THE LITTLE STONE BUDDHA AND THE LONELY FIFE OF THE RAMEN SELLER

Here is a haiku from 2006. It is about the Jizobosatsu. A bosatsu is a Buddhist Bodhisattva. But a Jizobosatsu is a small stone statue of a little standing Buddha or Bodhisattva. They are placed in shrines and at temples, and so forth. They are meant to protect children.  A common place to find them is at a mountain temple along a trail where a rock juts out over an indentation in the side of the mountain creating a natural shrine like covering.

It is especially common to find a bunch of small ones in such places, put there by women who have had stillborns, had a miscarriage, or had abortions (which is a fairly common means of birth control in Japan.) They are meant for the spirits of the unborn child.

夜の雪也
古地蔵菩
淋しかろ

Yo no yuki ya

furu jizobosatsu

sabishikaro

A snowy night.

The old jizobosatsu

must be lonely…

Here is another one that I will try to relate to you—it is extremely subjective because it has the most meaning to me based on one particular Ramen-seller. In Japan you might find Ramen-sellers–street vendors–pushing their carts of hot ramen through the streets in the evenings and on into the night in many cities and villages (big enough to support them). They carried a fife, and each one had it’s own roughly 4-5 second song that it would play as it moved through the streets to call out to customers. You could often hear common versions of these songs on ramen commercials on TV, where they become theme songs for ramen brands.

When I first lived in Japan, I lived in Moriguchi, a suburb of Osaka, between Osaka and Kyoto. The streets were filled with sweat shops, small factories, and machine shops, between rice fields, cheap apartments, and a share of family run restaurants and bars. One night I heard a song out in the streets coming from a distance–it was a lonely call, almost like a lonely bird calling for its mate. I listened as it grew closer. It would play for about 5 seconds, and then silence, after about 20 seconds or so, it would play again. It got closer and closer until I heard him outside, and looked out the window to see him pushing his cart. I just sat and listened as I heard him slowly disappear in to the distance.

Of all the ramen-seller songs I heard over the years in different parts of Japan, that was my all time favorite. It was also the loneliest of all the ones I ever heard. I don’t know what key it was in—I’m not that good at identifying musical keys, but it was played on a fife. It went something like this (starting with C for simplicity):

(C)——–(D)——(F)——–(E-flat)–(D)–(E-flat)——–(F)–(E-Flat)–(D)–(C)–

Maybe it went to (E-natural) instead of (F), but that was the basic tune.

人なしの雪道
ラーメン屋の

Hitonashi no fuyumichi

ramen-ya no

fue 

In the empty winter street

the Ramen-seller’s

fife

Hitonashi means no people, or without people.

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