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…)

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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

from the Icebox inbox – 41

Posted in Spring, Submissions, Winter with tags , on March 30, 2018 by Gerald

click on the picture to read the poems

Haipho works for NHK Haiku Masters in Kyoto 2. ‘Buddha’ team

Posted in Haipho, Spring with tags , , on March 22, 2018 by Branko

Hailstone Branko+William haipho

Photo by Branko Manojlović, haiku by William Russell

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

Persimmons – part 3

Posted in Haibun, No/All season with tags on March 5, 2018 by sosui

. 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.

Icebox 10th Anniversary & Tohta’s Passing

Posted in Japanese Modern, News, Tribute with tags , on February 23, 2018 by Tito

Last night, Hailstone Haiku Circle held a Committee Meet in Osaka to talk about such things as sales of our latest book Persimmon, future publications, the Genjuan Haibun Contest (a record 133 entries), and a venue for one of our seminars. It was also pointed out that our Icebox site was launched on 23 February 2008, exactly ten years ago! The recent death of the much-respected poet, Tohta Kaneko on 20 Feb., aged 98, was also mentioned and some appreciative comments passed. So, both a happy and a sad time last night.

Icebox – looking back this February along the path we’ve trodden, I wonder if you’d agree that our main achievement these past ten years might have been to provide a glimpse of what it means to be a haiku poet in today’s Japan, whether you are Japanese or a resident foreigner – and not only ‘at the desk’. It has to be respectful, genuinely creative and fun. Japan is, of course, an ace place to grow rich in haiku and its spirit. ‘Risk’ and ‘wonder’ are also perhaps two keywords, describing both our haiku and our activities as a whole. We have also hopefully given you a taste of Japan’s deep seasons. I see from my WordPress dashboard that we’ve so far had 468 posts from our contributors, almost 3,000 comments (anyone can leave these), created 32 special pages (see top right, on subjects such as haiku, haibun, renga, haiga), added 50 links to other recommendable haiku or related sites (see blogroll), a search facility, archives, a publications page (where you can find out how to order one of our books – including the Kikakuza and Genjuan Haibun anthologies), a poll on what you think are the 3 most important characteristics of English haiku (click on ‘results’ to see how it is going!), an events page (for those of you who can speak at least a little English and are in W.  Japan), and a submissions facility (via the reply box/comments on the Submissions – NEW! page). Yes, you can submit to be included in the regular ‘from the Icebox inbox’ postings! There are also experimental spaces where attendees at our two main seminar groups (in Kyoto and Osaka) can get comments on work-in-progress. After ten years at this game, perhaps you’ll allow the Icebox team a quick “Banzai!” Let me also express gratitude to my fellow editors, Gerald Staggers (aka Duro Jaiye) and Hisashi Miyazaki; to David McCullough for helping to start the site;  and also, to our contributors (notably Nobuyuki Yuasa, or ‘Sosui’) who try to keep this weblog up there with the best haiku sites there are. A timely bow.

With snow all around
The crimson berets of cranes
Stand out in the sun ……………………………….. (Sosui)

Tohta – as many of you will know, he was one of Japan’s  greatest modern haiku poets, a leader of the Gendai Haiku Association, an opponent of war and political revisionism, a charming and humorous man, who had several foreign followers who for long studied under him. I never had that opportunity, alas, as not in Tokyo, but I do have two treasured memories of him, in both of which I can still clearly see the twinkle in his eye and his real passion for the art of haiku. The first was after a paper I’d delivered to an international conference in 1997 attended by most of the prominent poets from the haiku organizations in Japan and America. I was the British interloper who spoke about ‘Haiku as Poetry and Sound’. When I’d finished, from his seat in the front row, he raced up to the lectern and said in a loud, jovial way, “Gambare!” (‘At a boy! Keep it up!) and proceeded to explain that ongakusei (cadence or musicality) was to him one of the three most important aspects of haiku. One of the others, by the way, was fiction, which not many foreign haiku poets believe in – certainly not for haiku! The second vivid memory of Tohta was when I went to interview him for a BBC Radio programme I was making on the recent history of haiku (both in Japan and abroad), Close to Silence Very soon after we got started, he got out a haiku he’d just composed that day and asked me, somewhat feverishly, what I thought about it, as if it was much more important than the interview itself – he, a venerable and well-respected leader of haiku in the Land of Haiku; I, an ex-Events Officer for the British Haiku Society! He was all ears, though.

サングラスのパブロピカソに蜜蜂
sangurasu no Paburo Pikaso ni mitsubachi
……… Wearing sunglasses
……… Pablo Picasso, confronted by
……… A honey bee! …………………………………………….. (Tohta)

In my imagination, Picasso must be wearing one of his trademark hooped T-shirts to somehow match the bee! I laughed loudly that day and I still laugh at this now. We will miss him greatly.