April Fools’ Day Tea Party

Proclaiming the dawn
of April Fools’ Day
a bluebird* on the roof! ……………….. Tito

Lured by a spring breeze and white cotton clouds in the blue sky above, we gathered at Oyamazaki Station and set off on a composition stroll.

The old brown teahouse wall—
blossom in the wet stone basin ……………….. Richard

We started by visiting Myōki-an, a Zen temple said to have been built on the site of the hermitage of Yamazaki Sōkan, a great haiku poet of the Muromachi Period, and one of the founders of haikai-no-renga. Kneeling in the tatami-mat room, the priest welcomed us and briefed us about the temple itself and the tea room named ‘Taian’, designed by the fountainhead of the Japanese tea ceremony, Sen no Rikyū. Bashō admired both Sōkan and Rikyū. Oyamazaki is also well-known as the site of a famous battle between Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Akechi Mitsuhide. The victor, Hideyoshi, who soon had himself installed as a virtual King of Japan, had been invited more than once to Taian, where Rikyū himself had served tea for him and his subordinate samurais. There, he must have looked upon its slanting ceilings, walls hiding pillars, shitaji-mado (skeleton window), and eaves without gutters allowing rain to fall from the roof as a curtain: tea master Rikyū’s small universe. Each time the master invited guests, it was meant to be for all a fresh, once-in-a-lifetime encounter (ichigo-ichie), never to be staged again. This, we understood, was the essence of Rikyu’s chakai (tea meet).

Spring shade:
a two-tatami tea-room became
a work by Mondrian ……………….. Tomiko

We had lunch in a cozy local restaurant, “Tabitabi,” enjoying the reunion of haiku friends and their families, which included Lawrence (Jiko) and Isabel’s 6-month-old son, Taiyo.

The Easter hare …
see how she leaps
over cherry clouds ……………….. Jiko

Rubbing cheeks,
her grandson looking up …
a cherry-petal blizzard! ……………….. Shigeko

Afterwards, we strolled up the early spring lane to the Asahi Oyamazaki Sansō, where we enjoyed composing haiku in its cherry-blossom water garden and in the mock Tudor main house museum with its exhibition of ceramics by Shōji Hamada.

“Good morrow!”
the greeting came from the ground—
sun-lit periwinkle ……………….. Akira

Red passion
tulip growing—
a mother’s love ……………….. Isabel

Floating petals—
the carp, too
are cherry blossom viewing ……………….. Jiko

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The museum has a third floor terrace with panoramic view northeastwards toward Kyoto. In the middle distance, we perceived a veil of cherry blossoms extending along the river, “Sewari-no-sakura,” which some of us subsequently visited for an evening stroll.

From Sewari’s cherry-trees
petals fall as a blizzard—
our April Fools’ Day stroll  ……………….. Kyoko

Petal waves
blowing down
from mountain to river—
a transient delight  ……………….. Mayumi

There, on the terrace, over cups of English tea and cakes, occasionally visited by a spring zephyr, the fourteen of us shared and discussed the haikus we had made. One of these (given below) was subsequently broadcast (April 18) on B.B.C. Radio Four’s arts magazine show, Front Row. Listen here:  https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09z1d9t (below the photo, click “Chapter: Japanese Cherry Blossom” to go straight to the haiku section)

Wishing the cherry petals
to fall to rest …
on the baby’s eyes ……………….. Tito

Spring at the Edge

Hailstone Haiku Circle once did a series of events on the theme ‘Four Corners of Kyoto’. That was in 2004. It just so happens that this spring we have been out on the edge of Kyoto again a couple of times: April 16 in Ohara (NE corner), participating in a poetry-reading party (sharing some of our favourite spring poetry) hosted by David McCullough … and then, on May 20 in Oyamazaki (SW corner), with a ginko-no-renga event hosted by Hisashi Miyazaki and Akito Mori. Both were blessed with wonderful weather. I thought someone should leave a short account here so that absentees can get an idea of what happened. Both were full of creativity and fun.

Ohara – the cherries were still in full bloom along the river flowing past David’s rural home. We ate and drank outside. Notable attendees included John & Peggy McAteer (over in Japan from Oregon) and Yuko Yuasa (for the first time in many years). David kicked off the reading session inside with the opening passage “When that Aprille with his shoures soote…” from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, followed by his two young twins, Kenji and Minori, each reading a classical tanka. Here’s one of them in David’s translation:

面影に花の姿をさき立てて 幾重越え来ぬ峰の白雲(俊成)
Led on and on
by the image of blossoms,
I have crossed peak beyond peak
to find nothing
but white clouds ……………… (Fujiwara no Shunzei)

This was followed by Tito reading some famous cherry-blossom haiku and then, teaming up with Ursula and Tomo, singing the vernal Veris Leta Facies from Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana. Duro Jaiye then read an impressive poem translated from the Korean and John McAteer recited to great effect – yes, you’ve guessed it! – Yeats. And so on, via many other voices, through a myriad shades of spring! At least 14 Hailstones read. We hear that the last guest to leave, well after dark, was Gerald (Duro) in his pink-of-pinks shirt. Many thanks to David and Atsumi for including us in the ranks of other friends and family members. A memorable day.


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Oyamazaki – the new green leaves (shinryoku) were almost blinding against the deep blue sky. A ginko (composition stroll) was enjoyed in the morning, followed by the compilation of some of the 3- and 2-line verses we had just written into a renga (linked verse) in a room in the Oyamazaki Furusato Centre in the afternoon. Twelve poets came. Notable attendees included Noriko Kan from Matsuyama, Kayo Fukuda from Gunma and her Scottish friend, Graham, just off the plane! Perhaps in Graham’s honour, we briefly visited the Suntory Whisky Distillery. Also, the beautiful garden of the Asahi Oyamazaki Sansō, written about by Natsume Sōseki and replete with kakitsubata (rabbit-ear) iris flowering beside a stream.

有難き姿拝がまんかきつばた (芭蕉)
To that honourable figure
I shall make a bow –
the purple iris flower ……………… (Bashō)

Bashō was referring to Yamazaki Sōkan, an early haiku poet who lived in Oyamazaki and whose haiku monument we also visited. Along with Moritake, he was one of the two pioneers of the haikai-no-renga tradition, on which haiku itself is founded. Later, we were permitted to step into the earthen-floored entrance hall of Myōki-an, a haunt of another of Basho’s heroes, the tea-master Rikyū, part of which is said to have been constructed on the site of Sōkan’s hut. We had not made a prior reservation and so, instead of entering the tea-house, strolled around the nearby Rikyū Hachiman Shrine.

手をついて歌申しあぐる蛙かな (宗鑑)
Hands flat on the ground in front,
reverentially he recites his poem –
the frog! ……………… (Sōkan)

At Takaradera (also known as Hōshakuji Temple) earlier, some of us had paid our respects to Enma-Daiō (the King of Hell) and his truly intimidating Court, a marvellous set of wooden sculptures sitting in its own ‘courthouse’ high on Mt. Tennō. Far below, we had glimpsed the confluence of the three rivers, Katsura, Uji and Kizu, which flow on as the Yodo, on whose banks Buson was born. Lunch was taken in a Chinese restaurant nearby. Hisashi Miyazaki and Richard Donovan then took on the respective roles of sabaki (chief compiler) and shūhitsu (associate ed./scribe) as we began our creative work at the Furusato Centre. It is hoped to share the resultant renga later. For now, then, here is the hokku/wakiku:

A clear sky …
sprouting green leaves
breathe with us ……………… (Akito)

The sound of ice
being dropped into a glass ……………… (Tito)


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