SECTION 5


Japanese morning:
the insects know all
the familiar songs

I showed Hiromi's son, Tomoyuki, some little tricks with my fingers: pulling one off and sticking it back on, "Here's the church, and here's the steeple . . . ." A little bit of nonsense rarely hurts anyone. In this case, I think I made a friend. He brought out some origami paper and folded a star. In turn, I folded an airplane.

We all drove into Matsuyama City and visited the Shiki Memorial Museum, one of the things I had asked to be shown. It's a three-story building with five rooms on the top floor, seven on the second, and five on the bottom . . . .Sorry. I could not resist. It does have three floors, though. It's a simple but elegant building that occupies a solid chunk of space about the way monuments do, but with a certain lightness. It was designed as a memorial to Masaoka Shiki, a wondrous thing, at least to me, for I live only a few miles from Martins Ferry, and I can not imagine anybody commemorating James Wright in such a splendid manner. The exhibits are arranged in order to provide a context for Shiki's life by displaying historical artifacts of Japan, of Matsuyama, and, of course, some of Shiki's personal artifacts.

clay tile
over the replica of Shiki's room
authentic

I stopped in the museum shop and bought a few postcards, one of which I later sent to my father, and a print of one of Shiki's paintings. Somebody I met the previous day was in the shop and presented me with a reproduction of Shiki's last three haiku, because she loved them.
When I left the shop, one of the sales clerks chased after me to present me with a bound English translation of much of what I had just seen. I can't remember the last time a museum in America gave me anything but a little tin button with its initials on it, something I should display on my lapel to show that I had paid my way in and not shinnied down some elevator cable. We went to the Cultural Center, a hugely magnificent building, to join in the International Haiku Conference

. Kris Kondo, Shiki, Tim

Kris Kondo kindly escorted me into the auditorium and translated some of the proceedings for me. An actress recited the winning haiku. Mirko Varga, from Croatia, accepted second prize, and Hiromi, looking just a little uncomfortable, accepted first. At a break, when it looked like there would not be anymore English, I remained in the building's immense vestibule instead of going back into the auditorium.

with Kris Kondo

When the festivities subsided, and people came streaming out of the auditorium at the end of the conference, I met Ruth Vergin. My mother's name was Ruth., which is all the farther I went with that. I did not tell her how much she reminded me of someone else, someone named Emily, so much so that I caught myself transferring a remembered fondness for Emily directly to Ruth. Just listening to her speaking natural English was an unexpected treat.

at a restaurant with Tom and Naoko
Hiromi's wife, Naoko, came to pick us up, and we went to Mr. and Mrs. Sato's house, where I would be staying for two nights. Mr. and Mrs. Sato were not directly connected with the Shiki team. They are retired, he a banker, she an accomplished artist, who routinely entertain visitors from other countries, and travel to other countries, cultivating as much friendship as they can. What a concept: cultivating friendship.

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