage Prize two years ago, has done it again! Congratulations to all of our awardees.

Watch this space for further announcements about the anthology of awarded pieces 2015-17, to be published next month, and the shape of next years’s Contest.

Pointing the Lens

Posted in Haibun, Spring with tags , , on April 6, 2018 by David Stormer Chigusa

Work is work, except at lunchtime. And I have the good fortune of working near Ichigaya in Tokyo, meaning an early afternoon walk down there during the hanami season is like taking an exotic little vacation. I even take my camera, like a real tourist.

Brief blossom
at its height, gusts,
china blue sky

Many of the garish blue tarpaulins spread out on the banks of the Kanda River under blossom-laden branches are occupied by only one person, stationed to keep the spot for colleagues who will gather there later on. Some such lone employees are virtually still at work, hunched over a laptop. Others are not as diligent.

Just one petal
of the pink and white cascade
crowns the sleeper

Nearly all the cameras (smartphone and dedicated) capturing blossom shots are pointed sweetly and conventionally skyward. But over there is a blossoming branch, half in shadow, overhanging the dark, dank top of a shabby roadside waterworks bunker that’s strewn with just-fallen petals. I snap it. I get looks.

Chuckles for
pointing the lens
at where spring hides

hanami – cherry blossom viewing