Tag Archives: 俳句

Plum Blossom at the Imperial Palace Park


On my way home from Kitano Tenmangu Shrine the other day, I stopped by the Imperial Palace Park to enjoy the plum blossom. The trees at Kitano Tenmangu are probably more famous, but the shrine grounds were also a lot more crowded. Though each tree in the park had its admirers, there was really only a small scattering of people around, and so I could enjoy the blooms in a more relaxed and pleasant manner.

Every tree has its admirers...

Every tree has its admirers…

And there is something very calming about viewing plum blossom.


The scent of plum blossom is subtle, not strong, but deep like wine and very rich. I love to stick my nose in a spray and take a big sniff!

梅が香に追い戻さるるさむさかな [松尾 芭蕉]

ume ga ka ni
samusa kana
~ Matsuo Bashō

plum blossom scent
this chases off
the cold!
( tr. Michael Lambe)

Honke Owariya with Sean Lotman

2014-06-15 15.25.25 (Medium)
On Sunday Mewby and I had the pleasure of lunch with writer/photographer Sean Lotman. Sean’s wife manages the Honke Owariya soba noodle business, a family company which is pretty famous in Kyoto.  The business actually dates from 1465, though they “only” started making noodles Sean told me about 300 or 400 years ago, as they were originally a confectionary business.  They still make confectionary but it is the noodles that have made it famous. We met up with Sean at the main branch of Honke Owariya, a delightful old traditional Kyoto building for a stimulating lunch of hearty food and good conversation in beautiful surrounds. Continue reading

Blue Sky – An Excerpt from Deep Kyoto Walks



Today I am posting another in a series of short excerpts from our ebook Deep Kyoto: Walks. In Blue Sky, the poet Stephen Henry Gill acts as a guide to the Saga & Arashiyama area for a young visitor who has come to learn more about the conservation NPO, People Together for Mt. Ogura. Stephen whimsically names his visitor Blue Sky, because that was the first thing he saw that fine autumn day. We join them mid-way through the tour…

On our left is a tilled field, in which the raggedy, nondescript greens are straggling. Going down this near side of the field, we soon come to the rustic gate of Rakushisha, the ‘House of Fallen Persimmons’, the thatched cottage once owned by Mukai Kyorai (1651-1704), and where his haiku master, Matsuo Bashō (1644-94), once stayed. Here, Bashō wrote his Saga Nikki, the ‘Saga Diary’. Another story for Blue:

One day in autumn, a merchant from Osaka passed the house, which was then located in an orchard of persimmon trees. He went in and negotiated with Kyorai to purchase the entire crop, paying him an advance and telling him he would come back the following day to harvest the glowing orange-coloured fruit. Kyorai went to bed feeling pleased with himself, but awoke in the night as a storm set in and proceeded to shake all the fruit down onto the ground. The crop was ruined and, the next day, when the merchant finally appeared, Kyorai had to hand back the deposit he’d received. From that day on, he would refer to himself ironically as ‘The Master of Persimmons’.

Continue reading

ECHOES: Painting & Poetry Exhibition at KICH – February 25 ~ March 2

ECHOES is an upcoming poetry and art exhibition organized by the Hailstone Haiku Circle, and featuring the conservation efforts of PTO (People Together for Mt. Ogura). Click on the flyer below for details!
H a i g a c o l l a b o r a t i o n
Hailstone Haiku Circle is an international group founded in 2000 by Stephen Gill and centred on Kyoto. Its main activity is to compose, share and publish English language haiku, but recently it did so based on paintings brought to the meetings. Each poet took home one of these paintings and wrote a haiku to accompany it. Many of these collaborations are displayed in this exhibition. Haiku seems like an entirely new art when written in English, and, fortunately, many of the poets are also fine artists!

M t. O g u r a c o r n e r
In summer 2003, Stephen Gill spent 16 hours walking about Mt. Ogura in Saga, Kyoto. His objective was to write poems celebrating the mountain, but inadvertently he discovered many environmental problems, including a huge amount of rubbish tipped there. The following year, he met Okiharu Maeda of the NPO ‘ACE’ (and more recently, PTO) and, ever since, together they have been clearing the rubbish and attracting to this beautiful mountain many volunteers, both Japanese and foreign. There will be a small section of the exhibition devoted to artworks and poetry made on or for Mt. Ogura.

4 min. from Keage Station on Subway Tozai Line. Here is a MAP.
Dates: February 25 (Tue.) ~ March 2 (Sun.) 11:00~19:00
First day opens 12:00, reception 18:00~ 20:00 last day closes at 18:00
Admission Free!
Enquiries (K.I.C.H.): 075-752-1187
HAILSTONE HAIKU CIRCLE (Stephen Gill): 075 865 2773
Hailstone Haiku Circle: http://hailhaiku.wordpress.com/
PTO: http://www.ptogura.org/ep.html
KICH: http://www.kcif.or.jp/HP/access/en/index.html


Meltdown – An Anthology of Haiku, Z – A

meltdownMELTDOWN メルトダウン (2013) An Anthology of Haiku, Z to A.
ISBN: 978-4-9900822-5-3
Edited by Stephen Henry Gill
Includes almost 500 haiku and a short 4-part seasonal renku cycle over 228 pages.
Cover by Richard Steiner.
Price:¥1,500; airmail $20, incl. p&p
Dimensions: 19 x 13 cm.  Covers feature a tactile matt paper finish.
How to order: details are at the Hailstone Haiku Circle’s Publications page: http://hailhaiku.wordpress.com/publications/

I thought I might examine some gems from the latest Hailstone haiku anthology for clues as to haiku possibilities. What makes a haiku a haiku? Wherein lies the haiku’s charm? Why indeed, write haiku at all?

Haiku, we know, should be brief, and Japanese haiku conventionally (though not always) follow a 5-7-5 Japanese syllabic count. There are some masters of the haiku craft who stick to the 5-7-5 syllable count in English – and work wonders within those confines:

Ainu songs are sad:
like this deep blue crater lake
with fog cascading

(Nobuyuki Yuasa, Meltdown, pg 119)

Many people also think a haiku should be written in three lines, and this is often the case. But not always. There are those who throw both syllable and line counts aside, with brilliantly bold experiments.

Unspoken history dark clouds shroud the hunter’s moon

(Duro Jaiye, Ibid, pg 71)

sun fingers
the forest snow
no-one is here

(David McCullough, Ibid, pg 65) Continue reading

English Haiku Poems Class

Hailstone Haiku Circle “Hibikiai Forum”


Click to look around the classroom.

One of the most enjoyable activities I regularly take part in, is the monthly haiku class at Friend Peace House. I’d recommend it to anyone who is interested in learning more about poetic forms like haiku, senryu, and tanka in English. The class is usually divided into two main parts. After sharing an introductory poem of his own, the facilitator leads us in an analysis of several haiku that have been submitted anonymously prior to the class by group members. Members freely offer feedback with an aim to polishing these poetic efforts. After some announcements and a break, the facilitator or a guest speaker will introduce a theme. This could be anything, but in the past we have had lessons on Irish Haiku, the American haikus of Jack Kerouac, food haiku, animal haiku… Last time we began to look at the roots of English haiku in Orientalism, and I am very much looking forward to the next session when we will be continuing this series with a lesson on the Imagists. Continue reading

Nov. 23 (Sat.) Autumn Recreation Hike & Maple Planting on Mt. Ogura, Kyoto

View from Ogura

Photo from Stephen Gill.

This Saturday PTO (People Together for Mount Ogura) & the Hailstone Haiku Circle will have a joint hiking/recreational event on Mt Ogura. Here are the details from Stephen Gill: Continue reading

Hiking & Haiku on the Uminobe-no-Michi Trail

For the last 3 years or so I have been joining the Hailstone Haiku Circle on their annual autumn hike. Always good outings, in previous years we have gone further afield to Mount Daisen in Tottori, and Tateyama in Toyama, but this year’s hike was closer to home: along the Lakeside Way (湖ノ辺の道 Uminobe-no-michi), in Northern Shiga. These are haiku composition hikes, so we take notes as we walk and at the end of the day exchange our poems over dinner and drinks. Before that though, a 14 kilometer trek along Lake Yogo, up Mount Shizugatake and along the range before climbing up and down Mount Yamamoto. Many thanks to Richard Donovan who organized this year’s excursion, and who will be posting has posted an account with the group’s haiku on the Hailstone site soon. Here I shall post my own photos of the day including some Ricoh Theta spherical images. If you click on those spherical images you can view a fully immersive 360 degree photograph.

IMG_6668 (Medium)The tree pictured above is said to be 天女の衣掛柳 – the willow upon which a heavenly maiden hung her robe. According to the story a passing fisherman seeing the beautiful maiden swimming in Lake Yogo, hid the robe from her, thus preventing her return to heaven. He then took her home with him and kept her as his wife. Years later one of her children found the robe and returned it to her, whereupon she instantly flew back to heaven leaving her husband and children devastated without her… Continue reading

2nd Haiku Workshop with Ted Taylor @ Sakura Ryokan

Our Ted will host his second haiku workshop at Sakura Ryokan this Friday (January 25th). The lesson is free of charge and no reservation is necessary. Sakura Ryokan is located south of Gojo on the east side of Aburanokoji Street. Here is a map. The workshop begins at 7.30pm. More details here.

Cultural Winter Evening! Haiku - Japanese Short Poem Making Workshop

Haiku Workshop with Ted Taylor @ Sakura Ryokan

Just a quick post to say that our pal, Ted Taylor, will present a regular English haiku workshop at Sakura Ryokan from December 7th (tomorrow!). The lesson is free of charge and no reservation is necessary. Sakura Ryokan is located south of Gojo on the east side of Aburanokoji Street. Here is a map. The workshop begins at 8pm. More details here.