The most philosophical seasons for me, are fall and winter. Therefore I tend to like those haiku best. In fact, it is usually in the fall and winter when I really get in the mood to write haiku. As I stated in the previous post, this blog started as a thread on an internet forum around New Years. Therefore, you will have to forgive me if you are already in the mood for Spring—after all it is April. But I will originally draw mostly from that thread, and much of that was posted during January, February, and March, which are still mostly winter months.
Besides, I live in Colorado, and while we have had some nice warm spring days, as I sit and write this, we are looking at the next three days to be filled with snow fall—so you know——winter weather hasn’t really left for me. This is from one of my posts in March:
Denver had its first actual heavy snow of the season last night, all day, and into the early evening. I was up much of the night writing, and took frequent breaks to look out the window. Today I did the same—the Japanese call that yukimi—snow watching—which is the same concept (different season) as hanami (cherry blossum viewing). It was blizzard conditions to the east of us.
It was a good day to stay inside, which I did for the most part. I did come up with a few haiku—not my favorites but—the first one was from the early am, before sunrise when I went to bed:
ware eda no oto
Climbing in the futon
the sound of a branch breaking
the big snow storm!
Fortunately that did not happen—but it is certainly a problem during some big snows, and the last thing you want to hear when climbing into bed.
kotatsu ni cha
mado ni ohyuki
My mountain home
tea in the kotatsu
blizzard out the window
For anyone who has never been to Japan in the winter you are missing out on the joy that is the kotatsu. Japanese houses are generally built for the hot humid summers. They are not that warm in the winter. The newer condos may be a different story, but the houses are just not that warm. Instead of warming the whole house, families will just warm up the room or rooms they are using. When I lived in Japan, a lot of people still used kerosene stoves to warm these rooms which meant that every so often they would need to open up the shoji, and open up windows and doors to the outside to let fresh air in and prevent too much build up of toxic gases from the stove. You didn’t want to do it–but you had to—and the nice warm room was quickly filled with fresh, but very cold, air.
The kotatsu is a table that has a heater under the table top connected to a frame that connects the legs. A heavy futon blanket fits over this frame with the table top on top of the blanket. (In the olden days, the table was simply put over a cut out space in the floor and a charcoal stove was placed in that). Sitting under the warm kotatsu is a great winter past time in Japan. Around New Years, families will sit around it, legs, feet, and often hands in the nice warmth under the blanket—playing games, watching tv, eating mikan (mandarin oranges), drinking coffee and green tea. It is a very cozy place for lovers to enjoy… It is a feeling of warmth all around.
koi koi to
karasu ga yonde
The snow stopped
the crow calls
Koi could also mean love, and so this particular haiku could also be of a crow suggesting people to, ‘Make love! Make love!’ On the other hand it also means carp…
We had a smaller storm on the 9th. Early in the morning I looked out my window. The sun was already over the horizon bathing the earth with its morning light, the snow from overnight had ended. There was a flock of crows in the trees across the street, calling out to each other. The sound of crows always reminds me of Japan.
matsu ni tsuki to
washi shika kikan
No one heard it
but the pine and the moon and myself,
the eagle’s call
Washi, eagle–is a winter word. Washi is also a lower class way of saying I (watakushi), It is common in country dialects. Then there is ‘Wai‘—-so for all you students of Japanese who want to be rebels in the class room—stop using watakushi, or watashi—just replace it with washi, or wai. Washi was typical in the prewar Osaka dialect—at least among the labor and peasant classes. Wai, as I understand was used especially in the Kawachi Dialect that was spoken closer to the mountains on the Eastern side of Osaka. You can still hear it in the Osaka suburbs in the Kisaichi area (or at least you could back in the 80’s)—just hang out in some of the dirtier bars in Kisaichi late at night and listen to the drunks. Kawachi was considered the crudest, worst dialect, composed of the worst bastardization of grammar, and creating the most profane and rude subculture of all of Japan.
If your teacher complains just say—-Ey yanke! Wai wa na… Ey nihongo o narateiru sakai ya na… (which in standard Japanese is, ii desu yo! Watakushi wa neee… Ii nihongo o narateiru desu kara ne) (It’s ok! For me… I’m learning some good Japanese). Be sure and really roll your r’s, and make your voice low, and adding a texture of drunken speech helps a lot too. (If your teacher is from Tokyo, she’ll probably treat you with kid’s gloves after that. Though she may try to dig into your background to see if you have yakuza (mafia), or perhaps bosouzoku (motorcycle gang) connections. If you’re female, unfortunately it would be funny and strange to say such things—just stick with atashi.
I composed this one a year ago–for a piece of artwork a friend of mine had created:
mada tatsu ka
yama no oi matsu
The heavy snow storm!
Does it still stand?
the old pine on the mountain
This haiku is one of strength and perseverance. If you have ever been up above timberline, you are probably well aware of the old pine trees that grow out of the rocks and crags right around timberline. They survive through extreme conditions and are almost always twisted and bent by the severe winds that blow across the mountain peaks that high.
asa no koi ya
yuki no tama
esa ni machigae
The morning carp!
mistakes a snowflake
for fish food
When I was married to my Japanese wife, her father kept carp in the garden. The carp pond was between the main house and our room. You could always hear them gulping at the surface of the pond—anything that fell in there they immediately assumed to be food.