Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Carpe Diem #214, Hatsugatsuo (first Bonito)

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

It looks like we have finally Summer here in The Netherlands. Spring was long cold and very wet. And now we have warm weather, a lot of sunshine and it feels great. Of course it's early Summer, but I am very happy with this weather after the cold rainy May month. So today's prompt, Hatsugatsuo (first Bonito), a early Summer kigo, is very welcome.
By the way as I wrote in an earlier post (the one about Boys' Day) I have contacted Jane Reichhold, and I am happy and excited to tell you all that in July our Special episodes are all haiku written by Jane Reichhold, she has given me permission to use all of her haiku (+ 5000) and she has answered a few questions which I had included in my e-mail. I will prepare a Carpe Diem Preview later on this week. I was so excited that she has given me permission to use her haiku that I couldn't sleep last night. I am really happy with her permission.

OK ... back to today's prompt, Hatsugatsuo (first Bonito). During the Edo period, Kamakura was famous for the first bonito to be fished at the beaches of the inlay. The very first ones were offered at Hachimangu with prayers for a good fishing season.
In newer years, the first fish of the year landing on the beach of Kamakura was called hatsugatsuo and offered to the deities.

Togugawa Ieyasu

The Edo Period:

The Edo period or Tokugawa period is the period between 1603 and 1868 in the history of Japan, when Japanese society was under the rule of the Tokugawa shogunate and the country's 300 regional Daimyo. The period was characterized by economic growth, strict social order, isolationist foreign policies, environmental protection policies, and popular enjoyment of arts and culture. The shogunate was officially established in Edo on March 24, 1603, by Tokugawa Ieyasu (see picture above). The period came to an end with the Meiji Restoration on May 3, 1868, after the fall of Edo.
A revolution took place in the centuries from the time of the Kamakura shogunate, which coexisted with the Tenno's court, to the Tokugawa, when the bushi became the unchallenged rulers in what historian Edwin O. Reischauer called a "centralized feudal" form of government. Instrumental in the rise of the new bakufu was Tokugawa Ieyasu, the main beneficiary of the achievements of Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Already powerful, Ieyasu profited by his transfer to the rich Kantō area. He maintained 2.5 million koku of land, new headquarters at Edo, a strategically situated castle town (the future Tokyo), and also had an additional two million koku of land and thirty-eight vassals under his control. After Hideyoshi's death, Ieyasu moved quickly to seize control from the Toyotomi family.
Ieyasu's victory over the western daimyo at the Battle of Sekigahara (October 21, 1600, or in the Japanese calendar on the 15th day of the ninth month of the fifth year of the Keichō era) gave him virtual control of all Japan. He rapidly abolished numerous enemy daimyo houses, reduced others, such as that of the Toyotomi, and redistributed the spoils of war to his family and allies. Ieyasu still failed to achieve complete control of the western daimyo, but his assumption of the title of shogun helped consolidate the alliance system. After further strengthening his power base, Ieyasu installed his son Hidetada (1579–1632) as shogun and himself as retired shogun in 1605. The Toyotomi were still a significant threat, and Ieyasu devoted the next decade to their eradication. In 1615, the Tokugawa army destroyed the Toyotomi stronghold at Osaka.
The Tokugawa (or Edo) period brought 250 years of stability to Japan. The political system evolved into what historians call bakuhan, a combination of the terms bakufu and han (domains) to describe the government and society of the period. In the bakuhan, the shogun had national authority and the daimyo had regional authority. This represented a new unity in the feudal structure, which featured an increasingly large bureaucracy to administer the mixture of centralized and decentralized authorities. The Tokugawa became more powerful during their first century of rule: land redistribution gave them nearly seven million koku, control of the most important cities, and a land assessment system reaping great revenues.
This is the time in which Matsuo Basho (1644-1694) and a lot of other haiku-poets lived e.g. Yosa Buson and Kobayashi Issa.

A haiku written by Basho on our prompt for today, Hatsugatsuo (first Bonito):

kamakura o ikite ideken hatsugatsuo

you made it
past Kamakura alive -
first Katsuo bonito

(tr. Gabi Greve)

First things were much loved in Edo and people payed high prices to get them, some were first offered at a shrine before consumption. Bonito is a kind of Tuna.Tuna are ocean-dwelling carnivorous fish in the family Scombridae, mostly in the genus Thunnus. Tuna are fast swimmers—they have been clocked at 70 kilometers per hour (43 mph)—and include several warm-blooded species. Unlike most fish, which have white flesh, tuna flesh is pink to dark red, which could explain their odd nick-name, "rose of the sea." The red coloring comes from tuna muscle tissue's greater quantities of myoglobin, an oxygen-binding molecule. Some of the larger species, such as the blue fin tuna, can raise their blood temperature above water temperature through muscular activity. 

The Japanese are a fish-eating country and they have the most delicious recipes for Bonito (Tuna) (see photo beneath). Maybe you know Sushi, but all other kind of fish are also loved there. The first Bonito is a very expensive dish, but it tastes great.

Hatsugatsuo, first Bonito ... a delicious dish

Another haiku by Basho, which he wrote short before the moment that he took on his penname Basho:

The first bonito of the year
Amazingly fresh
They would have been alive when they left Kamakura

This is a haiku poem in which Basho describes the first bonito catches of the year. This poem is the original of the haiku I quoted earlier in this post. Basho is known of that manner of re-composing his haiku to make them more compact and more beautiful.

Another haiku on 'first Bonito', written by Kikaku a pupil and contemporary of Basho. Kikaku is one of my favorite haiku poets next to Basho of course (smiles):

manaita ni koban ichimai hatsugatsuo

on the chopping board
a golden thaler -
first bonito

It will not be easy to write a haiku on Hatsugatsuo I think, because I do like eating fish, but not to much. So here I go.

along the canal
gazing at the mirror-like water
my first catch

my first catch
the line almost breaks
a gold carp

a gold carp
hooked at my fishing line -
mouth watering

I like this cascade ... I am not such a fisherman, but sometimes I go fishing with my youngest son. Gazing to the water, have a bite and a beer. Sometimes a short talk with my son, but ... mostly silent almost meditating and contemplating what's in mind.

with my son
gazing at the water
in deep silence

I hope you liked the read and the haiku. I am looking forward to all of your wonderful haiku on this prompt for today. Have fun, be inspired and share.

This prompt will stay on 'til June 7th 11.59 AM (CET) and I will post our next episode, Botan (peony), later on today around 10.00 PM (CET).


  1. I love the one about fishing with your son--your deep silence reminded me about the sadness I feel at the death of the fish.

  2. That is FANTASTIC news about Jane Reichhold. She, then you, are much of the reason I immerse myself in haiku....oh, and some guy called...Basho

  3. How lovely you got permission to post Jane Reichhold's haiku. I know you are so excited and she is likely honored for you to feature her.

  4. Kris,I had borrowed your Koi Nobori image in the previous posting! There was no attribution specified but I mentioned the source was from you.I hope it was ok! The first time I did this from your images. Thanks!


  5. ANother excellent post Kristjaan. It's very exciting about Jane Reichhold too. Looks like July will be another fun month to seize.

  6. Kris, here is the correct link:

    Lovely writing for us. Thank you for sharing.

  7. I had been hoping to find a photo of my visit to Kamakura, but I couldn't quickly. My first husband recently died, and he may have had the photo or slide... or I put it some place "safe".

    I am having computer problems..and hope to keep caught up... the earliest appt was this coming Friday.

    Thanks for the interesting prompt that brought back wonderful memories of the time spent in Japan in the mid 1960s.


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