Archive for Haibun

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…)


Plain Living, Happy Singing

Posted in Book, News, Summer with tags , , on July 19, 2014 by Tito


From the bus stop

Still a long, long way to go—

Summer groves.


Toshi Ida’s new book has just been delivered from the printers! It is a solo English haiku collection, complete with Japanese versions, divided into four seasonal sections. There are also many nice haiga illustrations and photos (by the author himself), and a series of ten haibun pieces at the back of the book. The title of the book alludes to a lament by Wordsworth, “Plain living and high thinking are no more”, but also to the natural bird-like ‘singing’ of the author’s heart as he lives the haiku ethic every day. The book’s subtitle is ‘Haiku Scenes’. This is the first individual collection published by the Hailstone Haiku Circle. Congratulations to Toshi!

¥860 (U.S.$ 8) + p&p. The book will soon be available at Hailstone events, or in the post via Mari Kawaguchi (domestic) and Hisashi Miyazaki (international). Contact details are given on our Publications page (via the page link at top right).


Some background about the British haibun tradition

Posted in Haibun, News with tags , on November 22, 2013 by Tito

An interesting article has appeared in the e-zine, Haibun Today. It is called ‘Transmissions of Haibun’ and is penned by David Cobb. In it, he makes the point that at present Japan is rediscovering haibun as an import from abroad (a bold claim, but not without a grain of truth, as so very, very few use the term in Japan today). One exception is perhaps Toshinori (Nenten) Tsubouchi, who has been encouraging the genre these past few years using Japanese language, partly under the stimulus of Hisashi Miyazaki, who in turn was influenced by SHG (Tito) and Ken Jones (both of Britain). At the head of all this sits Nobuyuki Yuasa, whose translations of Basho’s travel haibun (kikobun) and writings on the subject of haiku prose helped to transplant the Japanese tradition to the West. Haibun Contests like the Kikakuza and the Genjuan have been largely the brainchild of NY, too. David’s is not a very long article. If interested in haibun, perhaps you should take a look?

The Hang of Things

Posted in Haibun, Summer with tags , , on September 14, 2012 by Tito

.. Many people regard the act of getting from A to B as basically a hassle. OK: a complete chore! They only wish to get to their destination fast. My dear wife can be like this, but I am different. I enjoy the  p r o c e s s  of travel itself; although, as you may see from this account, at times it is full of uncertainties. When Basho decides to record the fleas biting and the horse pissing by his pillow, I sense he felt so, too.

…… Loitering hungrily
…… Towards the end of Ramadan –
…… A town of meat and fruit.

.. As long as we were with our dignified, quiet-eyed driver, Mr. Gunapala, we were ‘in the know’. We do not speak Singhalese (the language of Ceylon). He reminded us that in just a few more days Ramadan would end. As we passed through Akurana on the climb towards Kandy, the ambience on the high street seemed to be one of a n t i c i p a t i o n. Akurana, a Moslem corner in a largely Buddhist world. Yes, neighbouring Kandy even boasts a temple housing a holy relic of the Buddha’s very own tooth. (Where are the others, I’d like to ask).

.. Although, as a young degree-bound vagabond, I had once stayed there quite happily for a day or two (thirty-five years ago), this time my experience of Kandy was almost entirely of its Bus Station – with a short, aborted foray to the Train Station for light relief.

.. Gunapala had slightly miscalculated the likelihood of us being able to jump on a bus to Nuwara Eliya1, a mere “two to three hours up the highland road”. A room in the Tea Bush Hotel had long ago been booked. In Kandy, Mr. G’s services would end and we would say goodbye. The last bus had left, however, twenty minutes before, and our traipsing forlornly, rucksacks shouldered, backwards and forwards, left and right (there was no train either), had attracted the attention of every tuk-tuk2 driver in town. We were beset by drivers offering the hairpin, nighttime climb all the way to the hill station in the clouds for 5,000 Sri Lankan rupees, or thereabouts – affordable, but… it was due to rain, to get cold, and we thought of the fumes, the danger and the noise… and declined them all, including the one with curly hair and an honest smile, who had seemed for a while to have had karma on his side.

.. Eventually, with our cellphone now out of juice, unable to cancel our N.E. room, on a muddy, unlit roadside in nearby Peradeniya, as the rain came pattering down, we negotiated (through Gunapala) with two men in a clapped-out Nissan van to drive us across the incognito highlands and try to find our hotel. Trouble was: the vehicle seemed to have two gearboxes, and the gangly, very young driver failed to find any notch at all three or four times in the first few miles… resulting in the van regularly breaking down. The two men discussed ways and means. For sure, it was not their vehicle.

.. After half an hour, though, everyone – us included – seemed to get the hang of things, and an easier silence, found somewhere deep in the thudding recesses of an over-straining engine, permeated through and joined our own inward acceptance of fate. We now dozed, waiting without language for some sign we might be nearing our destination… on the verge of myth.

…… Through tired eyes
…… One valley, full
…… Of pearl-like lights.

1 the highest town in Sri Lanka
2 motorbike taxi

Genjuan (formerly Kikakuza) International Haibun Contest: LAST MINUTE!

Posted in Challenge!, Haibun with tags , on January 14, 2012 by Tito

The deadline (January 31st) for entries in this year’s Genjuan (formerly Kikakuza) International Haibun Contest 2012 is approaching fast! This is still Japan’s only international haibun opportunity. Please submit up to three pieces, as per guidelines on the dedicated page (link under ‘Pages’ at top right). Free entry. Good luck!

LAST MINUTE! (See Comments below)

The Sound of Water (I): Springs and Fountains

Posted in Haibun, Japanese Classic, Tanka with tags , on September 18, 2011 by sosui

Let me begin with the famous poem, traditionally ascribed to Saigyo, in which the poet describes the sound of a spring.

Ceaselessly swelling
Out of a crack in the rocks
A spring trickles down,
Whose water is more ample
Than I can use in my hut.

In the original poem, the poet uses the onomatopoeic expression, ‘toku toku’, which I translated as ‘ceaselessly’ above. Admittedly, this is a very feeble translation. The closest to this expression in English would be ‘drip drip’, but ‘toku toku’ has more force. It conveys the power of nature behind the birth of a spring.

I have seen many different types of springs in the mountains. Some of them just drip down from wet moss and grass. They make a subtle music like the strings of a harp touched lightly. Others swell out of the earth with a heavy sound like the throbbing of a heart. In a way, it is an awe-inspiring sound, for we feel that some mysterious being is pushing up the water. It announces the birth of a river.

A Chinese hermit
Washed his ears in cold water
To forget the world.

Let me vitalize
My whole being with a sip
From this icy spring.

Fountains in Italian cities are completely different. Water gushes from the mouth of animals or some mysterious beings. For example, the Fontana di Trevi has Neptune at its center under a triumphant arch, led by Pegasus and two Tritons, and water spouts out of the animals that follow him. I have also seen a fountain where an ugly human face is pouring out water from a pipe in its mouth. Perhaps, the most extreme case is the Pissing Cupid. No one, I think, wants to drink from him. I suppose his role is purely ornamental. What does all this mean? In my view, it means that fountains in Italy are used as a symbol of civilization. Italian fountains are not at the beginning, but at the end of a long duct which stretches many miles through mountains and valleys. Their position signifies they have been installed for the service of man.

Fontana di Trevi,
Fully dressed women come and go
Chatting and laughing.

In a hot piazza,
The splashing water comes down
With a pleasant noise

Kikakuza Haibun Contest 2011 Results

Posted in Haibun, News with tags , , on May 1, 2011 by Tito

This year’s Kikakuza Haibun Contest attracted 85 entries from 15 countries. The standard was high. The four prize-winning pieces are here to read on a special page Kikakuza ’11 Winning Haibun accessed via the page link at top right. Details of next year’s Contest will be announced later. Thank you to all who took the time to submit a piece and hearty congratulations to the winners.

Grand Prix:

Memories of the Sun by Melissa Spurr (USA)

Za Prizes (Highly Commended):

Ladle by Earl R. Keener (USA)
Last Journey by Sonam Chhoki (Bhutan)
Remembrance of a Time to Come by Moira Richards (South Africa)

Honorable Mentions:

Strange Bedfellows by Margaret Chula (USA)
Kayo by Toshi Ida (Japan)
Return Home by John Parsons (UK)
Coal Dust by Patricia Prime (New Zealand)
Hill Country by Peter Newton (USA)
I sigh, through all my smiling, at the thought of long ago by Gael Bage (UK)
Winter Subway by Ellis Avery (USA)