Archive for friendship

John McAteer

Posted in News, Tribute with tags on April 2, 2020 by Tito

I am sad to have to tell you that our good friend and fellow poet, John McAteer, passed away of Alzheimer’s on March 28 in Portland, Oregon — precisely at cherry blossom time. He was 84. His wife, Peggy writes that “a little card I made was the last thing I was able to share with John … The photo was taken at the hanami party 3 years ago in Ohara. Though he was already suffering from the effects of developing Alzheimer’s, it was very important to him that we got to Japan in time for your hanami event … His relationship with the haiku group added great depth to his life in Japan and I thank you very much. I may work the text into a real haiku and use it for his grave marker.” ……… (click on the photo to enlarge)

.
Kyoto sakura
The petals will surely fall
But never our love
……………. Peggy
.
Endless the pathways
redolent of times gone by —
Ogura’s shadow
……………. John (from 100 Poets)

.

…………………………………… Against the sea’s roar —
…………………………………….The frail old man stands
…………………………………….Sounding his shakuhachi
………………………………………………….. John (from Lost Heian)
.
Sitting entranced …………………………………. How many climbers
in the upper room — ……………………………. have grasped this root for aid?
evening mountain shadows …………………. shining still like teak
……………………………………. John (both from Meltdown)
.
John was born in Massachusetts and first came to Japan in 1972. Over the years, he worked as professor/lecturer for several universities here in Kansai, including Nara Nat. Univ. of Educ.. He was a gifted performer of Noh, a playwright (most memorably his Robert Frost Noh piece, The Death of a Hired Man), a father, husband and true friend to many. His smile was a real delight. He often used to recite Yeats in his rich baritone voice as he strolled along with us on our haiku hikes. His last performance was in the Portland State Univ. production of the kabuki, 47 Loyal Samurai, in 2016. Peggy tells me that he passed away on the very same day that his own teacher of Noh, Udaka Mitsuhige, did! John will be sorely missed by all. Our prayers are with his family now. Please remember him, as we do Saigyo, under the cherry moon.
.
You can see more of John in reports of some events, such as these:
https://hailhaiku.wordpress.com/2009/12/24/mt-mikami-haike/
https://hailhaiku.wordpress.com/2013/10/20/hailstone-autumn-haike-2013-uminobe-no-michi-湖の辺の道/
https://hailhaiku.wordpress.com/2008/07/22/urban-ginko-2-a-stroll-to-busons-birthplace/

Onions

Posted in Haibun, Haiku, Tanka with tags , on May 27, 2019 by Branko

.
The Onion Field …………………………………………. by Dimitar Anakiev
.
If you happen to be walking in the northern part of Kyoto, known as Kitayama, you may notice near the Botanical Gardens a middle-aged man watching over an onion field located right beside his house. His name is Branko Manojlovic, a Serbian poet who has been living in Kyoto for quite some time now. Although the onion is an essential part of Serbian culture – I can’t recall a dish that has no onions in it – these were planted not by Branko but by a nameless neighbour. Two years have already passed since the planting, yet the onion is still unharvested.

I, too, was taken with this field. During my stay in Branko’s house, I watched it every day from the window of my room: a field that through its very existence seemed to hint at something that, although not obvious, was at the same time significant.
Looking out of the window – the onion field still wet after rain – I wrote a haiku:

In its second year
onion languishing – who will
come and harvest it?

At breakfast, Branko looked moody and with dark bags under his eyes from lack of sleep. As I was stirring my tea with a questioning expression he swigged his coffee in a hurry and, before going off to work, handed me a folded piece of paper: “Last night’s haiku”, he said. After he left I opened the paper, it read:

Unable to get back
to sleep… the onion field
lashed by storm

I noticed that Branko had a special relationship with the onion field, but we did not discuss it. One afternoon I noticed him pacing about the field as though looking over each stem, each green leaf that was pointing toward the sky. The following morning, I got another piece of paper that read:

A group photograph:
we are the onions
hanging under eaves

I myself wrote haiku on the subject of onions, which seemed to have dominated our thoughts and emotions. On the other side of the street, where the bus no. 4 was passing, I noticed a small Shinto shrine set there perhaps because of some superstitious belief. Like some Christian chapels, such shrines would often have been established by local people, and this particular one was leaning against a neighbour’s house.
When I was leaving Kyoto, I left Branko this haiku:

In Kitayama
the onion field watched over
by some Shinto god

I do not know if this field still exists today. If by chance it does, I’ll bet Branko is keeping an eye on it.

 

 

Onions …………………………………………………………. by Branko

.
Out of snow
green tails of onion stalks
slicing the wind

*
How past repair
this aging onion field…
how the umbels
still hold on for bees
and swooping swallows!

*
By the field’s edge
he glances left and right,
uproots an onion,
stuffs it in the plastic bag
together with his conscience

Sri Lanka – stolen flowers, dancing & worms

Posted in Haibun, Travel with tags , on May 25, 2016 by David Stormer Chigusa

We went to Sri Lanka last week for four days for a friend’s wedding. Everyone received a gift from the bride and groom, then the DJ got going – and so did the most dance-addled wedding crowd I’d ever had the gleeful privilege to be a part of.

Slights like
this smaller gift –
then dancing

We were taken around some of the sights on the island for a couple of days after the wedding, one of which was Danbulla Temple. We were all given a flower at the entrance to take up to the temple. Mine didn’t even make it halfway.

A flower for Buddha
Devoured in bliss
By a monkey

dambulla-monkey

Leaving, there was a brief, ostensibly routine, yet all-the-same extraordinary, pat-down at the airport that left me glazy and strangely elated.

Touched like that
at security
woke warm worms

No other words for it. (But, for a little context, may I add that friends were there, one of whom – from Brazil – is into gardening, for which he breeds worms: minhoca [mee-nyo-ka] in Portuguese.)

Toshi’s Commemoration

Posted in Autumn, Event report, Tribute with tags on December 8, 2015 by Ursula Maierl

………….. The autumn air resounds
………….. With girls’ cheerful voices –
………….. An old professor joins in                              Toshi

Commemorating our much-loved haijin, Toshi Ida, on November 22, 2015, a quartet of poets accepted a gracious invitation by Toshi’s life-partner, Michiko-san, to visit her home at Chitose-cho, Kameoka.  We shared an autumnal afternoon tea, with November-only ‘inoshishi mochi’ and home-grown persimmons. Michiko made Toshi’s ‘Hibikiai Forum English Haiku Poems’ class archives available to explore.  Yoshiharu presented a gift of a hand-made book featuring his calligraphy of many of Toshi’s haiku, while Keiko offered a hand-made wall hanging, in which to display individual card pages from the book. A white-and-purple bouquet was also presented on behalf of the Hailstone Circle.

In the early evening, rounding off our visit, we visited the local Daiizumo Jingu shrine, which was holding a festival under the rising moon.  The leaves were flaunting themselves, the weather was perfect: Toshi’s commemoration proved to be a delight.

 

A copse of maple trees –
the first anniversary
of Toshi’s passing ……………………………….. Yoshiharu

………….. carefully opening
………….. his cupped hands –
………….. a snow-midge
………….. floats aloft                               Ursula

shrine festival –
the man who got lost in the village
now tasting wine                                   Keiko

…………………………. The dozy red
…………………………. Of distant lit-up maples –
…………………………. Drums pound to the moon.                    Tito

Thames Way : Ulster Way (brown to blue)

Posted in Book, News, Walking with tags , , on September 21, 2015 by Tito
.
Former Kyoto-based Hailstone, Diarmuid Fitzgerald, launches his first haiku and tanka collection the Irish Writers’ Centre, Parnell Square in Dublin from 7pm on 22 Oct. Anyone in the area is welcome to attend, but should contact Diarmuid first. The collection is based on a long-distance walk he made along the Thames Way in Southern England. Published by Alba (Kim Richardson).
…………………………. fields of barley
…………………………. shift of hue
…………………………. from yellow
…………………………. to brown
…………………………. clouds pass
………………………………… DF, on the …
Thames Way
.
Icebox contributor, David McCullough, who has just begun a year’s sabbatical in his native Belfast, guided Tito recently along a stretch of the Ulster Way long-distance footpath in Antrim.
brown eyes of heifers
gazing at the ocean –
two jet trails
…….. DMcC, on the Ulster WayKC4F0045
.
……….. On an offshore islet
……….. a man reclining
……….. in a brown coat –
……….. the seal!
………………. Tito, ditto
DSC00289-

Jade

Posted in Haipho, Haiqua, Travel with tags on April 11, 2015 by Tito
.
Jade beads’
Condensed forest
Around her neck –
Hint of its birdsong.
(For Kazue, Yaoyue Teahouse, Maokong, 5.4.15)
KC4F0222
… click on the photo to enlarge and see the beads

The First Hailstone, Michio Sano, 1927-2014

Posted in Haiku, Tribute with tags , on December 17, 2014 by Tito

Early this year, Michio Sano of Yao, Osaka passed away and he is already greatly missed. He was one of my first haiku students (from 1996) and one of the strongest supporters at the inception of the Hailstone Haiku Circle in 2000. He co-edited the YBC haiku anthology, To Gigeiten. His grave is at Saishoji Temple in Ono, Fukui.

Firstly, then, let me share a few comments by his friends and admirers.

“I mourn for Sano-san. I was impressed with his tender-heartedness and his knowledge of ancient Japanese history.” (Keiko Yurugi)  “I imagine the excitement he must have felt composing haiku with and for an international group, not to mention giving his sensei from abroad insights that at those moments only he could do.” (John McAteer)  “宇宙をつかむかのような世界を表現するすてきなhaikuが多い … in many of his wonderful haiku he expressed a world in which it seems he has managed somehow to grasp space itself.” (Yoshiharu Kondo)  “Michio Sano’s news was very sad for me, too. I haven’t seen him for many years, but I still remember that he, Midori Inoue, Kei Goto and I sometimes used to go to a coffee shop after Gill-sensei’s lesson (at YBC in Namba). Michio 1It was great to make friends with a much older person.” (Mayumi Shigeta)  “He was a fine gentleman with wide knowledge. I pray for the peaceful repose of his soul.” (Hisashi Miyazaki)

And now, let us enjoy some of his English language haiku, the characteristics of which include humour, taking compositional risks, and an ability to juxtapose beautifully the present moment with a sense of history. Michio’s joy at working along the so-called ‘vertical axis’ is evident throughout.

Michio, for all you have taught me and given other poets along the way we walked together, thank you!

by a window ………………………….. Emperor Nintoku –
putting pampas grass ……………. at Mozuno, hunting pheasant
into a flask – …………………………. for his amusement
the agricultural lab

the great bare tree – ……………… the short night –
as if a net had been cast ……….. on and on and on I read
onto air …………………………………. ‘The Life of Kukai’

willow fluff snowing ……………….. long, long ago
to the beat of hooves …………….. an equestrian corps
……………………………………………….. had crossed these plains –
hailstorm … ……………………………. starlit night
to mountain village
decorated with frescoes …………  wind-pollinated
……………………………………………….. rice flowers –
gazing at the mountain …………. since Yayoi times
with its hidden story –
dusk cherry blossoms …………….. loquats ripening
………………………………………………… suggestively –
moonlit Lake Biwa ………………….. the statue of Artemis
has entered the rule …
of the White Emperor …………….. escaping
……………………………………………….. while describing a sine curve –
Xavier’s coffin …………………………. the earthworm
at rest on the hill:
Malacca Strait ………………………… wishing to add
in the haze …………………………….. to this painting by Munch
……………………………………………….. a red spider-lily

A Falcon’s Feather

Posted in Haiku, Haiqua, News with tags on November 29, 2014 by Tito
Dear Hisashi,
The more I think about it, the more amazing it was that I found a raptor’s feather in the shopping precinct at Senri Chuo just after delivering to you my tribute to the late lamented Michio Sano (‘The First Hailstone’) at the Yomiuri Bunka Center English Haiku class on Thursday. Wishful thinking, perhaps, but now I feel like it was some kind of final salute from him!
I had written the following haiku, based on something that had caught my eye on the way to the classroom in Oct. ’96 in Namba, Osaka, just before teaching Michio and the others my first real class for YBC …
…… For the haiku class:
…… Dropped and never picked up again,
…… One velvet button.
As you know, Michio had been both the cement and the oil of that class. In late November, eighteen years later, just after class no. 291, I picked up that dropped feather outside the new Center.
KC4F0063I believe it to be the foremost pinion of a falcon, as its underside matches nicely with the lead wing feather in this picture of a  ハヤブサ peregrine falcon, the fastest creature in the world.
hayabusa1I also carefully checked the internet for goshawk オオタカ, sparrow hawk ハイタカ and kite トビ feathers, but they did not match. Talking with you, and later doing a rigorous Japanese language web-search, shows that these birds are not uncommon in the area in winter.
What is uncommon is for a pinion feather to land in the shopping plaza and for a haiku poet from Britain to pick it up!
So I later wrote …
…… For our Michio prayers:
…… Dropped but then picked up again,
…… A falcon’s feather.
……………………………………………………………… Tito
.
P.S. Another version (written on the night, unrelated to the Namba haiku):
…… After the memorial,
…… It dropped from the sky
…… To a shopping precinct —
…… A falcon’s feather.
The first version requires a haibun for its comprehension, whereas the second stands up on its own?

Of Michio, Toshi and the Village of Mizuo

Posted in Autumn, Event report, News with tags , , on November 2, 2014 by Tito

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

Atago Old Road Night-time Ginko

Posted in Event report, Haiku, Summer with tags , on August 29, 2014 by Tito

Four Hailstone poets, most notably Andres Matos (Amato’), visiting Kyoto for the first time in many years, set off on a rainy evening (24.8) towards Seiryoji Temple. There, we sheltered for a while under a great wooden gate waiting for the Jizo-bon lanterns to be lit along the narrow road that winds up through Saga towards Toriimoto and the foot of Mt. Atago. This old pilgrim route, would be decked out with paper illuminations for the weekend celebrating the festival of Jizo (Ksitigarbha), protector of children and travellers. Andres was passing through on his way from Venezuela to begin a new life with his family in Thailand. We walked and talked and wrote through everything from almost imperceptible drizzle to drenching downpours. A Hong Kong meal in Uzumasa’s Daiei Street rounded off the composition stroll.
.

Eight years gone by
without a haiku —
Where was I?

…………… (Amato’)

 

…………… Lamp-lit summer rain —
…………… Shadow of a pine-tree cast
…………… Across the temple wall

………………………… (Mayumi)

 

At odd intervals
lantern candles fizzling …
vanquished by the rain

……………  (Tito)

 

…………… Pouring rain —
…………… Just a few flickering lanterns lit
…………… for our flickering spirits

………………………… (Amato’)

 

After the rain
on Atago Furumichi,
candle scent

…………… (Haruka) 

P1050270a-

Hirosawa Pond Ginko & Sean’s Farewell Concert

Posted in Autumn, Event report, Haiku with tags on November 9, 2013 by Tito

Kyoto, Nov. 4. Hitomi Suzuki hosted a composition stroll (吟行ginko) round Hirosawa Pond in northwest Kyoto. P1210523-Clearing after rain. Reddening persimmon and maple leaves. Traces of nocturnal animals. Waterbirds galore. Priest Zuigen 瑞元of Inkuji Temple 印空寺 welcomed us in and showed us how to write with a pointed pebble on the back of the leaves of his 300-year-old tarayou タラヨウtree (also known as hagaki no ki 葉書の木). Used to write on before the invention of paper, or so we were told. Diagonal rays of afternoon sun. Past ancient cherries, reed-beds and flowering tea bushes – petite, white, with golden stamen bursts and an Earl Grey scent. John spotted a heronry at the foot of graceful Chiyoharayama (“Saga Fuji” according to Hitomi). Sean and Junko joined us for tea and haiku sharing at the Suzukis’ home – triple-decker cake stand crowned with sugared kumquats. A few of the haiku composed:

….. We gathered
….. At the postcard tree,
….. Then wrote poems
….. On its leaves
…………………………………….. Tito

P1210504-

….. Deer footprints…
….. Zipper-like
….. They dot the lane
……………………………………… Hitomi Suzuki

….. Wind changing
….. The shape of stripes
….. White, blue, green —
….. Surface of the pond
…………………………………….. Hisako Kutsuki

….. Far from the world’s care,
….. The expanse of Saga’s fields…
….. A place to breathe deep
…………………………………….. John McAteer

And on went some of us to Tree of Repose in Saga, where Kazue Gill was waiting with spring rolls, elderflower cordial and Stephen provided roast Ogura venison. P1210547a-Irish singer, Sean O’Connor, then entertained the gathering of evening poets with a traditional Tipperary home recital, adding some pieces specially for Belfast-born David, whose eyes were seen to glisten in the autumn night. In the interval, John McAteer read to us from Yeats. Gratitude to Sean and Junko, who bothered to come to Kyoto to say goodbye to their haiku friends here. At the end of the evening a bouquet of flowers was presented to Sean by Tito on behalf of the dozen or so assembled… and indeed those further Hailstone poets who would have liked to have come and may be reading this now. Godspeed back to the Emerald Isle.

….. Tonight’s moon unseen
….. a house lamp glowing deeper
….. in the pond’s last light
……………………………………. Sean O’Connor

Hailstone Autumn Haike 2013: Uminobe no Michi (湖の辺の道)

Posted in Autumn, Event report with tags , on October 20, 2013 by Richard Donovan

The tranquil beauty of the Uminobe no Michi belies its blood-spattered past. Following the ridgeline of a range of small mountains along the northeastern edge of Lake Biwa in Shiga Prefecture, the trail runs south from the foot of storied Shizugatake Peak at the southern end of tiny Lake Yogo to Mt. Yamamoto, a distance of some 10 kilometres. While a canopy of trees shields Lake Biwa from constant inspection, there are a number of lookout spots. The nine Hailstones who walked Uminobe no Michi for the annual Autumn Haike were rewarded with fabulous views of the lakes and Chikubushima, and little, if any, blood was added to the trail in the process, though plenty of sweat.

October 12th. We arrive at JR Yogo Station around 10:45 am and skirt the northern edge of Lake Yogo, passing a gnarled willow tree that features in one version of the ancient legend about an angelic maiden and her heavenly robe (天女の羽衣 Tennyo no Hagoromo).

Image

When the woman, attracted by the lake’s beauty, came to bathe in it, a local widower found her robe, transparent as a dragonfly’s wing, hung on the willow. Meanwhile, back in our modern world, an equally pellucid shower freshens the unseasonably warm October morning.

diaphanous the drops
rain blown bent across tall trees
sowing summer snow

– John McAteer

P1210312a-

Fruit trees, persimmon and kiwi, line the western edge of Lake Yogo. But the pretty fruit proves hard or otherwise inedible.

渋柿を 笑ひて渡す 湖畔哉

With a grin,
passing him
a bastard persimmon –
edge of the lake

– Okiharu Maeda

Nearing the southern end of the lake, before the Shizugatake trailhead and the start of the hike proper, we are further inveigled by a sign at the bottom of a mysterious trail, tersely labelled「俳句の道」haiku no michi. But

the road of haiku
is muddy & steep
we do not walk it

Image

– Jiko

While fishing is banned at many places around the lake (also known as 鏡湖 Mirror Lake), there is a designated spot at the southern end, and it is being made use of.

Fisherman’s line
pulls the reflection
to the lake shore

– Haruka Hasaba

P1210342a-

While we have dawdled a little circling one half of the lake, we make up time on the rather steep 300-metre ascent of Shizugatake, arriving before 1:00 pm. At the summit (421m) we are rewarded with spectacular prospects of Lake Biwa, Lake Yogo, and, indeed, the ridgeline of the entire hike ahead of us, all the way to Mt. Yamamoto.

We do not remain unchallenged for long, however. A sudden, gusty shower hits more heavily than the spritzing around Lake Yogo, and sends us running for cover.

賤ヶ岳 余呉から秋が 攻めてきた

Shizugatake –
from Lake Yogo, autumn
has mounted its attack

– Kazue Gill

 Image

In May 1583, Shizugatake was the site of a fierce battle (賤ヶ岳の戦い Shizugatake no Tatakai) between the forces of Hideyoshi Toyotomi and Shibata Katsuie, resulting in many casualties on the strategically important summit. One memorial depicts the spears of the seven generals of Hideyoshi who successfully routed the challengers.

Image

Despite the grim history, there is an almost miraculous ‘silver lining’ to be found in the changeable weather:

七本槍七色虹に変えて橋結ぶ

change the seven spears
for seven rainbow colors
and bind them in a bridge

– Miu Takahashi

 Image

When we have had our fill of lunch and the panoramic views, we return to the trail. As most visitors ascend and descend Shizugatake via the ropeway near the summit, we soon have the path to ourselves. Or do we?

for fear of bears
and lacking bells
I ring the stones with a stick

– Michael Lambe

Soft underfoot and tree-shaded, the chestnut- and acorn-strewn path occasionally debouches into a clearing with expansive views.

Flat wind
pushing off the lake
and through an oakwood …
became a silver comb

– Tito

The main evidence of the trail’s historical past is frequent tumuli, tenebrous bulges on the treeline. The trail itself is mostly level, albeit with occasional undulations.

on Biwa’s ancient battlefields,
the scattered armour
of chestnuts

– Richard Donovan

In the middle of the afternoon, Maeda-san decides to explore a secret trail that descends steeply to the west, coming out near lonely Uro Shrine 有漏神社 on a seldom-trodden shore of Oku-Biwa. I accompany him on the foolhardy scramble up and down the crumbling, rock-strewn path, while the other members rest before forging ahead on the main trail, Tito kindly staying behind to mind our packs. We gain some grand, uncommon views of the lake, but not much else.

Image

About an hour later, the party reunites, and commits to the final push up Mt. Yamamoto, which proves to be almost as steep as the Shizugatake ascent, though the summit, at 324m, is considerably lower.

The hard climb separates the party into small groups strung out along the trail. I am first to join Jiko on the windy summit for the day’s last great vista.

Biwa fruit
across the lake
ripe sunset

– Jiko

 Image

There are two possible descents, and we choose the lesser-used one to the west allowing us a last glance of the effulgent lake. This proves costly, as the path is slippery with dry, sandy gravel, and must be taken painstakingly slowly in the advancing twilight. We reach the bottom by 5:40 pm, but after a mad dash along the road there is no sign of the promised bus to Kawake Station, so eventually we hire two taxis to Nagahama Station. After a lot of hunting, we chance on a decent izakaya with a private room, perfect for a postprandial haiku-sharing session. It has been a demanding one-day autumn haike, but a memorable one.

The path will take us there:
all we have to do is walk
towards this autumn’s
mesh of light

– Tito

Image

Participants: Tito, Kazue Gill, John McAteer, Michael Lambe, Miu Takahashi, Jiko, Haruka Hasaba, Okiharu Maeda and Richard Donovan (organiser). Thanks to Michael, Tito and Maeda-san for the photos.