Eiko Yachimoto, JP




Hisajo in the Light of English Haikai Movement


Chapter 5   Hisajo’s Haiku in The Taisho period (1917~1926)


“In order to appreciate life better, and to establish character of your own or to console your exhausted soul, I would like to recommend haiku composition especially to those housewives who are preoccupied with daily chores and to those gentlemen who have to work everyday to support his family. Unlike a tanka through which you let your emotions freely flow out of you, a haiku requires restraint: you first have to have mother nature in your mindset.  Even a complex issue in human life is supposed to be taken as another natural phenomenon if it is included in your haiku. To do that your mind has to be serene and composed as if like a mirror. As you create a genuine haiku you will find the fire of your emotion subsided and your spirit recharged with courage. You can return to your busy life with positive mental attitude. By all means secure yourself any little time to be with Nature.“ 

 “For Beginners” – written by Hisajo in her Hanagoromo magazine, 1932

“I am afraid your haiku seem to have the same weakness: the lack of enthusiasm in your materials, in your approach and in your sketch. In other words I find many haiku you brought to our monthly meeting rather shallow as if you made them only after one glace at your material without any special interest in it.

Let me emphasize the importance of having interest of your own. Focus on the point of interest and observe well. If you concentrate on one material, you will eventually be inspired and your words will ring and reverberate. Even if they do not make a haiku right away, keep on trying for one year, two years, or five and ten years. Nature certainly will reward you with an inspirational haiku.”

One day I dared to tell the above to one woman member. Half a month later I received a letter with a series of haiku. In stead of getting angry with me, she sowed loofa seeds in her garden: ‘I used to dislike rainy days but became to love rain and strained my ears not to miss hearing even a droplet that fell over my seeds.’

What a joy her writing brought to me! The seed of haiku has been planted.

“For Beginners (2) – written by Hisajo in her Hanagoromo magazine, 1932.


********               ***********             ***********


* Early Hisajo


First I translate several haiku that Hisajo, a beginner, wrote in 1916 and 1917, 15 years before the Hanagoromo Articles I quoted above.

1. kogarashi ya (5) nagashi no shita no (7) ishi kawaku (5) 

piercing wind—
the stone under my sink
has dried off

In only two months after she encountered haiku at the age of 26, Hisajo sent this modern haiku to Hototogisu’s Kitchen Haiku Column started by Kyoshi.  

2. mayudama kauya (7) roji ni umi koki (7) minatomachi (5)

silk-ornaments bought--
at each alley’s end
the much bluer sea

Hisajo, a happy young mother, went New Year shopping to Moji, a busy port town. Don’t we feel introduced to the first scene of a movie?

3. choo oute (5) haruyama fukaku (7) mayoikeri (5) 

chasing butterflies
deep into spring mountains
I have gotten lost

In responding to Kyoshi’s call for spring moutain haiku, Hisajo, the beginner, wrote such a romantic haiku.

4. hina ichi ni (5) mitorete haha ni (7) okuregachi (5) 

hina doll market
fascinated,  girls can not quite
keep pace with me

5. doowa (3) yo mi (2) tsukushite (4) korani (5) kingyo tsuru (5) 

all fairy tales read out
I hang a goldfish
for my girls

Hisajo’s love of two daughters remained unchanged all her life. How warm and gentle her eyes toward them are! Please read more of these in Installment #1.

6. hiruhan tabe ni (6) kaeri kuru tsuma (7) hinaga kana (5) 

my husband
coming home to eat lunch--
this long day



*The first peak of creativity from 1918 to 1920 (28 to 30 years old)


The first peak of Hisajo’s creativity came very soon in 1918. She was 28 years old and had to face the death of her father, which occurred in December, 1918. The following two haiku were written on this occasion.

6. chichi yuku ya (5) myoojoo shimo no (7) matsu ni nao (5)

my father has gone--
the evening star touches
the pine of frost…still

7. mihotoke ni (5) haha ni wakaruru (7) shigure kana (5)

I take leave from
the new buddha and Mom--
cold winter drizzle

“Unlike most haiku by women that have neither strength nor subtlety, Hisajo expressed the most precious of the human feelings at the time of loss with such a respect. I have to celebrate the appearance of this woman haijin.” 

--Iida Dakotsu, in Unmo

Quite a few haiku of Hisajo including the two above decorated Zoei, the honorable main part of Hototogisu magazine in 1919 and 1920.  Hisajo contributed to Amanogawa , or the Milky Way, edited by Zenjidoh and Electricity and Literature, edited by Hasegawa Reiyoshi as well. 

In August, 1920 during the trip to Nagano for the ritual of placing the bones into the ancestral tomb in Nagano, a kidney decease caught Hisajo and she was hospitalized in Tokyo where the Akaboris lived.  Realizing the difficulty of daughter’s life in remote Kyushu island, divorce was talked about in the family and was proposed to Unai, who most strongly rejected the idea. 

One whole year later, in July 1921, Hisajo painfully determined to return to Kokura with her mother’s advice in her mind: “ Hisa, can’t you give up haiku if Unai-san dislike it so badly?”

Some critics say Hisajo became infatuated with or inclined solely to Kyoshi after the death of her father, who loved, understood and always took pride in Hisajo. Hisajo’s father was a descent government official with a legal mind enhanced by the sense of sympathy. Even though he was a privileged few in Taiwan, he was never arrogant towards the natives of Taiwan and believed in giving his girls equal opportunity in education. After Taiwan he was transferred back to Tokyo, where he worked as financial officer of Gakushuin College, the special college to educate the royal class. Nogi Koresuke, the most well-known General who was loyal to Emperor Meiji might have summoned Mr. Akabori from Taiwan, where they both worked. Nogi became the President of Gakushuin which was under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of the Imperial Household. Hisajo met Unai in Tokyo.

Now back to Hisajo’s haiku.

In June 1919, Hototogisu published the Haiku below:

8. hanagoromo (5) nuguya matsuwaru (7) himo iroiro (5)

on disrobing of
blossom kimono, cling, clinging
myriad-color cords

This haiku was enthusiastically admired by Kyoshi. Many haijin received such an impact that they discussed it sensationally. I would like to translate the interpretation by Hisajo herself:

*“A woman who got back from cherry-blossom viewing takes off each layer of her best kimono by untying obi and various cords. Each cord clinging to each slippery silk undergarment (wrapping her physique )as it falls to her feet on the tatami. She feels only a little annoyed for she is in a sweet fatigue after being in public for blossom viewing (and being viewed-ey). Boldly and sensually this haiku describes the sluggish motion of silk cords with its beauty of colors.

--Hisajo in her later article titled “Modern characteristics of women’s haiku during the Taisho period”.

The contemporary of Hisajo wrote this:

“I remember Hisajo-san being like this haiku. Unlike today’s women, she had the presence of Meiji-born literary woman. She was passionate, unyielding, yet very humble at the same time. She was capable of conveying her substantial thoughts and feelings. She may not have gotten along well with other women haijin who did not match her in their caliber.”

--Yoshioka Zenjidoh in his article for Haiku Kenkyu in 1950

*In October, 1985, a haiku stone honoring this haiku was made and placed in Sakai-machi Park, Kokura city. Ren Masuda was instrumental in this project. 

*Kadokawa Haruki chose this haiku under the entry of hanagoromo in his saijiki published in 1998.

All  the following haiku (#9 through #23) were written in Hisajo's first peak of creativity.

9. karashi maku ya (5) kaze ni kawakishi (7) araigami (5) 

grains of mustard sown—
my washed hair has dried
blown in the wind

*Kadokawa Haruki chose this haiku under the entry of mustard/autumn seed, in his saijiki published in 1998. You can feel how gentle, steady yet bracingly refreshing the blowing wind was and how ample Hisajo’s black hair was.

(*for comparison)

Usumono ni (5) sotooru tsuki no (7) hadae kana (5)

gauzy kimono
moonbeams are running through it
to reach my bare skin                         -1932

Ms. Sakamoto, professor of English Literature wrote this:

(8 and 9 are) success examples of Hisajo’s attempt to produce a fresh sensual haiku through appreciating feminine materials with women’s senses. (ey thinks “usumono ni” is a superb example of this as well).

--Sakamoto Miyao, in “Sugita Hisajo” in 2003

10. shunkan ya (5) kizami surudoki (7) ko-giku no me (5)

spring chill—
how sharp the nicks of

11. nasu mogu ya (5) hi o terikaesu (7) kushi no mine (5)

an eggplant plucked—
the ridge of my comb
reflecting the sun

“Sensual, but it has also got some masculine grasp of the scene, which would often appear in Hisajo’s later haiku of greatness as well”.

--Seiko Tanabe, in her story on Hisajo, 1987

12. hari moteba (5) nemutaki mabuta (7) fuji no ame (5)

holding a needle
I find my eye-lids heavy--
rain of wisteria

13. yozamusa ya (5) hikishibori nuku (7)kinu no oto (5) 

chill of the night—
when gathered and pulled out
a silk thread shrieks

14. tsubame kuru (5) noki no fukasa ni (7) suminareshi (5) 

swallows come back to
the deep eaves of ours
seasons of my life

15. hana daikon ni (7) choo shikkokuno (7) hane agete (5) 

purple raddish-blooms
a butterfly has just raised
her jet-black wings

16. ha-geitoh no (6) itadaki odoru  (7)  shuu kana (5)

the flare-tops of
leaf-cockscombs dancing--
sudden white-shower

17. yabu no ha ni (5) tsuyu kawaki saku (7) no giku kana (5)

edge of the bush
field-chrysanthemums bloom as
dew evaporates

*This haiku was published in Amanogawa magazine.

18 gifu chouchin ni (5) unaji o fusete (7) hi tomoseri (5)

crouching down,
I lit a bon-lantern--
the nape of my neck

*Also published in Amanogawa magazine.

19 hana chirite (5) kame futoriyuku (7) zakuro kana (5)

after the blossom
pots getting fatter
a pomegranate tree

20 mizu nurumi (5) amiuchi miiru (7) yuubinfu (5)

water warming and
a net being cast
a postman looks on

* #20 was written in a kukai welcoming Hasegawa Reiyoshi, the editor of Amanogawa, to Kyushu. Reiyoshi edited Hisajo’s haiku to: amiuchi o miyaru yuubinfu mizu nurumu.

In 1939 when Hisajo decided to stop writing haiku, she reviewed all her past haiku and wrote important comments. Here is what she wrote about haiku #20 on 28, August, 1939.

 “I would like to reedit this to my original word order.  In the process of presenting a haiku as art, it is needed to emphasize the focal point charmingly, sometimes through exaggeration. But this should not lead us to believe that the impression we want to express has to be re-arranged by another man’s brain. While Hasegawa Reiyoshi was alive, we often disagreed with each other about the wording.  I know I was supposed to follow opinions of a senior haijin, but for the sake of art I could not. This applies to Kyoshi sensei too. If I am convinced of my expression being natural and capable of conveying my impression to my heart’s full content, I would not obey him“.

 --Hisajo in her personal memo in 1939

21 kaeru-da ni (5) hi nagashi sareru (7) densha kana

over frog paddies
lights are flowing down
a passing train gone

At the edge of a rice paddy I can stand with Hisajo listening to singing frogs and seeing off the night train with many lit windows. Hisajo sketches in the way readers grasp how she feels in the scene.  A peaceful, yet a lonely moment, as another day filled with housewifely chores subsides…

22 tamamushi ya (5) rurishi midarete (7) tatami tobu (5)   

a jewel bug--
lapis lazuli wings wild
over tatami

This animated haiku decorated the first issue of Electricity and Literature.  Hasegawa Reiyoshi, the editor, most sincerely recognized the immense talent of Hisajo to the degree Hisajo could express herself to him freely. He was the one who contacted Mainichi Newspaper Company and obtained Hisajo’s manuscript that did not win the novel contest. He published her novel in his magazine with the works by Akutagawa Ryunosuke and Muroo Saisei--both top-notch literary figures of Taisho.  Hasegawa Kanajo was his wife. Reiyoshi died of typhoid in 1928.  I believe more research is needed to understand him and his works.

23 ajisai ni shuurei itaru shinano kana

*I once over-translated this as below, based on my own interpretation:

hydrangeas wear
the autumn elegance
yes, in Shinano

*a faithful translation:

the autumn chill
arrives at hydrangeas:
oh, Shinano

Here is what one of the brilliant 4S of Hototogisu wrote on this haiku:

“Shinano or Nagano prefecture is mountainous and autumn seems to reach there earlier: In early mornings and in evenings one feels the chill as early as in the end of August. Our poetess looks on hydrangeas as a traveler. While she looks at the flower, the mountain mist creeps to the corner of a garden, bringing in the chill. The color of hydrangeas is so impressive when seen with traveler’s sentiments. “shinano, kana” the last five is effective coming after the clear and concise phrase; shurei itaru”

--Mizuhara Shuohshi

When asked to name-call the most favorite haiku by an editor of a haiku magazine, this haiku of Hisajo came to my mind. Hydrangeas in Tokyo or Kyushu tend to fade too soon when heat and humidity make the air murky during summer months. But not so in Shinano, (which is a famous place name associated with the moon-viewing haiku by Basho) where her father was originally from. Hydrangeas keep their peculiar sapphire blue in Shinano through summer months to the autumn season. Hisajo loved the transparent air, purple mountains and waves of mulberry leaves she saw in Shinano. She wrote a beautiful essay on the prefecture. A grand scale grasp of a place is depicted along with the dynamic seasonal progression. Another example of her masculine grasp of a scene.  Incidentally I have encountered several men haijin who confessed their love of this haiku. Kadokawa Haruki chose this haiku as the best under the kigo autumn chill.



Hisajo’ haiku around her socio-economic dilemma


24. tabi tsuguya (5) Nora ni mo narazu (7) kyohshi-zuma (5) -1921(Taisho 10)

      tabi tsuguya (5) shiko ni mo narazu (7) kyoushi-zuma (5) - 1952

mending tabi-socks
a teacher’s wife
has not become a Nora      -1921

Here is Hisajo’s interpretaton on a Nora, from Hanagoromo, 1932:

“She is in her early thirties with eyes losing the brightness of youth.  Mending her husband’s old tabi sox under a dim light, she looks tired. Wives in the transition time who experienced feudalism but awaken to modern values tend to get caught badly in social contradictions and personal problems. She can not easily part with old traditions. She is attached to her children. She keeps on trodding on the path of patience and resignation.” 


(for comparison)

mending tabi-socks
a teacher’s wife
has not become the shield   -1952

(for comparison)

yuda ni mo narazu (prelude to haiku by Hisajo)

haruya mukashi (6)  murasaki asenu (7) awase miyo (5)- 1936

*having not become Judas

long past springtime--
look at my kimono
whose purple hasn’t faded

(for interpretation)

tsuki suzushi (5) shiho no mizu-ta no (7) uta-gaeru(5) 

a cool moon—
singing frogs all around
rice paddies

Hisajo wrote Haiku #24 soon after she returned to Kokura not getting a divorce. I can not help sensing her subdued envy of Nora from this haiku. In 1922 she became a Christian and placed herself distant from haiku. Her essay in 1924 touched the Nora haiku:

“There exists a bitter significance in enduring the fate and in cutting open the fate through one’s brave fighting. (than running away from home.) I now feel myself standing firm and brave on earth prepared against any storm or any big wave”.


Hisajo’s subtle hesitation that gives a nuance to a Nora haiku disappeared and Hisajo sounds like a stiff girl-student who could in fact be very fragile. Her church-going did not last long and in 1927 she was determined to pursue haiku for the rest of her life. In 1934 at the age of 44, she contributes an essay to the first issue of Haiku Kenkyu (Study of Haiku) magazine. I quote from that issue:

“A rich womon’s luxurious life-style tends to paralyze her soul after all. I used to consider myself poor and unhappy, but not any more.  With no jewels to wear, no knowledge of fashion-trend, I kept on writing haiku. Reflecting on my past days, I am pleased and even happy now. Haiku has given me spiritual strength by encouraging my soul all these years.”


Ren Masuda remarks: “Hisajo’s humbleness spread the distortion both ways: people who knew them well and considered the Sugita’s life being much better than “poor” thought Hisajo was rather sarcastic whereas people who did not know them thought Hisajo and family really suffered from poverty.”

Having been brought up as a member of privileged class in colonial Taiwan, Hisajo thought making ends meet by Unai’s salary alone was a challenge too hard to meet and kept wishing -- if only she could hire a maid as her mother always did.

She, however, felt pain not so much from the income limit but from the way people classify her in socio-economic strata of Kokura. Kokura city was an industrial city with the new rich. And Kyushu haijin whom Hisajo associated with were mostly very rich people. Her natural desire to maintain her natural pride was utterly misunderstood and some people took her as arrogant.

Unai did not share Hisajo’s pain at all. His class consciousness was secure as the sole heir to the Sugita estate and his life in Kokura did not need to give him any social class identification. In other words he seems to have taken his life in Kokura as temporary. It was Hisajo who was trapped into the hardship between the Sugitas, who did not understand the life in city where cash is needed all the time and the affluent Akaboris in Tokyo, so distant from Kyushu… (Everytime Hisajo’s mother managed to visit Hisajo, she gave her money) When Hisajo decided to give the best education to two daughters, Unai did not cooperate; she earned extra income by teaching art and craft in a high school, and by selling her calligraphy to haiku lovers. After all, Unai who opposed higher education for girls was very happy for his daughers when they graduated.

In her first kushu published by Masako in 1952, Nora was replaced with the word: “ugliness”, most probably from the widely known tanka of the war time, meaning an ugly yet strong shield. When this change was made is a mystery, but it is said that this shield means a shield to protect Kyoshi. I feel like telling Hisajo aloud, “Why, Hisajo-san, it is you that need a shield from the society!”

In this context two haiku I translated above (on a purple kimono and on singing frogs) are interesting.  She even repeated the expression * has not become * and changed Nora into Juda who betrayed Christ. By adding not become Judas, her haiku is announcing that her genuine respect and fidelity never fades just as her old kimono with regal purple color maintains the regal color.

In the cool moon haiku, Hisajo analogized Kyoshi to a lofty moon and the haijin who surrounded him and constituted the wall against Hisajo to singing frogs in the mud of rice paddies. I believe that this haiku was made while she was struggling to get Kyoshi’s introduction for her kushu.

Let me translate three more haiku that she made on and around her socio-economic pain.

26. arutoki wa (5) nikumu hin ari (7) hanagumori (5)

there is a time
I hate the poverty...blossom
under the cloudy sky

    27. fuka no nasu (5) waga tsukukru nasu ni (8) makenikeri (5) 

              eggplants of a rich family
              beaten by these eggplants
              I grow with my hands

    28. mini matou (5) kuroki shouru mo furini keri (5)

              with this black shawl
              I wrap myself
              how frayed it looks…



Hisajo pines for haiku-friends (1922~1926)


HIisajo often wrote she was lonely. Several people described Hisajo as not blending into a group of people. It seems the tendency of being alone was Hisajo’s inclination from her early childhood.  In her essay on memories of Taiwan she wrote:

“Soon they started to provide an elementary school lesson for Japanese kids in one room of the governor’s office building. There was only one teacher who taught five-six pupils of different ages. To have “a friend of school” was something new and pleased me, but I tended to move away from them and engaged in nut-collecting or picture-drawing. What was most exciting for me was going home to play with Ryougai, a Taiwanese boy my father hired. He and I loved a theatrical play: we enjoyed imitating the doll-theater of Taiwan.”

Was she lonesome in her adult life? As Unai ‘s wife, she met teachers and students and even more people through her haiku. Her daughter’s illness led Hisajo to know a doctor who happened to be a haiku lover. This doctor became a family adviser too and invited her to a Protestant church where he was a Sunday school headmaster. The doctor died an early death ten years later and we have no way of confirming an old rumour in Kokura that Hisajo had a relationship with him. Masako remembered her mother telling her in her low-teens that she would commit suicide to protest such an irresponsible rumour if it had not been for two precious daughters.

On the other hand the vicar of  the church was interviewed by a local writer eight years after Hisajo’s death, when he, 73 years old—was a vicar of Wakamatsu Church, in the same Fukuoka prefecture. I will quote from the interview article that was included in Ren Masuda’s book:

Rev. Kobayashi: “Hisajo san was magnetic and pleasant. She did a lot so energetically in construction-fund-raising, for building Kajimachi Church that still stands in Kokura. I remember how intelligent and rhythmical her talk was. Once she realizes her mistake, she apologized on the spot and when she finds something sad she cried.  A very pleasing person, indeed.

Her husband was conservative and cautious all the time and behaved as if like checking the stone bridge before walking over. And she was bright, challenging and liberal, almost aspiring to be a figure in Japanese literary history!  I would not say they were great as a couple.  One day they both came to me to solve the quarrel regarding her writing, which led both of them to faith, both were baptized soon after. Hisajo san was talented not only in haiku but in calligraphy and art too. One Christmas time she drew a herd of sheep in sumi so alive, so free and so animated, which was used as the backdrop of our children’s Christmas play. The picture is still in my eyes.

In 1924 I was transferred to Korea and about the same time Doctor Ohta left Kokura for Europe. I heard Hisajo san became less and less involved in church after our departure. Her multi-faceted charm may not have been understood easily, but she was certainly attractive. I really liked her.”

Hisajo must have felt fortunate in meeting Rev. Kobayashi who understood her warmly. She must have trusted him open-mindedly. Had Rev. Kobayashi stayed in Kokura, Hisajo’s life might have been different…but the reality was Hisajo stopped going to church and soon she would cherish a determination: “I will return to my haiku “career” regardless of Unai’s wishes.”

It is no use concluding that Hisajo was not religious enough to find spiritual consolation through faith and religious practices. I remark that Hisajo was most eager to live in communion with human-beings whom her soul could respect. She looked lonely when she did not have such friends….

As is known broadly now, haiku was born from the tradition of live collaborative poetry sessions. Even though a haiku is composed by an individual independently, this genre is still called the literature of Za (one sitting), or communion. Haiku being the tiniest minimalist poem, a haijin needs eyes of others to make sure his poetry is expressed in the limited number of words. Thus, almost all serious haijin belong to a kessha, or a closed-group with hierarchical seniority order.  A leader often boasts of his power of extracting what is hidden underneath surface expression through his influence and by editing an original verse.

Hisajo belonged to Hototogisu. Hisajo was most grateful to Kyoshi, the leader, for he repeatedly chose Hisajo’s haiku from the great number of haiku sent to him. Hisajo never thought that Hototogisu was Kyoshi’s family business.

Interesting encounters with two young women, Nakamura Teijo and Hashimoto Takako, must have pushed her back to haiku towards the end of the Taisho period:

29. kisaragi ya(5) kayoi naretaru (7) ko matsu michi (5)  -1924? 

like a commuter, I tread
this path between pine trees

Hisajo was a pioneer woman haijin. When she was staying with her parents’ in Tokyo, she was able to attend a kukai, or haiku meeting, where she met women haijin such as Kanajo. Awoi and Misako. (Incidentally Kyoshi came over to such women’s kukai once in a while and Hisajo met him in person there.)  In Tokyo no rumors arose. But in Kokura the kukai members were mostly men (excepting Yorie, whose doctor-husband was also a haijin) and Hisajo was an easy prey to curious people who do not know haiku at all.

Kyoshi’s visit to Kyushu in March 1922 gave Hisajo a chance to attend a welcome kukai held in a grand mansion of a young couple. Hisajo didn’t even know the existence of a three-storied Western style mansion on the tip of the promontory, hidden by the pine forest. The owner was a son of the president of Osaka-based construction company who moved to Kokura to open its branch office. He received a college education in the U.S. and started his marriage life in the new mansion with a tennis court and an interesting garden. (What a difference!  Hisajo lived in a rented house all her life.)  He did not know haiku, but loved theater and literature and provided his mansion for the welcome kukai.  Kyoshi was certainly given a wonderful welcome.

Some days later Mr. Hashimoto asked Hisajo to teach haiku to his beautiful young wife, Hashimoto Takako. Hisajo had such a joy teaching talented Takako about ten years younger than her. She commuted to their mansion up above the town until the time Mr. Hashimoto declined her haiku lesson… What he wanted for his wife was a charming skill of haiku writing but

Hisajo wanted to train Takako towards haiku as serious art.

30. wasuremeya (5) mikuzu no oka no (7) toh futatsu (5)  1929 or Showa4

don’t you forget
those two stools
on the hill of kudzu

I assume they were engaged in landscape painting on those stools. Takako told Masako that Hisajo’s lesson extended to calligraphy and picture drawing.      *

(for comparison)

aiyorite (5) kuzu no ame kiku (7) kasa fureshi (5)

each draws closer
listening to rain on kudzu—
our umbrellas touch 

 (included in 30 haiku in the prelude)

 (included in Saijiki by Kadokawa Haruki)

The Hashimotos moved to Osaka in 1929. Haiku #30 is the haiku Hisajo wrote as she parted with Takako. When Kyoshi held a Hototogisu Convention in Osaka in November, 1929, Hisajo urged Takako in Osaka to attend. There Hisajo introduced her to Yamaguchi Seishi, one of 4S, who was living in Osaka. Takako became a widow in 1937, concentrated on haiku ever since and lived a life of a very successful haijin in post war Japan. I believe Takako had not forgotten those lessons Hisajo gave with pure joy.  She too was not totally exempt from the responsibity for the Hisajo Legend, but I do feel that Takako’s respect for Hisajo was genuine.

31. akisame ya (5) shiomi ni izuru (7) yuuge made (5)      Hisajo

autumn rain—
we stroll out to see the tide
dinner being prepared               Hisajo

(for interpretation)

tsukuhito ni (5) hoguruki doma yo (7) aki no ame (5)  Teijo

guests’ arrived
our earth floor’s gently dark
and autumn rain                   Teijo

Teijo adored Hisajo and called her ‘My Big Sister’ in her naïve maiden days. In her later life she obtained Kyoshi’s full-recognition during the time Hisajo was tormented by Kyoshi’s rejection and refusal. Teijo became a top woman haijin in post war Japan and often supplied her manuscript responding to the demand from haiku magazines. She once wrote a rather “casual” essay on Hisajo.   Alas Masako was not able to correct the episode in there. Teijo’s husband, a high ranking government official was the very person who had helped young Masako to find the position in the Customs Office in Yokohama on her graduation from Doshisha women’s junior college in Kyoto. Thus, Teijo was partly responsible for the Hisajo Legend.

The two haiku were written in September, 1921 when Hisajo took a trip to Teijo’s house in Kumamoto prefecture.  Some time before that, Teijo, a maiden who happen to start writing a haiku, wrote ‘a fan letter’ to Hisajo and they began corresponding.  Hisajo must have felt buried in the life with Unai those days and must have decided to take a trip for breathing fresh air. She accompanied Mitsuko, her five years old daughter. I have read a most beautiful travel diary Hisajo wrote out of this trip. Hisajo received such heartfelt hospitality from the family consisting of Teijo, 22 years old, and her parents who raised their only child with tender care and love. Teijo was their golden girl, healthy, beautiful, diligent, so kind and gentle. Her happiness (she had a fiancé) could make everyone happy. Hisajo and Mitsuko extended the schedule and stayed there four nights. The rumor spread in Kumamoto city that a famous Hisajo is staying. Two young men visited Teijo’s house to meet Hisajo. They had a little kukai and there Hisajo wrote Haiku #31.

This travel not just soothed Hisajo but led her to self-examine her attitude towards haiku.  She wrote a manifest like open letter to Kyoshi, which was published in Hototogisu in January, 1922 as she wanted.

“I have realized for the first time that I did not need to go through agony wondering whether this or that haiku I am sending would be chosen by Sensei or not. --Well, nothing need be said if chosen. I feel always great if chosen--But from now on I will be free from the agony I experienced before. I would like to make a haiku out of : What touches my life, what my eyes see, ears hear, what my heart speaks to myself in a strong voice. I still believe In shasei, but I wouldn’t sketch things that happen to be around me at random.  I want to sketch things that left an impression in the depth of my soul.“

--A Letter Written In Daybreak, Hisajo. 1922

Hisajo had a fond memory of the visit for many years to come. It is a pain to report that Teijo altered her memory in the storm of the legend making. Teijo wrote in the essay I described ‘casual’:

“I got acquainted with Hisajo through contributing to Kareno magazine (which started after Hisajo’s visit!--ey). Hisajo and her daughter stayed two nights and I did not write any haiku then. Hisajo was the cause of my first mistake in my marriage life. On my way to Kansai she invited me to dinner and did not let me go when I wanted to. As a result I missed a train to Kansai where I was supposed to meet my husband” .

--Teijo in post war days 

Years ago I translated 30 haiku to go with the Hisajo article in World Haiku Review, I intentionally avoided those haiku that have been discussed in the main article or that had been translated elsewhere in the past. 

You can read those 30 haiku if you go to the first installment: Prologue to Hisajo in the light of English Haikai Movement.  The yardstick for choosing those 30 was strictly my own. To be honest, I had not yet read any book on Hisajo. Randomly I chose jewels from the text compiled from Hisajo’s first ku-shu published in 1952.

 Then I neither understood the hidden intention of nor paid so much attention to the Kyoshi introduction, whose words praise her haiku and at the same time produced a wrong picture of Hisajo as they wrapped her in its calculated ambiguity and built-in lies. Masako being the publisher of her mother’s kushu, Kyoshi was most cruel in making her spread the distorted Hisajo…. I must add though that it was Masako who complicated the situation over the years.  After publishing Hisajo kushu posthumously, Masako became “a disciple “of Kyoshi’s daugher, hoping to acquire the voice of influence in the world of Japanese Haiku,  most certainly for the purpose of bringing honor back to the name: Hisajo. I am not accusing Masako. She knew too well how high the walls segregating Hisajo were. To change accepted public perception always takes long and meandering efforts…

Strong- willed, Masako survived Kyoshi, Hoshino Tatsuko, his daughter and Nakamura Teijo.

Masako lived to be 94 years old and saw the Hisajo Renaissance while she managed to self-publish several important books on Hisajo, which moved me to this series.

The end of Chapter 5.



Editor's note:

In this essay all references to Nora are concerned with a character in Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen's play, A Doll's House (1879). Nora Helmer is one of the most complex characters of 19th century drama. This play was considered controversial when it was first published because it is sharply critical of 19th century marriage norms; it is often referred to as the first feminist play.  A Doll's House is an important work in the naturalist movement; the play depicts events and situations on stage which are a departure from previous forms such as romanticism. The play delineates the changing character of Nora: in act one she prances about the stage displaying many childish characteristics; in the second act she behaves desperately, and in the third act she gains a stark sense of reality.









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