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Tea, Haiku and Jisei

July 01, 2009


haikuAre you feeling writerly on a scale even smaller than one hundred and forty character micro-blogging? Consider entering Ito En‘s haiku contest. Ito En is the company that manufactures a lot of the bottled and canned green and oolong tea sold in Japan and the United States. Submissions are due by July 6th, 2009. I’m not sure I’m capable of being quite that terse myself, but I might get inspired to write something.

“From the beginning of time, poetry, especially haiku, has been used to convey the most important of messages. This year, we invite you to express yourself – your views and feelings – about these themes through the time-honored medium of haiku.

Create a haiku that reflects your vision of tomorrow based around Change, Hope and Progress and send them to us for a chance to have your haiku featured on one of our TEA’S TEA bottles next year.”

The Haiku Project 2009 – For Change, Hope & Progress

As additional inspiration from Japanese poetry forms, here is the jisei no ku (辞世の句), or death poem, written by Yukio Mishima as an element of his full ritual seppuku. Apologies for not presenting it in the original Japanese. You can find it here if you can read Kanji.

“A small night storm blows
Saying ‘falling is the essence of a flower’
Preceding those who hesitate”

In a more strictly tea-related vein, Sen no Rikyu, the man most responsible for the development of Chanoyu (the Japanese tea ceremony) in the 16th century also committed ritual suicide.

“According to Okakura Kakuzo in The Book of Tea, his last act was to hold an exquisite tea ceremony. After serving all his guests, he presented each piece of the tea-equipage for their inspection, along with an exquisite kakemono, which Okakura described as “a wonderful writing by an ancient monk dealing with the evanescence of all things.” Rikyu presented each of his guests with a piece of the equipment as a souvenir, with the exception of the bowl, which he shattered, uttering “Never again shall this cup, polluted by the lips of misfortune, be used by man.” As the guests departed, one remained to serve as witness to Rikyu’s death. Rikyu’s last words, which he wrote down as a death poem, were in verse, addressed to the dagger with which he took his own life:

Welcome to thee,
O sword of eternity!
Through Buddha
And through Daruma alike
Thou hast cleft thy way.”

– excerpted from source linked above

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