Friday, July 09, 2010

Odawara Living: Getting to Know Japan with Haiku

Getting to Know Japan With Haikus

Getting to Know Japan With Haikus

By Elaine Friend

The wind from Mount Fuji

I put it on the fan

Here, the souvenir from Edo.

Basho Matsuo

Haiku poet (1644-1694)

Being Catholic, I didn't realize that Mount Fuji was a sacred mountain for the Japanese who are mostly Buddhists. To them, Mount Fuji is the home of the great kami-sama or gods. They believe it is a mystical gateway between heaven and earth. Pilgrims would climb Mount Fuji's 12,388 feet (3,776 meters) to reach the top and read haikus while contemplating the scenery. In literature, a haiku is a poem usually containing three unrhymed lines, which have 5, 7 and 5 syllables respectively. A haiku presents a pair of contrasting images, one suggestive of time and place, the other a vivid but fleeting observation.

I can understand the sentiment of the Buddhists. Even for Catholics, a high mountain is the closest place on earth to pray to God in heaven, as exemplified by Jesus in the Mount of Olives. Since I wasn't able to "climb" Mount Fuji while in Japan, I could only hope to glimpse its peak from the train station in Odawara, which is near the Hakone National Park. On our sixth and last day in Japan, we were rewarded with a sunny, clear day and the perfect, snow-white cone appeared like a painting in the sky. What a beautiful souvenir from Japan! My feelings at that moment could be expressed by this haiku:

The older we get

the more easily tears come

on a long day.

Yoshi Mikami Issa

Haiku poet

It is true that when we travel to a place for the first time, we are seeing it thru the eyes of a child, absorbing everything that we encounter. If my last day were sentimental, it's because my first days were a wonder. If I were to describe my experience in Narita airport toilet as a haiku, it would sound like this:

I sit down slowly

and see buttons on one side...

a shower in spring.

Yes, the toilet-bidet combination with seat warmers, called washlet, is very popular in Japan, even in public places. Next came the trains. There was something soothing in the soft, humming sound of a modern train as it chugged along its path. Through the wide windows, I saw many Japanese houses that looked the same, mostly painted white with brown colored tiled-roofs.

Next stop was Shinjuku station, where we made a train transfer. It was a blur of black stockings over mini skirts, leggings, boots, trench coats, pashminas, folded denims with stilleto heels, black coat and ties, chic hairdos. Need I say more about Tokyo fashion? Luckily for our stomachs, we bought a bento box meal from the Ekiben (station bento) and a hot green tea bottle from a vending machine. Yes, local fast food Japanese version.

Just to say the word

home, that one word alone

so pleasantly cool.

Kobayashi Issa

Haiku poet

Have you ever tried sleeping on a mat on the floor? How about eating on a low table with your legs warmed underneath the floor, as in a kotatsu? The part I liked most was wearing Japanese pajamas called yukata, it's almost like a kimono but made of cotton. I was at home drinking green tea and sipping miso soup, eating dried tofu, pickled ginger, maki, sushi, dried local fish and sticky rice. There was so much to learn about Japan and its culture, and thanks to my "foster parents" in Japan, I was home away from home.

How can the heart hold

something to last a lifetime...

long conversations.

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Odawara Castle & Japanese Cherry Trees

Japanese Cherry Trees

Japanese Cherry Trees

By Tanya Truong

There are many different varieties of Japanese cherry trees and this article will list some of the most common to the area. There are at least 12 different varieties of cherry that will be listed starting with the Somei Yoshino.

This is the most numerous of cherry trees in Japan, and comes with slightly pink or almost white 5 petal flowers. The Yamazuka is a wild, native cherry that grows in mountainous areas with slightly pink 5 petal flowers. The Shidarezakura is the weeping cherry and has five petal blossoms which can be either white or pink. The Ichiyo has 20 light pink petals. The Ukon has 10-20 petals per blossom and these are yellow in color. Kanzan blossoms hold as many as 30 pink petals.

The Fugenzo has about 30 petals per blossom and start out as a white to slight pink that turns into a darker pink. The Shogetsu has white blossoms of 20 petals. And the Kikuzakura has 100 petals per blossom. This is one of the late bloomers as far as cherry blossoms go. Now the times of the year to see these in Japan are as follows: Yoshino - Late March early April. Yamazakura is late March and early April as well. Skidarezakura - Late March - early April. Ichiyo - Mid April, Ukon - mid April. Kanzan blooms from mid to late April. Fugenzo also blooms from mid to late April. Shogetsu blooms from mid to late April and Kikuzakura blooms from late April to early May.

There are also other varieties of cherry blossom trees in Japan. These include Yaezakura, Shidarezakura and Yamazakura. The Yaezakura have large flowers with pink petals, The Shidarezakura has pink flowers. There are also fall varieties such as Autumnalis, which is considered to be a cross between Higan and Mamezakura. Here are some prime places in Japan for viewing the Sakura. In Tokyo, Odawara Castle, Omiya Koen Park, Mobara Koen Park, Kamine Koen Park and Takasaki Kannon-yama Koen are the places to be. In Kyoto, the best places to visit are Nara Park, Hikone-jo Castle, Himejijo Castle, and Akashi Koen.

In Osaka, The Japan Mint Osaka Head Office, Osako Nishinomaru Garden, Banpaku Koen, Kema Sakuanomiya Park and Kishiwada-jo Castle are your best options. In Kyushu and Okinawa the best places are Motobu Yaedake, Kumamoto Castle, Nishi Koen, Ogi Koen and Mochio Koen. In Tohoku region, Hirosaki Koen, Kitakami Tenshochi, Kajo Koen, Sendai Castle and Tsuruga Castle. In Hokkaido, you have Goryokaku Koen, Matsumae Koen Park, Nijukken Douro, Nenohi Park and Maruyama Park. In Chugoku region, you have Tsuyama Kakuzan Koen, Matsue Jozan Koen, Tokiwa Koen, Utsubuki Koen and Senkouji Koen. These are all places that you can visit and see the Japanese Cherry Trees in full bloom.

Tanya is an avid lover of nature. Her interest span many fields but her true passion lies in growing fantastic plants. Find out how you can master the art of growing cherries by visiting how to care for cherry trees [].

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