[Jizo statue in the grounds of Zenkoji. Photo Ad Blankestijn]
The "ricecakes" in my translation are in fact "botamochi," literally "peony cakes," a term for rice cakes covered with bean jam and made during the vernal equinox. The same cakes are called ohagi (after the bushclover that blooms in September) when made during the autumnal equinox (see my post about ohagi in Japanese Food Dictionary). Jizo is a popular Bodhisattva, helper of all humans but especially children. He also guides those who have died through the Underworld.ricecakes -also in Jizo's lap
the spring wind
botamochi ya | Jizo no hiza mo | haru no kaze
[Street leading to Zenkoji Temple in winter. Photo Ad Blankestijn]
in the autumn windA single firefly (hotaru) has survived into autumn, but when the cold wind blows it tries to get away - on foot, as it has already lost the power to fly. This haiku is a good example of Issa's minute attention to small creatures as insects.
escaping on foot
akikaze ni | aruitenigeru | hotaru kana
[Haiku stone along the road in Nagano. Photo Ad Blankestijn]
beyondThis haiku is simplicity itself. The picture shows the haiku stone by the roadside.
my outstretched legs
clouds like mountains
nagedashita | ashi no saki ni | kumo no mine
[Gate of Zenkoji. Photo Ad Blankestijn]
how beautifulThe Milky Way is in Japan called Heaven's River. It seems all the more impressive when glimpsed through a tiny hole. A shoji is a wooden frame covered with translucent rice paper. Shoji could serve as doors, windows, or partitioning screens. That there is a hole in the paper, points at a poor house - usually such holes would be quickly repaired. But Issa enjoys the hole in the paper screen, for now he can see the Milky Way through it.
the Milky Way
seen through a hole in the shoji
utsukushi ya | shoji no ana no | Ama no Kawa
[Main Hall of Zenkoji. Photo Ad Blankestijn]
even sparrowsAs in the haiku on the firefly, Issa is a keen observer of nature. But there is more: the Amida Trinity of Zenkoji promises to save all sentient beings and that includes sparrows as well.
bring their children
suzumera mo | oyakotsure nite | Zenkoji
Also see my other post, "Pulled by an Ox," on haiku stones with poems by Issa.
Note: A great resource on Issa, containing more than 7300 translations of his haiku, is Haiku of Kobayashi Issa by David G. Lanoue.