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Second Life: Japanese Haiku in Translation — “night fog”

Welcome to Second Life: Japanese Haiku in Translation, a weekly look at haiku from the source, and how it might be brought to us.

 

 

A paper lantern coming from the opposite direction; night fog

提灯が向ふから来る夜霧哉

chōchin ga mukō kara kuru yogiri kana

(Ozaki Hōsai 尾崎放哉)

 

The season word here is night fog, yogiri, which is associated with autumn. A paper lantern is handheld, but the person holding it is invisible in the fog; only the approaching light can be seen.

Second Life: Japanese Haiku in Translation is presented by Dan Bornstein, a language specialist in Japanese and a writer of fiction, poetry, and essays. His work in English has appeared, among other places, in Daily Science Fiction and Star*Line, and is also included in the 2022 Dwarf Stars anthology. He lived in Japan for eight years (four in Kyoto, four in Tokyo). He regularly posts short prose and haiku poetry on his bilingual English/Hebrew website.

This Post Has 11 Comments

  1. a paper lantern
    coming from the opposite direction
    night fog — Ozaki Hōsai (trans. Dan Bornstein)
    .
    I don’t have Japanese but in English, to me, there is a difference between “coming from the opposite direction” and “coming towards me”. The latter allows for the possibility (or even probability) that the viewer/ narrator is stationary, not moving, while ‘coming from the opposite direction’ implies that the ‘narrator’ is out in the fog, too, walking (or riding his bicycle or whatever) Narrator and unseen lantern holder seem to be on the same path, approaching from opposite directions.
    The lantern seems to be the sort of paper lantern one holds by a handle or on the end of a stick. I can’t help but note the opposites of ‘night fog’ (darkness) and ‘lantern’ (light). Is the yet unseen lantern holder a messenger who’s been sent to bring urgent news to the narrator? Or is it just chance that the two are both out in the night fog? Or fate? Who knows? There may be a story, but at this point it’s yet to be revealed.

    The suspense! :-) To me, this haiku is brilliantly cinematic, despite being written long before the cinema. I’m glad I stumbled upon it. Thank you, Dan Bornstein.

    .

    1. Ah, an apparition….a ghost lantern… For some reason, thinking about the haiku, I thought of the lantern being held out in the same way that the ‘headless horseman’, from Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, holds out his head in his hand.

  2. In my opinion, one of Hosai’s better haiku.

    Interestingly, this haiku isn’t included among the 579 of Hosai’s haiku that Hiroaki Sato translates in his book, “Right under the big sky, I don’t wear a hat: THE HAIKU AND PROSE OF HOSAI OZAKI” (Stone Bridge Press, 1993).

    1. Also, it should be noted that this haiku of Hosai’s is in the traditional Japanese format of 5/7/5 Japanese syllables. Hosai wrote a lot of ‘free-verse’ haiku. He is often compared to Santoka.

      1. Taking a little ‘liberty’ with another version:

        coming toward me
        through the night fog . . .
        lantern-light . . .

  3. This is a very eerie poem. It’s night, there’s a fog to make the night seem even more impenetrable. The Bon Festival was recently held to satisfy the departed and now, coming toward the poet, a lantern floating and swaying all by itself. I get goose bumps.

  4. A paper lantern coming from the opposite direction; night fog

    提灯が向ふから来る夜霧哉

    chōchin ga mukō kara kuru yogiri kana

    (Ozaki Hōsai 尾崎放哉)

    Probably far-fetched, but this haiku brings to mind the description of a comet or a shooting star – a luminary shooting across the sky with a trailing haze/fog, or a similar visual – one of the large Chinese paper dragons in a night parade. I can imagine the fire-breathing dragon streaking across the sky with smoke/haze trailing behind.

  5. a paper lantern
    coming from the opposite direction
    night fog

    drizzle in the firelight
    on its way back

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