Haibun Road : a haibun weekly challenge (wk 9)

This week’s Basho’s Road Haibun Challenge (week 9)

A haibun is one paragraph followed by one haiku. This week I’m leaving off number the paragraphs as they change quite a lot between translations. This bit is long as I am going to start going from haiku to haiku and this section ha several paragraphs between the haiku from week 8 and this week’s haiku.  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.”

This translation is from Nobuyuki Yuasa’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Other Travel Sketches (p. 103)

By and by I came to a small village. I therefore sent back the horse, with a small amount of money tied to the saddle.
I arrived safely at the town of Kurobane, and visited my friend Joboji, who was then looking after the mansion of his lord in his absence. He was overjoyed to see me so unexpectedly, and we talked for days and nights together. His brother, Tosui, seized every opportunity to talk with me, accompanied me to his home and introduced me to his relatives and friends. One day we took a walk to the suburbs. We saw the ruins of an ancient dog-shooting ground, and pushed farther out into the grass-moor to see the tomb of Lady Tamamo and the famous Hachiman Shrine, upon whose god the brave archer, Yoichi, is said to have called for aid when he was challenged to shoot a single fan suspended over a boat drifting offshore. We came home after dark.
I was invited out to Komyoji Temple, to visit the hall in which was enshrined the founder of the Shugen sect. He is said to have travelled all over the country in wooden clogs, preaching his doctrines.
natsuyami ni
ashida o ogamu
kadode ka na
Amid mountains of high summer,
I bowed respectfully before
The tall clogs of a statue,
Asking a blessing on my Journey.

Footnotes on this passage by Yuasa:
Joboji Takakatsu (1658-1730) was a high ranking samurai in the service of Ozeki Masutsuen. Tosui (1662-1728) was a younger brother of Joboji Takakatsu. His real name was Kanokobata Toyoaki. According to Sora, his pen name was Suito rather than Tosui. Dog-shooting was a sport invented in the beginning of the Kamakura period, probably for the purpose of practicing archery. It went out of fashion, however, rather quickly. Lady Tamamo is generally believed to have been a fox in disguise. She became a favorite of Emperor Konoe (1139-55), but her disguise being suspected by a priest, she fled to the northern provinces, and finally transformed herself into a poisonous rock. Nasu-no-Yoichi was a minor samurai in the service of the Minamotos. He succeeded in shooting a fan suspended over a drifting boat in the battle of Yashima in 1185, a feat that made him famous throughout the country.

I think McCullough’s footnotes on this passage is helpful too:
On Lady Tamamo: “According to legend, Lady Tamamo was a fox-woman with whom an Emperor fell in love. After having been unmasked by a diviner, she fled to Nasu, where local warriors shot her down. Her vindictive spirit survived as Killer Rock, a large boulder releasing poisonous fumes.”
On Ascetic’s Hall: “The hall was dedicated to En no Ozuna (fl. 8th c.), a miracle-working mountain ascetic. The image there is believed to have shown the holy man wearing high clogs and garments of leaves, holding a staff, and leaning against a rock.”

Other translations of the same haiku. (translator in parenthesis)

Toward summer mountains
we set off after prayers
before the master’s clogs.
(Helen Craig McCullough)
Classical Japanese Prose: An Anthology
summer hills:
we pray to the clogs
as we depart
(Hiroaki Sato)
Basho’s Narrow Road: Spring and Autumn Passages (Rock Spring Collection of Japanese Literature)
in the summer mountains
praying before the clogs:
setting off
(David Landis Barnhill)
Basho’s Journey: The Literary Prose of Matsuo Basho
in summer mountains
bow to holy high-water clogs:
bless this long journey
(Sam Hamill)
Narrow Road to the Interior: And Other Writings

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 Journey: The Literary Prose of Matsuo Basho

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.
Early Modern Japanese Literature: An Anthology, 1600-1900 (Abridged Edition) (Translations from the Asian Classics (Paperback))

Classical Japanese Prose: An Anthology
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 (Shambhala Classics) (translator Sam Hamill)

Basho’s Journey: The Literary Prose of Matsuo Basho (translator David Landis Barnhill )

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

The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Other Travel Sketches (translator Nobuyuki Yuasa)

Basho’s Narrow Road: Spring and Autumn Passages (Rock Spring Collection of Japanese Literature) (translator: Hiroaki Sato)

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. This time I went for the easy search and plopped in clogs.

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.” Your price remains the same.