Showing posts with label - - - ISSA - Kobayashi Issa in Edo. Show all posts
Showing posts with label - - - ISSA - Kobayashi Issa in Edo. Show all posts


ISSA mukudori


. Kobayashi Issa 小林一茶 in Edo .

photo - wikipedia

. WKD : mukudori 椋鳥 starling, gray starling .
muku, むく、hakutoo oo 白頭翁(はくとうおう)
black-collared starling,  黑領椋鳥
small starling, ko mukiudori  小椋鳥(こむくどり)
Family Sturnidae

kigo for all autumn

- - - - -

oo kuro mukudori modoki オオクロムクドリモドキ common grackle
a type of mukudori, crow blackbird

- - - - -

"Country bumpkins" such as Issa were called "(gray) starlings" (mukudori) by sophisticated Edo-ites.
It also refers to migrant workers from the countryside who came to work in Edo during the winter months.

. Gambling (bakuchi 博打) .


mukudori to iu hito sawagu yozamu kana

people get worked up,
blame "those starlings" --
it's cold tonight

Tr. Chris Drake

This autumn hokku is from the beginning of the eighth month (September) in 1815, when Issa was in his home province of Shinano. The exact circumstances aren't mentioned in the hokku, so it's impossible to be certain, but it's still three months before the migration season begins, and Issa is in or near his hometown, and not on the road traveling to Edo, so he probably wouldn't be mistaken for a winter migrant worker. As a child, Issa was probably called lots of names when he first arrived in Edo, but he lived in Edo for many years and was not a seasonal migrant to the big city. I take this hokku to be about some prejudiced people in Issa's home province who are criticizing to Issa or to someone nearby Issa the many migrant seasonal workers who leave Issa's home province and go to Edo to work every winter and then return in the spring as soon as fields need to be prepared for planting. In Issa's time more seasonal workers came to Edo from Shinano than from any other area, so they were often singled out for biased remarks.

Most of the winter migrant workers were poor tenant farmers who didn't own their own land and had a hard time making ends meet, and they were criticized by people both in Shinano and in Edo. People called them many names, especially "gluttons," since some spent much of what they made on eating out and drinking in Edo, "blockheads," since they didn't speak the Edo dialect or care very much about Edo customs, and "starlings" (literally, white-cheeked or gray starlings). "Starlings" seems to have had many meanings, but one was a reference to the fact that Japanese starlings gather together in huge flocks of tens of thousands of birds during the winter, making a lot of noise and treating the natural environment rather roughly.

Another sense of the word criticized migrant workers for staying in groups and not trying to mix with Edo people. Still another sense was that migrant workers wore clothes that looked as shabby as the feathers of the starlings. To some people living in Shinano the term also seems to have referred to migrant workers' alleged lack of interest in contributing to their own communities. "Starlings" was a very negative word, and when Issa heard it used on this night, he surely felt sympathy for the migrants. He probably also remembered the cold reception he himself received as an outsider when he returned to live in his hometown.

In 1819, however, the year evoked in Year of My Life, Issa himself was definitely called a migrant starling. In the eleventh month (December) he wrote:

mukudori no nakama ni iru ya yuushigure

I've become
one of the starlings --
cold evening rain

In Issa's diary this hokku follows a hokku about being called a starling, a hokku that also appears toward the end of Year of My Life. In a letter to his follower Toyuu written on 9/14 in 1820, Issa briefly explains how he came to compose that hokku:

Last winter on the third of the twelfth month I grabbed my walking staff and set out for Edo in the east. As I went along I composed this hokku, saying it out loud under my breath:

mukudori to hito ni yobaruru samusa kana

bitter cold --
people call me
a starling

Just then wet sleet began splashing down and turned the whole road into deep mud. I still hadn't reached Usui Pass, which is very difficult for anyone to cross over, but my old legs were already worn out, so I turned around and retraced my steps until I'd returned home.

The coldness in the hokku of course refers equally to the weather and to Issa's feelings.

Did Issa set out in the eleventh month, as his diary suggests, or early in the twelfth month (January), as his letter says? In either case, he took to the road in simple robes at a time when large numbers of seasonal workers were also heading for Edo, and he was taken to be one of them. He was still in his home province of Shinano when he was called a starling, probably in villages he passed through as he walked along the Nakasendo road toward Edo, and the repeated slur must have hurt even more because it came from people so close to home.

Chris Drake


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. WKD : Kobayashi Issa 小林一茶 - Introduction .




ISSA New Year


. Kobayashi Issa 小林一茶 in Edo .

o-shoogatsu is a haiku season in itself with a lot of kigo



- - - Issa wrote :

....This time I'd arrived [in my hometown] in the depths of winter and hadn't arranged to lodge anywhere, so if I wasn't careful I could easily end my life frozen in a snowdrift somewhere....Just when I was trying to figure out what I should do, a compassionate man with a big heart who lives in the village told me he would rent me one corner of his house. Hearing that, I felt as happy as if I'd suddenly met Buddha in the middle of hell, and I moved in on the 24th of the Twelfth Month.
There, lying beneath a thick down quilt my student Kakou kindly gave me, I was able to survive the coldest days of the winter. Another student, Shumpo, gave me a mosquito net made of thick paper, and when I hung it up it blocked much of the cold, hard wind that came inside through the wall. Thanks to the kind help of these people I've somehow or other managed to get by and be here today to see the beginning of the Year of the Cock [1813].

yoso nami no shoogatsu mo senu shidara kana

nothing ordinary
even at New Year's
here on the edge

Tr. Chris Drake

This hokku was written at one of the turning points in Issa's life, a situation Issa himself evokes in a haibun piece written on the same day entitled Shidara, a word which appears in the last line of the hokku. The word suggests that Issa's life is at an impasse and that he is going to attempt to improve the situation, though he is not yet sure he can succeed and feels weak and uneasy about the future. The immediate context of the hokku is best described by Issa himself in the excerpt translated above. (The translation of the hokku, however, is from Issa's diary, since there is one minor difference in the first line in the hokku as it appears in the haibun.)

Issa has rather suddenly decided to make his third trip of the year to his hometown in 1812, and since he hasn't been able to make proper preparations, he's had to depend on the kindness of others, for which he is thankful, yet he feels sorry for having to suddenly ask their aid. As he mentions earlier in the haibun, however, he had received a winter quilt from his younger half brother a few years earlier, which he stored with someone in his hometown, but when he tried to use the quilt he found it was full of filthy old diapers and cleaning rags and provided little warmth, so he had to borrow one from a student. The condition of the quilt made him very disappointed in his brother, and it symbolizes the resistance his brother has shown year after year to sharing half of their father's property, as stipulated in Issa's father's will.

The hokku is not only about spending a cold, bare, non-standard New Year's on the edge of Issa's hometown, the same town in which his brother and stepmother must be enjoying all sorts of nice foods and rituals at New Year's. The hokku is surely also about Issa turning fifty in 1812 and realizing that if he doesn't assert his rights to what his father has left him, then his present predicament of being routinely excluded from his hometown by his brother and stepmother will continue indefinitely, despite what they tell him. Issa was a gentle person, so it must have taken a lot of courage and determination to suddenly decide to make a difficult and somewhat dangerous return to his hometown in the midst of winter in order to confront his brother and stepmother after the Buddhist thirteenth-year memorial service for his father on 1/19.

At the time Issa wrote the hokku, he was still unsure of himself, but at or around the time of the memorial service, he must have demanded his rights in front of his brother and stepmother very strongly, because on 1/26 the head priest of the True Pure Land temple to which Issa's father had belonged arranged for the signing of a formal document clearly stating that Issa was to get half of his father's house and property. By taking an adamant stand, Issa probably offended his brother, stepmother, and many villagers, something he himself surely did not enjoy doing, but he evidently realized it was the only way he could return to his hometown and hope to start a family.

The hokku is about the present New Year's being different in many ways from what is considered normal and from what Issa has experienced in other years: this New Year's is both more lonely and full of anxiety than normal and more focused on taking a stand in the future. The hokku seems to declare that Issa believes that, for him, this New Year's is a time for extraordinary measures, not for formal politeness and rituals followed by business as usual.

Chris Drake


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ISSA Sarumaru

. Famous Places and Powerspots of Edo 江戸の名所 .
Sarugakucho, see below

. Kobayashi Issa 小林一茶 in Edo .

Sarumaru Daiyu 猿丸大夫

Sarumaru Dayū

a waka poet in the early Heian period. He is a member of the Thirty Six Poetic Sages (三十六歌仙, sanjūrokkasen), but there are no detailed histories or legends about him. There is a possibility that there never was such a person. Some believe him to have been Prince Yamashiro no Ōe.
© More in the WIKIPEDIA !


Fukushima 福島県 Legend from Tabitomura 田人村

Once Sarumaru Daiyu was hunting a white deer and came down all the way to Nikko. The Huge Mukade 大ムカデ from Nikko eats the children of the white deer, this deer mother had called the famous arrow shooter Sarumaru to help.
He put some spittle on his arrow and shot the mukade dead.
Even now if people want to kill a mudake, they use spittle.

. mukade 蜈蚣 むかで millipede, centipede .


sarumaru ga kiseru kuwaete ume no hana

Mr. Monkey
long pipe in his mouth
enjoys plum blossoms

Tr. Chris Drake

This hokku is from the second month (March) of 1816, when Issa was living in his hometown. Issa writes the word monkey with the suffix "-maru" (also read "-maro"), a common suffix used in the names of men -- such as the waka poet Hitomaro -- from the ancient period on. In Issa's time it was a standard friendly term for a monkey. Even today, adult Japanese will often speak of a monkey or group of monkeys as saru-san, or "Mr./Ms. Monkey," as if the monkeys were honorary humans, a usage which is both respectful and intimate and neither elevates nor lowers the status of monkeys in relation to humans. The suffix -san is not as consistently used by adults for other non-human animals and continues the usage in Issa's time, when monkeys were addressed as equals in many contexts, as in this hokku. The use of "Mr. Monkey" is different from the use of "-dono," that is, Lord or Sir, which Issa uses in many hokku, since "-dono" is a metaphor based on hierarchical class society and often includes ironic or humorous overtones as well as respect.

In ancient Japanese myth the greatest of the earth gods is named Saruta-hiko, Monkey Field Man, and in traditional Japanese society monkeys were believed to be the messengers of mountain gods and able to move freely back and forth across the border between the invisible divine world and the visible everyday world as well as the border between the animal world and the human world.

One of the Thirty-Six Waka Poet Wizards in ancient Japan was named Sarumaru Dayuu, and his name "Great Priest of the Monkeys" (literally Great Monkey-Man Priest) indicates he was regarded as a powerful shaman or Shinto priest ("Dayuu") who prayed to various monkey gods. Nothing certain is known about him, and scholars believe his few remaining waka poems may have been written by a line of wandering priests or shamans using the same title, a title which indicates that "monkey-man" was a term of high respect in ancient Japan.
Later, in medieval Japan, a kind of shamanic drama known as Sarugaku, or "Monkey Music," developed into No drama.

In Issa's age, monkeys were sometimes the butt of jokes, but they were also regarded as intelligent and semi-divine, depending on the situation. In Issa's hokku, the monkey seems to be either a dancing monkey who travels with a trainer and gives roadside performances or a monkey living near a shrine at which monkeys are worshiped, since he seems to be familiar with humans and with a pipe someone has loaned him. The pipe has a long bamboo stem with a metal mouthpiece and bowl, and the monkey seems to know what to do with it, since he holds it properly in his mouth between his teeth.

Issa doesn't say whether the pipe is lit, but it might be, since in Issa's day many people liked to drink and celebrate as they viewed the plum blossoms, which were regarded as second only to cherry blossoms in terms of beauty. Perhaps the monkey is resting after a performance or a festival, and the trainer is thanking him by giving him a few puffs, or perhaps by now the monkey has his own pipe. There might be a submerged image here of the long pipe as an object suggesting nearly verbal yet still nonverbal communication between monkeys and humans, with the pipe extending like semi-words from the monkey's mouth.

This shows the kind of pipe the monkey has in his mouth.

Chris Drake

. WKD : kiseru 煙管 long pipes .


. Famous Places and Powerspots of Edo 江戸の名所 .

Sarugakuchoo 猿楽町 Sarugaku Cho, Sarugaku district / 神田猿楽町
東京都千代田区 Chiyoda district, 神田猿楽町一丁目 - 二丁目 Kanda Sarugakucho, first and second sub-district
. Kanda 神田 Kanda district, Chiyoda ward .

The name refers to the performer clan of
Kanze Dayuu 観世大夫 Kanze Dayu, who had his residence in this area. He moved here in 1659, after the construction of waterways along the river Kandagawa claimed his former residence.
Saru 猿 was called ETE エテ by the normal people, and the district was also called
etegaku choo エテガク丁 Etegaku cho.
sarugaku is an old form of the Noh theater.
In the Edo period, there were many residences of the Samurai, along the road 錦華通り Nishikihanadori, 表猿楽丁 Omote Sarugakucho and 裏猿楽丁 Ura Sarugakcho.

In the Edo period, there used to be many theaters to perform Sarugaki Noh.

Sarugaku 猿楽 "Monkey music
The Imakumano Shrine has close linkes to the earliest form of Noh called Sarugaku (猿楽). The sarugaku Noh troupe Yuzaki, led by Kan’ami, performed in 1374 before the young shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (足利 義満). The success of this one performance and the resultant Shogunal patronage lifted the art form permanently out of the mists of its plebeian past.
The Birth Place of Noh:

. Imakumano Jinja 新熊野神社 Imakumano Shrine .


There is another one in
東京都渋谷区 Shibuya ward.

There used to be a kofun 古墳 mound called 猿楽塚 Sarugakuzuka.
From the mound there was a wide view over the area, it was also called 斥候(ものみ)塚 / 我苦塚 Monomizuka.
29-9 猿楽町 渋谷区
There used to be two mounds and the 鎌倉街道 Kamakura Kaido highway run right between them.

Sarugakukodaijukyoato 猿楽古代住居跡公園 Sarugaku kodai jukyo ato - Park

- quote -
Monkeying around in Sarugakucho
Sarugakucho — which loosely translates as “monkey fun town” — is a hot spot near Daikanyama Station in Shibuya, Tokyo.
As a place to hang out, this area sets the bar pretty high: Its backstreets are a zoo of uber-cute boutiques offering exclusive jeans, aromatic drip coffee made with gourmet beans, wee French restaurants and a smattering of traditional goods such as indigo-dyed clothing and souvenir tenugui (cotton towels). It’s all great fun, but please note: the area has been so over-blogged (without permission, or precision, apparently) that many shop owners have posted “No photos” notices in their windows — so ask before you shoot, and don’t make a monkey of yourself.
... Kyu Yamate-dori, the main avenue through southwest Sarugakucho. Located here is the Tokyo campus of world-famous cooking school, Le Cordon Bleu, which has a cafe, and which puts fin to la resistance.
... Kyu Asakura-Ke Jutaku (the former home of the 朝倉家 Asakura family).
Peeking in the front gate, I can instantly tell the ¥100 entrance fee is going to be coin well spent. Chatting with the attendant, I learn that Sarugakucho was once the location of two burial mounds from sixth or seventh century, and that throughout the Edo Period (1603-1868) the Kamakura Kaido (highway from Edo —modern-day Tokyo — to Kamakura) ran between the two mounds. The Asakura family leveled one of the mounds to build their estate.
The residence of Torajiro Asakura (1871-1944), the former chairman of the Tokyo Prefectural Assembly and Shibuya Ward Office, is perched majestically on the area’s natural hillside. Designated an Important Cultural Property overseen by the Shibuya Ward Office, the estate’s impressive roof tiles are topped by the Asakura family mon (crest) of a flowering quince. A nod to foreign influences — often the hallmark of Taisho Era (1912-26) design — is evident in the delicate glass windows on one side.
- source : Kit Nagamura 2015 -

. Shibuya ku 渋谷区 Shibuya ward .


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- #sarugaku #sarugakucho -


ISSA - mosquitoes


. Kobayashi Issa 小林一茶 in Edo .

. WKD : ka 蚊 mosquito .
kabashira 蚊柱 "column", swarm of mosquitos
kigo for all summer

kabashira hyakku 蚊柱百句 100 verses about swarming mosquitoes

. Nishiyama Soin 西山宗因 .
(1605 - 1682)
He was the first to introduce mosquitoes, fleas and other low insects into haikai poetry, since "every living creature has a heart".


kaze fuku ya ana darake demo waga kachoo

wind blows -
even with lots of holes this is
my mosquito net

Tr. Gabi Greve

hototogisu kiki dokoro tote yabu ka kana

a good place
to hear the hototogisu
but all these mosquitoes . . .

Tr. Gabi Greve

The cut marker KANA is at the end of line 3.


- Translations by Chris Drake

boofura, boofuri 孑孑 ぼうふら - ぼうふり mosquito larva

boofuri ga tenjoo suru zo kado no tsuki

a larva flies, now
a mosquito, up to heaven --
moon above the gate

Tr. Chris Drake

This hokku is a later (1822) variation of a hokku written in 1819, the year evoked in Year of My Life:

boufuri ga tenjou suru zo mika no tsuki

a larva flies, now
a mosquito, up to heaven --
thin crescent moon

In the original version a third-night crescent moon shares heaven with the newly matured mosquito. When Issa put this hokku into Year of My Life he changed three syllables to make it a little softer, but the difference isn't major. See my April 10, 2013 post.

Of course Issa knows larvae can't fly, and he is not suggesting that the larva here is flying up toward heaven. His concise verse implies that the larva has at last turned into a mature mosquito that is able to fly. The term "flying/rising up to heaven" seems to have three meanings here. First, the mature mosquito takes off for the first time into the evening sky. Second, the mosquito must be so glad to have left behind its larva and pupa stages that it's as happy as if it were in heaven. And third, Issa celebrates the mosquito's growth from a mere larva and then pupa and its discovery that it can fly. Momentarily he seems to feel none of the ordinary aversion humans have toward mosquitoes. Instead, he seems to be imagining what it must feel like to be a newly mature mosquito that believes it can fly anywhere, even to heaven. However, the moon rising above the gate suggests that heaven is a actually a bit higher than the mosquito thinks it is.

Chris Drake


- haiga by Nakamura Sakuo -

ka-bashira no taranu tokoro ya mike no tsuki

not enough mosquitoes
in part of the swarm --
thin crescent moon

This humorous, ironic hokku was written in the 6th month (July) in 1816, when Issa was living in his hometown. Tall mosquito columns are formed at twilight on summer evenings by male mosquitoes hoping to mate with females. Perhaps the height of each column allows females to view the maximum number male candidates. In any case, individual females fly over to a swarming column and choose a mate, and the two then leave the column and fly off together mating. In the hokku, a mosquito column now seems to be taking shape above Issa in the eaves of his house. It covers most of the sky visible to Issa, but in one part of the forming column there aren't many mosquitoes yet, allowing him to fairly clearly see the very slender crescent moon -- a third-night waxing moon curving toward the left. Or perhaps Issa is walking somewhere and looks up at the sky. The many mosquito columns above him seem to cover the sky, but they leave one narrow section of the sky uncovered, and through it the thin crescent moon manages to shine. The single-column reading seems more powerful, since the mosquitoes are closer to Issa and easier to see as they fly across the moon.

This also seems to be the situation in the hokku placed two hokku later in Issa's diary:

mura no ka no oo-yoriai ya noki no tsuki

a big meeting
in the mosquito village --
moon in the eaves

Issa imagines a town meeting of a whole village of mosquitoes who have chosen to use his eaves as their gathering place before they collectively fly out to a field nearby. The rising moon must look rather fragmented yet dynamic when viewed through a swarm.

This short clip gives a rough idea of just how tall a mosquito column can be:
- source :

Chris Drake


- Translations by David Lanoue

ima mireba tsugi darake nari ore ga kaya

upon inspection
it's covered with patches...
my mosquito net

medetasa wa kotoshi no ka ni mo kuware keri

a celebration--
this year's mosquitoes too

uma made mo moegi no kaya ni netari keri

even the horses
sleep in light green
mosquito nets!

utsukushiki hana no naka yori yabu ka kana

from deep inside
the pretty flower...
thicket mosquito


kayatsurigusa 蚊帳吊草 "plant to hang in the mosquito net"
Cyperus microiria. Zypergras - kigo for late summer
Grows wild on abandoned fields. It has a strong fragrance against mosquitoes.

no ni fuseba kayatsurigusa mo tanomu beshi

when lying down in the wilderness
we should also get some
mosquito net grass

Tr. Gabi Greve

Illustration by :


. WKD : ka 蚊 mosquito .

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ISSA - Confucius


. Kobayashi Issa 小林一茶 in Edo .

ISSA and Confucius

. Confucius 孔夫子, Kung Tzu, Kung Fu Tzu, .


Confucius said,
I dislike foxtails because they can be mistaken for rice plants.

nikumareshi kusa wa ho ni ideshi aota kana

green rice field
crowded with heads
of hated weeds

Tr. Chris Drake

This hokku was written on lunar 1/8 (Feb. 18) of 1804, when Issa was in the city of Edo. The hokku is about a rice paddy in late July, when the rice plants are growing taller and just beginning to put out heads or ears with rice grains in them. One field, however, turns out not to be growing much rice, although its green stalks look a bit like stalks of young rice plants. If you look closely you can see that many of the new heads that are beginning to take form on the grass contain no signs of rice grains at all. Instead, tufts with seeds for reproduction are appearing where rice heads should be. The name of the grass in the headnote indicates that they are a wild grass in the rice family known as Setaria viridis, or foxtail (莠), which is distantly related to foxtail millet (awa). In Japanese it is called "puppy tail grass" (enokoro-gusa) because of its tufts.

The headnote also indicates that this hokku, unlike an earlier hokku by Issa from 1794 in which millet (hie )invades a rice field, has a strong, explicit ethical dimension to it, since it quotes from a passage in Mencius, or Mengzi, a collection of dialogs and sayings attributed to the ancient Confucian thinker Mencius (Mengzi ). In the passage alluded to by Issa (see the translations below), Mencius explains why Confucius (Kongzi) said that many of the people generally regarded as being most virtuous are actually "thieves of virtue" who look virtuous but are actually simply skillful at adapting and adjusting to the latest fashions and conventions and flattering those in power.

At one point Confucius compares these fake ethical leaders to wild grass that looks like a grain-bearing crop but actually bears no grain, and he declares he dislikes wild-grass weeds. It's this comparison that Issa quotes in the headnote. although in the hokku Issa interprets grain specifically as rice, and the word for weeds or wild grass in Confucius' comparison is usually referred to in Japanese specifically as foxtails. Issa thus turns the rice field in the hokku into an ethical statement, and the "hated" weeds are hated by Confucius for reasons that also apply in Japan. Since the imitation moralists are the great majority, the green field in the hokku is presumably mostly wild grass, and since Issa is in Edo at the time, he is presumably indirectly criticizing the false sense of virtue held by so many self-righteous people in the city, especially by people in the warrior class who can quote Confucian classics in detail while contradicting those teachings with their actions. It seems possible Issa is also suggesting here that the True Pure Land Buddhist beliefs he holds are based on a clear system of ethics and amount to much more than an amoral belief that whatever is is right.

- - - From The Confucius
the A. Charles Muller translation at
source :

Chang asked, “
Confucius said: ‘When someone passes by my gate and does not enter, the only time I don't regret it is when it is a “conventional townsman.” These conventional townsmen are thieves of virtue.’ What sort of people were these, that he called ‘conventional townsmen’?”

Mencius said,
“[They criticize the ardent], saying ‘How can they be so grandiose such that their words do not reflect their actions and actions do not reflect their words, and how can they justify themselves with ‘the ancients did this, and the ancients did that.’’”

“[And they criticize the prudent], saying, ‘How can they be so aloof and cold? We are all born in this world, so we should be part of it. Being good here and now is sufficient.’ They obsequiously flatter their contemporaries. These are the so-called ‘conventional townsmen.’”

Wan Chang said, “
The whole town calls them ‘acceptable men’—there is no place where they can go where they will not be regarded as ‘acceptable men.’ Why did Confucius call them ‘thieves of virtue’?”

Mencius answered:
“If you want to blame them for something, there is nothing in particular that you can blame them for. If you want to correct them, there is nothing in particular that you can correct them for. They follow the current customs and consent to the vices of the age. They seem to abide in loyalty and honesty, and their actions seem pure. Everyone follows them and because people follow them, people become incapable of entering the Way of Yao and Shun. Thus, they are called ‘thieves of virtue.’”

“Confucius said,
‘I don't like things that are not what they appear to be. I don't like tares (grain weeds) because they can be confused with real grain. I don't like eloquence, because it can be confused with Justice. I don't like sharpness of tongue, because it might be confused with honesty. I don't like the music of Chang, because it might be confused with good music. I don't like purple, because it might be confused with vermilion and I don't like conventional townsmen, because they might be confused with the virtuous.’”

“The Noble Man returns to the constant and nothing more. Once the constant is properly apprehended, the people will be awakened. Once they are awakened, there will be no more of their evil.”

- The classic James Legge translation of the key passage:

Confucius said,
"I hate a semblance which is not the reality. I hate the darnel, lest it be confounded with the corn. I hate glib-tonguedness, lest it be confounded with righteousness. I hate sharpness of tongue, lest it be confounded with sincerity. I hate the music of Chang, lest it be confounded with the true music. I hate the reddish blue, lest it be confounded with vermilion. I hate your good careful men of the villages, lest they be confounded with the truly virtuous."
The superior man seeks simply to bring back the unchanging standard, and, that being correct, the masses are roused to virtue. When they are so aroused, forthwith perversities and glossed wickedness disappear.'

Chris Drake

. WKD : aota, aoda 青田 green rice fields .


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ISSA - waka-zakari


. Kobayashi Issa 小林一茶 in Edo .

hitozuki ya nohara no kusa mo waka-zakari

they love to be together --
grasses in the field, too
in the first flush of youth

Tr. Chris Drake

This late spring hokku is from an undated letter. Issa wrote similar hokku in 1825 and 1826, when he was feeling old but hoping to marry for the third time, a goal he achieved in the 8th month (Sept.) of 1826. The つ in the first line can be either tsu or zu, and the noun the first line is glossed by Issa Hokku General Index (455) as 人付き, or hitozuki, the state of being 'sociable, gentle, naive, meek, affable, genial, amiable, lively, convivial.'

New wild grasses are growing rapidly everywhere in the field, and Issa senses the young stalks are full to overflowing with the desire to live and to be with other stalks, mingling and mixing with each other in dense clumps. How similar they seem to human teenagers, especially in spring. Issa consciously uses a word that includes hito, 'people, humans,' to characterize the young grass, and he also seems to be talking about the social instincts of grass at any age. In taking stalks of vigorous grass to be accurate images of human spiritual growth as well, Issa precedes Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass (1855) by several decades. Whitman's world may be slightly more human-centered than Issa's, however, since Issa seems to treat grasses and humans as equals, and he delights in finding evidence of the wild desire of grass stalks to grow together with each other as they grow taller.

Issa puts it this way in a variant from 1825:

aisoo ya nobe no kusa sae waka-zakari

how warm to each other --
even grasses in the field
in the first flush of youth

The word aisou in the first line means the state of being 'sociable, amiable, cordial, warm-hearted, affable, hospitable' and differs from hitozuki in the first hokku in being slightly more publicly oriented. In both hokku, however, the young grass stalks enjoy company and strongly want to share their newfound energy and desire to live with each other.

Chris Drake


More haiku abouat waka-zakari with translations by David Lanoue

ayu made mo waka-zakari nari yoshino kawa

the trout too
hit their peak young...
Yoshino River

. Issa at Yoshinoyama - 吉野山 Mount Yoshino .

hito tsuki no ari ya kusaba mo waka-zakari

some of them stick
to people, young grasses
at their peak

mutsumaji ya odake medake no waka-zakari

living in harmony--
boy and girl bamboos
the peak of youth

sawagu zo yo take mo ko-zasa mo waka-zakari

what a racket!
for bamboo and pampas grass
the peak of youth

ureshige ya kaki no ko take mo waka-zakari

the fence's little bamboo
at the peak of youth

Tr. David Lanoue


Latest updates about Issa on facebook - CLICK to join !

. WKD : Kobayashi Issa 小林一茶 - Introduction .




Ryogoku Bridge


Ryoogoku, Ryōgoku 両国 Ryogoku district and bridge 両国橋 

Hokusai 葛飾北斎 Mount Fuji and the Ryogoku Bridge
「冨嶽三十六景色 御厩川岸 両國橋夕陽見」

Ryoogoku kawabiraki 両国川開き
opening the river season at the bridge Ryogoku

Ryoogoku no hanabi 両国の花火 - fireworkd at Ryogoku, Edo

two kigo for late summer
. WKD : Rivers and Kigo .

両国川開きの大花火 Great Firework at Ryogoku Bridge
Utagawa Hiroshige

Ryoogoku no hanabi 両国の花火 firework display at the Ryogoku Bridge
. WKD : hanabi 花火 fireworks .

. WKD : Sumidagawa 角田川  / 隅田川 river Sumidagawa .

The bridge Ryogokubashi was constructed after the Great Fire of Meireki 明暦の大火 in 1657, where many people died because they could not cross the river to safety.

. 江戸の大火 Edo no Taika "Great Fires of Edo" .


- quote
Ryōgoku (両国) is a neighborhood in Sumida, Tokyo. It is surrounded by various neighborhoods in Sumida, Chūō, and Taitō wards: Yokoami, Midori, Chitose, Higashi Nihonbashi, and Yanagibashi.

In 1659, the Ryōgoku Bridge was built, spanning the Sumida River just upstream of its confluence with the Kanda River. Its name, meaning "two provinces," came from its joining Edo (the forerunner of Tokyo in Musashi Province) and Shimōsa Province. The neighborhood derived its name from that of the bridge.

The Forty-seven Ronin avenged the death of their lord, Asano Naganori, by breaking into the mansion of his enemy, Kira Yoshinaka, in 1703. Part of the mansion has been preserved in a public park in Ryōgoku.

It is regarded as the heartland of professional sumo. Most training stables or heya are based there. The first Ryōgoku Kokugikan 両国国技館 stadium for sumo was completed in 1909. The present one was built in 1985 in the Yokoami neighborhood north of Ryōgoku. Three of professional sumo's six annual official tournaments take place there.
© More in the WIKIPEDIA !

Ryōgoku Kokugikan 両国国技館

A restaurant for "Yukidaruma Oyakata" in Ryogoku 両国 ゆきだるま中野部屋

. WKD : Sumoo 相撲  Sumo wrestling .


source :
両国涼船の図 Boats for enjoying the evening cool at Ryogoku

A trip on a boat for the fireworks cost about 23000 Yen.
The food served was dengaku tofu on skewers with miso paste, sushi, tenpura, mochi rice cakes, and of course sake and cold water.

2 samples from Utagawa 歌川豊国 - 江戸両国すずみの図 - Taking the evening cool at Ryogoku

During the evening of the great firework display, all the tea stalls and eateries along the river were full of people.

- Edo no shoku bunka -

under construction

- - - - - H A I K U - - - - -

Hiroshige 広重

- - - - - Issa on Ryougoku Bridge - - - - -

toshi no kure kame wa itsu made tsurusaruru

year's end --
how long must the turtles
hang in the air?

Tr. Chris Drake

This hokku was written on 12/27 (Jan. 24) in 1808, when Issa was in Edo and is about turtles being sold on Ryogoku Bridge, a large, busy bridge going over the Sumida River. Ceremonies for the release of living beings (Houjou-e) were held by both Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, at some on a monthly basis and at some mainly in the first and eighth lunar months. One temple in Edo, Houshouji, was build mainly to carry out such ceremonies, in which turtles, eels, fish, birds, fireflies, and other animals living in captivity were released into their natural element. In addition individuals carried out personal acts of release accompanied by prayers throughout the year whenever they felt an impulse to do so. The turtles in this hokku are being sold by one or more turtle dealers to individuals who cross the large, crowded bridge in downtown Edo.

After buying a turtle (for about US $1), the customer will take the turtle to the banks of the Sumida River or to a pond in a temple or shrine and release it while saying a prayer for it. Most of the turtles are in a wooden tub, but the dealer hangs two or three turtles from strings tied to the railing to attract customers. There are probably fewer customers at the end of the year, although some people are no doubt planning to buy a turtle for their children to play with at New Year's, when it will be an auspicious symbol of a very long life, after which they plan to release the turtle at one of the big ceremonies in the first month. Issa lived near the bridge and no doubt has seen the hanging turtles before, but since there are fewer customers at the end of the year he wonders if it isn't cruel to keep hanging the turtles up even now. Of course it is cruel at any time of the year, but Issa's understatement makes the hokku more powerful. And the fact that it's the end of the year makes it very clear that turtles will hang in the air on the bridge year after year without end.

Issa is no doubt indignant about the hypocritical custom of catching turtles and other beings just so they can be sold and later released, and he himself surely sympathizes with the hanging turtles and feels he can understand to a certain extent how they must feel. During the lunar year that is now ending, Issa has been back to his hometown twice to negotiate with his half-brother about their inheritance. During the second visit he signed an agreement to share the house and fields, but his brother has remained cold to him and has kept asking for more time before they implement the agreement. Issa must feel as if he is suspended indefinitely between his hometown and Edo, and he no doubt wonders whether his brother will ever implement the agreement. Issa returned to Edo from his second visit to his hometown only ten days before he wrote this hokku, so his feeling of homelessness must be very strong. Using irony, Issa may be asking, Must we turtles hang in their air our whole lives, that is, as tradition has it, for ten thousand years?

The woodblock print by the print artist Hiroshige of a turtle for sale hanging in the air above a wooden tub on Mannen-bashi, or Ten Thousand Year Bridge, another large Edo bridge. Mt. Fuji can be seen far away in the west below the suspended turtle, which seems to soar above it. This may well be an ironic comment by Hiroshige.

Chris Drake


- Issa about Ryogoku -

ryôgoku ya fune mo hito-gumi toshiwasure

Ryogoku Bridge--
even on a boat, people
drinking away the year

Ryôgoku Bridge is the oldest of the major bridges crossing the Sumida River in Edo (today's Tokyo). It links the provinces of Shimosa and Musashi, hence its name, which means, "Both Provinces."
According to Maruyama Kazuhiko, Ryôgoku was a famous east-west bridge where people would gather to enjoy the cool of evening. In this case, instead of pleasant cool air, the bitter cold of night stretches to the east and west.

ryôgoku no ryoohoo to mo ni yozamu kana

on Ryogoku Bridge
in both directions...
the cold night

Tr. and Comment - David Lanoue

ryôgoku ya chito suzumu ni mo maigo fuda

Ryogoku Bridge--
even in this moment of cool air
a lost child sign

Tr. David Lanoue

kawahori ya saraba nanji to ryôgoku e

bats are flying--
let's go, then
to Ryogoku Bridge!

Tr. David Lanoue

hito-goe ya yo mo ryôgoku no doyoo teri

people's voices
on Ryogoku Bridge even at night...
midsummer drought

Tr. David Lanoue

hitori mi ya ryôgoku e dete kusuri kuu

my life alone--
all the way to Ryogoku Bridge
for medicine

Tr. David Lanoue

. kusuri gui 薬喰 "eating medicine" . - - - kigo for all winter


Ryogoku Bridge and the Great River
The Ryogokubashi Bridge and Okawabata Bank


- Woodblock prints about Ryogoku Bridge
- source :


両国に古りし下駄屋や冬の雨 ... furushi getaya
Katsumata Itto 勝又一透 (1907 - 1999)

. getaya 下駄屋 craftsman making Geta in Edo .

Kikaku 其角 (両国橋の舟に遊びて)


Minagawa Bansui 皆川盤水


. Japanese Architecture - cultural keywords used in haiku .




ISSA - dog koan


. Kobayashi Issa 小林一茶 in Edo .

source : - Rodney Alan Greenblat



A monk asked Joshu,
"Do dogs have a Buddha-nature?"
Joshu answered, "Not."

[Mu -- Wu in Japanese (無): no, not, non-, nothing, emptiness, without]

(tr. Chris Drake)

Joshu's koan on the Buddha-nature of dogs, winter --

avoid it --
the snowy path

1 - inu-domo ga yokete iru nari yuki no michi

A later variant:

dogs kindly
avoid it --
the snowy path

1a - inu-domo ga yokete kurekeri yuki no michi

snowy field --
the path curves
by itself

2 yuki no hara michi wa shizen to magarikeri

the junk dealer
also asks people
for icicles

3 katakata wa tsurara o tanomu kuzuya kana

the sumo wrestler
kindly stays away
from the snowy field

4 sumou-tori ga yokete kurekeri yuki no hara

a difficult journey
also grows older
under the foot warmer

5 uki-tabi mo kotatsu de toshi o torinikeri

the path
to paradise approaches --
this coldness

6 gokuraku no michi ga chikayoru samusa kana

you go out to have fun,
meet someone, end up
pounding rice cake dough

7 yo-asobi ni dekkuwasete ya mochi o tsuku

the temple watchman's
pole hits a stone wall --
coldest night of the winter

8 bou-tsuki ya ishigaki tataku kan no iri

These eight hokku, in this order, appear as a series in Issa's diary for the intercalary or extra lunar 1st month in 1822, two months before Issa's third son Konzaburo was born in his hometown. The word "winter" in the headnote indicates that the eight hokku are about winter, not spring, the current season. The sequence is framed by two humorous hokku about a bush warbler nearby singing pompous and overly serious things.
The warbler, of course, suggests Issa himself.

Issa writes the hokku series on one of the most famous Zen koans, or difficult, suggestive questions given to students by Zen masters. Supported mainly by warriors in the medieval period, Zen became popular among commoners in the Edo period, and many books were published about it. Issa was not a Zen monk, but he could easily have read Zen koans in various printed editions. The koan about Joshu and dogs is the first koan in the popular Chinese koan anthology with commentary entitled The Gateless Barrier (in Japanese Mumonkan 無門関), compiled by the Chinese Chan monk Wumen Huikai (1183-1260). Since Issa may be using this collection, an English translation of its comments on Joshu's dog koan is given below. It is one of many translations that can be found online.

All 48 Koans With Commentaries by the Wanderling


A monk asked Joshu,
"Has the dog the Buddha nature?"
Joshu replied, "Mu"

- Mumon's Comment:
For the pursuit of Zen, you must pass through the barriers (gates) set up by the Zen masters. To attain his mysterious awareness one must completely uproot all the normal workings of one's mind. If you do not pass through the barriers, nor uproot the normal workings of your mind, whatever you do and whatever you think is a tangle of ghost. Now what are the barriers? This one word "Mu" is the sole barrier. This is why it is called the Gateless Gate of Zen. The one who passes through this barrier shall meet with Joshu face to face and also see with the same eyes, hear with the same ears and walk together in the long train of the patriarchs. Wouldn't that be pleasant?

Would you like to pass through this barrier? Then concentrate your whole body, with its 360 bones and joints, and 84,000 hair follicles, into this question of what "Mu" is; day and night, without ceasing, hold it before you. It is neither nothingness, nor its relative "not" of "is" and "is not." It must be like gulping a hot iron ball that you can neither swallow nor spit out.

Then, all the useless knowledge you have diligently learned till now is thrown away. As a fruit ripening in season, your internality and externality spontaneously become one. As with a mute man who had had a dream, you know it for sure and yet cannot say it. Indeed your ego-shell suddenly is crushed, you can shake heaven and earth. Just as with getting ahold of a great sword of a general, when you meet Buddha you will kill Buddha. A master of Zen? You will kill him, too. As you stand on the brink of life and death, you are absolutely free. You can enter any world as if it were your own playground. How do you concentrate on this Mu? Pour every ounce of your entire energy into it and do not give up, then a torch of truth will illuminate the entire universe.

Has a dog the Buddha nature?
This is a matter of life and death.
If you wonder whether a dog has it or not,
You certainly lose your body and life!

Issa's eight hokku are his responses.
The sixth hokku suggests Issa maybe wondering if satori leads to enlightenment in the Pure Land, but Amida doesn't directly appear in any of the hokku, unless snow is taken to be an image of Amida's compassion. Many different interpretations are possible for each verse, and it seems worth mentioning that the standard Mahayana teaching is that all animals and even bushes and trees have sentience and Buddha-nature, that is, have the ability to become a buddha, so if Joshu's mu 無 answer is taken simply as "No!" or "Not!" this is rather shocking to the first-time reader, since it is an apparent denial of a central Buddhist doctrine. The eight hokku are not a formal renku sequence, but the subtle links between the various hokku in the series are also worth savoring.

Chris Drake


. Koan and Haiku 公案と俳句 .


kesa aki to shiranu enoko ga hotoke kana

puppy unaware
it's autumn this morning --
blissful Buddha!

This hokku is from the 7th month (August) of 1820, when Issa was living in his hometown. The 7th month is the beginning of lunar autumn, and the year begins its gradual end. Issa is fifty-seven and has had a hard life, so his body is beginning to show signs of age, and he views the coming of autumn a bit wistfully. In contrast, the puppy knows nothing of the change of seasons yet and won't until large changes begin to occur outside. Issa draws on a proverb, shiranu ga hotoke, "unknowing, a Buddha," that is fairly similar to "Ignorance is bliss" to praise the puppy as a peaceful, happy Buddha for not being aware of time passing and its own mortality and to humorously criticize himself for worrying too much about time passing. There is another level, however.

Most schools of Buddhism in Japan, including the True Pure Land school to which Issa belonged, taught that all plants and animals had sentience and the ability to become a Buddha, and it was commonly believed that dogs, cats, and other animals had purer minds than humans and were not subject to the 108 bonnou or kleshas -- the negative mental states that cause so much human suffering. So Issa probably takes the peaceful breathing of the puppy to indicate a level of spiritual knowledge-within-ignorance deeper than what he is aware of in himself, even though he has more specialized knowledge about the passing of calendar time.

Chris Drake

. hotoke  仏 and haiku .


. MORE - DOG haiku by Issa .


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. WKD : Kobayashi Issa 小林一茶 - Introduction .





. Famous Places of Edo and the Edo period .
. hori 堀 moat and districts with this name .
Sotobori 外堀 / そとぼり / 外濠 - The outer moat of Edo Castle
and the many waterways of Edo

© More in the WIKIPEDIA !

- quote
Sotobori street between Akasakamitsuke - Toranomon goes along Sotobori of Edo-jo Castle and trace of reservoir.
Reservoir was used as water supply in the beginning in the early modern times. A part of the Sotobori stone wall is left in front of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology yard and Toranomon Mitsui Building. Stone wall in front of Mitsui Building in particular is the only oar stand in Edo-jo Castle Sotobori. Stone wall left in the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology yard was copy of Sotobori which surrounded Edo-jo Castle and the Edo Shogunate mobilized daimyos of the whole country and built in (1636) for Kanei era 13 years.
In Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, we stored stone wall based on excavation result with construction of central joint Government building Building No. 7 and established display corner where the total picture of stone wall found in in front of Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology yard lounge and new Government building connecting walkway of subway Ginza Line Toranomon Station was seen.
- source :

. Edo Castle, Edo joo 江戸城 Edo-jo Castle .

. Famous Places of Edo and the Edo period .

- quote
Most of the outer moats, Sotobori, were reclaimed by civil engineers of Tokyo local government after the Pacific war ended. They reclaimed the moats with debris of air raids piled up everywhere in Tokyo after the war and built highways or other facilities over them..

A part of the moat remains today between Ichigaya and Iidabashi and a road called Sotobori-dori runs along the moat with cherry trees planted along the roadside. In mid spring, you can see through the window of Chuo-sen train the cherry blossoms in full bloom and reflecting their images on the water of the moat.
- source :


Tokugawa Ieyasu had learned about the importance of an outer moat during the siege of Odawara castle.
He later applied this knowledge to the fortification of his own castle and town, Edo.

- quote -
Odawara Castle (小田原城 Odawara-jō)
. . . . . During the Muromachi period, Odawara Castle had very strong defenses, as it was situated on a hill, surrounded by moats with water on the low side, and karahori 空堀 dry ditches on the hill side, with banks, walls and cliffs located all around the castle, enabling the defenders to repel attacks by the great warriors Uesugi Kenshin in 1561 and Takeda Shingen in 1569.
However, during the Battle of Odawara in 1590, Toyotomi Hideyoshi forced the surrender of the Late Hōjō clan through a combination of a three-month siege and bluff. After ordering most of the fortifications destroyed, he awarded the holdings of the Late Hōjō to Tokugawa Ieyasu.
- - - More in the WIKIPEDIA !

Walking along the Sogamae fortifications !
About 9 kilometers !
In the direction of Edo : 江戸口見附跡
- reference andl photos : -

soogamae 総構え / 総構 total structure
soogamae (そうがまえ) 惣構 、sooguruwa 総曲輪(そうぐるわ), sooguruwa 総郭(そうぐるわ)

The most outside moat or protection around a toride 砦 fort, castle or castle town


- quote -
Edo Castle Moat Tour by Boat
When Edo Castle was built, the Tokugawa made use of the natural riverways to create part of the Outer Moat (sotobori). The Outer Moat begins around the Kiji Bridge in central Tokyo (Chiyoda-ku), follows part of the Nihonbashi River before cutting west and creating a spiral around to Iidabashi where it continues East until dumping into the Sumida RIver which finishes off the Sotobori when it flows into Tokyo Bay.

Today the Kanda River flows from the northwest of Tokyo into the outer moat around Iidbashi and then on into the Sumida River. This section of the river from Iidabashi to the Sumida River is completely man made. The course of the river was redirected to create the outer moat. The original river flowed down past the castle to a point farther downriver on the Sumida River. This river is now called the Nihonbashi River and corresponds to the beginning of the Outer Moat spiral. Today it is actually connected to the Sotobori (Kanda River) at the original area in Iidabashi. That also makes it possible to travel from the Nihonbashi River to the Kanda River into the Sumida River and back again.

Thanks to the Consortium of Rediscovery Edo-Tokyo Walk you can take a cruise in a boat around these 3 sections of the former Sotobori. Along the way you can get some great close up views of the stone walls that are difficult to see from outside as they're hidden under the Shuto Expressway. You can find many kokuin (insignias) carved into the stones that are very difficult to see from outside without binoculars. Along the way the guide will show you Edo Period ukiyo-e prints to show what the river was like and talk about the Edo Period river culture.
The tours are in Japanese only, but the cruise is enjoyable for anyone to view Tokyo from the waterways.
- reference source : 2013 -

. Iidamachi, Iida-machi 飯田町 Iidamachi district .


That map describes four river basins:
Tonegawa 利根川 (Tone River)
Arakawa 荒川
Tamagawa 多摩川 / 玉川 (Tama River)
Sagamigawa 相模川 (Sagami River)

The purpose of this blog is to map and describe all of the rivers and streams in the Tokyo area.
- source : thetokyofilesrivers... -

- quote -
- - - - - Waterways in Edo
To guard against attacks on Edo Castle, a network of strategic moats, streams, and canals was laid out in a spiral pattern. Waterways for freight transport formed a vertical and horizontal grid.

At the points of intersection between the roads and the waterways, bridges were built and short ferry routes called watashi ("crossings") were also developed. Because waterways and roads intersected in so many places, Edo had a huge number of bridges. At the time, Osaka was known as the "water city" because of its many bridges - about 200 in all - but Edo put the "water city" to shame with over 500 bridges.
Landing points called kashi ("river banks") were established at various points along the waterways for unloading freight. Warehouses and markets were set up at the landing points, and these spots became hubs for the distribution of goods in Edo.
- source : -

The relationship between urban structure and waterways in Edo, old Tokyo
- Abstract -
The purpose of this study is to reveal the relationship between the urban structure and the waterway in Edo, the old Tokyo.
The main findings are:
1) The city of Edo was expanded over the river by changing the route of river waters, and limiting the affected area during times of flooding.
2) The canals in the low city were used as water transport between the city and the farmlands. The urban design of the low city was closely related with the canals.
3) According to the drinking water way, there were some hierarchies between the city and the farming villages, warriors and merchants area, etc.
4) The sewerage was not so dirty, because it was consisted of rainwater and gray water.
Rather, the sewerage had seemed as a charm against evil. Therefore the drainage channels were used as the boundary between residences, residence and street, towns, and town and farmland. Not only Edo, but also many cities in the world were formed by relating with waterway. In these days, it is important that not only promoting some project of the waterway which is suited as the actual needs like attracting the tourist or creating the beautiful landscape of agriculture, but also rethinking about the waterway which has related with the urban structure or the lifestyle of the citizens in every city.
- reference source : Kosuke Sakura -

. 多摩川上水 Tamagawa Josui and 神田上水 Kanda Josui  .

. Horidomechoo 堀留町 Horidomecho District waterways .
Nihonbashi - two Horidome rivers (east and west).

. Mita Yosui 三田用水 Mita Waterway and 三田上水 josui aqueduct .

. Tameike 赤坂溜池町 Akasaka Tameike district .
"irrigation pond"


- - - - - H A I K U - - - - -

sotobori no waruru oto ari fuyu no tsuki

the outer moat
makes a cracking sound -
moon in winter

Tr. Gabi Greve

cracking sounds
in the outer moat --
winter moon

Tr. Chris Drake

This hokku is from the winter of 1792. Edo castle was renovated and expanded considerably after it was chosen as the site of the shogunate in the early 17th century. It already had a complex network of inner moats running through the core areas of the castle grounds, but to ensure safety the shogunate decided to add an outer moat as well and forced daimyo domain lords around the country to contribute the money, building materials, and workers the shogunate needed to construct the outer moat, which was 15 km (9.3 miles) long. The spacious area between the inner moats around the castle proper and the outer moat was used mainly for the mansions of various daimyo lords, who were required to stay in Edo in attendance on the shogun every other year. The moat itself, like the rest of the castle, was walled with massive pieces of carefully cut granite brought from great distances. The outer moat walls were so strong that some of them remain in fairly good condition even today after surviving US air raids in WW II and postwar city planning.

In Issa's time commoners were allowed to go only as far as the outer side of the outer moat, part of which ran along the edge of a large park, so this is presumably where Issa is standing and looking at the clear, bright winter moon above. Its bright, hard light throws sharp shadows everywhere, and when the ice in the moat makes cracking sounds, moonlight, too, may synesthetically seem to be breaking up into solid pieces. In the silence the sounds of cracking ice must seem rather loud and penetrating to those near the moat. Is the moon's reflection dully visible on the ice on the moat, as if it had something to do with the cracking? Is Issa suggesting the shogunate itself, like the ice, is cracking apart (something that didn't finally happen until 1867)? There's nothing definite in the hokku to support these interpretations, but there's also nothing to rule them out.

The photo at this link shows a portion of the outer moat that still remains in Hibiya Park near downtown Tokyo. In Issa's time the water level was of course much higher.

Chris Drake

sotobori ni rin to inoko no kagari kana

by the outer moat
bonfires strong and forceful --
night of the wild boar

Tr. Chris Drake

The hokku is from the 10th month (November) of 1815, when Issa, living in his hometown, is back in greater Edo on a three-month visit. The hokku evokes the night of the first Day of the Wild Boar in the 10th month, the month governed by the wild boar according to Sino-Japanese zodiacal calendrical thought.

On this day people of all classes eat special rice cakes believed to increase fertility and protect against disease. They also light hearths, ovens, leg and hand warmers, and other fires for winter and spring use. Edo castle uses the occasion to display of its power and magnificence by lighting large, bright bonfires in iron baskets hanging at key points in and around the castle and at the gates in the wall at the inner ends of two bridges that cross the outer moat. On a practical level, the bonfires are used to light the way for daimyo domain lords and shogunal officials who live outside the moat as they arrive at around sundown to attend an obligatory celebration in the castle on the night of the first Day of the Wild Boar.

All daimyo lords and shogunal officials, including those who live inside the outer moat, are required to attend this celebration, during which they symbolically acknowledge their subservience and pledge once more their fealty to the shogun by accepting fancy rice cakes made from newly harvested rice. The lords and officials and their men are in their most formal clothes and closely follow strict protocol as they go through the gate. Both the lords and the hanging bonfires are imposing, yet there is something utterly serious and as cold as the November night about the whole scene. Issa, who must be standing outside the outer moat, seems to realize that the bonfires are as much for spectacle and for use in identifying each attendee at this mandatory event as they are for simple illumination and that this gravitas and well-lit formal precision are a consciously used image of power itself.

Chris Drake

. Kobayashi Issa 小林一茶 in Edo .

Boar, the Twelfth Month
Ishikawa Toyomasa 石川豊雅 (act. 1770–1790)


. hori 堀 moat and districts with this name .

. kawa  江戸の川 -- 江戸の河 the rivers of Edo .

. Japanese Architecture - cultural keywords used in haiku .

- #sotobori #odawaracastle #sogamae #iidabashi #waterways #josui -