Haibun Road : a haibun weekly challenge (wk 10)

This week’s Basho’s Road Haibun Challenge (week 10)

A haibun is one paragraph followed by one haiku. I’m leaving off number the paragraphs as they change quite a lot between translations. I show different translations week to week. Today is two framing paragraphs around the 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 Helen Craig McCullough’s Classical Japanese Prose: An Anthology

The site of the Venerable Butcho’s hermitage was behind Unganji Temple in  that province. Butcho once told me that he had used pine charcoal to inscribe a poem on a rock there:
tateyoko no
goshaku ni taranu
kusa no iori
musubu mo kuyashi
ame nakariseba
Ah, how I detest
building any shelter at all,
even a grass-thatched
hovel less than five feet square!
Were it not for the rainstorms
Unganji Temple, Tochigi prefecture, Japan. source : 投稿者が撮影 from Wikimedia Commons. Cryptomerias are Japanese cedars.
Staff in hand, I prepared to set out for the temple to see what was left of the hermitage. A number of people encouraged one another to accompany me, and I acquired a group of young companions who kept up a lively chatter along the way. We reached the lower limits of the temple grounds in no time. The mountains created an impression of great depth. The valley road stretched far into the distance, pines and cryptomerias rose in dark masses, the moss dripped with moisture, and there was a bite to the air, even though it was the Fourth Month. We viewed all of the Ten Sights and entered the main gate by way of a bridge.

Footnotes on this passage by Sam Hamill:
Basho studied Zen under Butcho (1643-1715) at Chokei Temple in Edo between 1673 and 1684.
McCullough’s footnotes on this passage:
The Ten Sights were various rocks, peaks, buildings, etc., within the temple precincts.

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

This grassy hermitage,
Hardly any more
Than five feet square,
I would gladly quit
But for the rain.
(Nobuyuki Yuasa)
The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Other Travel Sketches
A five-foot thatched hut —
I wouldn’t even put it up
but for falling rain
(Sam Hamill)
Narrow Road to the Interior: And Other Writings
A grass-thatched hut
less than five feet square:
regrettable indeed
to build even this —
if only there were no rains
(David Landis Barnhill)
Basho’s Haiku: Selected Poems of Matsuo Basho

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 )

Basho’s Haiku: Selected Poems 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 tried several different things with no results. Interestingly “temple” did get results but not “temples”. The Unganji temple is in Tochigi prefecture, Japan so I gave “tochigi” a whirl and here we are.

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.