10/01/01

After a strange dream
I wake in a foreign land
and part the curtain
on illuminated fog
over persimmon trees.

In Misho I am taken to city hall where I meet the mayor and the retired priest of the the 14th temple, members of city council and the Binlohji Haiku Group. I am given some parchment and asked to write haiku I'd written since I had been in Misho. Since I really hadn't much time to write haiku while in Misho, I write the few observations I'd jotted down after Mikiko had told me (over breakfast) of the meeting. Embarrassed at my handwriting in the land of Kobo Daishi (one of the three greatest calligraphers in the history of Japan, I've been told) I carefully print a few haiku on the sheets of paper which I am told will be translated into Japanese and hung in city hall.

grey morning-
a leaf sails over
the goldfish urn

persimmons-
shadows on the garden stone

autumn sun-
Mikiko parts the hyacinth
above the goldfish

The group presents me with a number of Japanese texts, one of which is a collection of Basho and two of which are rare copies of Shiki manuscripts. I also play a couple of songs for the assembly. One is an instrumental requiem I wrote for my sister who died last December. I selected it for its lack of words and also because I wanted to honor her. It was her guitar I was carrying, inherited in her death. Because she was unconscious when I found out I won the trip to Japan, I was never able to tell her of my good fortune. Why I imagined playing her song on her guitar in Japan would have such an effect is beyond me but in the absence of reason or faith the imagination will suffice to divert, bundle, or address a grief. Intuitively, it felt like the right selection.
I also received information on the Binlohji haikuists but as the information is in Japanese I cannot give an account of their history or work. There is a haiku stone outside
that has the following haiku inscribed on it:

my homeland
autumn barley
to the top of the hill

(Ozaki Masaji)

I think I have determined that binloh is the betel nut palm. If I'm correct, there are a number of such palms in the area.

waiting
at the bus station-
betel nut tree

10/02/01

Breakfast: egg and dandelion and soy, a unique orange grown in the region that looked and tasted more like a grapefruit, and soy powder over yogurt.

Ritsuko has left a note for her mother beside her breakfast dishes, which are covered with a towel. Ritsuko is in ninth grade and I've been shown her report card which reveals that she is a serious student. I was also shown an advertisement for an upcoming orange festival concert bearing her artwork of a wee-person peering from a hollow orange. The note of course is in Japanese except for the word "fridge" isolated in the middle of the text. Mikiko explains that some phrases are much easier to present in English than kanji, that a word such as refrigerator can be a very involved cluster of ideographs. Ritsuko has studied English in Australia and while she does not speak English at the dinner table she listens intently, sometimes asking her mother questions in Japanese concerning things I have said. For example, when I was talking of deer and cornfields in West Virginia, she asked if there were any bear. I was very impressed with Ritsuko quiescence. Yuko was also a charming daughter but I observed her less because she was out conquering the world. Busy.


Mikiko shows me the kanji for "busy", which consists of the symbol for heart, and a trailing sign of "go away." So "busy" in the Japanese mindset is "the heart goes away." I find these little lessons enjoyable and inspiring. Mikiko and I work at translating the text of "What Makes a Good American Haiku" and in the process I see how bad writing cannot be translated into anything but bad writing. Her questioning makes me look for other phrasings and allusions more compatible not with Japanese sensibilities but with sense in any language. I know that in some sense it is much ado about nothing. I mean, I know my little attempts at understanding are more like falling off a mountain one dreams of scaling. If I act like I have discovered Japan it is only because I have. I am like Ritsuko in the sense that I want to know everything, but my decanter is already full of my own years. Over dinner I slurped my noodles down, but Ritsuko did more listening than eating.

Noodle bowl-
If the moon listens
like Ritsuko listens,
it will always be
full.

10/03/01

breakfast
on a garden stone-
an ant explores my cake

breakfast-
wisteria pods dripping
dew on the garden stone

After breakfast Mikiko takes me to the bank where I exchange a little more currency (not that I have needed all that much, and we stop at the post office where some local crafts are displayed: ikebana, painted gourds and some canned food items. I don't do much of anything that afternoon but journal, rest and nap.

Tsutomu Inada owns a fishing bait and tackle store in Misho. Mikiko has a town meeting to attend to and I am left to his graces, which are many. Mr. Inada learned some English forty-five years ago and so, is very brave to take on the responsibility. He is also very generous. He introduces me to Misho's finest sushi bar. While we cannot understand one another, it does not stop us from having long conversations. Eventually we get in a taxi and meet up with Mikiko and a bunch of folks at a karaoke bar located somewhere just to the left of the moon, which was full. I had never participated in karaoke before and probably never will again. But it was a good time. I sang several Beatle songs and did my not so good imitation of Elvis. Karaoke means "empty orchestra."

empty orchestra-
the moon is not laughing
and a cricket sings