Monday, 24 December 2007


A spring mountain holds
The foundations of a house
Long since tumbled down.

(Japanese version)


(English version)
From behind
A spring mountain
Smoke begins to climb.

■Wright's motif is a ruin. The combination of a spring mountain and a tumbled-down house reminds us of that of life and death. On the other hand, the work of Hohsai is easygoing and humorous. And we can see a motion in it like a animation. A phrase" from behind" gets a laugh by itself.

Saturday, 1 December 2007


As though for always,
Each petal lit by the sun,‐
Apple blossoms!

(Japanese version)


Rose blossoms
Let's return to
Dust here.

■Wright sings the life of apple blossoms. His haiku is bright and positive. The phrase" for always" makes me feel endless time. In the case of Santohka, he stares at death. If the pose is given after "Rose blossoms", the death is his one. If the phrase "Rose blossoms" means talking to it, the death is his and the blossons'. Life someday goes to death, and it comes back to the ground as new life. I feel such a cycle of life about two haiku.

Thursday, 22 November 2007


A man leaves his house
And walks around his winter fields
And then goes back in.

(Japanese version)


(English version)
The look of a woman
Who opened and closed
The snowy door.

Somehow both these haiku are funny. Actions of the man and the woman are in a margin of eveyday life expressed by them. That's why they act half unconsiously. And at the same time, their actions give us a kind of unavoidable feeling. Two haiku must catch them off guard just like the garden viewed from its toilet window.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007


What river is that
Meandering through the mist
In fields of young corn?

(Japanese version)

■Wright feels a sign of the river. Everything is in the mist. These fields might be the places where the faint sound of the river is heard in the distance. This time I can't find out haiku of Hosai equivalent to that of Wright.

Thursday, 8 November 2007


Seen from a hilltop,
Shadowy in winter rain,
A man and his mule.

(Japanese version)


(English version)
On a white wall
Marks of rain.

■The haiku of Wright has a scene in winter rain. The rain blurs the distinction between reality and shadow. In the case of Hosai, he expresses marks of rain without seeing real falling rain. This is also shadowy.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007


Just before dawn,
When the streets are deserted,
A light spring rain.

(Japanese version)


(English version)
A puppy
On the road
In the early morning.

■The work of Wright is attractive. It is fresh and queit: the moment just before dawn, it is empty and quiet: the streets are deserted, and it has lively rhythm: a light spring rain. "A light spring rain", I think, has the feeling that a shower passes by.

Hosai created haiku about spring rain, but it is ordinary. So I tried to select one of free-rhythm haiku. This has the feeling that a puppy is coming along the country road in the eary morning, smelling the ground. I think it has a close atmosphere btween a pupyy and people, without expressing them.

Monday, 22 October 2007


In gray winter light,
Dead flies fill the window sill
Of a musty room.

(Japanese version)


(English version)
You are
An annoying fly,
Though dying soon.

■Wright expresses the scene of dead flies objectively. His work is almost subjected to dead silence, though traces of men remains more or less in the scene. The sight might be grotesque that dead flies fill the window sill. If the phrase " dead flies" was " a dead fly", the work could have politeness and loneliness. In the case of Hosai, he sees the death in a live fly. In this context, I consider Hosai's fly as one fly, not flies. That's why it is annoying. In other words, an annoying fly enhances the silence Hosai is forced to have, and then is gradually overlapping himself. Hosai doesn't talk to it, but himself: This work of Hosai is a monologue. I could see eternity and illimitable space behind it.

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Laughing Okinawa(1)

Okinawa is a mirror that reflects clearly modern Japan and the Modern Ages. When we try to understand the now and past of Okinawa, it shows some critical problems that every modern society has.

Okinawa was a kingdom called Ryukyu that had a relationship with China rather than Japan. China had appointed a king of Ryukyu. And Ryukyu had paid tribute-mainly sulfur and horses-to the emperor of China. The Kingdom of Ryukyu was changed into Okinawa prefecture by Haihan-chiken in the Meiji era, one of the policies of the early Meiji government, using prefectures and abolishing feudal-age domains, that was also a process of integrating it into modern Japan. Ryukyu had its own culture and history so that some people in Okinawa think even today they are not Japanese but the people of Ryukyu.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007


A soft wind at dawn
Lifts one dry leaf and lay it
Upon another.

(Japanese version)


The sounds of
Coming walking across
Fallen leaves―a dog

The work of Wright has a rhythmic character that consists of "L" sounds for the third time in a row. That of Hosai expresses sounds themselves. What is humorous here is that it was a dog rather than a man that came walking across fallen leaves.

Friday, 5 October 2007



That abandoned house,
With its yard of fallen leaves,
In the setting sun.

(Japanese version)





The abandoned yard,
With the beautiful color
Of a lizard.

Hosai OZAKI(1885-1926) is a popular Japanese haiku poet who is one of the trailblazers for free-rhythm haikus.

■The work of Wright has a traditional sense of beauty that can go back to that of Poe, Baudelaire, Trakl and so on. It evokes a kind of nostalgia, because it expresses what is going to the ground. From the perspective of a haiku, however, this work is too pathetic and perfect. In other words, the key phrases of " abandoned house", " fallen leaves", and " the setting sun" are so close each other in their common images that the readers can not feel surprised. In the case of the work of Hosai, it catches us off balance. He found out the beauty of a lizard in the abandoned yard. Perhaps the body of it reflected the sun light brilliantly. The haiku of Hosai has its own sense of beauty and is interesting in its texture.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Dialogue with Valery Afanassiev

I conducted an interview with Valery Afanassiev after his Tokyo lecture in October 2005. Valery Afanassiev is a famous pianist, conductor, performer, novelist, and poet, who was born in Moscow, former USSR in 1947 and exiled himself to Begium in 1972. Since then, he has performed mainly in Paris.

(Winter moon)
First question concerns today’s theme. I think generally speaking music is dialectic between the metaphysical and the physical, because works always have composers, and composers are determined by his society, his age, and his personality, including his thought, emotions and feelings. On the other hand everybody doesn’t become Beethoven. He became Beethoven by intervening of contingent necessity, namely God. Let me introduce an interesting example about the metaphysical. Japanese oldest anthology, MANYOUHSHU edited in 8th century, includes many nameless poets. These poems are called “ the poems composed by nobody”. It had been thought that the poems of MANYOHSHU were created by gods. The names of its composers were not regarded as important at that time. I think this is also one of metaphysical aspects. In other words there is some relationship between the nameless of composers and the metaphysical. What would you think of this matter?

(Valery Afanassiev)I think it is possible that God composes works, not in terms of rhethoric. Bruckner was dictating his works and he always said," An angel makes me compose them".

(WM)Second question is related with so-called 9.11. 9.11 has influenced many artists, particularly film directors such as Vim Venders, poets, novelists, painters, and musicians. Those artists can express it as a theme or motive of their works directly. However playing music is difficult to articulate it immediately. I think playing music is criticism and interpretation of works. And I think your playing style has actuality because you understand that works represent some aspects of the real world and your approach to them reveals the structure of it. So I think playing music could express how our world is after 9.11 by selecting works and exposing their meanings. What would you think of this matter?

(V.A)I''m influenced by watching the events of 9.11 on T.V. many times. The impact on my mind might increase gradually, but what I express in a concert hall is insistently "My Story". The playing style of conductors in Baroque Age were not at all influenced by the external factors such as their mother's death. Because the tune has its own logic.

The last question is about your poems. I have been so attracted by your poems, and just tried to translate into Japanese. I feel your poems are similar to your playing style, because both of them intend to approach the hidden structure of the world. Actually I compose poems too. So I’m interested in the moment at which a poem was born. Would you explain when your Muse comes from? And I have tried to translate your poems on the jacket of Beethoven CD. I am looking for your other poems to read. Could you tell me the title and the publisher of your poetry book in English?

(V.A)I don't write poems now. My Muse is burdensome and lose my health. I'm tired and have sleepless nights in creating poems. Instead of it, I annotate on The DIvine Comedy and write a new novel called "Flying Dutchman".

Poem of Shimizu Akira

Leaving in early winter
                      Shimizu Akira  

Leave, glowing for snow.
In perfect silence
From the heart of a cooling city, the dark silva
You leave, taking a breath.
In whatever splendid sexual love,
In whatever miserable night,
Wearing a burning coat,
Glowing for snow that falls heavily into lonely instinct,
You leave, raising your shining face.
However recall
That we are sometimes dogs with cruel eyes,
Dragging the chain of our inferior family tree,
And are life as if rats that build nests quietly in Asian frontier.
From such a place
We leave intently.
Sucking the sunset glow that quakes through snow silva,
We decide to leave for the depths of our body
For the first time and the last time.

(translated by Winter moon)

Poem of Narumi Eikichi

                     Narumi Eikichi

“I have no message to leave”, he said.
“No message? Really? ”, I asked and “No”, he replied.
“Well, let you have a death”. “OK”.
When he answered, I drew up his blanket to his head.
He seemed to die comfortably,
Without screaming and crying.
I doubt whether you would be pleased to die such a way.
I shivered alone,
And urinated noisily at the entrance of the camp.
It snows again outside it.
Hey! Don’t say such a silly thing as snow falls from the sky.
It blows up to the dark sky strongly.
Don’t say that, as nobody believes it.

(translated by Winter monn)

Saturday, 29 September 2007

Haiku Today

Haiku Today

1. Introduction

“No other people love poetry than the Japanese. Both the old and the young compose haiku and tanka. I can truly say that Japan is the land of poetry,” once said Hasegawa Kai, a famous Japanese haiku poet .

Today, the haiku population is said to be somewhere from one million to ten million. Until now, many haiku poets belonged to haiku associations which publish haiku, and contribute haiku to the reader’s column of newspapers. However nowadays with the development of the Internet, anybody can easily set up their blog or homepage on the Web and this has led to the explosive increase of “places” to introduce haiku. As a result, the haiku population is thought to be increasing steadily even today. Since a haiku is a short form of expression, it seems to go well with digital media and a new type of kukai (haiku gatherings), known as Web kukai are increasing at rapid rates and haiku poets compose haiku under common themes at these virtual gatherings.

Haiku can be traced back to haikai-renga in the Muromachi era (14th century) but what kept haiku alive from such an old age without bringing it to an end? And how does the Internet influence haiku?

2. What is a haiku?

What kind of literature is haiku in the first place? These days, the name Bashô is as a global standard as Shakespeare. It is true that Bashô’s haiku is a standard for many contemporary haiku poets, but rather than a haiku poet, Bashô was actually a haikaisi
(俳諧師), who made haikai (the predecessor of haiku.) It was not until the Meiji era (19th century) that haiku was born when Masaoka Siki cut off a hokku (発句)from a haikai. It is the hokku which came to be known as haiku.

Siki incorporated the realistic way of Western paintings into haiku. He established a new approach to writing haiku and created a method which expressed things as they truly appeared. As a result, people were able to appreciate haiku without having extra knowledge of the classical literature that Bashô often used in his haikai.

Siki innovated haiku, but there are some characteristics of haiku which remain since the Bashô age. One of them is a kigo(季語 “seasonal words”. In short, kigo are particular words and phrases that reflect Japan’s four seasons. However, it is not merely a symbol but involves the history of interactions between the Japanese and nature.

音もなくしろくつもれるゆゑに雪     斉藤美規

Otomonaku                  Saitoh Miki

All the more for
Snowing silent and white.

The author is a haiku poet living in snowy country. Snow is a thing of beauty but at times, it also takes one’s life. This haiku expresses such fear and beauty of snow.

落葉松はいつめざめても雪降りをり       加藤楸邨


Karamasuha                Katoh Shûson

Snow is falling
Whenever I wake up.

The author was recovering from illness. All he saw through his window was the snowing larches. He slept, he woke, and he slept again. Soon, he found himself unite with the larches. At this moment, the author’s life joined with nature.

As mentioned above, many aspects of human experiences are condensed into a kigo of snow.

There is another feature of modern haiku that has been passed down from haikai in the time of Bashô. It is a form of grammar called kireji(切れ字: a cutting word. A kireji, which is represented by ya(や), kana(かな), and keri(けり) literally cut a haiku literally to create a pause.

三月やモナリザを売る石畳          秋元不死男              

Sangatsuya                    Akimoto Fujio

“Mona Lisa” is sold
On a stone pavement


The kireji “ ya(や)” is used in this haiku. In this translation, the “ya” is translated into the blank space between “On a stone pavement” and “March”, and “March” is placed at the end of the haiku. This is because a kireji always relates to the mind of the author. In other words, this author felt March in his mind when he saw replicas of “Mona Lisa” being sold on the stone pavement. The cool feeling of a stone pavement reminded him that the early spring is still cold. And Mona Lisa’s tranquil and erotic smile gave him a hunch of “life’s spring” and its peaceful coming.

When talking about the essential of a haiku, there is another feature that must not be forgotten. A haiku is not prose but verse. “Logic”, “meanings”, and “explanation” are important to prose. Japanese prose has continued to be shared since the Meiji period through the process of translating Western sentences into Japanese. While Japan created modern social institutions guided by many translated books, it also modernized the Japanese language itself. Typical prose includes newspapers, business documents, and social and natural books. Therefore the highly-modernized world (today so-called “the globalized world”) such as business, education and technology can be said to be dominated by prose way of thinking. A haiku, on the contrary, opens up one world at the different dimension from the logical world. Let’s take the following haiku as an example.

古池や蛙飛び込む水の音        芭蕉

Huruikeya                 Bashô

A frog jumps in,
The sound of water

The old pond

According to Hasegawa Kai, this haiku expresses the pond appearing in Bashô’s mind when he heard a frog jumped into the water. The haiku does not explain the fact that a frog jumped into an old pond, which thus led to the sound of splashing water. This grammar of a haiku portrays one world on a different dimension from that of the logical explanation in prose.

It is through this nature that haiku reaches the height of the universe and the depth of life.

3. Haiku and Society

It is said that good haiku writers are children and the elderly. There are many reasons for this. But the main reason would be that generations between young and elderly are mostly the productive generations. In most cases, those belonging to the productive generation belong to productive organizations. Productive organizations are controlled by the logic of prose and it would be difficult for them to change their prose ways of thinking into verse. Meanwhile, prose-thinking have influenced the expression of haiku itself.

限りなく降る雪何をもたらすや        西東三鬼

Kagirinaku                   Saitoh Sanki

Endlessly falling snow
I’m wondering
What it brings us?

This haiku dictates the author’s thought. The kigo(季語) is snow, but its feeling of seasons is weak. Furthermore, there is no kire(切れ)in it. You couldn’t distinguish this haiku from the opening sentence of a story. This haiku seems not to be written by the grammar of a haiku but to be influenced by a story. The haiku has become “prosed” with the modernization of our society.

When you think about the relation between haiku and society, you should contemplate the influence of the Internet to a haiku. Igarashi Hidehiko, a haiku poet living in Sapporo city, warns that the nature of a kukai(句会)is changing. Kukai is the meeting where haiku poets come together to make and select haiku. As Yamamoto Kenkichi, a famous literary critic, pointed out, a haiku is the literature of greetings. It is based on greeting other haiku poets at kukai as well as nature. However, on the Web kukai, Igarashi comments that some participants only criticize or applaud each other’s works without any meaningful review. Furthermore there is apparent plagiarism seen on the web as well. This can all be traced back to the nature of Internet that allows users to participate anonymously. As Igarashi mentioned, the result is the decline in quality of haiku made on the Web kukai. The Web kukai is easy to access and convenient for those who compose haiku purely for enjoyment, but, on the other hand, there are issues to be solved when considering the future of haiku.

4. The future of a haiku

Several important aspects of social change must be examined when thinking about the future of haiku. First of all, in the process of modernization, globalization, and urbanization the seasons felt in kigos are becoming lost and our everyday life is starting to become detached from what kigos express. Furthermore, global warming is making the turning of seasons less apparent than before and kigo is impacted the most by these social changes.

Shimizu Akira, a famous Japanese poet and haiku poet, talked about kigos as follows. “On kigo, haiku poet should treasure all kigo registered in the saijiki (歳時記): a collection of Japan’s seasonal word and standard for making haiku. I find beautiful Japanese words becoming lost with every new edition of saijiki. It is unfortunate that only seasonal words used in society today are adopted in the saijiki while those in ones’ memory are erased.” Meanwhile, he also said, “Haiku is the literature of children and the elderly, because a saijiki is constituted of obsolete words the old know and new words the young know.”

Bashô’s philosophy of a haikai was “Eternity and Transient(不易流行).” It is a kind of guidance for composing a haikai, and means there are elements that change with the times and those that remain in a haikai. A haikai should pave its own path without being swept away by the times or being left behind. It seems as though the saijiki observes this idea. If there were to be a problem, it would be that our lives would become more rationalized with every year and older kigo come to vanish only because they are irrational.

Another example of “Eternity and Transient” can be found in an episode of the Pacific War. Japanese troops were forced to fight a harrowing war in New Guinea Island in the last days of the Pacific War. Many soldiers were losing their lives every day. In this situation, a project was suggested that brought together former and amateur actors from every unit and presented a play in order to get rid of soldiers’ terror. This project was very successful and many boys at the front who could die tomorrow crowed into the play every day. One day one of such soldiers said, “I want to see my hometown’s snowfalls before I’m killed on the field.” The acting company fell snow made of paper on the stage to meet his expectation in the south island. All who saw the play wept bitterly. This true story shows seasons are not only united with lives, but also with souls. Kigos connected with souls cease not to exist on the world, even though they vanish from a saijiki.

As modernizations, globalization, and urbanizations of societies progress, the social meaning of haiku is increasing. This is because it can present the ideal world where human beings are reconciled with nature. The picture of the world shows not only the future of a haiku, but also of mankind.

‘ Predicting the future haiku population in Japan’, HAIDAN(September, 2002).

Hasegawa, K (2005), A haiku guide for a hundred million readers, Tokyo: KODANSHA.

Hasegawa, K(2005), Did a frog jump in the pond? , Tokyo: Kashinsha.

THE EAST Vol.42 No.6


Past the window pane
A solitary snowflake
Spins furiously.

I think this snowflake has very close resemblance to a petal of cherry blossoms, because it falls this way without wind. However many of Japanese Haiku poets wouldn't use the phrase "spins furiously". Haiku expresses good of all beings positively. In that context, the expression of this work might be close to that of poems.