Haibun Road : a haibun weekly challenge (wk 5)

This week’s Basho’s Road Haibun Challenge (week 5)

A haibun is one paragraph followed by one haiku. This week we start the journey with Basho’s sixth and seventh paragraph with a haiku (my paragraph numbering changes with the translation as the number of paragraphs depends on the translations –surprised me too!). Use any bit (word, phrase, concept) as the inspiration of your own haibun (one paragraph and a haibun). To participate pingback or paste your haibun link in the comments and tag your contribution “Haibun Road.”

Nobuyuki Yuasa translated Basho’s 6th & 7th paragraph and haiku (The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Other Travel Sketches). Two other translations follow. (Note on sources: books are linked to Amazon, see affiliate disclosure in sidebar or at bottom. Nonbook sources are linked to their sites when available)

I lodged in an inn at the foot of Mount Nikko on the night of March the thirtieth. The host of the inn introduced himself as Honest Gozaemon, and told me to sleep in perfect peace upon his grass pillow, for his sole ambition was to be worthy of his name. I watched him rather carefully but found him almost stubbornly honest, utterly devoid of worldly cleverness. It was as if the merciful Buddha himself had taken the shape of a man to help me in my wandering pilgrimage. Indeed, such saintly honesty and purity as his must not be scorned, for it verged closely on the Perfection preached by Confucius.
On the first day of April, I climbed Mount Nikko to do homage to the holiest of the shrines upon it. This mountain used to be called Niko (二荒). When the highest priest Kukai built a temple upon it, however, he changed the name to Nikko (日光), which means the bright beams of the sun. Kukai must have had the power to see a thousand years into the future, for the mountain is now the seat of the most sacred of all shrines,  and its benevolent power prevails throughout the land, embracing the entire people, like the bright beams of the sun. To say more about the shrine would be to violate its holiness.
with awe I beheld
fresh leaves, green leaves
bright in the sun

The haiku poem in Japanese:

arata futo
aoba wakaba no
hi no hikari
direct translation of words using google
newly suddenly
blue leaves’ young leaves’
sun’s light

Notes: 光 hikari can mean : light, shining, glittering, gleaming so can be: sun’s glittering, sun’s shining, sun’s gleaming. の no is possessive so 日の means “sun’s”. Note on 青葉 aoba blue leaves; 青ao means blue but some blues are like a green blue and fall under 青ao.  So for traffic lights, they call the go light, the blue light.  So blue leaves does mean green leaves. There is a  different kanji for green and greenery: 緑 midori.

Translations can differ.  Note on this one, instead of saying “Mount Niko”, he translated “Mount Two Disaster” and instead of “Nikko”, he translated “Sunlight”

On the first day of fourth month, we paid our respects to The Mountain. In ancient times the name of this mountain used to be written to read Mount Two Disasters, but when the Great Teacher Kukai founded the temple, he changed it to Sunlight. He must have foreseen the future a thousand years ahead: today the light from this place illuminates the entire heaven, its beneficience fills the whole land, and the easeful home for all four classes of people is peaceful. Awestruck, i was barely able to take up my brush:
Look, so holy:
green leaves young leaves
in the light of the sun

(not sure of the translator. Source: Onegaishimasu
The Amazing Adventures of Jon and Nancy)

And here is one more translation. While the previous person said “Mount Two Disasters”, Hamill called it “Two Wildernesses”

The last night of the third moon, an inn at the foot of Mount Nikko. The innkeeper is called Hotoke Gozemon, “Joe Buddha.” He says his honesty earned him the name and invites me to make myself at home. A merciful buddha suddenly appearing like an ordinary man to help a pilgrim along his way, his simplicity’s a great gift, his sincerity unaffected. A model of Confucian rectitude, my host is a bodhisattva.
On the first day of the fourth moon, climbed to visit the shrines on a mountain once called Two Wildernesses, renamed by Kukai when he dedicated the shrine. Perhaps he saw a thousand years into the future, this shrine under sacred skies, his compassion endlessly scattered through the eight directions, falling equally, peaceably, on all four classes of people. The greater the glory, the less these words can say.
Ah — Speechless before
These budding green spring leaves
In blazing sunlight

(translator Sam Hamill.  Source: Narrow Road to the Interior: And Other Writings)

I found this version on a marijuana page.  Took some digging to find the translator.

Ah, how glorious!
The young leaves, the green leaves
Glittering in the sunshine!
(according to one source translated by R.H. Blyth in Genius of Haiku. This version ended up on a cannabis page under another Basho poem.  Now you see those two poems run together on many other web pages. People didn’t realize they were two different poems.  I have no clue as to why they thought the leaves were marijuana.  One post (the one I think others are copying from as it’s the earliest) refers to a Drake on their bibliography but the bibliography is no longer on the web. However cannabis was not illegal in Japan until MacArthur took over after WWII and was horrified to see it growing everywhere.  He made a law against it during the American occupation and the law stuck.)
Genius of Haiku : Readings from R. H. Blyth on Poetry, Life, and Zen

Haibun Challenge parameters

There is no right or wrong although there are a couple rules.

  • One paragraph followed by one haiku/senryu.
  • Paragraphs can be short or long (but please don’t make one paragraph book length!)
  • Haiku/senryu should be 5/7/5 syllables or pretty close. 3, 5 and 7 are numbers with special meaning in Japanese culture so that’s probably how the form arose.
  • To share what you’ve written, add a pingback or paste your link in the comments and tag your post “haibun road”. My blog is moderated due to spam and to avoid people’s contribution ending up in the spam folder. Your link may not show up right away but should show up within 24 hours. I will check regularly for pingbacks/comments but I have a real life too so be patient please.

Each week I do a round up of everyone’s contributions. I post this on Mondays (late Mondays, not early! so look for it in the evenings Arizona time between 11pm and midnight. I am not a morning person. ). I was going to do it on Saturdays but it turns out it’s not a good evening for me. The writing prompt is for the week, so that you’ll have a week to come up with a haibun.

I’ll write a haibun for this challenge too tomorrow. I figure why write haibun alone? It’s always more fun to share a journey with companions.I hope you will join me and look forward to your writing.

Basho’s Narrow Road: Spring and Autumn Passages

What is a haibun?

A haibun is a short prose paragraph followed by a haiku/senryu. The paragraph can be one’s thoughts, a travel journal, a diary entry, an essay or even a short story. Basho, a monk in Japan, wrote the first haibun in 1690. I liken it to impressionism: it’s something you capture in the moment through writing, fleeting as the moment changes, imperfect but authentic.

I’m inviting you to write a short paragraph and a haiku inspired by the prompt. The inspiration may be a word, a phrase, a sentence or the whole paragraph from the prompt. One person might take “time to sweep the cobwebs from my broken house” and write about an abandoned building.
Japanese Poetic Diaries

A Haiku Journey: Bashos Narrow Road to a Far Province
Another person may be inspired by the haiku. Another person may take the word “rambling” to describe their most recent travel. Go with whatever inspires you.

In case you are interested this is a audio reading from Basho’s “Narrow Road to the North” in Japanese by kaseumin (first audio of 5; Chapters 1 thru 9) made available through the Gutenberg Project



Matsuo Bashô: Oku no Hosomichi (Nine Translations of the Opening Paragraph), Bureau of Public Secrets

Narrow Road to the Interior: And Other Writings (translator Sam Hamill)

Japanese Poetic Diaries by Earl Miner (Editor, Translator)

Matsuo Bashō’s haiku poems in romanized Japanese with English translations
pdf Editor: Gábor Terebess (Hungary)

Basho’s Narrow Road: Spring and Autumn Passages (translator : Hiroaki Sato)

A Haiku Journey: Bashos Narrow Road to a Far Province (translator: Dorothy Britton)

Classical Japanese Prose: An Anthology (translator: Helen Craig McCullough)

On Love and Barley: Haiku of Basho (translator: Lucien Stryk)

audio readings from Basho’s “Narrow Road to the North” in Japanese by kaseumin

Links are to the books on Amazon (I’m an affiliate but it’s also easy to find book titles there).

You can use the Amazon search bar to do any search at Amazon as I did with “journal haibun”. Results will vary over time. Today I only saw two results but both looked interesting: Vagabond Song: Neo-Haibun from the Peregrine Journals and American Poet : with an article on “A Closer Look at Writing Haibun” (2011 Journal). One is a collection of haibuns pulled from the Peregrine, an annual journal of poetry and short fiction with submission information on their website. If you’re looking to submit, keep an eye out for when submissions are open. The other is volume 40 of American Poet journal published by the Academy of American Poets, currently published twice a year. Some back issues can also be purchased through the AAP website.

As an Amazon affiliate, I may earn a fee if you click on the above links and buy something. This does not affect your price which remains the same. Amazon disclosure: “We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.”