Monday, February 27, 2017

Carpe Diem #1164 Onsen the hot springs of Japan

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

I am a bit sad, but I am also happy ... this is our last episode of February, so we will leave the land of the Rising Sun, the Mother land of Haiku, Japan and first I thought I will create a kind of departure episode, but than I thought ... "maybe I have to do an episode about Onsen or the hot springs of Japan. I think visiting an Onsen will bring us in peace and into relaxation before we leave the country which we all love dearly.

So today in our last episode I love to tell you a little bit more about the hot springs of Japan or Onsen. Even in Basho's time (17th century) there were already hot springs were the Japanese people could find relaxation and peace of mind. Basho wrote several haiku about the hot springs for example this one:

tonight my skin
will miss the hot spring
it seems colder

Yamanaka Hot Springs

at Yamanaka
it’s not necessary to pluck chrysanthemums
hot spring fragrance

© Basho (Tr. Jane Reichhold)

An onsen is a Japanese hot spring and the bathing facilities and inns frequently situated around them. As a volcanically active country, Japan has thousands of onsens scattered throughout all of its major islands. Onsens were traditionally used as public bathing places.

Onsens are a central feature of Japanese tourism, typically found in the countryside, but there are also a number of popular establishments found major cities. They are a major tourist attraction drawing Japanese couples, families, or company groups who want to get away from the hectic life of the city to relax. Japanese often talk of the virtues of "naked communion" for breaking down barriers and getting to know people in the relaxed atmosphere of a ryokan with an attached onsen. 

Traditionally, onsens were located outdoors, although a large number of inns have now built indoor bathing facilities as well. Onsens by definition use naturally hot water from geothermally heated springs. Onsens are different from sentō, indoor public bath houses where the baths are filled with heated tap water.

The legal definition of an onsen includes the requirement that its water must contain at least one of 19 designated chemical elements, including such minerals as iron, sulfur, and metabolic acid, and have an average temperature of 25 °C (77 °F) or warmer at the point of release. 

Onsen somewhere in Japan

The volcanic nature of Japan provides plenty of springs. When the onsen water contains distinctive minerals or chemicals, the onsen establishments typically display what type of water it is.

Some examples of types of onsen include:

Sulphur onsen
Sodium chloride onsen 
Hydrogen carbonate onsen 
Iron onsen

In Japan, onsen are said to have various medical effects. Japanese people believe that a good soak in proper onsen heals aches, pains and diseases, and visit onsen as part of the treatment for such ailments as arthralgia, chronic skin diseases, diabetes, constipation, menstrual disorders, and so on.

These medical benefits have given onsens a central role in balneotherapy which is called "Onsen Therapy". Onsen Therapy is a comprehensive bathing treatment conducted to maintain health, normalize dysfunctions, and prevent illness.

Onsen ... a wonderful place to relax and come in contact with your inner self. Relax ... let the hot springs of Japan cherish you and help you to be strong and healthy again to step in to a new month of CDHK in which we will read the wonderful poetry from Persia (nowadays Iran)

hot springs hidden
deep inside the holy mountain
giving new life

hidden in the forest
I ran into a secret hot spring -
Ah! that sweet scent

falling in love
while enjoying the warm water - 
secret hot spring 

© Chèvrefeuille

Well .... this was the last episode of our journey through Japan ... I hope you did like the trip and of course I hope to see you again next month.

This episode is open for your submissions tonight at 7.00 PM (CET) and will remain open until March 4th at noon (CET). I hope to publish our new episode, roses, later on.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Carpe Diem #1163 geisha, the beauty of Japan

!! Our prompt-list for March is complete, you can find it in the menu above !!

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

Welcome at the penultimate episode of CDHK February 2017. This month we were "in a way" on a journey through Japan, the Mother land of Haiku. We have visited this wonderful country and we discovered the beauty of Japanese Art. Earlier this month we had an episode about the samurai and I just felt the need to bring also an episode about the geisha.

Recently I saw "Memories of a Geisha" for the third time I think. It's an awesome movie in which we can see the geisha culture of ancient Japan. I loved that movie, not only for its story, but also for the wonderful scenes of Japan.

Scene from "Memoires of a Geisha"
Geisha, geiko or geigi are traditional Japanese female entertainers who act as hostesses and whose skills include performing various arts such as classical music, dance, games and conversation, mainly to entertain not only male customers but also female customers today.
Geisha, like all Japanese nouns, has no distinct singular or plural variants. The word consists of two kanji, 芸 (gei) meaning "art" and 者 (sha) meaning "person" or "doer". The most literal translation of geisha into English would be "artist", "performing artist", or "artisan."

Apprentice geisha are called maiko (literally "dance child") or hangyoku "half-jewel" (meaning that they were paid half of the wage of a full geisha), or by the more generic term o-shaku, literally "one who pours (alcohol)". The white make-up and elaborate kimono and hair of a maiko is the popular image held of geisha. A woman entering the geisha community does not have to begin as a maiko, having the opportunity to begin her career as a full geisha. Either way, however, usually a year's training is involved before debuting either as a maiko or as a geisha. A woman above 21 is considered too old to be a maiko and becomes a full geisha upon her initiation into the geisha community.

As I was preparing this episode I ran into an article about male geisha or Taikomochi I wasn't aware of the fact that there would be male geisha too, so I was intrigued by that, so I love to tell you also a little bit about the Taikomochi. (Source: Taikomochi, the male geisha)

Taikomochi Arai, the only taikomochi living today

The taikomochi, or the houkan, were the original male geisha of Japan. The Japanese version of the jester, these men were once attendants to daimyo (feudal lords) from the 1200s, originating from the 'Ji Sect of Pure Land Buddhism' sect which focused on dancing. These men both advised and entertained their lord and came to be known as doboshu ('comrades'), who were also tea ceremony connoisseurs and artists. By the 1500s, they became known as otogishu or hanashishu (storytellers), where they focused on story telling, humor, conversation. They were sounding boards for military strategies and they battled at the side of their lord.
A time of peace began in the 1600s and the otogishu and hanashishu no longer were required by their lords, and so they had to take on a new role. They changed from being advisors to becoming pure entertainers, and a number of them found employment with the yujo, high class Japanese courtesans.

Awesome ... I really didn't know about the existence of Taikomochi, the male counterpart of the Geisha.

Ah! the beauty of nature -
geisha, peonies in her hair,
playing the Shakuhachi

© Chèvrefeuille

And I found another haiku about geisha in my archives. This one can be seen as a haiku with a hidden meaning according to what I wrote above about the male geisha, the Taikomochi, but than you have to think back about the more erotical meaning of morning glory.

morning glories -
geisha in her silken kimono
rustles along them

© Chèvrefeuille

Well ... with this "double thought"-haiku I love to conclude this episode. This episode is open for your submissions tonight at 7.00 PM (CET) and will remain open until March 3rd at noon (CET). I will try to publish our last episode of February later on.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Carpe Diem #1162 Ueno Iga Province, birthplace of Basho

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

First I have to apologize for being two days off-line, there were other circumstances that needed my attention, so I am sorry that I couldn't publish.
Today we will visit the region in which Matsuo Basho, my haiku master, and the most famous haiku poet ever was born. Basho was born in Iga Province near (nowadays) Ueno. Basho's birth-place is now in Mie Prefecture.

Here at CDHK we have read a lot about Basho, because of the fact that I see him as my haiku master. His famous "frog pond" haiku was the first ever haiku I read and I immediately fell in love  with this little poem and the beauty of Basho's haiku. This all took place in the late eighties, so I am a haiku poet for almost thirty years.

I love to visit his birth ground together with you here at CDHK. So let us first take a look at the impressive nature of this Prefecture

Rice terraces Mie Prefecture
Maybe Basho wrote the following haiku as he saw these wonderful rice fields:

these fireflies,
like the moon
in all the rice paddies

the scent of early rice - 
cutting through the fields, on the right,
the Rough Shore Sea.

© Matsuo Basho (Tr. Barnhill)

Another nice view of Mie Prefecture we have seen here earlier. And Basho created haiku about it too. These are the so called "Wedded Rocks":

Wedded Rocks

a clam
torn from its shell
departing autumn

© Basho (Tr. Jane Reichhold)

To explain why this haiku points to the "wedded rocks" we need the Romaji translation of it. I will give it here:

hamaguri no   futami ni wakare   yuku aki zo

"futami" is the name of a port in Mie Prefecture were you can find the above "Wedded Rocks", it's a sacred place for Shintoism.

And to conclude tthis episode about the beauty of Basho's place of birth another wonderful image from one of the bays of Mie Prefecture.

Mie Prefecture coast line
And maybe Basho saw the beauty of this bay and worshiped it as a true haiku poet through the following haiku:

doubt it not:
the blossoms of the tide also show
spring upon this bay

© Basho (Tr. Barnhill)

What to say more ... Basho's birth-place is truly wonderful. How can I ever catch that beauty in my haiku? Well .... I have given it a try:

while the sun descends
the silvery moon ascends the black sky
listen ... a Nightingale

© Chèvrefeuille

I hope you did like this episode and I hope I have inspired you to create haiku or tanka. This episode is NOW OPEN for your submissions and will remain open until March 2nd at noon (CET). I hope to publish our new episode later on. For now ... have fun!

PS.: Remember our "Cherry Blossom" kukai runs until March 4th 10.00 PM (CET)
PPS.: Maybe you have seen it already, but I have published our prompt-list for March, it is still under construction, but you can already read what is coming up next month.
PPS 2.: There will be no new Universal Jane or Namaste this week. I hope to share those features next month starting March 3rd with a new episode of Namasté.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Carpe Diem #1161 Matsuyama City birth-place of Shiki

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

Shiki was born in Matsuyama City in Iyo province (present day Ehime prefecture) to a samurai class family of modest means. As a child, he was called Tokoronosuke; in adolescence, his name was changed to Noboru. His father, Tsunenao, was an alcoholic who died when Shiki was five years of age, but his mother, Yae, was a daughter of Ōhara Kanzan, a Confucian scholar. Kanzan was the first of Shiki's extra-school tutors.
At age 15 Shiki became something of a political radical, attaching himself to the then-waning Freedom and People's Rights Movement and getting himself banned from public speaking by the principal of Matsuyama Middle School, which he was attending. At this school he became friends with Natsume Soseki (maybe you remember him from one of our Theme Weeks).
Shiki was the name-giver of our beloved haiku, before him, haiku was mostly named “hokku” or “haikai”. With Shiki haiku entered the 20th century.

Let us visit the region were Shiki was born, Iyo Province (nowadays Ehime Prefecture).

Ehime Prefecture is known for its waterfalls, mountains and meadows and for sure those were an inspiration for Shiki and I think we can be inspired through the beautiful nature of Ehime Prefecture too.

Ehime Prefecture
shaded by cherry trees
high up on the mountain
desolate castle

© Chèvrefeuille

Is this in Shiki's style? I don't know but I think it could have been written by Shiki, because Shiki was a master in using the haiku writing technique "shasei" or "depicting the thing as it is". (More on "shasei" you can find HERE.

An example of a "shasei"- haiku by Shiki:

come spring as of old
when such revenues of rice
braced this castle town! 

© Masaoka Shiki

© photo Ehime Prefecture
A wonderful "natural" bridge. This wooden bridge is all covered with green leaved bushes and makes it one with nature like a chameleon.

that bridge looks alive
green leaves

© Chévrefeuille

Ehime Prefecture looks awesome and to conclude this episode I love to share an image to inspire you, say a kind of Imagination.

Machu Picchu in the East
The above image shows you what is called "Machu Picchu of the East", it's excavation side in Ehime Prefecture were you can see how ancient life was in Japan. It's a side like Machu Picchu in Peru.

ancient ghosts
wandering through the streets
colorful leaves

© Chèvrefeuille

Well I hope you did like this episode. It's open for your submissions tonight at 7.00 PM (CET) and will remain open until February 27th at noon (CET). I will try to publish our new episode, about the region were Basho was born, later on.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Carpe Diem #1160 Kema, birth-place of Yosa Buson

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

Welcome at a new episode of CDHK. We are on a journey through Japan and today I love to visit the region in which Yosa Buson (1716-1784) was born. Buson, is also one of the haiku poets which I love to call "the big five" (Basho, Issa, Buson, Chiyo-Ni and Shiki).

Yosa Buson was born in Kema Settsu Province, nowadays known as Kema-cho, Miyakojima Ward, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture. Buson's original family name was Taniguchi. Nature around his birth-place is gorgeous and I think it was a rich source of inspiration for him.

Kema-cho, Osaka Prefecture, in autumn
An example of a haiku which could have been inspired by this scene, but not in autumn, but in spring:

from far and near
hearing the sounds of waterfalls
young leaves
© Buson
Around Kema-cho, Osaka Prefecture, there are a lot of waterfalls and they are all wonderful. Must be awesome to be there listening to the sound of falling water, very relaxing I think. So another beautiful image of a waterfall in the region of Buson's birth-place.
Another waterfall somewhere around Kema-cho

the waterfall
ah! that sound ...

© Chèvrefeuille
Well it has become a short episode, but I think I have given an idea about the region were Buson was born. And I hope it will inspire you to create haiku or tanka.

This episode is NOW OPEN for your submissions and will remain open until February 26th at noon (CET). I will try to publish our new episode, about the birth-place of Shiki, later on.