Translated by Steven J. Willett
Utagawa Hiroshige ( 歌川広重) 797 ~ 12 October 1858), was a Japanese ukiyo-e artist, considered the last great master of that tradition. His best known collection of block prints in horizontal format is One Hundred Famous Views of Edo and in vertical format The Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaidō. This print depicts a sudden summer rainstorm at Shōno (庄野) in print No. 46 from The Fifty-three Stations of the Tokaidō.
Here in my hometown of Hamamatsu City our rainy season or tsuyu (梅雨) has started a bit early and will continue for three weeks. The typical rainy season runs variously between May and July in different regions of Japan. I’ve included this print because I’m now enjoying constant rain, fog, sweeping clouds and occasional lightning before it all ends and the oppressively humid summer heat closes down over us. By then, however, my wife and I will be at our home in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
Translation note: It’s very difficult to translate haiku into any language, but I’ve used a somewhat simplified and occasionally non-syntactical English to convey haiku’s endless ambience. The Japanese is given in linear form with a capital letter beginning each ‘central’ (if I can use that incorrect term) section of seven syllables. Slashes mark the three verbal, really speaking, stages of the haiku. At our old farmhouse in the mountains of Haruno, I’ve experienced much of the haiku in this collection. The area is still full of villages and dedicated to farming, principally green tea, plumbs, mikan (mandarin oranges) and wasabi among others. Haiku uses simple language like “water’s sound” or “moon mountain,” so beware of misleading simplicity.
旅人の 心にも似よ 椎の花 Tabibito no/ Kokoro nimo niyo/ Shii no hana The mind of a traveler resembles
beech flowers清滝の 水汲ませてや ところてん Kiyotaki no/ Mizu kumasete ya/ Tokoroten From clean waterfalls ladling up water!
TokorotenNote: Tokoroten is a gelatinous edible slime for use in food preparation. 馬ぼくぼく 我を絵に見る 夏野かな Uma bokuboku/ Ware wo e ni miru/ Natsuno kana The horse trumps I see myself in picture
summer fields紫陽花や 藪を小庭の 別座敷 Ajisai ya/ Yabu wo koniwa no/ Betsu-zashiki Hydrangea! In a thicket, a little garden’s
detached roomNote: A separate tatami room has a thicket with hydrangea serving for a rustic garden. 瓜作る 君があれなと 夕涼み Uri tsukuru/ Kimi ga arena to/ Yusuzumi Growing a gourd wish you were here
cool eveningNote: I translated 君 (kimi), a second person intimate pronoun, with ‘you’ because our language has lost thee and thou. 啄木鳥も 庵はやぶらず 夏木立 Kitsutsuki mo/ Iori ha yaburazu/ Natsu-kodachi Even the woodpecker couldn’t crack the hut
in summer groveNote: The 庵 (iori) is a bamboo hut that serves as a hermitage for prayer or meditation. 己が火を 木々に蛍や 花の宿 Onoga hi wo/ Kigi ni hotaru ya/ Hana no yado Their own flame in the forest fireflies!
Flowers around the house.五月雨に 鳰の浮巣を 見にゆかん Samidare ni/ Nio no ukisu wo/ Mini yukan In early summer rain grebe’s floating nest
I oversee雲の峰 いくつ崩れて 月の山 Kumo no mine/ Ikutsu kuzurete/ Tsuki no yama Cloud summits always crumbling:
moon mountainどんみりと 樗や雨の 花曇り Donmiri to/ Ouchi ya ame no/ Hana-gumori Thick and dull chinaberries in rain
cloudy flowersNote: 樗 (ouchi) is chinaberry or Japanese bead tree (Melia azedarach) 花あやめ 一夜に枯れし 求馬哉 Hana-ayame/ Ichiya ni kareshi/ Motome kana Iris flowers all withered in one night:
MotomeNote: Yoshioka Motome(吉岡求馬) was a kabuki actor in the Edo Period. Just before the day of his young death, Basho viewed the play. 子供等よ 昼顔咲きぬ 瓜剥かん Kodomo-ra yo/ Hirugao sakinu/ Uri mukan Hey, you kids! bindweeds are blooming
let’s peel gourdsNote: 昼顔 (hirugao) is Japanese bindweed (Calystegia japonica). You can see pictures of bindweed flowers here: https://duckduckgo.com/?q=japanese+bindweed+gourd&t=newext&atb=v252-1&iax=images&ia=images 暑き日を 海に入れたり 最上川 Atsuki hi wo/ Umi ni iretari/ Mogamigawa The hot sun set into the sea
by Mogami River五月雨を あつめてはやし 最上川 Samidare wo/ Atsumete Hayashi/ Mogamigawa The early summer rains falling together, swift
the Mogami River川風や 薄柿着たる 夕涼み Kawakaze ya/ Usukaki kitaru/ Yusuzumi River breeze! Wearing light brown
the cool evening楽しさや 青田に涼む 水の音 Tanoshisa ya/ Aota ni suzumu/ Mizu no oto How delightful! Cooling in the green paddy
water’s sound団扇もて あふがん人の うしろむき Uchiwa mote/ Aogan hito no/ Ushiro-muki Holding the fan someone whips
from the back南無ほとけ 草の台も 涼しかれ Namu-hotoke/ Kusa no dai mo/ Suzusi kare The Buddha statue on an old stand also
cools himselfNote: 南無 (namu) refers to 南無阿弥陀仏 (Namu Amida Butsu). ほとけ (hotoke) is an old word for an image or statue.