Archive for Journey

Hailstone’s 17th Autumn Haike: Mt Miwa and Tanzan Shrine

Posted in Autumn, Event report, Walking with tags on November 11, 2018 by William

Oct. 13, 2018 – Mt. Miwa 三輪山

After a box lunch taken in the harvest rice-fields near Omiwa Shrine 大神神社 and a visit to Omononushi’s ancient cryptomeria in the main compound, the five poets intending to scale Mount Miwa (467m, to the north of Sakurai) have first to obtain permission at Sai Jinja 狭井神社. They are issued with a route map and pilgrims’ garlands to wear around their necks, each supporting a small bell that jingles all the way up to the summit. All pledge to remain silent throughout the climb. Tito decides to climb barefoot. Here are a few of the haiku from this first day.

Snake God Tree:*
searching through my pockets
for raw egg offering
………………………… Branko

“Komorebi!”*
pointing and whispering
to his wife —
his tree enlightenment!
………………………… Richard

To my sweating forehead
a splash of waterfall —
just halfway to the top
………………………… Kyoko 

My vow of silence,
severely tested on the climb
by an English-speaking man!
………………………… Tito

The rock sanctuary:
one family clapping hands in unison,
a lone woman staring faraway
………………………… Kyoko

Pilgrim’s bare feet
imprinting the mud …
unspoken words
………………………… Branko

Miwa —
blue light
shining from a black leaf
on the forest floor
………………………… Tito

After the descent, talk resumes at Hibara Jinja* 檜原神社 a little way along the Yamanobe Old Path. Later that evening, at Wakaba Minshuku*, haiku are shared, appreciated, rejected, and occasionally reworked, until the wine is drunk and midnight has long passed.

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Oct. 14, 2018 – Mt. Goharetsu 御破裂山

Two poets return home, but another joined the haike last night. It’s a cool, early autumn morning and four poets are searching for a path over Mount Goharetsu* (610m). Their destination is Tanzan Shrine 談山神社 and its annual “Kakitsusai” 嘉吉祭 harvest festival, which is due to start in a few hours.

Cloud shrouds the peaks
above the plains of Asuka —
a lone kite circling
………………………… Richard

Fields of golden rice
ready for harvesting —
ancient village, unchanged
………………………… Kyoko

The autumn butterfly —
how prim and proper
its ribbon ties!
………………………… Tomiko

The persimmon farmer talks
of a typhoon-damaged slope:
Mt. Katsuragi*
wreathed in mist
………………………… Tito

Their route takes them through the streets of Asuka 明日香 into its eastern foothills, past locals tending their crops, and up into the tall, straight trunks of cypress and cedars growing on the mountainside.

Another step
on rising earth,
interrupted —
span of silver thread
………………………… William

The entomologist —
showing us his bagged live specimens
in a dreary wood
………………………… Tito

The trees close in and
catch our voices — their reply
a soft mockery
………………………… William

They reach Tanzan Shrine, a burst of Japanese architecture, and find the festival’s main ritual is already underway. Removing their shoes, they shuffle quietly into one wide room—open at the back to a sunlit veranda hung with iron lanterns—and join the worshippers. To the shrill accompaniment of gagaku*, many elaborate displays of fruits and vegetables are brought out from deep within the shrine, carefully passed from priest to priest. A glimpse is had of a statue of the enshrined deity, Fujiwara no Kamatari*, whom the festival honours.

The Shinto priest:
a single green pepper
atop his chestnut offering
………………………… Richard

For another year
priest pulls the curtain down
on the clan divinity —
his long, plaintive wail
………………………… Tito

The festival complete, our pilgrims head back into the sun, retrieving lunch boxes from their backpacks.

tier upon tier,
the surrounding trees are touched
by new scarlet
………………………… William

The summit of Goharetsu is attained after a further short climb. To where next year?

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* Notes
Haike – haiku hike
Snake God Tree – an ancient sugi (cryptomeria) thought to be a yorishiro (conductor) for Okuninushi, who comes in the form of a snake
komorebi – sunshine filtered through branches
Hibara Jinja – a Shinto compound lacking any hall for its divinity, Amaterasu, and thought to be the first Ise Shrine
Wakaba Minshuku – a rustic inn beside Okadera Temple in Asuka
Mt. Goharetsu – to the southeast of Asuka, part of which is commonly referred to as “Tonomine”
Mt. Katsuragi – a peak (959m) to the west of Asuka famed as the haunt of the C7th mystic, En no Gyoja
gagaku – ancient court music, featuring reeds and pipes
Fujiwara no Kamatari – instigator of the Taika Reforms in C7th and founder of the Fujiwara clan

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Balloon at Cape Irago

Posted in Event report, Summer with tags , , , on August 6, 2017 by Tito

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)

My Trip to the North: 4. Lake Usori & the Land of Bliss

Posted in Haibun, Summer with tags , on January 24, 2017 by sosui

Emerging from the region of the Hells, I now came to the beautiful shore of Lake Usori, a large crater lake surrounded by steep mountains, with names such as Mt. Screen and Mt. Overturned Cauldron. The shoreline was one of white sand. They call it Gokurakuhama, the shore of the Land of Bliss. I was told that the name of the lake had derived from the Ainu word meaning ‘peaceful bay’, and that ‘Usori’ had turned into ‘Osore’. I thought this was a very ironic corruption, for ‘Osore’ means ‘fear’. The lake should not be thought of as a perfect paradise, however, for its water is acidic and only a single species of fish can live there. Just looking at it, though, the lake was surely beautiful enough for a gateway to the Land of Bliss.

……… The wind from the hills
……… Carried away from my nose
……… That smell of sulphur.

…………………….. Beyond the white shore,
…………………….. A belt of emerald green
…………………….. Lit by summer sun.

My Trip to the North: 3. The Hells of Osorezan

Posted in Haibun, Summer with tags , on November 6, 2016 by sosui

.. After enjoying a bowl of rice topped with tuna for my lunch, I went to Osorezan via the city of Mutsu. This was a roundabout course, but the shortcut along the Ohata River was too narrow for sightseeing buses. The road from Mutsu up to Osorezan was an ancient highway with stone pillars marking distances from the shrine. It was also dotted with stone images of Jizo, the traveller’s guardian. I found the Fountain of Hiyamizu was still alive. Its icy water was coming straight down from the mountains. Here and there I saw pink flowers of valley deutzia, but was told that they were never used as decorations for the house. I wondered why.
.. Crossing the so-called River Styx, we entered the precincts of Osorezan, a Zen temple belonging to the Soto Sect. Soon, the smell of sulphur hit my nose. Watched by six huge statues of Jizo, representing the six phases of existence, I passed through the first gate. On the second gate was displayed a large square plaque of beautiful blue colour, inscribed “Osorezan” in silver characters. The building at the end of the path housed the main Jizo image and a statue of Ennin, the founder of the temple.
.. Up to this point, we had been walking on flat ground, but as we turned to the left, we entered the rocky region of the ”Hells”. Many infernal pools now came into view, with such horrible names as ‘the Pool of Blood’ and ‘the Pool of Grave Sinners’. Each was somewhat different in shape and colour, but they were all pools of sulphurous water that had issued out of the volcanic strata. Huge piles of rocks were seen in places, but what arrested my attention was the piles of smaller stones that had obviously been fashioned by human hands. I was told that they had been made supernaturally by children who had passed away before their parents as an expression of their regret at doing so. I was not persuaded, presuming, rather, that these piles of stones may have been made by the parents to express their own sorrow at the untimely death of their children. My conviction was strengthened by the red stick-windmills often placed on top of the piles. Was it not the parents who had placed them there out of a desire to buy them for the deceased children? The place where I saw the greatest number of windmills was around the statue of the guardian of aborted and miscarried children.

……. An endless rattle…
……. Little windmills spinning round,
……. Calling to the dead.

My Trip to the North: 2. The Promontory of Oma

Posted in Haibun, Summer with tags , on September 12, 2016 by sosui

As the ferryboat approached Oma, I was able to see an island with a lighthouse and the Promontory of Oma, so flat that it seemed the sea was ready to swallow it up. Oma is famous for tuna fishing, but I did not sight any boats. After landing, our bus took us to the Promontory, the northernmost point of the mainland of Japan, where I saw a huge concrete image of tuna, and a stone monument to Ishikawa Takuboku with the following poem inscribed.

………. An Eastern Island:
………. On the white sands of its beach,
………. I weep by myself
………. Till I am wet with the tears,
………. Playing with scuttling crabs.

The Eastern Island mentioned in this famous poem was believed to be Benten Island. It had looked quite distant from the tip of the Promontory when I had seen it from the ferryboat, but now it seemed close enough to reach by swimming. The lighthouse was painted in stripes of white and dark green, and there was a red buoy dancing in the waves before it.

………. Tuna-abounding seas,
………. To the far horizon, blue,
………. Their summer colour.

……………….. The Eastern Island:
……………….. The lively June waves breaking
……………….. Wash its sandy shore.

………………………… On a sunny day
………………………… In the long monsoon season,
………………………… Gulls crossing the strait.

My Trip to the North: 1. Tsugaru Strait

Posted in Haibun, Summer with tags , on August 7, 2016 by sosui

Compelled by my desire to see the Tsugaru Straits, I took a ferryboat from Hakodate to Oma. I first went to look at the Mashu Maru, a retired ferryboat which used to connect Hakodate with Aomori. It was a large boat, but it looked rather lonely moored at a pier. I thought of the tragedy of the Toya Maru caused by a typhoon: the boat sank killing more than one thousand people including the captain. The ferryboat I took was much smaller than the national railway ferryboats, but it was elegantly constructed. The room reserved by the travel agent for our group was an unfurnished carpeted room. I decided to spend most of my time in a chair on the deck. The weather was good. I was able to enjoy the blue sky, the blue sea, and the blue mountains.
Having left behind the red lighthouse standing at the end of a breakwater, our boat sailed along beneath the steep slopes of Mt. Hakodate. The Big-Nose Promontory was a sharp cliff, black in most places but dotted with white spots. I thought it might be made of ageing limestone. The boat went round this promontory, allowing us to see another rocky place called the Stand-and-Wait Promontory, where the famous poet, Ishikawa Takuboku, has his grave. As the ferryboat sailed into the Tsugaru Strait, unexpectedly, dolphins appeared on the port side as if to welcome us. They came and went so suddenly I did not have time to count them, nor to take their picture, but I regarded this welcome as a special bonus.

………. Sharper than arrows,
………. They cut the dark brine, splashing —
………. A pod of dolphins.

(Sosui is Nobuyuki Yuasa)

Hiroshima-Matsuyama Tour

Posted in Spring, Travel with tags , , on April 24, 2016 by Nori

Five Hailstone poets (UM, BM, SMc, AS and T) received an invitation from Matsuyama City, Ehime Prefecture to take a pilot tour (with Japan Tourist Bureau) to Hiroshima and Matsuyama on 19-21 March, escorted by another Hailstone (NK), who is its coordinator and a resident of the latter city. One of the fixers (KT), also added a haiku. The following report was compiled by T with a little help from me.
Flower-inducing rain 催花雨 saika-u, was letting up as we arrived at our first destination, Miyajima. The great red sacred gate was backed by hills of swirling mist. Composition began in earnest, but …
…………… The Miyajima deer—
…………… it ate my haiku!
…………… …………… (Ursula)
After ourselves swallowing a few grilled oysters, a launch took us back across the Inland Sea and up a river in Hiroshima to a pier near our hotel.
…………… …………… A-bomb dome
…………… …………… Bending iron rod
…………… …………… Bending spring willow
…………… ………………………… (Nori)
Hiroshima is situated on a river delta and is famous for its Peace Museum and its lemons. The next day, after eating lemon-flavoured French toast with our morning coffee, once again we headed off to the Inland Sea, this time under a clear blue sky.
…………… Early spring morning—
…………… Hiroshima’s broad fan
…………… Chills the bay
…………… …………… (Albie)
…………… …………… …………… From the Lemon Coast
…………… …………… …………… To the Orange Shore—
…………… …………… …………… A launch’s wake
…………… …………… …………… …………… (Tito)
Matsuyama is famous for its mikan oranges, for its castle and its contribution to the evolution of haiku poetry. It was the birthplace of Shiki Masaoka, and the pilot tour is designed to bring foreigners with an interest in literature to visit the distant town. On disembarking, we made our way up to the donjon through cherry buds beginning to burst.
…………… …………… Feet dangling
…………… …………… on a chair lift: small boy
…………… …………… once again
…………… …………… …………… (Branko)

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That afternoon, for one blissful hour, most poets soaked in a bath at nearby Dogo Hot-spring, a real treat. In the evening, we were joined by some local haiku poets in a specially created ‘haiku bar’. We had a merry time of airing verse already composed and receiving high-spirited feedback!
…………… …………… …………… Dogo Hot-spring –
……………. …………… ………….. from the taiko* rhythm
…………… …………… …………… vivid colors spark
…………… …………… …………… …………… (Kiki)
On our third and final day, we were greeted by another blue sky. Our first engagement, a tea ceremony introduction, was followed by a visit to The Shiki Museum. Shiki was seen to be a poetic prodigy, whose life ended far too early.
We were then asked to attend a meeting with officials from the city tourist board and the national tourist agency and give them detailed feedback on our experience up to that point. This was accomplished in a constructive but not uncritical way, which we all hope might help improve the envisaged product for JTB.
Finally, we attended the prize-giving of the Matsuyama International Photo Haiku Contest in the hall at The Shiki Museum. Copious inquetes were dutifully filled in, but some of us still managed to enjoy the judge’s comments made by Itsuki Natsui.
…………… …………… Low energy, late afternoon
…………… …………… Shiki’s sad life—
…………… …………… A waft of jinchoge**
…………… …………… …………… (Sally)
* large Japanese drum
** daphne