Volcano Pilgrim
Five months in Japan as a wandering poet

Archive for April 2009

A Digression Upon Angelica

April 26, 2009

Angelica is a member of the Apiaceae, the parsley or celery family, all of which have hollow stems and tiny flowers that present themselves in circular bunches or umbels. From this they get the fine title of umbellifer, umbrella-bearers. In the same family are anise, dill, chervil, celery, caraway, cilantro, cumin, carrot, fennel, parsnip, parsley […]

Miyakejima, 4

April 26, 2009

In the parking lot of the restaurant, the island’s only restaurant, a crow is perched on the hatchback of a pickup truck. A cat leaps out from under the truck, makes a grab for it, but the crow is too quick, launches itself into the branches with two flaps of its enormous wings. As the […]

Miyakejima, 3

April 26, 2009

You feel like you are seeing everything now. Nothing was happening, and now everything is happening. Why does your sight seem now so sharp and clear?         The raspberry vine             puts out first five white petals                   then a bright green leaf   At […]

Miyakejima, 2

April 26, 2009

You had not expected this to be so easy. In less than an hour you have found the road that circles the base of the volcano. All that remains is to walk around to the south face where, judging by the map, another road squiggles its way up the crater. You could be to the […]

A Bit of Context

April 24, 2009

Miyakejima, or Miyake Island, is one of the Izu-shoto, the chain of islands that begins just beyond of Tokyo Bay and continues south along the juncture of two continental plates. All are to some degree volcanic. Miyake in most cases means “royal estate,” but here it probably remembers an older word, yake, that means “burning.” […]

Miyakejima, 1

April 24, 2009

Among the things that endear you to Japan are drink vending machines. They carry soda and juice and water, to be sure, but also green tea, and – best of all – cans of coffee, with various amounts of milk and sugar, both cold and hot. The most common is Boss Coffee, whose logo features […]

Tokyo – Miyakejima

April 24, 2009

On the night boat to Miyakejima, a second-class ticket gets you a bed-sized strip of carpet in a communal cabin, and a blanket to lie on or under as the mood takes you. Even in such a public place, you are pleased to see how the no-shoe rule is observed. In most other parts of […]

Tokyo, 7

April 23, 2009

You have a few hours to kill before taking the overnight boat to the Izu Islands, so you set off to explore Ueno Park. Ueno is famous for its cherry trees, but the blossoms will not open for another week. People have already begun to claim their spots for hanami, blossom-viewing parties, laying out blue […]

Karuizawa – Tokyo

April 23, 2009

On the train, contemplating the forest path in Hakushu’s poem. The characters oku “inner part, interior” and michi “road,” recall Basho, the title of his last travel diary, Oku-no hosomichi. It is usually translated into something like “narrow road of the interior.” One could also say “the backwoods.” Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita, […]

Asama-yama, 6

April 22, 2009

At breakfast, before driving you back to the train and Tokyo, Tomoko gives you a present. It is a postcard, a blue woodblock print of Asama-yama puffing smoke, seen through a vista of trees so skeletal and sketchy that they look like kanji. Above it is printed what seems, from its layout, to be a […]