Hokusai: Forty-Six Views of Mt Fuji

After my 2013 trip to Japan I wrote haiku in response to the famous series of ukiyo-e (“pictures of the floating-world”) woodblock prints by the great Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1846) and also in response to the death of my mother in 2012. Although titled “Thirty-Six Views of Mt Fuji,” the original series of thirty-six prints was so popular that the artist added ten more. There is no definitive order to the prints, so different collections have different orders; these haiku follow one of the popular arrangements. Mt Fuji, of course, is the iconic Japanese volcano, standing tall at 12,388 feet (3,776 m) and still active even though the last eruption was in 1707.

300px-Great_Wave_off_Kanagawa2
THE GREAT WAVE
Great wave of sadness
Great wave off Fukushima
Great wave of beauty

150px-Red_Fuji_southern_wind_clear_morning
RED FUJI
Fuji, are you mad
That I sit here all alone?
Nothing else to say

800px-Lightnings_below_the_summit
STORM BELOW THE SUMMIT
Where are the showers?
I think I’m missing something
Who will see me cry?

800px-Fuji_seen_through_the_Mannen_bridge_at_Fukagawa
UNDER MANNEN BRIDGE
The whole world is there
The fishers do not see you
You do not see them 

Hokusai03_suruga-hill-1024x696-1
FUJI FROM SURUGA HILL
You are to the right
Life’s struggles seem to go on
Do you see the tree?

spreading pine tree aoyama
THE SPREADING PINE TREE AT AOYAMA
You have lost your snow
The tree is wider than you
Pain is out of sight

1024px-Senju_in_the_Musachi_provimce
SENJU IN MUSHASHI PROVINCE
I was with some friends
We were walking down the hill
Now I’m all alone

tama river new
CROSSING THE TAMA RIVER
I have seen rivers
And some rivers have seen me
Slow-flowing sadness

inume pass
INUME PASS
That’s some hill they’re on
Though not as steep as Fuji
It doesn’t matter

the cooper
THE COOPER
Wheel of samsara
Mt Fuji’s off the center
Is this all there is?

honganji
HONGANJI TEMPLE IN ASAKUSA, TOKYO
Something in the wind
I was there two years ago
Snowy lonely now

tsukuda island
TSUKUDA ISLAND
Big boatload of rocks
One man poles the whole damn thing
Fuji looks serene

800px-Shichiri_beach_in_Sagami_province
THE SEVEN-LEAGUE COAST IN KAMAKURA
Kawabata lived
Near the tsunami warnings
Just up from this coast

blue fuji
BLUE FUJI AT DAWN
I thought I’d lost you
Now I see that you are cranes
Flying toward Fuji

fisherman
FISHERMAN AND CHILD
They are at the top
The fish are at the bottom
Fuji’s in between

cryptomeria
CRYPTOMERIA AT MISHIMA PASS
Her voice once was clear
Now she floats in outer space
Dragon clouds surround

lake suwa
LAKE SUWA
You look so peaceful
You are my darling in sleep
No birds are in sight

ejiri suruga
ALONG THE EJIRI ROAD IN SURUGA
Hold your hats, fellows!
Papers, papers, everywhere!
O to be a bird!

totomi
IN THE TOTOMI MOUNTAINS
I like the way that
Everything is connected
But poor Sisyphus!

ushibori-in-the-hitachi-province.jpg!Blog
USHIBORI IN HITACHI PROVINCE
Cold austere seascape
Framed by green rounded contours
Birds blend with the snow

kites new year
TOKYO NEW YEAR
Two kites in the sky
Mt Fuji front and center
Three men on a roof

sunset ryogoky bridge
SUNSET OVER THE RYOGOKU BRIDGE
The day’s growing dark
I will dream that I am lost
Boatman: row to me

temple of 500 buddhas
TEMPLE OF THE BUDDHA’S FIVE HUNDRED DISCIPLES
Look at the women
Maybe they are Buddhas too
Just like you and me

snowy teahouse
SNOWY MORNING AT THE TEA HOUSE
Women in a house
Mt Fuji is to the right
Where am I in this?

lower maguro
THE LOWER MEGURO
Though you seem so near
I really cannot see you
Rice on terraced hills

waterwheel
THE WATERWHEEL
Women everywhere
All I see is half a wheel
Nothing makes much sense

enoshima
SHINTO GODDESS SHRINE ON ENOSHIMA ISLAND
Homes close together
Do they ever feel alone?
Here’s the place to be

tago bay
MIHO PINE FOREST AT TAGO BAY
And where are you now?
In a hanging orange lantern?
Look at the longboat!

teahouse
THE YOSHIDA TEA HOUSE ON THE OLD KYOTO-TOKYO HIGHWAY
You are a backdrop
To a life of wandering
Where will I go next?

kazusa
THE KAZUSA SEA ROUTE
Ripples like mountains
One boat in front; one behind
Whitecap on the sea

nihonbashi
NIHON BRIDGE IN TOKYO
Infinity bridge
Fuji small and far away
Wide river of pain

sumida
VILLAGE ON THE SUMIDA
Fuji’s red today
Three riders in kimonos
Red juniper trunk

noboto
NOBOTO BAY
Two white Torii gates
Men worship a shrine of shells
I’m only a speck

hakone
LAKE HAKONE
I saw you just once
Without the view of Fuji
I never saw her

fuji reflection
FUJI REFLECTING IN LAKE KAWAGUCHI
What’s above is here
Or so the ancient sages say
Where are you now?

hodogaya
ON THE HODOGAYA ROAD
I paid my respects
Issa is November’s child
Happy with his kind

lumber yard
THE LUMBER YARD AT HONJO
Bamboo hides Fuji
Looking like tall organ pipes
Men building a house

pleasure quarter
THE PLEASURE QUARTER IN SENJU
Are they happy here?
Hokusai has been to Arles
I have been to hell

gotenyama
CHERRY BLOSSOMS AT GOTENYAMA
They frame your last snow
I wish I could celebrate
Only Fuji knows

nakahara new
NAKAHARA IN SAGAMI PROVINCE
We all carry goods
Fuji in all its splendor
Where do I fit in?

izawa
DAWN IN IZAWA
Fuji now returns
She had gone into hiding
Someone close had died

minobu

THE MINOBU RIVER
It’s hard to hold on
When up is down, down is up
What else can be done?

ono
RUSHES AND RICE IN ONO
The laden horses
Look like those Buddhist oxen
What is satori?

tea plantation
THE TEA PLANTATION
Life is at its end
Can I tell you my story?
I’m just a mountain.

kanaya
THE KANAYA FERRY
I was far when you
Were carried to the next world
Should I pay for that?

CLIMBING FUJI
CLIMBING MT FUJI
I suppose I should
Before all my tears dry up
And what if they don’t?