Monday, January 5, 2015

Carpe Diem #642, Sacred Rope (Shimekazari)

!! I will post this episode earlier than I normally do, because I am in the nightshift !!

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

Our first week of January is always gone and I have read wonderful haiku inspired on the diversity of the prompts this week. As I compare your haiku from the last days with those of, let's say, the last month of 2014 than you all have evolved in your haiku-writing ... it seems that you all are becoming better and better ... what a joy that is ... and I am proud that I could have helped you to make your haiku writing skills better ... and I hope that you/we all will evolve further in this all new year ahead of us.

Today our classical kigo from New Year is based on a Shinto tradition which I will explain also in this episode. Today our prompt is Sacred Rope (Shimekazari).

Credits: Shimekazari
The New Year is undoubtedly the most anticipated and important holiday for the Japanese. It is a long celebration that runs December 31 to January 3. During this period, all sorts of ceremonies and customs are practiced.
Here’s a fascinating one: the hanging of Shimekazari on top of the house entrance to prevent bad spirits from entering and to invite the Toshigami , or Shinto deity, to descend and visit. This traditional New Year decoration is made of shimenawa, a sacred Shinto straw rope, and other materials such as bitter oranges, ferns, and white ritual paper strips called shide.

Credits: Shimekazari
Symbolism of Shimenawa

Shimenawa, the sacred braided straw rope used in a shimekazari decoration, holds deep meaning for the Japanese. When hung above the entryway of a site, it marks the border to pure space where the gods can  descend, such as the entrance to a shrine precinct or a ritual site. The term shimenawa is the combination of shime, or items used in ancient times to symbolize ownership, and nawa, or rope, which was the most common way to mark an object or space. (Source: Shimekazari )

And of course I had to find a few examples for this classical kigo used in haiku ... so I sought the WWW and found the following haiku:

I found one written by Basho, who in a way refers to the "Wedded Rocks" (two rocks bound together by a Sacred Rope) at Futamigaura, but also has that touch to New Year. Here it is:

mina ogame Futami no shime o toshi no kure

please all, worship this!
the sacred rope of Futamigaura Beach
at end of the year
© Basho (1688)

Credits: The "Wedded Rocks" at Futamigaura
And I had some trouble to find more haiku with this classical kigo, but I found another one by Basho:

haru tatsu to warawa mo shiru ya kazari nawa

spring has finally come
even the children will understand this -
ritual rope decorations

© Basho (written at the age 28)
This second haiku by Basho is more to the classical kigo of today and I think it's a gorgeous one. However this one isn't very known ...
It will of course not be easy to write a haiku on Sacred Rope ... because it's really such a classical kigo based on a classical tradition ... however I like the Shinto religion so I will for sure write a haiku with this Sacred Rope in it.

Christmas wreath
removed from the front door -
a wreath of straw

© Chèvrefeuille

Hm ... not a strong one, but that repetition of "wreath" I do like. "Repetition" is by the way one of the Haiku Writing Techniques which I will try to explain in our new "Haiku Writing Techniques" feature starting next Wednesday January 7th. There are a lot of wonderful classical and non-classical haiku written with such a repetition in it so I think it's worth to write about.

This episode is open for your submissions tonight at 7.00 PM (CET) and will remain open until January 8th at noon (CET). I will (try to) publish our next episode, our first "Haiku Writing Techniques" episode, later on.


  1. Fascinating stuff, Kristjaan. Thank you. So interesting to learn about these things from your research.
    I've been trying to bake mochi for next weekend. Rice cakes, which they eat on the second weekend of January. What a mess I made of it. Not easy.

  2. Thanks for the kind words as always. This is a tough prompt! There is no problem with the repetition there, I think.

  3. Comment for tournesaol, where I am not allowed tospeak:

    very satisfying haiku on the subject. Really enjoyed this post.

  4. What an interesting prompt! Loved this!!