I’m no poet (don’t you know it?)

On the steps of Haguro-sanFallen autumn leaves
illuminating the steps
of Haguro-san

These three lines constitute what is known in the biz as “bad haiku”. There’s plenty of this stuff around. In fact, entire blogs, Facebook pages and Twitter feeds are dedicated to inferior attempts at recreating the famous, age-old literary art form of Japan. (E.g., “How to Write Bad Haiku”; “‘Worst Haiku Ever’ Contest Results!”; “Horrible Haiku”.) Here’s an example of a haiku poem I found on one of those sites:

Try writing haiku
without counting syllables
using your fingers

Bad? Perhaps. But very, very true. I wonder if Matsuo Basho (1644-1694), Japan’s best-known haiku master, also counted syllables on his fingers? I bet he did but tried to hide it under his yukata.

I know much more about Basho now than I did a few weeks ago. (I know, for instance, that his surname means “banana”.) That’s because I’m just back from a hiking trip through northern Honshu, following in the poet’s footsteps as outlined in his haiku-laden travelogue, “Narrow Road to the North”. (Details of the trip here, if you’re keen. Highly recommended.)

You’ll be happy to know that I didn’t put pen to paper too much on the trip, so I won’t be inflicting more haiku on you. I did, however, take a lot of photos, and these you’ll have to deal with. In my defence, it’s kind of hard when you’re hiking through a dank Japanese forest, and red and yellow leaves are falling like rain around you, not to reach for the Canon slung over your shoulder.

The selfie (to borrow the Word of the Year) at the top of this post and the photos below were taken on or in the vicinity of Mount Haguro, or Haguro-san, a holy mountain with a thigh-busting 2446-step climb to the top. Nice part of the world.

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