Monday, May 18, 2015

Carpe Diem #734 a summer mountain

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

In a way the Japanese and Dutch people are the same, they have a lot in common, but as we look at their shoes .... than there is something the same (not totally). We the Dutch are well known around the globe for our tulips, windmills and ... our wooden shoes. The Japanese had wooden clogs with two bars on the sole (or as we will see in our haiku today ... one bar) and we (the Dutch) had (and still have) wooden shoes, but why did they use them?
The Japanese used them to walk elegant (like the geisha) or climb mountains (like monks), but the Dutch used them mostly to walk through their flat and muddy countryside. Our feet stayed dry and warm, because of the wooden shoes. We are known for those wooden shoes, but of course there is a lot more than that. We have very tasteful cheese and we have Rembrandt and Van Gogh.
Van Gogh painted wonderful paintings for a while which were inspired on the Japanese woodblock prints. And there is something else the Japanese and Dutch have in common ... we have a trading relation for more than 400 years. Maybe you have heard from Deshima or Dejima a small isle in the Bay of Nagasaki. It was used by the Dutch as a trading post from 1641 until 1853.

Credits: Deshima or Dejima

The chief Dutch official in Japan was called the Opperhoofd by the Dutch, or Kapitan by the Japanese. This descriptive title did not change when the island's trading fell under Dutch state authority. Throughout these years, the plan was to have one incumbent per year—but sometimes plans needed to be flexible. Every year the Kapitan visited the Emperor on New Year's Day. Later this visit was replaced to March and it was once in five years.
During Basho's life the Kapitan was Johannes Camphuys, the Governor of the V.O.C. and he visited the emperor a few times. Basho did compose a few haiku about this Deshima trader and his visits, here are those two haiku which I found:

even the captain
bows down before
the lord of spring

© Basho (Tr. Jane Reichhold)

the captain and
the flowers have come
on a saddled horse

© Basho (Tr. Jane Reichhold)

Isn't that a wonderful idea? Here I am your host from The Netherlands hosting a haiku family and there is such an old bond between my country and Japan .... it's awesome. But why this "story" in this post? Well I will try to explain that. Our haiku for today "a summer mountain" has in its second line a reference to "wooden clogs" and "bowing" and as I was preparing this episode that first haiku "even the captain" came in mind ... so I just had to tell something more about this connection between Japan and The Netherlands.

Back to our haiku for today. Basho visited the Gyoja Do of Komyoji Temple and saw the image of the legendary priest En no Goja wearing wooden clogs. Because the saint was very strong when climbing mountains, Basho prays to the clogs, not the saint, to help him climb the mountain. Normally Japanese wooden clogs have two horizontal bars that raise the foot above the mud. These clogs (to which he prays) have only one bar, so it was much like walking on ice skates, these "one barred" wooden clogs are called "tengu" and it refers to Japanese mythology. 
Tengu ("heavenly dog") are a type of legendary creature found in Japanese folk religion and are also considered a type of Shinto god (kami) or yōkai (supernatural beings).The earliest tengu were pictured with beaks, but this feature has often been humanized as an unnaturally long nose, which today is widely considered the tengu's defining characteristic in the popular imagination.
Buddhism long held that the tengu were disruptive demons and harbingers of war. Their image gradually softened, however, into one of protective, if still dangerous, spirits of the mountains and forests. Tengu are associated with the ascetic practice known as Shugendō, and they are usually depicted in the distinctive garb of its followers, the yamabushi.

Japanese Wooden Clogs (two bars)
The "one bar" refers to the idea of a unnaturally long nose> Of course it wasn't easy to walk on these tengu certainly not in the mountains, but En no Goja used them always. So it's not a strange idea that Basho prays to the wooden clogs, the tengu (one barred), because he needed the strength for his journey.

natsu yama ni ashida o ogamu kadode kana

a summer mountain
I pray to the wooden clogs
at departure

© Basho (Tr. Jane Reichhold) 

The mountain stands for finding Enlightenment and Basho was strongly seeking for that. Enlightenment is his goal when he starts his Narrow Road. I think in his Narrow Road we can read his transformation to an enlightened person. His Narrow Road was tough and full of disappointment, but also full of joy and spirituality.
In his Spirit I wrote my own Narrow Road, my quest for Enlightenment. My Narrow Road is still going on, but with the International recognition I have been given in 2011, that Enlightenment is nearer than I could ever dream of.
Basho's haiku is such a nice one and in that haiku he is so ... particularly present. Can I write a haiku in the same Spirit?

searching wisdom
I pray to Mother Earth
before leaving

© Chèvrefeuille

Awesome! I think I have succeeded a haiku in Basho's Spirit and a step forward to Enlightenment.

I wonder ... will She climb the mountain, the way to Enlightenment, with me?

And here is another haiku which was inspired on the haiku by Basho:

on wooden shoes
the farmer plows his fields
a sea of tulips

© Chèvrefeuille

Sorry guys ... it has become a little bit to long this episode, but I was on a roll with this haiku so ... I hope you will forgive me that I have taken a little bit more of your time.
This episode is NOW OPEN for your submissions and will remain open until May 21st at noon (CET). I will (try to) publish our next episode, even woodpeckers, later on. For now .... have fun!


  1. I very much enjoy the long posts. They are very readable in style, full of interesting information and help develop the haiku. There is a connection between reader and writer. Your haiku are full of relaved tenderness. In some wats there is a connection between the two, and finding the connections is interesting!

  2. Fantastic post. Such interesting stories and I never knew that there were such close ties between Holland and Japan so long ago. You put so much work in these essays. Thank you.

  3. What a wonderful post! So much information and the field of tulips. Your posts of your home land make me ever more excited to spend a few days visiting in 2016. Splendid haiku.

  4. Thank you so much for your enlightening and inspiring posts! Loved reading your haiku's. They are so wonderfully inspiring.