Sharp blades drumming

Yesterday turned into a wet day (much, much worse further south on the island so not complaining) so I dived into the video store and hired some DVDs.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011) is a delightful documentary looking at the work (which it turns out is also the life) of Jiro Ono, an 85-year-old sushi master who has three Michelin stars for his nine-seater restaurant in a Tokyo railway station. A food writer says dining there may take 15 minutes – which probably makes it the most expensive restaurant in the world. Although no mention was made of whale meat, there was plenty of discussion about tuna. Anyway, it seemed serendipitous to discover this haiku, new to me.    

                     whale-meat market 
sharp blades
 
drumming

– Yosa Buson (1716-1784)

The translation is by Stephen Addiss and appears in his book The Art of Haiku (Shambhala Publications, 2012). There are amazingly sharp blades featured throughout the film.

.貰ふたよ只一切のはつ松魚
morauta yo tada hito kire no hatsu-gatsuo

my portion
just a tiny slice …
summer’s first bonito

– Issa, written in 1824

Translated by David Lanoue and from his Haiku of Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828). This note also appears: Shinji Ogawa explains, “Bonito swim along the Black Current (or Japan Current), from the Philippine Sea to the northern sea around Hokkaido. They pass near Tokyo (Edo) in spring [old calendar = summer] on their way north. They return to pass Tokyo in the fall on their way back to the south.” In haiku, bonito is a summer season word.

Horse Mackerel and Prawns, a woodblock print by Hiroshige. Image: Wikipedia.

Towards the end of the film Jiro, who was abandoned by his family when he was seven years old, and his older son Yoshikazu bemoan the small numbers of fish available, and that the quality is more variable than in the past. They believe part of the problem is the proliferation of sushi bars throughout the world (I had the impression they didn’t much care for the conveyor belt outfits).

桜えびすしに散らして今日ありぬ
sakura ebi sushi ni shirashite kyoo arinu

cherryblossom shrimps
sprinkled on my sushi —
what a fine day!

Hosomi Ayako (1907-1997)

Translated by Gabi Greve and taken from her World Kigo Database page for Raw Fish, which includes this note: The shrimps are a speciality of Suruga Bay, Sagami Bay and a few others, where they are caught and dried on the shore, with Mt. Fuji in the background … Eating them brings the pleasant feeling of spring, even in winter.

Bowl of Sushi, a woodblock print by Hiroshige. Image: Wikipedia.

Mid-winter evening,
alone at the sushi bar —
just me and this eel

– Billy Collins, from Modern Haiku 35.3 (2004)

ひとみ元消化器なりし冬青空
Hitomi moto / shôkaki narishi / fuyu-aozora

eyes used to be
digestive organs —
winter blue sky

– Yukihiko Settsu (1947-1996)

Translated by Keiji Minato and taken from his essay Notes on Modern Haiku, section 3.

Gochisōsama deshita! (Said after a meal by those who have enjoyed eating it – I hope you like / enjoy these haiku as much as I have.)

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Choosing carefully

Gion alley –
I follow the tsunami
on her kimono

– Sandra Simpson, NOON 9 (Japan)

Obi detail seen near Kyoto Station. Photo: Sandra Simpson

When I saw this obi (the waist sash around a kimono) I knew that one day I would use it in a haiku – it just seemed so different to the others that I had seen on my all-too-brief stay in Kyoto, which were mostly flowers, butterflies, leaves and embroidered balls. This obi design seemed so very strong, almost masculine (had it belonged to the wearer’s father?), and it appears to be depicting something rough and tough, rather than something delicate and pretty.

When I came to the word choice for my haiku, tsunami seemed to me to contain more possibilities for readers than, say, typhoon –  after a quick online check the latter turns out to be a Chinese word (taifu in Japanese). The editor of NOON lives in Japan so, whew!

Gion is an old area of Kyoto, best known for its geisha (called geiko in Kyoto). Westerners seem to think Gion is something akin to a red-light area but geisha are not prostitutes, rather highly trained entertainers who can be hired for an hour or a night (although I have played on the Western misunderstanding in my haiku).

Trainees (maiko) are taught to sing, dance, play a musical instrument, understand Japan’s highly nuanced etiquette and be good conversationalists. The one my group met had no questions for us after we had questioned her about her training and background, and the older geisha accompanying her advised (in Japanese) “next time have something to ask them”.

The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Hokusai (1760-1849). Image: Wikipedia

Made in about 1830, this woodblock print, often known simply as The Great Wave, was the first in the artist’s Thirty-Six Views of Mt Fuji and is now one of the best-known pieces of Japanese art in the world. Adding to the popularity of this print at the time, was its extensive use of the new synthetic colour pigment Prussian blue, which gave a greater range of shades of blue and a greater depth of colour.

her kimono sleeve
brushes
the first blossom –
spring wind

– Sandra Simpson, Famous Reporter (Australia, 2010)

Patiently posing during Haiku Pacific Rim in Australia in 2009 (amid the lingering affects of a dust storm) was Japanese poet Mariko Kitakubo. Photo: Sandra Simpson