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

Otsu Ginko: Basho & Fenollosa on the Shores of Lake Biwa

The forty-meter Basho-o Ekotobaden 芭蕉翁絵詞伝 scroll exhibition at the Otsu Museum of History turned out to be an absorbing experience for the 8 Hailstone poets who visited it on 14 March. At least 2 more went on their own on separate occasions. It finishes on 11 April, so there is still time. The scroll was commissioned of painter Kano Shoei 狩野正栄 as part of the 100th anniversary of Basho’s death (prior to 1794) and depicts the Master as a young man in Iga-Ueno, on his literary pilgrimages (Matsushima, Ise, Yoshino, etc.), in his retreats (Basho-an, Genjuan, Rakushisha, etc.), as well as his death in Osaka, and his grave at Gichuji Temple 義沖寺, not far from the Museum itself. This was the Life of Basho in meticulous style painting and beautiful calligraphy. Basho’s camellia-wood staff, Yayu’s desk with a crescent moon inset, and many other interesting exhibits augment this landmark exhibition, which shows how Basho became so revered and how his school of haiku 蕉門 was re-envigorated by poets such as Chomu 蝶夢, Kyotai 暁台, and Buson as 100 years were chalked up.

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Afterwards, somewhat exhausted, for a while we rested on benches at the Museum, looking out across Lake Biwa. It was such a beautiful spring day that we decided to go for a stroll towards the northwest, where Tito had found out that there is a tiny dilapidated temple, Homyoin 法明院, in the grounds of which the American orientalist, Ernest Fenollosa, has his grave (Basho’s is at the other end of Otsu). The mountain temple is reached by an overgrown grassy path and a lot of wonky stone steps. When we arrived at the main hall there was no one around. We noticed a can hanging on the gatepost asking for donations upon entry and we duly put in some coins and walked around the unkempt garden, ravaged by wild boars, but with some trees putting out blossom and unfurling new leaves… up a further flight of steps to Fenollosa’s grave. He had done translation work with Ezra Pound more than a century ago, helping us to a better understanding of the beauty of Chinese poetry, and, with Okakura Kenshin, had helped to preserve the artistic heritage of Japan at the precarious time of the Shinbutsu Bunri movement. He saved many Buddhas from destruction, finally becoming a Buddhist himself.

Collecting scraps
of conversation on Basho,
Lake Biwa’s
spring breeze
………. (Akihiko Hayashi)

Twittering
for us to pass
beneath its wire perch -–
the first swallow!
………. (Tito)

The lake is calm,
with distant yachts —
bursting cherry blossoms
………. (Kyoko Nozaki)

Offering a camellia
to Fenollosa’s tomb ―
bush warblers call
………. (Yaeno Azuchi)

‘Endings & Beginnings’ Hailstone Online Reading Meet – some highlights

Sun. 7 March 16:00 (JST). 14 Hailstones and special guest, Michael D. Welch, came together to read haiku, senryu, cirku, tanka, haibun and haipho. Each poet was given up to 5 mins. The share-screen function proved useful in allowing us to see the words that were being read. Host, David McCullough, had collected most things in advance and made a pdf file to use. It was also good to be able to appraise visual material like photo haiku or illustrations explaining haiku (e.g. seasonal flowers). The theme was introduced by chair-for-the-day, Tito, who first read us an excerpted translation by Nobuyuki Yuasa of Kikaku’s account of Basho’s Final Days, Basho-o Shuenki, including his death and funeral and the beginnings of the Basho School 蕉門 — for endings invariably lead to beginnings, and vice versa.

なきがらを笠に隠すや枯尾花 (其角)

A hat to cover
the body of our master,
withered pampas leaves      (Kikaku)

Sean O’Connor, editor of The Haibun Journal and judge of the Genjuan Contest, joining us from Ireland, next read a short sequence of haiku.

from my father’s bed
familiar mountains
wrapped in snow

Hitomi Suzuki followed with two beautiful haipho. Here is one (click on photo to enlarge):

David McCullough then read four short poems, one of which was on the theme of the first mile of running a marathon:

Panting —
hundreds
of
feet
pattering

It was interesting that two more poets – Noriko Kan and Akihiko Hayashi – also shared running or jogging haiku later on! Genjuan judge, Akiko Takazawa, also still runs marathons, but unfortunately she could not be present at the meet.

Ursula Maierl next entertained us with her heartfelt haibun, ‘The Final Baguette’, about two customers splitting the last loaf in a bread shop at the end of day!

one small baguette
stands upright —
lone sentinel
half-wrapped in brown paper

Mayumi Kawaharada then read a sequence of haiku, ‘Freeze – Under Covid-19’:

Tourist-less road —
Frozen shutters
Left in the silence

Reiko Kuwataka’s poem provoked some discussion – haiku in form, but tanka in sentiment:

A long time
since I last saw her —
high cloud, overcast

Tito then showed us some cirku made into haipho. (Mistletoe is ヤドリギ in Japanese; click on photo to enlarge.)

Kyoko Nozaki made us hungry with her haiku and photo of newly harvested radishes. David Stormer Chigusa (in Tokyo) told us he usually tries to compose haiku using a 4-6-4 consonant template and gave us some recent examples. Akihiko Hayashi reminded us of the approach of the 10th anniversary of the Great Tsunami and Fukushima Meltdown disaster by sharing with us a psychological haiku:

Over unruffled waters
it’s threatening to snow —
‘Emergency!’, the caption unscrolls

Noriko Kan (in Matsuyama) gave us one haiku containing the very contemporary image of masked meditators. Michael Dylan Welch (Washington State, co-founder of Haiku N. America and former ed. of Woodnotes, the journal which had organized in 1996 what was perhaps the world’s first English haibun contest), gave us another memorable coronavirus image:

Covid Christmas —
so few presents
under the tree

We also read aloud poetic offerings sent in by Fred Schofield (Leeds), Catherine Urquhart (Edinburgh) and Akishige Ida (Nara), who were all unable to attend. Sydney Solis (Florida) joined to listen only. Richard Donovan, delayed by another online event, at which he received his recent translation Grand Prix, performed for us a cameo role near the end of the meet.

From England, Lawrence Jiko Barrow joined us at his 7am. His haiku on the theme of ‘beginning’ was:

Arrival of spring —
the banana tree reveals
a bright green shoot

Jiko has recently planted a banana palm in his garden in England. He told us that he hopes it will prompt him to remember Basho (whose name means ‘banana palm’) and to compose haiku a little more frequently! The appearance of the shoot gives us all hope the palm will survive.

Today, the Basho School continues in spirit in many parts of Japan and the world, including through Hailstone, which is based in Kansai, celebrating life in and around Basho’s Shuenchi (Final Territory). We all try to do our best for the Okina 翁 (Master) and what he taught.

Sosui at Setsubun & 芭蕉翁絵詞伝 Basho Scroll Exhibition

I first met Nobuyuki Yuasa (Sosui) in London in 1994 during the Basho 300th celebrations I’d organized for London University’s School of Oriental & African Studies and the British Haiku Society. During that year, BHS held a series of events including a conference,  a long-distance haiku hike, an international renga, and a haiku reading-cum-balloon launch. Together with London U. Prof. of Japanese Lit., Andrew Gerstle, I edited and published the fruits of our celebrations (conference papers, including one by Nobuyuki, renga, haibun, etc.) as Rediscovering Basho a few years later. For the cover, we obtained permission from Gichuji Temple in Otsu to reproduce a portrait of Basho on horseback taken from their amazing scroll painting, 芭蕉翁絵詞伝 Basho-okina Ekotobaden, executed by Kano Shoei towards the end of the Eighteenth Century to celebrate Basho’s 100th.

It just so happens that today (Feb. 11), when I visited Rakushisha (the House of Fallen Persimmons, where Basho had written his Saga Diary back in 1691), I picked up a flyer advertising an exhibition at Otsu Historical Museum 大津市歴史博物館 opening later this month at which for the first time the scroll will be shown in its entirety, all 40 meters of it. It shows Basho on his Oku no Hosomichi (Deep North) and other travels at various locations accompanied by Sora, so Hailstone will certainly hold an event to go and see it soon. One illustration shows B at Ukimido, the Floating Pavilion on Lake Biwa, location for Hailstone’s first ever event (Nov. 2000). Get in touch with me if interested. Museum site link 

Serendipitously, also today, Nobuyuki has just sent me a few of his latest haiku celebrating the season of Setsubun (early February, trad. beginning of spring), which also includes his own birthday (Feb. 10, just turned 89 years old!). He confesses to me that recently he has been feeling lazy and, although still composing, cannot face posting directly onto the Icebox at present, so I shall do so for him. Some of you may remember his nice haibun on the subject of ‘Bean-throwing at Setsubun’ a few years ago (published in our collection, Persimmon). Belatedly… many happy returns of the day, Sosui-sensei!

節分が来ても畑に動きなし
Spring is expected
To come tomorrow, and yet
No change in the field.

節分や仄かに赤き梅の枝
The last day of winter —
A tinge of red now visible
On the plum branches.

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 

Balloon at Cape Irago

鷹一つ見つけてうれし伊良湖岬 (芭蕉)
To find a hawk
flying at Cape Irago —
my pleasure, deep
……………… (Basho)

On his 1687 Backpack Notes journey, 笈の小文, Basho had composed this haiku for his beloved disciple, Tokoku 杜国 (aka Mangikumaru 万菊丸), who was exiled in Hobi, near the tip of the Atsumi Peninsular (Aichi) for ‘cooking the books’ with his rice-dealing in Nagoya.

July 23: Tito plans to fly his birthday balloon (a personal ritual) from the ferry leaving Cape Irago after a day (with wife, Kazue, and Hailstone friends, David McCullough and Gerald Staggers – aka Duro Jaiye) visiting Tokoku’s grave at Cho’onji Temple (the “tide-listening” temple) in Hobi and then swimming in the Pacific at Koijigahama Beach.

 

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Leave Kyoto/Osaka early for Toba in Mie, from where we sail across the sea to that erstwhile place of exile.

The ferry departs
through a flotilla of jellyfish —
summer clouds
……………… (Tito)

Landing at Cape Irago, walk out to the lighthouse with its views back to the sacred isle of Kamishima.

all along the seafront
stone carved poems
visited by dragonflies
……………… (David)

midday heat …
in their wheelbarrow
the catch of the day
……………… (Duro)

Indulge, as Basho would have done, in huge clams and oysters at Tamagawa’s in Fukue. Then, at the temple itself, we meet the Zen priest, Miyamoto Rikan 利寛, tending his lotuses. Spend a quiet moment at the graveside, remembering how Basho had wept at the House of Fallen Persimmons after dreaming of Tokoku some months after his premature death. Their relationship had been a happy one, with Basho once brushing the ‘shape’ of Tokoku’s snore onto paper… and them having written pledges together on their travel hats on the way to Yoshino. “His good heart reached to the very core of my own. How could I ever forget him?” (from the Saga Nikki)

波音の墓のひそかにも
the sound of the waves
also heard in secret
from his grave
……………… (Santoka, visiting Cho’onji in 1939)

last patch of summer heat —
cat tails flicking
back and forth
……………… (David)

burning heat …
he waters the small plants
in the rock garden
……………… (Duro)

Rikan proves a genial host, showing us a huge rockery he has made himself; also, the “tide-listening” Kannon statue in the pond at the back of the temple; and, finally, driving us back to Koijigahama Beach near the Cape. Body-surfing and beach-combing before boarding the return ferry.

A pink balloon
leaves my hand …
the sun, too, dropping down
into Ise Bay
……………… (Tito)

Plum Blossoms I

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

Kompukuji Ginkō

Kompukuji (金福寺), near Keizan Ichijōji Station in Higashiyama, Kyoto, was founded in 864, and is the site of the Bashō-an (芭蕉庵), a hut that the poet visited in 1670 and that was afterwards dedicated to him. Yosa Buson (与謝蕪村) and his disciples helped restore the hut in 1760. On Buson’s death in 1783, his disciples erected a tomb on the hill overlooking Bashō-an and its adjacent well. Thus this little-known temple is something of a mecca for poets!

We were fortunate, then, that it was quiet on the Saturday afternoon (3 December) when we 15 Hailstones visited, led by Tito. We were able to take our time, even sitting on the engawa (perching boards) of the hut to compose our responses. The guest of honour was Maeve O’Sullivan of Haiku Ireland.

Thatched with water reeds
topped with maple leaves –
Basho-an, the poet’s hut                       Maeve

Peeling shōji
a corner thumbtack
holds sway                                   Albie

Perhaps it was the fact that the autumnal leaves were a little past their prime that staved off the crowds, but we were still surrounded by rich golden and scarlet hues, the light-blue sky above and the soft greens of the moss at our feet forming a poignant contrast.

Maple leaves
dying beautifully                              Branko

Lantern of Kompukuji’s
soft stillness –
lichen dresses you                             Christine

Footpaths through shadows
leave the bright colors behind –
Buson’s resting place                          Peter

A high wire fence
Through burning maple leaves –
No deer by the gate                            Tito

Framed by the temple gate
Deer and mountain silhouette –
The sinking sun
shika nagara / saneimon ni / iru hi kana
This was Buson’s original, alluded to above in Tito’s haiku.

After our extended visit to the temple, we repaired to Café Anone, near the train station, joined by co-organiser Ursula for coffee and cake and the recital of haiku and haibun.

[Notes: ginkō – composition stroll; shōji – paper window screens]

A Path Through Autumn Hills

Asuka (or Tōtsu ‘Distant’ Asuka, in Nara prefecture), Japan’s first state capital, is a name to conjure with, though few perhaps will have heard of Chikatsu Asuka (‘Nearby’ Asuka, in Osaka prefecture), through which the Takenouchi Kaidō passes on its way from Naniwa. This was Japan’s first state road, plied by emperors and emissaries as they travelled between Yamato and the kingdoms of Korea and empires of China further to the west. Naniwa (Osaka) was the entry/exit port.

Autumn clouds
sailing in the shape of
an ancient mission boat ……………. Miki

Day 1. November 12th , Bashō’s death anniversary and the first day of this year’s Hailstone Autumn Haike, had us passing through a landscape dominated by huge, moated imperial tumuli and early Buddhist temples that had seen better days. At the first of these, Fujiidera, a prayer for our journey in clouds of incense smoke. At another,

Someone tolling
the Yachūji bell:
by my feet, a few
rustling leaves ……………. Branko

One tumulus we rested beside was Shiratori no Misasagi (the White Bird Tumulus) made in the fifth century for Prince Yamatotakeru, perhaps the greatest of the Yamato heroes, whose exploits are recorded in the Kojiki. When he died, his spirit became a swan, and we were amazed to see some large swan haniwa (terracotta statues) in an archaeological display nearby. We paid our respects to him at nearby Shiratori Shrine.

The Takenouchi Kaidō proved somewhat difficult to follow in places, and we had to use a combination of maps, GPS and talking to the locals to navigate through the surprisingly urban first few hours. Richard’s hard work and a measure of good fortune allowed us to eat our packed lunches in a pleasant autumn-tinted park neatly sandwiched between a sewage works and a rubbish incineration plant!

We had just crossed the Ishikawa River on Garyū Bridge, from where we had spied the twin peaks of Mt. Futagami (Nijō) and a more rural, hilly landscape up ahead. Blessed with an idyllic ‘Indian summer’ day.

In the time it took him
to count the three clouds …
there were only two ……………. Tito

Found the rather creepy Morimoto Jinja, but overlooked, alas, its mysterious rat-headed courtier stone, Hayato-ishi.

Bare lightbulbs hanging
where lanterns used to be —
neglected shrine ……………. Candace

As the afternoon wore on and our feet began to get weary, golden vine leaves appeared beside the road. Although the harvest was already in, we did not need the signboards for ‘Asuka Wine’ to know that we were entering a land of grapes. The vines scrolling around their metal frames reminded some of us of the seventh century budō karakusa patterns on the black bronze Buddha’s pedestal in Nara’s Yakushiji. Around 3, we picked up Kyoko at Kaminotaishi Station.

The man perhaps most responsible for the introduction of Buddhism to Japan was Prince Shōtoku, and it was to his final resting place at Eifukuji Temple that we were now headed – uphill. The spacious temple precincts command a fine view out across the Valley of Kings and its imperial mausolea.

So still at Eifukuji:
only the huge sun sinking
behind the pagoda ……………. Branko

Down some steep steps … and up another flight beyond, brought us to the little nunnery of Saihōin, our last port of call for the day. The bus from the hotel soon came to collect us.

The nuns have left
the gate open wide –
November moon ……………. Tito

Taishi Onsen was where we bedded down for the night, now joined by David, who had walked up  from the railway station through late afternoon fields. The hot-spring waters and the local food and wine set us up for an open-mic haiku sharing.

Reciting the day’s poems
with a karaoke echo:
last of the autumn wine ……………. Richard

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Day 2. The 13th dawned, crisp and clear.

Morning bath
in the open air,
a yellow leaf falling
as I close my eyes ……………. Miki

At Kaminotaishi Station we waited for the arrival of the Osaka train and found Akira and Shigeko almost immediately. Somehow, though, Hisashi slipped through the radar and had a quiet smoke just behind us while others continued to hunt for him! The ten of us proceeded eastwards along the Kaidō, paralleling the glittering Asuka Stream.

Now I am alone
but the snowflies
have found their sunbeam ……………. David

Passing the thatched roof of the Yamamoto House, we climbed a lane to the humble but commendable Historical Museum of the Takenouchi Road. Inside, many were entranced by a holographic presentation of local history, which even introduced Bashō ghosting his way through the area!

In clearing the loose rock
he trips on another –
a path through autumn hills ……………. Tito

Arrival at the busy fishing pond of Dainichi. A short rest, and then a stiff climb over Mt. Futagami, decked in its November best. Lunch was taken on a rocky peak with marvellous views back towards Fujiidera, from where the walk had begun.

Bending in the wind
tall pampas grass:
we vote for a left turn ……………. Branko

Somewhere between the 13-tiered solid stone pagoda of Rokutanji and Iwaya Pass on this, the 13th of the month, u n f o r t u n a t e l y we got lost. To reconnoitre, both Richard and David hared off up different rocky paths. The former came back to tell us that he’d met an old man who had warned him, “You’ll never get through before dark!” We descended the mountain as far as Route 166 and slogged along it to Takenouchi Pass.

Bashō’s checkpoint:
on the Nara side
smoother asphalt ……………. Branko

A pleasant descent past a large pond with a kingfisher … to the outskirts of Takenouchi village. There, we debated the merits of making a detour to take in the Hakuhō period temple of Taimadera, along the so-called “Bashō Path”. David voted with his feet, and we were soon all off behind him!

A farmer’s
long-winded explanation
about the highway shortcut –
Indian summer ……………. Hisashi

At the temple, we prayed before its main image, the huge tapestry-weave Taima Mandala of Amitabha’s Pure Land. Hisashi writes, “The precincts were packed, as that day local agricultural cooperatives were holding an autumn fair. Caught in the crowd, I was attracted by a dry, leafless plant a metre long, carried by a young girl and bearing on its tips fluffy white cotton seeds. I recalled that Taimadera was adjacent to the district of traditional cotton production in Osaka. I imagined the girl would go home with the plant and arrange it carefully in her tatami-mat room.”

Leaves of foreign words
floating away
In the autumn breeze ……………. Miki

We hurried back to Takenouchi and there, altering our pace, began to amble down, backs to the sunset, through the hometown of Bashō’s early travel companion, Naemura Chiri. It seems not to have greatly changed since the visits of the haiku master: an evocative place. In 1684, accompanied by Chiri on his journey of the ‘Weather-exposed Skeleton’, Bashō had stayed at the house of the village headman, Aburaya Ki’emon, and complimented him with the hokku

Watayumi ya / biwa ni nagusamu / take no oku

The cotton-beating bow –
as pleasing as the plucking of a lute
deep in the bamboo

A cotton-growing area indeed.

Hanging above
our full array of grins,
a line of drying onions ……………. Tito

After a group photo (see the slideshow), and a short reading by Stephen of Bashō’s haibun and verse related to the area, we meandered along our final stretch of the Kaidō towards its junction with the Katsuragi Road at Nagao Shrine. Looking back, we could see the range we had come over – Kongo, Katsuragi, Futagami – a rearing mountain wave against the afterglow. Prayers of thanks for safe completion of our journey. From Iwashiro Station, the train-ride home.

Nara Basin –
stubble smoke rising
from the end of
the Silk Road ……………. Akira

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Of Michio, Toshi and the Village of Mizuo

Mountain valley —
chancing upon
the Shangri-La
of a spring in citron-trees

……. (Michio Sano)

The full moon
over the harvested rice fields —
villagers sleep

……. (Toshi Ida)

There were two Hailstone journeys undertaken recently which passed, under high blue skies, through the mountain village of Mizuo (水尾lit. ‘Water Ridge’) that nestles beneath a shoulder of Mt. Atago. As Michio’s 1998 haiqua (above) intimates, Mizuo is famous for its citrons and is often referred to as 柚子の里 Yuzu no SatoKC4F0040

The first journey, on October 19, was a most solemn occasion: a break on the way to visit the late Toshi Ida’s house in Chitose-cho (千歳町, 30 mins beyond) and offer prayers before his funeral altar. Toshi was a founding member of Hailstone Haiku Circle and close friend of so many of us. We soaked up the autumn sun in Mizuo, where chestnut tiger butterflies still flew around. Arriving eventually in Chitose-cho, the Hailstone delegation of the day – Keiko, Ursula and Tito – was graciously welcomed by Toshi’s wife, Michiko. Later we met their son, and were shown around Toshi’s study and the vegetable patch now immortalized in his collection, Plain Living, Happy Singing. Secrets were revealed, hugs were given and tears were shed.

October field —
mantes, too
their sickles pressed together
praying for a poet’s soul

……. (Keiko Yurugi)

It’s autumn —
yet the bells he used
for warning bears
now hung on the wall

…….  (Tito)

Homage:
a yellow rose,
his home-grown mikan, goya and
book of verse

……. (Ursula Maierl)

The second journey, held on October 26 in association with People Together for Mt. Ogura, was a happy hike along the Rice Buyers’ Way (米買の道 Komekai no Michi) from Mizuo to Ochiai, and then up over Rokucho Pass 六丁峠, skirting Mt. Ogura, and finally dropping down into Adashino. The 9 participants began by visiting the 9th Century Emperor Seiwa’s Shrine in Mizuo.

Spilled rubies —
fallen pomegranate
from the neighbour’s tree

……. (Richard Donovan)

The trail climbed out of Mizuo through woods in early autumn colours. After cresting Koujin Pass at about 400m, we descended to a mossy spot by a stream.WIN_20141026_102432a- Sunbeams pierced tall cypress trees whose distant tops were slightly moving against the sky. There we ate our packed lunches.

Water striders
gliding on a stream …
illusion of drizzle

……. (Kyoko Nozaki)

Twinkling diamonds
stud a tiny mushroom —
morning dew

……. (Mayumi Kawaharada)

To what tune
does the spider spin
this disc that snares the light?

……. (Michael Lambe)

At Ochiai, we saw the poem monument for Basho’s Kiyotaki ya haiku about green pine needles. After watching boats shooting the rapids on the Hozu River, we climbed up past the now almost-cleared rubbish tips of Mt. Ogura. KC4F0036

In Adashino, participants were offered the chance by a local PTO supporter, Mrs. Matsuyama, to pick their own citrons from a thorny tree standing by the NPO’s rubbish collection tools storehouse just outside Nenbutsuji Temple.

That evening, belated news happened to come through from the wife of another founding member of Hailstone, Michio Sano (of Yao in Osaka). He had passed away, aged 86, on January 15 this year!

Full circle:
a citron now floating in the bath,
a new devouring grief

……. (Tito)

Michio, how much we learned from you! How deep and elegant was your haiku oeuvre. In Shangri-La eternal, please now rest in peace. 合掌

Jumping from
the harvest bonfire —
a sooty frog

……. (Michio Sano, from Seasons of the Gods, 2007) KC4F0058

Rakushisha Exchange

Sep. 27. Fine autumn weather. Rakushisha (The House of Fallen Persimmons), Saga, Kyoto. 10 poets assemble. Tito has already taken guests from America, Charlie Trumbull, Cynthia Henderson and Lidia Rozmus to Saigyo’s Well and Kyorai’s Grave. The meeting itself begins with readings of Kyorai’s Record of the House of Fallen Persimmons and Days 3 & 17 of Basho’s Saga Diary, which the poet had written in 1691 while staying at this cottage. Hisashi reads the Japanese originals and Tito, the new English translations they have prepared. During the tea break, Lidia decorates the back room with display panels of American Haiga (many of them, her own beautiful work). Charlie then presents to the group on the subject of Japanese Influence on English-language Haiku. Fascinating stuff. After an exchange of ideas, Lidia follows with her own Approach to Haiga, and we enjoy looking at the mini-exhibition of examples she has brought along. There follows a stroll in the autumnal garden (purple berries, orange persimmon leaves) and on through the nearby bamboo groves to the Oi River, where a local friend of Tito offers the poets a covered wooden punt with a robed man at the prow. In jovial spirits, we are poled upstream a little way, then slide back down the river in the warm dusk … Our thanks again to our guests for having visited and given us so much on this happy day.

haiku gathering the scent of fresh-turned earth

(Charlie Trumbull)

………….. The twilight hour —
………….. the boatman’s long white sleeves
………….. billow out

………….. (Tito)

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Turning up the heat

The youngest man to have become a disciple of Bashō was surely Izumiya no Kumenosuke. At the age of 14, Bashō conferred upon him the haiku name, Tōyō. The poet had been soothing his aches and pains at the Izumiya Inn in the little hot-spring town of Yamanaka towards the end of his Narrow Road journey of 1689 and had found young Kumenosuke to be the new keeper. Kumenosuke had convened a haikai session there in Bashō’s honour.

Although we are currently in the heat of August, and the last thing I would think of is a hot spring, my wife happened to book us in to stay in Yamanaka last Sunday night. The following morning, at the Bashō no Yakata (Bashō Mansion, which stands by the site of the Inn), its windows open wide  …

The transpicuous house–
a squally wind ruffling
…… a summer garden

……………. (Tito)

… for the grand sum of ¥350, I bought a very slender volume, entitled 山中蕉門:桃妖俳句集 (Haiku by the Yamanaka Bashō-school Poet,  Tōyō).

Every night since then, back in stifling Kyoto, before turning my head against the pillow and closing my eyes, I have enjoyed reading a few haiku by this most poetical of inn-keepers, around whom a lively haiku circle had grown in the mid Edo period.  I doff my hat to whomever it was that researched and made this tiny white booklet of lightness and air. No one at all is credited.

鼻からたばこ吹きけり雲の峰 (桃妖)
Exhaling tobacco smoke
through his nose–
…… cumulonimbus

……………. (Tōyō)