Monday, March 21, 2016

Carpe Diem Special #203 Basho's disciples: Mukai Kyorai's "Master of Persimmons"

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

What a joy to create a new Carpe Diem Special for you. In this month we are exploring the haiku writing skills of Basho and his Shoomon disciples. One of his very best friends (and disciple) was Mukai Kyorai and I love to introduce him to you.

Rakushisha (Hermitage of the fallen persimmons)

Rakushisha , "Hermitage of the fallen persimmon",  is the cottage of Genroku poet Mukai Kyorai
Kyorai was one of ten disciples of the haiku poet, Matsuo Basho, or as we already know the Shoomon School,

The cottage was listed in the Shui Miyako Meisho Zue, an Edo period travel book that listed famous places to see in Kyoto. The name of the place is derived from a story of how Kyorai achieved enlightenment.
As the story goes, Kyorai had forty persimmon (kaki) trees planted around the hut. One autumn, when they were heavy with fruit, he had arranged to sell the persimmons. But during the night before they were to be picked, a great storm arose. The following morning, not a single persimmon remained on the trees. As a result Kyorai was enlightened and from that point forward called the hut and garden, Rakushisha or 'the cottage of the fallen persimmons'.
The poem he wrote for the occasion is inscribed on a stone in the garden:
kakinushi ya kozue wa chikaki Arashiyama
Master of Persimmons
Treetops are close to

© Kyorai

There's a bit of word play here. Arashiyama is a mountain near Kyoto but it means literally 'Storm Mountain'. Basho visited here three times, in 1689, 1691 and 1694.
Having been born into a Samurai family, Kyorai was a man of exemplary character and held a spirit worthy of bushi (warrior) all through his life. Not a few of his hokku reflect such personality of his.
Ganjitsu ya ie ni yuzuri no tachi hakan
New Year’s Day...
today I shall wear the special sword
handed down for generations
© Kyorai
Kyorai was a brave man. One episode which is testimonial to his bravery is to be found in a book entitled “Rakushi-sha Kyorai-Sensei Jijitsu” (Facts of Master Kyorai of Rakushi-sha) written by Genchu Mukai
It is possible that Kyorai began to practice haikai shortly before the compilation of Ichiro-Fu in the summer of 1685. A year before that, namely the first year of Jokyo (1684), Kikaku came up to Kyoto and stayed there for some time during which he had kukai meetings with local haikai poets. This resulted in the compilation of the anthology Shimi-Shu. Kyorai’s name was not yet found in it.
The second year of Jokyo (1685) was very important for Kyorai in another way. That is to say that in this year Kyorai had a second home built in Saga area of Western Kyoto. This was the detached house which was to become Rakushi-Sha (Falling Persimons Pavillion) when in 2 Genroku (1689) Kyorai came back from his visit to Nagasaki. There were as many as forty persimmon trees in this second house which indicates that it was quite a sizable estate.
Kyorai’s main house is said to have been situated near Shogo-in in Okazaki. He must have been a man of substance if in addition to this main house he could afford to buy a large estate even if it was in the countryside. There were forest lands in Shogo-in. The area where Kyorai’s main house was located is held to have been called Okazaki Village. Kyorai’s family was a rich family with successful medical doctors. However, Kyorai was not a doctor himself and quite how he amassed wealth is a moot point. 
Mukai Kyorai (1651-1704)
 After Bashô’s journey, which he recorded in The Narrow Road to the Depths (Oku no Hosomichi), the Shômon haikai witnessed a stylistic change in the 1690s, as Bashô’s disciple Kyorai observed:
"When the late Master came back to the capital from his journey to the far North, our school’s style changed drastically. We all carried a knapsack to see the Master at the Unreal Dwelling, or attended his lectures at the Fallen Persimmons Cottage. Most of us learned the essentials of the Master’s teaching during that time. Hisago and Sarumino were the results."
The collections, particularly Sarumino, are generally considered representative of the Shômon style of the 1690s, which Bashô describes as karumi (lightness).
“Naturalness” does not seem to be a very unique characteristic in literary theories, but to achieve naturalness in haikai is not so easy. As we have seen, the strict compositional rules inherited from renga predetermined the occurrence of seasons and themes at certain locations of a sequence and required poets to compose on cherry blossoms and the moon at particular places and limited times. They also restricted the mention of specific topics to a number of successive links, and even prescribed in what form a line cuts and a link ends. Clearly, these regulations made it extremely difficult to achieve naturalness in haikai composition. (Source: Gabi Greve’s weblog)


In the above paragraph we read about "karumi" too, it's also one of the haiku writing techniques which we will encounter this month. "Karumi" was Basho's lifetime task to bring "lightness" in haiku. This haiku writing technique we will see and explore later this month.

red teary eyes
don't look back, a new day rises -
Kyorai's Persimmons

© Chèvrefeuille

This CD-Special is NOW OPEN for your submissions and will remain open until March 24th at noon (CET). I will (try to) publish our new episode, a new Tokubetsudesu, later on.
Our new Theme Week episode "yellow" will be delayed.

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