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The Jūnichō Pattern

The Junicho was first proposed by Master Shunjin Okamoto in the late 1980’s. Along with the twelve stanza Shisan--discussed in Simply Haiku vol. 1 # 6 (December 2003)--the Junicho is the shortest extant pattern for renku composition.

Junicho--meaning ‘twelve tone’--is a ‘single sheet’ poem that disregards the formal separations of the jo-ha-kyu movement. There is no set seasonal progression, though each season is represented and the poem would be expected to open with the season in which composition takes place. Spring and autumn carry their traditional greater weight, the poem overall dividing more or less equally between season and non-season verses. The typical distribution therefore is: winter - one, summer - one, spring - two, autumn - two, and non-season - six.

The Junicho allows for a single blossom verse; this may appear in any season and be any type of flower. The poem will likewise contain a single moon verse that may also appear in any season and be otherwise shorn of classical precedent. 'Love' will be represented by a pair or so of verses that may appear in any position.

The special compositional characteristics of hokku, wakiku, daisan and ageku are respected (as discussed in Simply Haiku vol. 2 #1, ‘Beginnings and Endings’) however the exclusions common to the opening movements of more traditional patterns of renku are lifted.

Seijo Okamoto, wife of the late Master Okamoto and herself president of the Haikai Kangikudo Renku Foundation, further observes that the Junicho must have literary value and a sense of stylishness: what Basho called "the unchanging and ever-changing" (fueki ryuko). Also, given that progression and diversity are the essence of renku, a wide variety of things in nature and the world of humans should appear.

With thanks to William J. Higginson and Tadashi Kondo

The Junicho, a Personal Appraisal

Elsewhere in this issue the question is raised as to what the defining parameters of renku may be. The Junicho is optimised for flexibility and pays minimum regard to precedent. The intention is that as wide a range of materials and themes as possible may be represented; one suspects that we are being invited to consider each verse as a distinct pitch or colour.

However, whilst the name 'Twelve Tone' clearly pays tribute to Hauer and Schönberg, it may also be a reference to the seminal aesthetic theories advanced by Torahiko Terada. Writing in the middle of the last century, Terada analysed renku in terms of music--the poetry of symphony rather than syllogism. Certainly the Junicho is unlikely to benefit from the pursuit of diversity at any cost or from being uniformly 'full on'--even Motorhead have their quieter moments--and though the formal jo-ha-kyu divisions are dispensed with, it seems likely that a sequence will be most successful if it exhibits a dynamic range, and a sense of both opening and closure.

Similarly, whilst the classical 'fixed topics' of moon and blossom are freed from much formal obligation it is difficult to imagine how they can be wholly effective without an awareness of precedent. The distribution of season verses may likewise be best conditioned by the 'conventional' considerations that any two sections would normally be separated by at least one non-season verse, and that the 'major' seasons, autumn and spring, would not appear successively.

One could argue therefore that far from being the 'most open' or 'easiest' form of renku--ideally suited to persons new to the genre--the Junicho is in fact highly challenging and best approached with an awareness of precisely those conventions which the pattern itself eschews.

John Carley, Rossendale, Lancashire. 27th February 2004

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