Plum Blossoms II

Posted in Haibun, Spring with tags , on May 5, 2017 by sosui
This is the second part of a recent haibun by Nobuyuki Yuasa (Sosui).  

.. Plum is sometimes called “the elder brother of blossoms”. My dictionary says this is because plum (ume) blooms earlier than other trees. It may be so, but robai (Japanese allspice) bears its yellow flowers even earlier than does plum. Historically, plum became popular before cherry did. The Man’yoshu, the first anthology of Japanese poetry, dating from the fifth to eighth centuries, has about three times more poems on plum than on cherry. In this sense, we can say that plum is the elder brother of cherry. “The Cherry of the Left” at the Imperial Palace in Kyoto was once “The Plum of the Left”. We can still see this old tradition at the Daikakuji Temple, which was once the residence of Emperor Saga (786~842). The plum here bears pink flowers.
.. Plum was first introduced from China as a medicine called ubai (plums dried and smoked), but soon the custom of “plum viewing” spread among the courtiers. In Volume 5 of the Man’yoshu, we have the following record of “plum viewing” held at the residence of Otomo no Tabito (665~731) in Dazaifu. “It was in February – a fine day with a gentle wind. The plum blossoms were like white face powders in front of a looking glass…..” From this description, written perhaps under the influence of Chinese poetry, we know that they were viewing white plum blossoms. I believe that pink plum was introduced somewhat later, and was rather rare for that reason.
.. There is a shrine in Dazaifu commemorating Sugawara Michizane (845~903). He was a powerful political leader and reformer, but his rivals convinced Emperor Daigo (885~930) to send him to this far-away defence point in Kyushu. This was a great demotion, and before he left his residence in Kyoto he is said to have written a famous “forget-me-not” poem to a plum in his garden. It is believed that this tree flew overnight to Dazaifu, following its master. This is the origin of the Tobi-ume, or “Flying Plum-tree”, whose descendant, to this day, still grows at this shrine.

The ancient nobles
Who loved and prized plum blossoms —
To where have they gone?

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Haiga Walk & NEW Hibikiai & Senri Times

Posted in Event report, Haiga, News, Walking with tags on April 16, 2017 by Tito

Click on the page link marked ‘Haiga Walk – March 2017‘ at top right to enjoy Gerald’s illustrated report on the wonderful haiku sketching and painting outing to Umenomiya Taisha’s plum garden on March 14th, which he kindly organized.

Please also note the NEW time scheduling of our two English Haiku classes (for the next three months only):
KYOTO Hibikiai Forum 5/11, 6/8 and 7/13 18:30-20:00 (30 mins later than normal)
OSAKA Senri Bunka Centre 4/27, 5/25, 6/22 19:30-21:00 (90 mins later than normal; we will return to 18:00-19:30 from July)

Plum Blossoms I

Posted in Haibun, Spring with tags , on March 30, 2017 by Tito
The following is the first part of a recent haibun by Nobuyuki Yuasa (Sosui).  

The fragrance of plums —
Suddenly the sun comes up
On the mountain path.                 Basho

.. Plum blossoms are beautiful, especially in the morning when their colours are highlighted; yet plums appeal not only to the eye but also to the nose. In fact, the scent of their blossoms is their greatest charm. When their aroma is carried on a gentle spring breeze, I am captivated by its nobility and find nothing else capable of rivalling it. In the garden I can see from my windows, white plums are just now coming out — one or two already fully out, but the rest still pinkish-white balls, some swollen and others small. It is plum blossoms at this stage that I love best, for they give us hope and trust in the future. A week from now, they will be in full bloom. Then I can enjoy their fragrance. On warm days, I shall open my windows wide to enjoy it, far superior to any artificial perfume.

I know there are plums
In the recess of darkness —
Deeply scented winds.                  Sosui

Spring or not?

Posted in Haiqua, Workshopping with tags on March 11, 2017 by Tito

Here’s a haiqua penned today in Kitasaga. As it stands, does it evoke early spring… and, if so, why? Or should I tweak it/chuck it?

Littered mud
from big tyres
along the track –
a kite hunts low

The Snow Quest

Posted in Event report, Walking, Winter with tags on February 19, 2017 by Branko

Bright snowy mountains
came into my eyes –
silent morning
……………………. Mayumi K.

Prior to Sunday February 12th, Kyoto had seen intermittent snow for two days and nights, much of the city having been shrouded in white. A poetic adventure invariably on his mind, it didn’t take long for Tito to come up with an idea for a snow-viewing meet at two famous ponds in Saga. In spite of very short notice, six haiku wanderers showed up on what turned out to be a mostly dry and breezy Sunday. The snowfall, alas, had petered out by the early morning hours. All we were left with was white mountain-tops and an occasional patch of unmelted snow to marvel at along the way.

The shrine grove
still holding snow –
the wicked sun
……………………. Titoosawa-pond-snow

Four of us started our walk at Daikaku-ji in Ukyo ward, where a small shrine dedicated to Sugawara Michizane (Tenjin-san), the Japanese God of Poetry, sits on an island in Osawa Pond.

Praying for snow
before a toneless bell
of Tenjin-san
……………………. Branko

Nearby, a plum orchard, barely in bloom, was a welcome sight.

a day of teasing snow –
the small white buds
on this plum tree
……………………. Duro

b-w-tomiko-mayumi-ume-orchardYears ago, Tito used to live just around the corner from Daikaku-ji and, needless to say, knows the surrounding area like the back of his hand. He was kind enough to provide us with lots of information on local history, both ancient and recent. One such point of interest was a group of burial mounds (‘Kitasaga Shichi Kofun’) dotting the rural landscape of vegetable plots and rice-fields. After clawing our way to the top of one such tumulus, we were astonished to find a great number of badger burrows, some of them freshly dug. From each emanated a strong animal scent, and it was safe to say the nocturnal creatures were better off inside the mound than we were, standing frozen on its windy top.

Below the frost line
the ancient tomb
reclaimed by badgers
……………………. Branko

p_20170212_111844_vhdr_in-the-fields-ab

Without restraint
beating its own drum:
a speedwell
out-of-season
……………………. Tomiko

More plodding through the  fields, soggy with snow-melt, and the four who began at Daikaku-ji eventually reached Hirosawa Pond … for a perfectly timed rendezvous with Hitomi and Duro (Gerald). This pond is emptied every December and was that day still partly water-less, a landscape dotted with wading birds foraging across the shallows and mudflats.

Hirosawa Pond –
left and right
high over fish shadows
an osprey hovering
…………………….. Hitomi

a famous pond
drained for the winter –
such hollow dreams
…………………….. Duro

Our final stop was a rather stylish Japanese restaurant, a 15-minute walk from Hirosawa Pond. Have you ever dined at a place frequented by members of royal families? Well, apparently this was such a place! On the walls, large photos recorded visits from the Cambodian and Burmese Royal Families, those of Mongolian dignitaries, and even one from a Ugandan chieftain.

Looking at
framed pictures of royalty …
my oyster curry arrives
……………………. Tito

After a lengthy meal and a productive and fun haiku sharing, we had a group photo taken in the garden outside. No sooner had we said goodbye, than snow began to fall again!

* click on any photo to see it enlarged *p_20170212_154858_vhdr_the-dirty-half-dozen-abchirosawa-osprey-feb-12-2017b

from the Icebox inbox – 39

Posted in Spring, Submissions, Winter with tags on February 6, 2017 by Tito

cold morning moon
streaks of cloud discreetly veil
an absent face

K.B. Nelson

bare branches –
I carry the bin across light
scattered on gravel

Diarmuid Fitzgerald

a kestrel stoops –
the cutting edge
of a shakuhachi

Theresa Cancro

mounted on a rusted pole a rain-beat flag

Payal Aggarwal

First day of spring —
a stray monkey swaying
on the top of a pine

Yoshiharu Kondo

* Everyone is welcome to submit a haiku to the Icebox whenever they wish by leaving them as a comment (via reply box) either under this post or on the new Submissions 5 page (see link at top right of our top page, reached by clicking anywhere on the top I C E B O X photo). Please feel free to comment below on this selection. Some of the haiku are very open to interpretation!

My Trip to the North: 4. Lake Usori & the Land of Bliss

Posted in Haibun, Summer with tags , on January 24, 2017 by sosui

Emerging from the region of the Hells, I now came to the beautiful shore of Lake Usori, a large crater lake surrounded by steep mountains, with names such as Mt. Screen and Mt. Overturned Cauldron. The shoreline was one of white sand. They call it Gokurakuhama, the shore of the Land of Bliss. I was told that the name of the lake had derived from the Ainu word meaning ‘peaceful bay’, and that ‘Usori’ had turned into ‘Osore’. I thought this was a very ironic corruption, for ‘Osore’ means ‘fear’. The lake should not be thought of as a perfect paradise, however, for its water is acidic and only a single species of fish can live there. Just looking at it, though, the lake was surely beautiful enough for a gateway to the Land of Bliss.

……… The wind from the hills
……… Carried away from my nose
……… That smell of sulphur.

…………………….. Beyond the white shore,
…………………….. A belt of emerald green
…………………….. Lit by summer sun.