Reflections on a Visit to Japan

In November 2005 I had the opportunity to visit Japan, a country whose ethos I had already explored through haiku poetry. In Tokyo, during an International Conference on haiku, I met Japanese, Irish and American poets and visited Kamakura with a group led by Professor Tsunehiko

Hoshino of the International Museum of Haiku Literature. Here we paid homage to R.H. Blyth, the renowned English translator, who was buried in the temple complex of gardens and shrines. I also visited the Sekigucho Basho Hermitage, now a centre of poetic activity. The graves and statues, some with votive offerings, at Kamakura and the calm, peaceful setting of the Basho centre made a deep impression on me.

I was also able to spend some time at Nara, the old capital, a very different experience from Tokyo. Here I stayed in a Ryokan where the old Japanese customs are paramount and the ‘cloud pines’ of the garden, the tatami mats and the simplicity and harmony of my surroundings
were another world. As it was November the colours in this garden and, most impressively, in the Isui-en Gardens were vibrant and exciting. I have tried to capture some of the feelings aroused by my first visit to this wonderful country.

Jean Duncan