The Last of My Wandering Journeys Part III – Shimizu Tunnel

.. When I got back to the station, I found my train already standing at the platform with some people on board. So I touched my Suica card against the checking machine and got on the train myself. The departure time came and went, but the train did not budge. Ten minutes later, a female conductor announced that the route had been under inspection and that they were now awaiting a green light from the central office. Five more minutes, and the train started to move, but soon the conductor announced that there might be more delays along the way. Fortunately, though, the train soon reached the southern end of the Shimizu Tunnel.
.. Actually, there are two tunnels. The first one was completed in 1931 after ten years of hard work. It is equipped with a loop bridge. The second one was completed in 1967 after four years of construction. This tunnel has some stations in it, and is now used exclusively by down trains, while the first tunnel is used only by up trains. I was on a down train, so we went through the second tunnel. Although the train was moving rapidly, it seemed to take a very long time before the darkness lifted.
.. What surprised me most, though, was that it was raining on the other side of the tunnel! Kawabata Yasunari writes, in a famous novel, “Once out of the long tunnel, I found myself in a snow country.” What lay before me, though, were misty mountains standing in the rain. For a while I doubted my eyes, but then remembered the difference in weather between the Pacific and the Japan Sea coasts. I should have realized this when I saw a cap of clouds over Mt. Tanigawa.
………. An old woman comes
………. Into the train, her bent waist
………. And wet umbrella!
.. The train soon stopped at Yuzawa Station, where a group of primary schoolchildren boarded. The atmosphere of the train was transformed. Two girls now sat in front of me. I was struck by the difference in their characters. One appeared sanguine; the other rather nervous. One was laughing all the time, but the other looked into my face as if she were worried about me. They left the train at Muikamachi Station, but when we said goodbye, they told me to put out my hands and they hit them with their hands exactly as baseball players do.
………. Noise and laughter sent
………. Autumn gloominess away,
………. Schoolchildren boarding.
.. When the train stopped at Ishiuchi Station, I was reminded of the bronze statue of Okamura Mitsugi that I had seen before standing near the station. He was a political leader and had spent all his money trying to build a tunnel at the place where the present Shimizu Tunnel stands. He died brokenhearted, but is still respected as a great man by the people of Niigata Prefecture. Tanaka Kakuei, the former prime minister from Niigata, once vowed that he would dynamite the mountains blocking the free passage between the coasts, thereby reducing the economic disparity of the two sides. Tanaka also died brokenhearted, yet he too is held in great esteem in Niigata.
………. Those two men live on,
………. Kakuei and Mitsugi,
………. Warm in local hearts.

To be continued …


It is unusual to use Japanese language for the title of a posting, but this is a Japanese language book! For those of you who cannot read Japanese, the title says “Inupiat Lessons”, taken, with permission, from Doris Lynch’s Genjuan Haibun Contest 2015 Cottage Prize-winning haibun reproduced in Jap. trans. on page 22 of the book. It is about her experiences while living in Kivalina, in northwest Alaska. The original English haibun was reproduced on p.10 of the recent Genjuan anthology, “From the Cottage of Visions“. The new 176-page book is basically a Japanese translation of the earlier English language book, pub. by Hailstone. It has been translated and edited by Hisashi Miyazaki with assistance from Stephen Henry Gill and Nenten Tsubo’uchi. It includes new greetings/foreword by the Contest’s two founders, Nobuyuki Yuasa & SHG (Tito), a new afterword by NT, and an augmented overview of haibun history can be found within HM’s new appended Commentary. This is an attempt to awaken the interest of Japanese readers in haibun, which, as a literary form, although of Japanese origin, has in recent decades mainly been developed overseas. It is fascinating to see what foreigners have made of a Japanese genre. The obi (yellow paper band wrapped around the book) says enticingly, “Haibun? What is that?” (NT).

The book was published in April 2019 by Zonomori Press 像の森書房 in Osaka. It is available from Amazon Japan here or from Hailstone here . It costs ¥1,500 if you buy it at a Hailstone seminar or event or in a bookshop in Kansai. It might be of interest to some Japanese readers to compare the original English found in “From the Cottage of Visions” with the Japanese text in “Inupiat Lessons”. Please support this project, financed largely by donation, including one from Hailstone. Get your copy while they last!

from the Icebox inbox – 43

Haibun: Offerings

Nicole Hague-Andrews

.. The trolls at Fowlmere live under the bridges, and sometimes under the boardwalks that meander through the marshy reed beds. They live in the damp, shady places, loathing the sunlight and will eat you if you don’t answer their questions correctly or give them the gifts that they ask for. Fortunately, there are many opportunities to appease them in order to cross their bridges to safety. They ask us what our favourite colours are (which we have rehearsed well beforehand); sometimes they ask for leaves or berries, sticks, songs, poems or numbers. They are as fickle as the wind and the rain.

circling the gunnera*
two feet wide

.. At the old watercress beds, the pump galoops water… and our dresses are wet to the knees. The trolls won’t eat the spicy, bitter watercress, but we like it with our apples and crackers. The chalk-bed stream water is so clear that Ophelia floats by on luminous weeds, as we throw blackberries on her and the silky, seed-expanded heads of reeds.

dried-up reed beds:
from the hide
Florence blows shut
the windows

.. We are becoming familiar with the different families of trolls: some are nicer than others, can even be experienced as kind. We try to understand their natures. Still, we are left alone to climb trees and make dens.

from the bridge
half a yellow leaf
… floats by

* gunnera – giant rhubarb

Poem: Voici

Serge Saunière

Voici ces quelques photos des deux jours passés prés de vous.
Ciel bleu et soleil pour nous accompagner.
Souvenirs escarpés et quelques pierres de plus sur mes étagères.
Un bonsaî genévrier qui respire à nouveau.
Basho au cours de l’eau.
Le désir de vous revoir.

Here are some pictures of the two days spent with you.
Blue sky and sun to accompany us.
Steep memories and some more stones now on my shelves.
A juniper bonsai that breathes once more.
Basho over the water.
The desire to see you again.

Genjuan International Haibun Contest 2019: submissions, new judge, new book

The Genjuan Contest office is now open to receive your submissions for 2019. Closing deadline will be 31 Jan. (although a day or two beyond is usually OK).

Last year, three of four judges were based in Japan, with Angelee Deodhar, giving us her gifted support from India. With Angelee’s sudden passing and the retirement of emeritus judge, Nenten Tsubo’uchi, we decided to ask Toru Kiuchi to join us as judge this year. We were delighted when he accepted the appointment. He is a former Professor of English at Nihon University, Vice Director of the International Division at the Museum of Haiku Literature, Tokyo, as well as author of the recently published book, American Haiku: New Readings (Lexington Books).  We welcome him to the role and give a deep bow to Nenten for all he has contributed to the Contest.

The rules remain the same as last year. How about entering a piece or two? There are real prizes, certificates and judges’ comments for the winners, and it’s free! Address of our officer, Eiko Mori, and other details are given in the Genjuan 2019 Guidelines .

Finally, it is worth mentioning again that the Genjuan Contest Decorated Works 2015-17 anthology, complete with judges’ comments and examples of contemporary Japanese haibun, was published by us earlier this year. The pale green book with a painting by Buson on its cover is entitled, From the Cottage of Visions. Details of how to order are give on our Publications page, too.

Persimmons – part 7

. I should like to end my haibun with a paragraph or two on kakishibu (persimmon varnish). I do not know exactly how it is made, but suppose it must be by condensing and fermenting persimmon juice. It is used mainly as a coating for traditional Japanese paper, thereby not only strengthening it but also making it waterproof. Thus a raincoat called kamiko came to be made, first for the priests of the Risshu sect to wear, but later for warriors and travellers as well. It was both light and warm. It was one of these raincoats that Basho took on his journey to the North. Persimmon varnish is also used to coat paper umbrellas. Seeing pictures of them on the Internet recently, I was surprised by the variety of designs. The traditional colour was brown, but now they seem to come in bright colours like red and green and make good decorations for restaurants and hotels.

. I have fond memories of persimmon-varnished fans. They were always sturdy ones and kept me very cool. I always used to pick out a fan of this type from the bamboo case in which we kept our fans at home. Nowadays, the Internet shows fans of this kind in many different colours, but mine was dark brown. I prefer this traditional colour. When summer comes again, I will probably buy a new one.

Let me take a nap,
Using a fan coated with
Persimmon varnish.

this instalment concludes Nobuyuki Yuasa’s haibun 

Genjuan International Haibun Contest 2018 Results

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

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

Persimmons – part 3

. 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.

Persimmons – part 2

. Nowadays I feel persimmons may be losing their popularity among consumers. Shops sell only a few varieties — two kinds of sweet persimmons called Fuyugaki (Prosperity Persimmons) and Jirogaki (Jiro Persimmons), and one kind of dried persimmon called Ichidagaki (Ichida Persimmons). Prosperity Persimmons are produced mainly in Gifu Prefecture, but they were originally developed from the Goshogaki (Imperial Palace Persimmons) very popular in Nara Prefecture. An enterprising Gifu farmer took a seedling back from Nara, planted it in his orchard and made further improvements. Mizuho City in Gifu Prefecture commemorates this with a stone monument, which reads “The birthplace of Prosperity Persimmons”. I am very fond of Prosperity Persimmons, and, whenever I see them in shops, I cannot resist the temptation to buy them. They are especially tasty just before they begin to mature. When they feel slightly soft, they are ready to eat, for it is then that they are at their sweetest and juiciest. Jiro Persimmons were originally developed in Mori Town in Shizuoka Prefecture. A farmer named Matsumoto Jirokichi found a young seedling on the bank of the Ota River and planted it in his back yard. It grew into a tree and bore fruits, but they tasted so awful that no one cared for them. When his neighbour’s house had a fire, the tree was burned down. But fresh buds appeared the following spring, and within a few years the tree began to bear fruit again. When Jirokichi tasted one of them, he was surprised how good it was. Thus a new variety was born, named ‘Jiro Persimmon’ after its owner, but strictly speaking, it was the product of an accident! Now they are widely produced aound Toyohashi in Aichi Prefecture. I think Jiro Persimmon is as good as its rival, Prosperity Persimmon, in size, colour and taste.
………………  Prosperity Persimmon —
………………  My mother is peeling it
………………  With her supple hands.
. Ichida Persimmons are produced in the village of Ichida in Nagano Prefecture (now a part of Takamori Town). They are relatively small dried persimmons, but very good in taste and colour. We have another kind of dried persimmon called Anpogaki, which look more like jelly because so much moisture is retained. They were originally made in Date City in Fukushima Prefecture, but now they are produced in other places as well, such as Wakayama and Toyama. What is common to the two types is that they are exposed to sulphur fumes in the manufacturing process. Perhaps because of this, they retain their beautiful orange colour. I live at the foot of Mt. Haruna, an area famous for plums, peaches and pears, but we also produce persimmons as a side line. In late autumn each year I buy big sour persimmons from a local grower and dry them. First I peel them, then hang them on strings to expose them to the sun. In several weeks, they will have a white powder on their surface and will be ready for eating. In sweetness, they are as good as Ichida and Anpo Persimmons, but, alas, they are black in colour and are rather difficult to make. If dried too long, they become hard, and if exposed to rain, they become mouldy. When they are well-made, however, I take special pleasure in eating them.
………………  The sunny orange
………………  Lines of drying persimmons —
………………  How they cheer the eaves!

(to be continued)

Persimmons – part 1

. I have a persimmon tree in front of my room. This year, it has produced a rich harvest. In fact, like many other fruit trees, it bears a lot of fruit every other year. However, the persimmons this tree produces are very small, less than the size of ping-pong balls. I believe this tree was here long before the garden was made, and that it belongs to the species called Yamagaki (Mountain Persimmon). Its fruits are probably very sour and nobody cares for them, but as autumn deepens, their colour also deepens, till birds come and peck at them. This is the tree’s only use, but when I see it growing in the shadow of a big cherry, doing its best to survive, I cannot help cheering it on.
………………  Time for persimmons
………………  To mature and redden —
………………  The sky is so blue.
. I have been close to persimmons since my childhood. We had a persimmon tree in our garden when I was at primary school. My father fastened sturdy ropes around one of its branches and made a swing for me. I was very proud of it and happily swung back and forth on it, but one day the branch broke off without warning and threw both the swing and me to the ground. Fortunately, I landed on a soft lawn, so I escaped with only scratches to my knees. This experience taught me, though, that persimmon trees were easily broken, and since then I have made it a rule not to climb them.
. During our wartime evacuation, I enjoyed sweet persimmons. The earliest kind we had was called Bongineri (Bon-Festival Sweet Persimmon). Its fruits were small and had lots of stones, but their flesh, strewn with black flecks resembling sesame seeds, was delicious. Later in autumn I would enjoy large persimmons that had been sweetened in rice chests — so big and sweet that I found them satisfying in every sense. Occasionally I enjoyed the special variety called Saijogaki (Saijo Persimmons), which I thought to be a real treasure.
………………  The sweet persimmons
………………  With dots like sesame seeds —
………………  Everyone eats laughing.

………………  Sweetened persimmons
………………  Melt on our tongues, so slow to
………………  Reach our stomachs.

(to be continued)

Genjuan International Haibun Contest 2018: submissions and new judge

The Genjuan Contest office is now open to receive your submissions for 2018. Closing deadline will be 31 Jan. (although a day or two beyond is usually OK). Last year, three of four judges were Hailstone poets, with Ellis Avery, at that time living in Melbourne, Australia, giving us her gifted support. Thank you! As Ellis is back in the US now (Boston) studying nursing, she has stepped down and her place as judge will be taken by Angelee Deodhar of Chandigarh, India. Some of you may know her wonderful series of ‘Journeys’ anthologies, each of which gathers more than 100 haibun works. Although she has not so far been associated with Hailstone, we look forward to benefiting from her expertise and to working with her. Nenten Tsubo’uchi’s title has changed to emeritus judge, reflecting the special assistance he gives the final part of the judging process. The rules remain the same as last year. How about entering a piece or two? There are real prizes and certificates and it’s free. Address of our officer, Eiko Mori, and other details are given in the Genjuan 2018 Guidelines (reached via orange page link at top right of the Icebox top page).

Genjuan International Haibun Contest 2017 Results

Grand Prix:
Season of Snow and Milk – Doris Lynch (USA)

An (Cottage) Prizes:
Trespass – David McCullough (Japan)
Feathers – John Parsons (UK)
Soldier’s Woundwort – Dimitar Anakiev (Slovenia)
What’s in a Name – Jim Norton (Ireland)
Honourable Mentions:
Getaways – Dru Philippou (USA)
Fathomless Ocean – Gabriel Rosenstock (Ireland)
M PATHY – Dorothy Mahoney (Canada)
The Baker’s Insomnia – Phillippa Yaa de Villiers (South Africa)
Nesting Bowls – Beth Skala (Canada)

Nenten Tsubo’uchi, Stephen Henry Gill (Tito), Hisashi Miyazaki, Ellis Avery

What a wonderful genre is haibun, haiku-style prose! The four judges wish to thank all those who took the trouble to send something in to the Contest Office. We apologize for the slight delay in releasing the results this year and also offer our hearty congratulations to the authors of the above decorated works. This year we had 89 entries from 15 different countries on every imaginable topic! It was quite a difficult task for the judges to bring the field down to a short-list of 15 works. However, this year it proved fairly easy to decide on the prize-winners, in spite of the fact that one judge was not in Japan, but out in Australia! The Hailstone Haiku Circle here in Kansai can feel proud, as at last one of its members has won a prize (although Honourable Mentions had previously been attained) – David McCullough, for his very fine Trespass. The judges chose a work of supreme lightness by Doris Lynch as the Grand Prix winner. Now that we know the names of the writers, we can see that her piece has glided past the challenge from four considerable men! The top five Genjuan works HAVE NOW BEEN POSTED as a special page on the Icebox for all to enjoy. I wonder if you will agree with the judges that they are all excellent works? We are also planning to publish another Genjuan haibun anthology soon.

Guidelines and deadline for the 2018 Genjuan Contest will be posted here in due course.