Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Chorus of Peepers

 Rice fields just outside, recently irrigated and planted, so the frogs have moved in. 

Downhill from Tsuchikura to Otani, Mt. Awa in Distance


Spring Green, and a Bush Warbler


Pottering Pics

 Jyuuni Shrine, at top, which houses two wooden  statues by the "Michaelangelo of Echigo", Ishikawa Uncho, unfortunately locked.

Rice field and temple in Tsuchikura

Row of trees supporting horizontal bars for drying sheaves of rice in Otani

Kamo River

All photos taken in Nanatani "Seven Valleys" area of Kamo City, Niigata

More Satoyama Sights in Kamo, Niigata


Valley in Nanatani, Kamo

 Wind, the occasional bird, frogs, fields awaiting planting

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Monday, October 12, 2020

Homage to Basho: David Lehman in The Atlantic; and, some Basho

 The butterfly dips

its wings in aroma of

violet wild orchid.

Red plums of summer,
first green figs, so many ears
of corn eaten raw.

Leaves that left the trees
are litter now on the ground
in orange and yellow.

No one on this road
but me: It must be autumn
in the dark country.

Comes the freeze, and rain
falls all through the night and soaks
the morning paper.

Winter blows its white
storms across the hills: Even
monkeys need raincoats.

The spring night vanished
while we talked among cherry
blossoms and petals.

-David Lehman

Red dragonflies, or akatonbo, are associated with the harvest season. Here's Basho:

Crimson pepper pod
add two pairs of wings, and look
darting dragonfly
crimson pepper pod, called "hawk's claw"

Monday, September 07, 2020

The Mice Who Wrestled Sumo

 One upon a time there lived an elderly couple somewhere in rural Niigata. (Needless to say, the old man and his wife were poor.) One day the old man headed for the hills to cut grass. Arriving at the spot where he intended to work, the man was surprised to hear grunting and heaving coming from the base of a tree nearby. Looking closely, he saw two mice wearing loincloths, engaged in a spirited sumo contest. One of the mice was much larger than the other and had no trouble vanquishing his foe, bout after bout.  The smaller of the two he recognized as one that he had befriended in the past, the larger, the favorite of the wealthiest man in the district. "Poor little mouse", he thought, as yet another contest ended in defeat. When he returned home he told his wife about the wrestling mice. "Of course, we must take our mouse friend some rice cakes to get his strength up." The man thought this was a wonderful idea, so that evening he and his wife left mochi where the mouse would be sure to find them. The next morning the man set out for another day of grass cutting, and when he arrived he heard the self-same grunting and heaving, only this time it was his mouse that was triumphant. "Hey, you, how'd you get so strong all of a sudden?", said the larger mouse to his opponent.  "It's because of the mochi the old couple gave me." "I wonder if they'd give me a few rice cakes?" the other mused.  "Don't count on it. Rice cakes are a rare treat when you're poor." "That rich old guy. All that money, and not once has he given me so much as a single mochi. I wonder..." After discussing this overheard conversation with his wife that evening, the two decided to divide their store of rice, half for themselves, the other for the two mice. Later, they placed mochi for two and new red loincloths, one much smaller than the other, beside the sumo ring. Shortly afterwards the larger mouse appeared, staggering under the weight of the gold coins in his paws. He set them down and proceeded to nibble away at one of the rice cakes. The next day the old man returned to the hills. This time he noticed the two wrestlers were evenly matched and in high spirits. "We have the man and his wife to thank for this," they squeaked happily. The supply of gold coins continued, and the old couple lived happily and prospered. As did the two mice, who were never in want of rice cakes. Or loincloths, either.     

Translation: B. Southwick, 2020

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

A Japanese Folktale: The Statues with Hats

 Long ago a kindly old couple lived in the mountains, poor but happy. One year, the morning of New Year's Eve it was, the old man gathered together the sedge hats he and his wife had made and prepared to set out for the village nearby. "If I can sell all five hats, I should be able to buy us some rice cakes for tomorrow", he said (rice cakes being a traditional New Year's food in Japan). "Yes, please. And do be careful- I think it will snow later today." Sure enough, not long after the old man left for the village, snow began to fall, just as his wife had said. Harder and harder it fell, and faster and faster walked the man. On the outskirts of the village stood six statues of Jizo all in a line, the snow starting to pile up atop their heads and shoulders.  The old man stopped and considered for a moment. Then, he placed one of his hats on the head of the Jizo nearest him- after first wiping the snow off the statue's head, of course. And so on until five of the Jizo were wearing the hats the man had hoped to sell. Standing before the last statue, the old man took off his own hat. When her husband returned home, hatless and with a dome of snow on his head, the old woman exclaimed in surprise. "My, you are back early. What happened to your hat?" "Well, it's quite a story," and he told her about the Jizo. "You did the right thing. And what does it matter if we have no rice cakes for tomorrow?"  That night, while the two were asleep, strange happenings were afoot. First, an unearthly singing: "Where oh where does the old man live? We've come in thanks for the hats. Where oh where does the old man live? We've come in thanks for the hats." The singing stopped in front of the house. There was a sound as of something being laid before the door. And then a hurried shuffling away. The old couple, being light sleepers, had been awakened by the singing. Opening the door, they found rice cakes and many things besides to make a New Year's feast. Looking off into the distance, they beheld six figures with hats trudging through the snowy night.    

Translation: B. Southwick

The story (and some nice illustrations) can be found here: