Magical Two Days in Hirado Island

WHR December 2003

WHF in Kyushu 2003 – The Report

– A Haiku Meeting
Susumu Takiguchi
Oxford, UK

World Haiku Festival in Kyushu 2003
25-26 October 2003, Hirado, Nagasaki-ken, Japan

The first Englishman who set foot in Japan, William Adams (1564-1620), loved Hirado. A little over 170 square kilometres large, and with about 25,000 inhabitants, this goat-head-shaped island in the westernmost part of Japan in Nagasaki Prefecture has been a historically important site ever since the 12th Emperor, Keikoh (reigned 73-130) built his shrine at the Island’s southern tip called Shishiki.

mokusei no ka honoka naru omiya kana

(All haiku poems by ST unless otherwise stated)

ancient shrine
perfume wafts from nowhere
a fragrant olive

Having driven all the way from Sasebo where the World Haiku Club’s regional branch is located, members of the Club were given a brief, impromptu sightseeing of Hirado. They stood still, admiring a beautiful, tiny island of virgin forest called Kuroko-jima, about 500 yards out to sea. It had a remarkable resemblance to Kuroshima Island, Sashu, Oita, where William Adams and some of his fellow crew were washed to shore after their Dutch ship, Liefde (love), was shipwrecked in 1600. The pilot of the ship, Adams was 36 years of age and in the prime of his career.

funa-nori no shini-shi mukasi ya aki no umi

calm autumn sea
betrays the violence that killed
many mariners

We were standing in front of the City’s Municipal Culture Centre at the foot of a small hill housing Hirado Castle of Matsura Clan, who was one of the most formidable feudal lords from the ancient times. It was our first stop in our programme of the World Haiku Festival in Kyushu, which was the second regional meeting of WHC following the successful World Haiku Festival in Holland, held only a month earlier. Here, at the Municipal Culture Centre, the 12th National Forum for Taneda Santoka (1882-1940) was about to begin. Our first mission was to attend the event together with some one thousand delegates. Like Adams, Santoka also loved Hirado, and almost decided to live there for the rest of his life.

susuki no naka de kojiki wa neta ka

did the mendicant
sleep here, among
pampas grass?

It was in 1932 (Showa 7) that Santoka visited Hirado. His diary, Gyokotsu-ki, records his experience from March 31st, when he entered Hirado from Emukae until April 3rd, when he spent his last and sleepless night in this area. Santoka found everything in Hirado beautiful—the sea, the mountains and the town. Especially, he was overwhelmed with the beauty of the seascape of Kujuku-shima (the ninety-nine islands). According to Kaneko Tota, who was the guest speaker for the 12th National Forum, Santoka, in fact, did not like the sea. Despite that, he seems to have adored the sea around Hirado.

aki no umi migi hidari yama e noboru

right and left
autumn sea, as I climb
the mountains

Kaneko Tota spoke for nearly two hours. He introduced a passage of Santoka’s diary, which he said seemed to point to the poet’s true feeling about his life:
To this day I have never loved truly. I therefore have never hated, either. In other words, I have never lived truly.
What an extraordinary thing to say! Santoka witnessed the body of his mother when she committed suicide by throwing herself into the well of the family home. He was only ten. The boy saw her body, having been pulled out, lying on the ground, wet, sprawled out and un-presentable. His father was an impossible womaniser and spendthrift. In my opinion, his life all but ended then. He became a damaged person. The rest of his life was a journey to find death, which he could not arrive at for 48 years to come.

shine-nai jibun ni nani ga dekiru

what can I do
who cannot do so much
as killing himself?

Some time ago, there was a national craze in Japan for Santoka. It then died down. Now there seems to be a resurgence. Even so, it was somewhat astonishing that, hearing of the conference, a thousand-strong Santoka-lovers came and gathered together at the drop of a hat to this remotest part of Japan. Back in April 1926 (Tasho 15), Santoka set off on what he called, “a journey of gyokotsu-ruten [travelling mendicancy and vagrancy], with insoluble illusions on my back.” (from his Hachi no Ko) He was 43. Though he settled now and again to live here and there, his journey was continued right up to the year he died—1940 (Showa 15).

do-shiyo mo nai watashi ga aruite iru…….Santoka

who am beyond redemption,
walking………………………………………….(version by ST)

For Santoka, as it was for Basho, travelling meant walking. One cannot beg if one goes by car, bus, train or plane. Using all these means, I travelled all the way from England to reach Hirado, having never walked except when switching from one of these transport machines to another. Santoka is said to have travelled over twenty-eight thousand miles according to an estimate, most of which presumably being on foot. In my journey, presumably I did not walk more than a mile. This is because mine was to move from A to B while for Santoka every step he took was the his closely intertwined walk of journey and life.

shima dakara moh aruku saki ga nai

being an island,
this place gives me no more road
to walk on

At the National Forum’s reception with its sumptuous local delicacies, drinks and dance performances, we were thoroughly spoilt by Matsura Hiroshi. Our host, he is the present head of the Matsura family which goes back to 822 through more than forty generations. All these years ago, his ancestors presided over the Hizen province (present Nagasaki and part of Saga Prefectures) and the seas beyond, fighting off Mongolian invaders in the 12th century, greeting the first Europeans such as William Adams or Francisco Xavier (1506-1552) in the 16th and 17th centuries. All the while they were making Hirado the most thriving trading port for Dutch, English and Chinese trades, bringing fortunes into the province through maritime activities as one of the two strongest suigun (naval forces—in other word, pirates). Even that all-powerful Tokugawa regime had to treat the Matsura clan with some respect, while at the same time constantly spying on them for fear of any rebellion or becoming too strong.

ikuyo mono senran hetaru sakana kana

rich in fish—
survivors, many centuries of
warfare and dramas

WHC members returned for the conference dinner of WHF in Kyushu to our seaside inn, an old, detached palace of the Matsura lords. Once again, local sake flowed, and many varieties of fish dishes of incredible quality and flavour were guzzled down. Special, local beef, cooked in a Japanese way, was brought in and downed with chilled sake. We were all nice and warm after a long soak in the onsen hot spring. Gluttony and decadence were the only words which would describe our scene accurately. Our meeting was somehow incongruous with the spirit of haiku, totally unsuitable for commemorating starving Santoka, a spectacle which could pale corrupt ancient Romans into insignificance.

gochisoh no aima ni omou Santoka

only between dishes
do we commemorate

The following day was an equally fine autumnal day. After another long session of morning baths in the onsen and a breakfast which would normally be mistaken for a big evening meal, we set off for a ginko, driving the length of Hirado. Nothing has changed much since Santoka visited the island, except for paved roads and few other mod cons. Little known is that Hirado is the birthplace of two very Japanese things: Japanese tea and Japanese Zen. Both were brought from Song Dynasty China by Eisai (1141-1215) after his second trip to the area. Hirado was his first port of call on his return to Japan in 1191 (Kenkyu 2). Fushun-an Temple is where Eisai practiced Zen for the first time in Japan and its garden, Fushun-en, is where he grew the first tea bushes in Japan. There is a rock on which Eisai is said to have practiced zazen, or sitting Zen.

katsuzen to satoranu made-mo cha no kaori

smell of tea,
even if not struck with

Everywhere, the island of Hirado is dotted with places of historical interest. An earlier Buddhist monk, Kuhkai, or Kobo-daishi, stopped at Hirado on his return from Tang Dynasty China in 806 (Daido 1), and practiced Mikkyo (esoteric sect) rituals for the first time in Japan. Famous names connected with Hirado include Empress Jingu (She ordered conquest of Korea in 212, sending Jujobetsuo to the Island), Yamaga Soko (a famous scholar in Chinese classic and warfare), Yoshida Shoin (a teacher of warfare and European studies in the latter Tokugawa Period), Teiseiko (a Ming Dynasty war hero, born in Hirado of a Chinese warlord and local mother and fought in Formosa against Ching Dynasty forces) and Richard Cox (head of the English factory in Hirado).

eiyu mo hi no mi nokoreru aki no sora

heroes of the past
only their monuments standing
autumn sky

In addition to tea, there are other foreign commodities which were brought to Hirado before any other place in Japan. Beer, for instance, is said to have been first introduced to Nagasaki in 1724 (Kyoho 9). However, historians of Hirado are claiming that their trade documents say beer was among the goods imported when an English ship came to the Island in June 1613 (Keicho 18), 111 years before Nagasaki. Tobacco is another such example. Contemporary documents record that it was introduced to Hirado on 29 June 1601 (Keicho 6) by a Spanish friar. Tobacco seeds were presented as a gift to Tokugawa Ieyasu (1542-1616) in August of the same year. There are different theories as to when and where tobacco was first introduced to Japan (e.g. a strong theory names the Portuguese as having brought tobacco to Japan in the 16th century), but Hirado’s people insist that theirs is the most accurate claim, backed by historical documents. Coffee may have also been first imported to Japan through Hirado but relevant documents, such as diaries of the Dutch factory, have been lost.

shashi-hin mo kau wa jido-hanbai-ki

luxuries of the past—
tobacco, coffee and tea, all sold now
at wayside vending machines

Our team drove to all the prettiest bays, beaches, inlets and coves. climbing all the loftiest hills and peaks. The most attractive seaside spot is a place along an incredibly beautiful inlet. Called Nishi no Hama, the unspoilt shore of white sand, deep green sea and deeper green forest was such that one would be overcome by an illusion that a Japanese Adam and Eve may turn up any moment. Of all the peaks, on the other hand, Tai no Hana (a curious name, meaning the nose of a sea bream) was the best. Through the clear autumn sky, the panoramic view afforded the sight of Sasebo and the Goto Islands and beyond miles and miles away.

ano saki ni jodo arazu ya aki no umi

beyond the horizon
is there not the jodo of pure land,
autumn sea?

Having travelled the width and breadth of Hirado, we left the Island. I am now returned to England, but William Adams was not so lucky. Because of his maritime expertise, other invaluable knowledge, including mathematics, astrology and shipbuilding and engaging personality, he entered into the employment of the most powerful man of the land, Tokugawa Ieyasu. Incredibly, Adams was given a Japanese samurai name (Miura Anjin), along with swords, a handsome stipend, 250 koku of land (present-day Yokosuka), retinues and high-ranking samurai status. This was the equivalent of hatamoto, and he was the first foreigner to become a feudal lord. Most importantly he held the position of the advisor for Ieyasu in world affairs. His greatest achievements include two Western-style sailing vessels which he supervised to build. Having gone so deeply native, Adams nevertheless desperately longed to go back to England, and to his wife and family. He helped to establish the Dutch factory in Hirado in 1609 (Keicho 14), the English factory in 1613 (Keicho 18) and then went to work at the English factory. However, he became ill and died on 16 May 1620 (Gen-na 6) in Hirado. We visited his gravesite in windy, Sakigata Park in the City, overlooking the Bay. Next to his tomb stood a modest tsuka (monument) built in 1964 (Showa 39) some of its stones brought over from his wife’s tomb in England.

iki-wakare meoto musubaru oka no ue

unable to meet alive,
the couple now joined
on a windy hill



This entry was posted in Haiku, Vol 3-2 December 2003 and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Make a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s