15 August 2017

The golden cup
of day
I sail upon
the sunset way.


My hearts peace forever knows
Dawn is immediate salvation.


I'm not sure about the second poem - I only have a vague memory of writing it when falling asleep and was surprised to find it a day later.


Beloved is the name of my exhibition.

This is my first exhibition and I will be showing 12 framed works ranging in size from postcard to A2. Nothing is for sale, these are my favourite pieces I framed to decorate over the last few years. It will be strange emptying my own walls for two weeks.

At some point my plan was to have an exhibition like this and lanuch a poetry collection at the same time, but I have not got round to making a book yet.


Smith's Alternative
29 August 2017

Link coming.

It will run until around 10 September so if you can't come to the opening take a look some other time.

12 August 2017

The setting sun
teaches me


Who can deny
the satisfaction-heart
of Peace?


Peace brings
the fulfillment-shore
to us.


The path through the woods,
Well trodden,
Into night.


The power
of silence
is absolute.


The fragrance
of aspiration
is intoxicating.

Some different postcards, mixing up the colours.

10 August 2017

Recent poems on Japanese postcards. The paper has a fleck in it which you can see when I used the flash.

Those who belong to the dawn
Will never sleep
In the bosom of death.


We may not know perfection
But this is our only destination.

The music of hearts
I want to speak.


My prayer-life
is the humility heart
that rules the world.

All compassion
are the eyes
of loving kindness.


When evening comes
My silence-heart
Embraces the night
And tucks away
The cares of day.

The first flowers of spring
Are singing in my heart today.
Unbidden is my life.
Unawakened is my mind.

03 August 2017


Persimmon are such an amazing fruit which I only became a fan of in recent years.

The tree comes from a genus called Diospyros, which literally means Zeus' wheat or food of the Gods.

And there is something quite supernal about the sweetness of a perfectly ripe persimmon.

This plate full was only $6 from my local farmers market a few months ago (frog not included).

I also like that it can take up to two months before it is ready to eat, so it is the patience-fruit too.

The main thing to know is there is an astringent variety which must be almost rotten before it can be eaten.

Some online research led me to discover hoshigaki which I am now committed to trying in Japan next time I go there. It is a way of preparing and storing the astringent variety.

Although there is plenty of talk of the other varities being okay to eat while firm, they are just that - okay. They taste infinitely better when they are squishy and have a jelly or jam like consistency, as can be seen below.

The last one from my bowl inspired me to write a poem.

Ripe persimmon
Some other world
of perfection
Flowers do not
taste of honey.

I stumbled on the Zenrin-kushū online and I think it inspired this poem!

30 July 2017

O dawn of my heart
Your smile is
the liberation of my life.

My sunset-life
is a boat
that never lands.

26 July 2017

The clear light says:
"Bliss I feel.
Bliss I am."


Obedience is an inner quality,
Not an outer slavery.


My poetry
is always
The ecstasy
of now.



The golden light
Shines right through me,
On the bus, on the way,
Travelling home.


From the cup of delight
The sky has poured its molten colours.


I look around and seek my reflection
That where the light shines.


Never forget
the joys
of a simple thing
done well.


For the longest time
I have been trying
to learn Your Song.
Through many lifetimes
the tune has escaped me
Even as I always dance
to Your Melody.


God and science will never
go out to dinner together
Science is always hungry
for destruction
God is always hungry
for oneness
Science makes a mess
God tastes Bliss

17 July 2017

Yorkston Thorne Khan

This may be my first music review, but I really enjoy this Scottish-folk-Indian-traditional-something band.

False True Priya is from their second album Neuk Wight Delhi All-Stars.

I liked that album so much I bought their first album Everything Sacred. This track is called Little Black Buzzer. First I had no idea what it was about, then I decided it must be a mobile phone - right?

No, this song is a cover of a relatively obscure song by one Ivor Cutler and he is talking about Morse code and the song has Morse in it too.

Here is Sufi Song also.

15 July 2017

Then to the beauty
of the Canberra morn'

Some borrowed light
but reflected glory

O' the source from
whence chips too arise

And fall

12 July 2017

How bright
shines the
golden eve,
And yet from
coming dark
no reprieve.

28 June 2017

She leaves
Sweet memories


Memory plucks the strings of time
And so melody is made
But harmony in the silence find.


The story of lips
Is a poem for kisses
Where words will not suffice

22 June 2017

Kamakura Buddha

Here are some poems and pictures from my visits to the Kamakura Daibutsu in May 2017.

On that trip to Japan, I stayed in Kamakura for five nights simply because I enjoy visiting the Daibutsu so much. Then I went to Kyoto and Hiroshima before staying in Asakusa. This let me visit the Daibutsu every day again as it is only an hour from Tokyo. It was nine visits to the temple I think, usually for two to three hours each time.

Between the suffering-world
And the world of delight
Let me make
The right choice -
The wise choice.


This world has no taste.

Deisre -
The unquenchable hunger.
Aspiration -
The satisfaction thirst.

The gate of the universe:

The life of truth:

A tree
does not
become big
by rushing.

In winter, snow.
In summer, sun.
Winter, summer.
Autumn, spring.
Here is no escape.

Not only tourists, but many monks make the pilgrimage to the Daibutsu. In the orange robe is a monk from Thailand who was kind enough to let me take a selfie with him. In the ochre, is a monk from Taiwan. He was way less into it, but let one of his brothers take the shot. A few days later, I was really dissapointed when I saw a monk from Burma in a burgundy robe and didn't get a chance to take a picture with him!

In the rays
Of the
Eternal sun.

The walk into silence
leaves no-one unchanged.

10 June 2017


Shopping for incense is definitely one of my favourite things to do in Japan. Last visit I went to lisn which has been around a while but I didn't know about it.

lisn is an offshoot of Shoyeido, whose Horin and Xiang Do lines I really like.

This is the lisn store in Kyoto. It was so lovely shopping there.

There are eight major ranges: floral, citrus, spice, fruit, classical, green, musk and oriental. I chose mainly from the spice, classical and oriental lines.

You can smell each of them before choosing how many sticks you want. The price per stick ranges from ¥32 to ¥432. The most common price is ¥54.

Picking names from a list, the sales assistant was able to identify it from each range using memory and hand it over straight away. Each stick has the name printed on the side in tiny writing too.

Some of the names are curious, for example: MONSTER TREE (green woody), PASSING BY A LADY (graceful flower), FIRMAMENT ISLAND (spicy mint) and HEART OF 'F' (golden-banded lily). There are 150 scents.

You can get pre-packaged packs of 10 in some scents.

Otherwise, they do gift packs or you choose the packaging for your loose sticks.

I also checked out Yamada-Matsu. They have all the makings you can smell and buy if that's your thing, like ambergris for ¥12,000 a gram! It's really close to the Shoyeido store in Kyoto so worth a look if you go there.

lisn is in Tokyo as well as Kyoto - it will cover all your incense needs.

02 June 2017

Hiking up Mt Hiei via Kirarazaka

I spent around two weeks in Japan in May 2017 and here is my first story from the trip, although I still have more to write about my visit in September 2016!

It's easy to get exhausted by the crowds of Kyoto and bored with temples, so I decided to hike up Mt Hiei, home of the famous Marathon Monks. When it comes to hills, it's always satisfying reaching the summit and great exercise, so I recommend this as a day's activity.

I also recommend reading this somewhat amusing interview with a monk who has completed the challenge.

To be honest, I'm not sure if this hike includes part of the monk's running circuit, but the terrain as shown in my photos is similar to what you can see in the clip above. So, if you want a little taste of their experience and/or just a solid up hill walk then this is for you regardless.

Although obviously you can get used to anything, it's amazing to think people run not only up, but also down these kinds of trails in straw sandals. I caught a bus back to the city so I didn't do any real downhill. Also, it was easy to tell the paths would just become muddy rivulets in the rain.

I found the range of webpages talking about the hike up Hiei quite confusing and couldn't really come up with a plan. I told them at the generally excellent Kyoto Tourist Information Centre (at Kyoto Station) that I wanted to walk up Hiei and they sent me to Ginkakuji temple to start. When I got there, I asked a shop owner how to get up Hiei and he pointed vaguely up the street.

Off I went and after ten metres a lady politely told me she had overheard my conversation and that I was in the wrong spot. She said you need to go the Kirara-zaka. I googled this and found some helpful information. Here are my instructions - hopefully they help you if you want to do this hike.

From Kyoto Station catch a bus to Shugakuin Rikyu-michi

Walk up the hill through the streets to the Imperial Villa - use google maps to find it - I could see no English signage

At the (non-descript) entrance to the villa, turn right and follow the road

Go past some farmland until you reach a giant culvert/drain - it's not far at all

Start walking up the path next to this drain

Cross the wooden bridge when you come to it, it's only a few minutes walk to this bridge

Here's the link to the wooden bridge in google maps - however you get there is fine obviously - you can ignore my previous instructions!

After crossing the bridge, it's roughly 30 metres until you leave concrete and get on the dirt trail as shown on the picture below (the only black writing)

That map is a bit confusing, if you come to any junctions just go right, there is really only one, maybe two, before you see this sign below

After this sign, it is very well sign-posted and impossible to get lost

Near the top I joined Katagiri, a 74 year old retired Chemistry Professor who spoke near perfect English. We walked together for about half an hour. He said this was his weekly hike. May I be as fit when I'm 74 - I'm fairly sure he slowed his pace for me out of politeness. This is us at the summit together.

Once you come out of the forest, it's a mixture of roads and nice paths to walk on and still 10-20 minutes to the summit. I may not have found the actual summit if not for Katagiri. Also, he showed me the path down through the hills to the nearby Enryaku-ji temple complex rather than walking on the road to get there.

So, I hope these directions help. If you are of average fitness you can complete the climb up in under two hours. Definitely bring a litre or two of water, depending on the weather, and snacks or lunch. Sturdy footwear, trail running shoes if sneakers, but boots wouldn't hurt.

Coming up, I got bitten on the wrist by something, I don't know what. I woke up that night with a numb, throbbing hand. By morning it hand turned red and quite swollen, the redness creeping up my arm. It was just an allergic reaction, but I went to a hospital in Hiroshima the next day - after reading about the wonders of typhus and just to make sure an anti-histamine was all I needed. It was.

Even going to a hospital in Japan was charming. It cost about 5000 yen, less than my local GP. Aiko, a clerk from radiology acted as a translator. She had previously spent many years working in Sydney Airport selling opals, so used the word "basically" quite liberally. It all took about half an hour. The cost covered the anti-histamines, a course of antibiotics and cortisone cream prescribed by the doctor. I think the doctor was just being cautious or generous, I only used the anit-histamines and it was all back to normal in a week.

Anyhow, here is the first temple of the Enryaku-ji complex, although I think it is the most recent addition from memory. There were picnic tables to sit and eat the lunch I had carried up. It tasted really good after my efforts. I love that supermarkets all over Japan sell this kind of stuff made fresh every day quite cheaply.

I was quite content after that and did not really check out the temples much at all. There were some cool rows of large paintings outdoor telling the story of the monasteries, this was my favourite:

The monasteries have a long history. The monks there were warriors and the famous daimyō Oda Nobunaga slaughtered them and everyone and everything on the mountain in 1571 as part of his struggle for power.

I wrote this poem walking down from the summit to the temples. Such an amazing sound - visitors can strike the bell.

The bell rings
In the valley,
Cedars in rows

This little flower arrangement was in a museum attached to the temple complex.

I bought my flute with me and had a nice session on the way to the top.

18 May 2017

09 April 2017

山 the mountain

Part 1

First of all, you have to walk up the mountain.

It's a long steep walk -even if you can stop for delicious tea and sweets half the way up- so work on non-attachment and leave as much as possible at Tsuruoka Station. It has big lockers for ¥600 a day. The bus straight outside the station (stop #2) takes an easy half hour to the base of the 2,446 steps you will need to climb.

View from the rest station

Of the trio of sacred mountains known as Dewa-Sahan, Haguro-San symbolises birth. Perhaps whether you attain the purity of this state will depend on how much you sweat on the climb. The start of September, early autumn, was not an easy time for the walk, I was drenched with sweat in the 30 degrees C with 80% humidity, as were the majority of people on the path, going up or down. So I would avoid this in summer entirely unless you really love the heat.

Arriving at Saikan, there is one English speaker, a Japanese-speaking Hungarian woman who is a resident of sorts. Check-in sorted, even though it's barely 4 o'clock, bathing is my first priority. It's not an onsen, but there is a huge square stone bath to sink in to after rinsing off on a stool. Freezing cold to rinse, then hot soaking and repeat a few times finishing with cold water. It is such a superior bathing experience, but even then it is half an hour before I stop sweating from the climb.

You have to bring your own towel, but you get a yukata to wear for the duration of your stay. And I'm told it's fine to wear it to dinner. I am in a private eight tatami room. I thought I would be sharing a really big space, but I guess that is for groups of pilgrims. The bathroom is a little walk from my quarters but there is a toilet really close.

There is a thermos of hot tea waiting in my room for me. All the bedding is fresh and clean. It's the nicest traditional room I have stayed in until that point. It has two really big interior shoji-style windows covering normal windows with fly screens. There are cedars hundreds of years old right outside the window and the room is on stilts overhanging the lush green sloping valley. It faces directly west over the setting sun and the stippled light is soothing as evening arrives.

I write all this as I relax and wait for dinner. I consider volunteering to help with food preparation, this being a temple complex, but I have already seen a number of people at work in the kitchen, and given I can't speak Japanese, it's not a good idea. Saikan is huge, I won't visit the temple proper until the morning...

My room is in a far corner which means no-one complains when I play a little western flute before dinner (the instrument, not Ennio Morricone music). True, it would have been more fitting to bring a shakuhachi with me, but it's such an expensive, fragile thing and unwieldy to transport once it is well-packed. I haven't been playing flute much lately and perhaps it is the location, but it sounds really sweet - to me anyway.

A loud speaker near my room begins to broadcast a long pleasant intonation in Japanese, before abruptly switching to English to pronounce, "Your dinner is ready. Please come to the dining room next to the reception."

It's an hour earlier than expected and I was planning to meditate on the sunset, but I'm pretty hungry and keen to see what it will be.

Part 2


Of course I am the only one wearing a yukata. The young Japanese ladies also present, Toko and Noriko, are dressed in casual clothes.

I thought the meal would be vegetarian, but there's a plain broiled fish on top of the plate. The desert was my favourite part or maybe I just remember it best because I ate it last. There's something about eating like this: it is so beautifully presented, looks balanced and tastes and feels more harmonious as a result. I am told the dish in the top left corner is a symbolic representation of the trio of sacred mountains.

Toko and Noriko. I really have no idea how many pilgrims are lodging the night, but we must be the only visitors who have paid for dinner. It is Toko's birthday, although this is only revealed at the end of the meal. I figure these two are fast friends until after we finish eating, but in fact they have just met.

Toko has climbed Haguro-san seeking maternity. To explain, she shows me the screen of her phone and a translation app reveals in English: "Dear God, please make me a mummy. Please make me a mummy. Please make me a mummy." I briefly wonder as to the precise urgency of her need, before Noriko clarifies by miming a pregnancy. It's a literal interpretation of the birth concept attached to Haguro, but obviously a popular one: Toko has come all the way from Nara, by bus, to climb this mountain, by herself, on her birthday. I think she said it took her 15 hours one way.

Both women speak excellent English, having studied it for nine years at school. Although our conversation is quite fitful, I thank them and explain so many Japanese people know some English and try to use it, whereas if they come to Australia they will not be so lucky.

I had that day read Hojoki by Chomei and as soon as I mention it, Toko starts reciting the beginning in both Japanese and English! All Japanese study the text in junior high, which is probably all you need to know about the mind of the people - read it and see.

Thinking of my studies in the equivalent of junior high, I declare it's like Shakespeare, and recite, "The quality of mercy is not strained, it droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven, upon the place beneath."

Toko responds with, "Ah, Hamlet". (It's actually The Merchant of Venice, but I had to look it up to check.)

Noriko says, "Shakespeare is English, not Australian."

Don't think I'm making this up, it's all true.

We talk all sorts of nonsense and eventually Toko explains through a combination of words and mime that she expects all Australians to be totally mad, possibly drunk, and way more ebullient. I'm on my best behaviour so have restored some dignity to the reputation of my nation, but confess I am no saint.

There are a number of points in the evening where we all stand there and simultaneously retreat into silence, before we all look at each other and burst into the universal language of laughter.

We stand around studying a poster which includes a simple map of Basho's travels in the surrounding region and the haiku he wrote at each location. Noriko decides to translate some and then says it is impossible.

I agree and say it is like when someone asked a famous Zen monk (so famous I can't remember his name) the meaning of a song he had just played. The monk, without a word, played the song again from beginning to end.

When asked about my hobbies I confess to writing poetry but do not make them endure any of my verse. On reflection, I should have just asked to hear a native speaker recite some Basho to appreciate the music of it.


In the morning, after a light breakfast, we travel up the hill to the temple proper to watch a Shinto ceremony through a long internal passage. I was told snow reaches to the top of these windows in the winter. This must be quite a sight.


Sights on the climb to the top.


I booked my stay using Japanese Guest Houses.