Bashō’s Menu

      by Emiko Miyashita

On November 30, 2013, an award ceremony for the fifteenth Haiku International Association haiku contest was held in Tokyo. The winning haiku announced on our website were translated into English with the help of our guest speaker for the conference that followed the ceremony. Mr. Michael Dylan Welch, the vice president of the Haiku Society of America, gave a talk on “Haiku Neighbours: North American Haiku Today.” He explained how haiku has spread in the region, followed by the problems they face, such as “pseudo-haiku.” Dr. Akito Arima, in his welcome speech at the reception, mentioned that he was impressed to know that Mr. Welch’s middle name was chosen after the famous Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas (1914–1953).

        Before the conference, from November 25th to 28th, Mr. Welch travelled to Nara and Iga Ueno and took 4,000 photos, visited Bashō’s birth house, the Bashō Museum, and paid an honorary visit to Mayor Sakae Okamoto in Iga City. The tinted leaves in Hasedera Temple, nightfall at Omiwa Jinjya, an early morning view from the balcony of Nigatsudo Temple, Kasugataisha Shrine, and Todaiji Temple—he became a part of the Japanese winter scene himself.

        At Bashō’s birth house in Iga Ueno, a menu (replica) from a moon viewing party held on the fifteenth of the eighth month of 1694 was on display. It was in Bashō’s handwriting, and the dishes were actually cooked by his hand. Then, at the Bashō Museum, we could see Bashō’s letter sent to Chigetsu in Otsu on the shore of Lake Biwa, thanking her for sending him a barrel of nanbanshu (wine?), and wheat-gluten bread for him to cook for the guests at the opening of his new hut on the very occasion of this moon-viewing night. Bashō was at the age of nineteen when he started working in the kitchen of Samurai General Shinshichiro Tōdō. Was he actually cooking, using knives? Certainly, Mr. Welch learned something he did not know about Bashō before. According to the mayor, when they reproduced the dishes from this menu, they used wine brewed from Japanese crimson glory vine. Bashō was quite stylish for his day, wasn’t he?

        Here is a haiku by Mr. Welch from his trifold titled “First Snow” that I translated in 5-7-5 Japanese haiku style:

        first snow . . .

        the children’s hangers

        clatter in the closet Michael Dylan Welch

        初雪や子らのハンガー音たてて マイケル・ディラン・ウェルチ

From Haiku International #110, January 2014, which also published my “Haiku Neighbours” keynote address from the organization’s 30 November 2013 annual convention in Tokyo.