Eiko Yachimoto, JP




Hisajo in the light of English Haikai Movement

Chapter 7:  Hisajo’s Last Challenge       


My Visit to SoHoh Museum


On November 5, 2010, I went to SoHoh Museum located in Ninomiya-machi, Kanagawa Prefecture. Their exhibit this year: Bond seen from letters. I wanted to see Hisajo’s letters to SoHoh Tokutomi (1863~1957), a literary man of great influence, who, over his long professional career, received 12,000 letters, who published ten volumes of “Nippon Kinsei Kokumin Shi”, or History of Japanese People in Modern Times (he wrote a total of 240,000 Japanese hand-written pages), and who lived through Meiji, Taisho, and Showa to the age of 95. The curators displayed one letter of Hisajo dated April 1935 with a letter from Kyoshi, even though each wrote to SoHoh and not to each other. SoHoh received letters from the likes of Akiko Yosano, Raicho Hiratsuka, Doppo Kunikida, Mokichi Saito, just to name a few, and each of the letters is displayed respectively with a letter written to SoHoh by the person who had a bond with him/her.

 At first I could not help but see an irony in this bond display, then felt impressed with Hisajo’s hand-writing with brush-strokes. Almost all letters displayed were written by brush strokes, but Hisajo’s hand-writing stands out with elegance and power. Kyoshi would have felt embarrassed had he seen the display. I took notice of the blue rice paper, remembering the essay Hisajo wrote on her love of beautiful paper. I simply lost words when I saw Hisajo’s sketch of a sun-flower.

 I was able to sit with Ms. Wada, a curator, to ask a few questions. My guess was right, Seiko Tanabe, Masako Ishi, Akiko Yumoto all visited this museum before or in the process of writing on Hisajo. She told me vividly that Masako had a tremendous impact at the time. Ms. Wada was with their senior curator as a young assistant not knowing anything about Hisajo, much less about Masako. Masako was in a jet-black dress and looked very solemn, heavy, even oppressive in her sitting position to cover window lights. In her low voice she muttered on the hardship naming Kyoshi.

Several years later Masako came again and her impression changed, probably because their senior curator, whom I could not meet, won trust and friendship from her, or because the tables had turned and the stormy Hisajo legend had been replaced by a Hisajo Renaissance. And a few years before her death in 2007, Masako sent to the senior curator a beautiful photograph of herself wearing a brilliant blue dress. Her impression had been drastically changed for the better over the years. Ms. Wada showed me some of Masako’s pictures taken during her overseas trip with her husband, who taught American Literature in Meiji University. Masako looked happy and relaxed in America!  Hisajo wanted her daughters to have a good life with a good husband and this dream of Hisajo seemed to have come true. (Masako’s sister got married to a man who became a professor teaching French Literature in Tohoku University.)


A Brief Chronology of Hisajo’s Life as Summary


At the age of 36, in 1926, Hisajo reoriented herself firmly on haiku as I explained in Chapter 6. Six years later, in March, 1932, she labored for the birth of Hanagoromo, her haiku magazine. Brilliantly received though each issue was, she mysteriously made an abrupt decision to terminate the magazine in September the same year. In the very next October Kyoshi announced that Hisajo was chosen to be a Dojin, or an honorable member of Hototogisu. Four years passed and in October, 1936, when she was 46, Kyoshi suddenly and publicly discarded her from the Dojin list. I doubt whether Kyoshi had a vague intention to do so at the very time he himself elevated Hisajo to the honorable Dojin status. Viewed from the pivot year of 1936, Hisajo spent the past ten years, namely from 1926 to 1936, as a gorgeously blooming woman haijin well-known to all haiku lovers, but her next ten years to come looms dark. From 1936 till 1946 her life was full of struggle, pain, war, and separations. At the age of 56, in January 1946, she died alone in the hospital to which she was literally forced to go.

Having suffered from depression, menopause, a kidney problem and Hashimoto disease, she had caused Unai daily problems amid the social turmoil of post war days. As a teacher, Unai still had responsibility over a number of young students. One day Unai asked a doctor, his former student, to give her a shot and they took sleeping Hisajo to a special hospital more than a few hours’ ride from home. All hospitals were in an utter chaos those days, most of them without an adequate food supply. She was not properly diagnosed. After only three months of hospitalization she died. Dr. Aoi Teraoka in Kyushu carefully examined Hisajo’s and her immediate family members’ health records throughout each one’s life-span. Not only scientific approach but also thoughtful literary analysis of Hisajo’s haiku led him to publish Hisajo no Byoseki, or Hisajo’s Illness Records—a fabricated legend in 2005. There have been other researches as well and the consensus has been reached: 1. Hisajo was Not schizophrenic  2. The direct cause of her death must have been mal-nutrition caused by hunger.


The Circumstance Surrounding Hisajo


During those four years (1932~1936) while Hisajo’s haiku were often chosen for the top page of Hototogisu, she quite naturally got the idea of publishing her kushu. Before she asked Kyoshi to write the introduction for her kushu, their communication seemed normal. Hisajo sent him a hand-made pillow filled with white mum petals and Kyoshi responded to her with a haiku appreciating the gift.

But Kyoshi never wrote the introduction; he did not want her kushu to be published. She was desperate, but tried hard to take the awkward situation as a special ordeal bestowed by Kyoshi. She wrote letters to Kyoshi, and took a long distance trip to see him in person in Kamakura. Kyoshi stopped responding. He refrained from seeing Hisajo.

Outside of Hototogisu there arose the New Haiku Movement. Already in 1930 Shuoshi Mizuhara dared to publish his first kushu without Kyoshi’s introduction. Hisajo is said to have loved Shuoshi’s pleasant and lyrical haiku and Shuoshi invited Hisajo to join Ashibi, his haiku kessa. Young Seito Hirahata, the editor of Kyodai (Kyoto University) Haiku, wrote a letter to Hisajo asking for her haiku. Hisajo had won respect even from a rising student-haijin.

Inside Hototogisu, Tatsuko Hoshino, or Kyoshi’s married daughter, and Teijo Nakamura, were coming into the limelight as model woman haijin replacing Hisajo. Teijo was living in Yokohama, near Tokyo and Kamakura, as the wife of a high ranking government official. As Seiko Tanabe lamented in her book, Kyoshi had the tendency to favor those in affluence, those with social networks.

Hisajo’s submissions had been chosen and published in Hototogisu all through 1934, but in 1935 fewer haiku appeared and when one or two were chosen, those were not as brilliant as before. Hisajo’s energy must have been taken for the kushu “project”. After Sepetember 1935 no haiku of Hisajo got printed in Hototogisu. Having ignored her wish, letters and visits Kyoshi might well have assumed that things would solve themselves when Hisajo would join a kessha under New Haiku Movement. In this historical context Hisajo did not move and wanted to prove her fidelity to the master.


Virtue and Vice of a Haiku Kessa,


Generally speaking the way a haiku kessha is organized would better be understood with the understanding of Za, or a sit-in gatherings. A haiku group has a central figure, the equivalent of a sabaki in renku sessions, and members sit around him. And haijin share the time of creation in the sit-in session. Yet, haijin do not share the Muse coming down right into the center of renku sessions. Most haiku sessions are rather competitive, even though many haijin still value the spirit of Za.

It is true that others’ eyes have got the crucial significance for such a tiny poem as a haiku. I cannot deny that a haijin is more likely to compose a haiku that emits unworldly light when he/she is placed on a grand stage watched by a great leader/judge and a big audience.

Indeed, a haijin’s haiku would often need the master’s or one of the fellow-member’s orientation/critique/assurance so that it could stand as a short verse equipped with haiku literacy, but there arise cases in which others’ eyes overlook a jewel, or others’ eyes become tinged with some political concerns. There are numerous haiku kessha in Japan, each founded by an ambitious haijin who spinned out of the hierarchy. The key to the kessha’s success depends on a number of ordinary members. Kyoshi knew how to win their hearts.


Kyoshi’s Case


From today’s perspectives the appalling fact that so many young free-verse haijin affiliated with Kyodai (Kyoto University) Haiku got arrested as anti-government activists is something that defies our easy understanding. Reversely speaking, haiku was that important in the society then. Another fact is that Kyoshi had the social power to influence the whole publishing industry; this is something that deserves to be studied by social scientists. It is hard to believe now, but almost all publishers did not want to offend Kyoshi and were eager to publish what he wrote. He was a VIP whose daily schedule was considered worthy to be printed in newspapers with nation-wide circulation. Hototogisu members in Kyushu were well aware of Kyoshi’s itinerary and of his first visit to Europe.

Solely out of Hototogisu Kyoshi made himself a wealthy man and supported his big family including Yujiro Ikenouchi, the second son who lived in Paris for as long as ten years. Yujiro Ikenouchi’s family name was changed from Takahama to Ikenouchi so that the lineage of Ikenouchi, or Kyoshi’s mother’s blood line, could continue. In Paris Yujiro Ikenouchi was a student majoring in music composition. In March 1936 Kyoshi took a grand voyage to Europe; his trip was well-planned for him by his haiku “disciple” in the shipping industry. In addition to haiku meetings held in various European cities he enjoyed seeing his son in Paris. Kyoshi was said to have exerted his power to secure him a decent position later in the son’s life. Kyoshi’s travel diary was readily published and a few of his close disciples contributed their essays to some small in-circle journals in which each of them described how well their master was welcomed by people in Kyushu when the ship named Hakone-maru, dropped anchor in Moji on her voyage to Europe.


Hakone-maru Incident


The Hisajo legend that swept post-war Japan got started from one episode fabricated by Kyoshi, the VIP; the episode attracted people’s quick curiosity.

He wrote an obituary-like article in the November 1946 issue of Hototogisu titled “I feel like paying a visit to Hisajo’s tomb”. In the article he “described” an incident that happened on Hakone-maru anchored in Moji. Here is a rough excerpt in my translation.

Hisajo and members of White Mum haiku group rented a small boat and chased after Hakone-maru making an embarrassing scene. During our return trip Hisajo came to Moji and made a scene again. In Hakone-maru she kept screaming when she was told she could not see me. Hisajo left some writing addressed to me but her handwriting was wild and illegible.

Mr. Ren Masuda, Unai’s student at Kokura High School who published Sugita Hisajo Note in 1978, investigated the incident by interviewing as many witnesses as possible. Mrs. Nuino, a surviving member of Shiragiku-kai, or White Mum group, told him that they never rented a small boat. Mr. Masuda then found those small in-circle journals published in 1936: Hisajo never tried to chase after the ocean-liner and she never screamed. Those articles written by Kyoshi’s close disciples in 1936 clearly testify they were able to read what Hisajo wrote on a shikishi, a board–like square paper for writing poems; it was a haiku as a von voyage gift for Kyoshi. What is most striking is that the ship Hakone-maru simply did not drop anchor in Moji on her way back from France. This is a fact proven by Kyoshi’s own travel diary as well as by other public records.

What Hisajo and her lady students actually did on 22 February, 1936 in Moji was to bring Kyoshi a Birthday present (sweet rice steamed with red beans) and to try to wish him von voyage to Europe. The ladies were not able to see Kyoshi, however long they waited. Mrs. Nuino told Mr. Masuda, “Hisajo sensei looked pale and we felt so sorry for her.”


Kyoshi has made a Decision Public


Kyoshi came back to Japan and a few months later he made a decision public. In the October1936 issue of Hototogisu he used one full precious page of Hototogisu and announced the elimination of three haijin from the Dojin List. People, including Hisajo, Unai, Mrs. Nuino, all the other students, friends and Hototogisu readers had to guess why. Hisajo…violently disgraced…stopped teaching haiku.


Now, What Role did SoHoh Tokutomi play in the life of Hisajo?


I saw Hisajo’s letter dated 27 November, 1934 thanking SoHoh for his summer lecture in Kyushu. She may have met him in that trip of his. But she may have been introduced to SoHoh by Kosanjin Ikegami, a Hototogisu haijin who used to be SoHoh’s student-like secretary. The reason why Masako visited SoHoh museum soon after observing Hisajo’s 50th death anniversary in 1995 was to confirm the genuineness of one letter from SoHoh addressed to Hisajo. Masako happened to find the letter while preparing for the death anniversary. The curator confirmed it was genuine. The letter survived the war, the death of both Hisajo and Unai, the move and the relentless time. Hisajo must have stored it carefully as something very special.

In the concerned letter dated 7 February, 1936. SoHoh wrote that he had finished coordinating the chosen publisher and the book design artist and had sent Hisajo’s manuscript to the publisher in Tokyo. If the manuscript referred to in SoHoh’s letter meant the manuscript of Hisajo kushu, this reveals that Hisajo gave up obtaining Kyoshi’s introduction and depended on Sohoh Tokutomi, a giant literary figure and an opinion leader in pre-war Japan, for publishing her dream kushu and SoHoh had helped her accordingly. Obviously, there were correspondences exchanged between them before that time. I saw her post card from Itsukushima Shrine dated 15 May, 1935.

Hisajo stayed in SoHoh’s summer villa near Lake Yamanaka for several days in July 1936, soon after Kyoshi returned to Japan. We just do not know to what stage the publishing project had proceeded by then. We know full well that the kushu never came out in spite of the endorsement of SoHoh Tokutomi. It may have been hindered by the February 26, or 2.26 incident* but it is impossible to tell what happened to the manuscript sent to the publisher.

The February 26 incident* (二・二六事件 Ni-niroku jiken, or “2.26 incident”) was an attempted coup d'état in Japan, from February 26 to 29, 1936 carried out by 1,483 troops of the Imperial Japanese Army. Several leading politicians were killed and the center of Tokyo was briefly occupied by the rebelling troops.

Hisajo visited SoHoh Tokutomi at least twice. His villa was near Lake Yamanaka, which is one of the five lakes formed by the ancient volcanic activities of Mt. Fuji. In July 1936 Hisajo was welcomed warmly, which is evident from her haiku I translate for this Chapter. Hisajo sent those haiku composed on the trip to Haiku Kenkyu. They were included in their September 1936 issue. SoHoh’s grand-son, who is now a doctor and loves to write, remembers the joy Hisajo brought to him when no family friends showed up in the lingering rainy season of that year. Hisajo was the only guest during her stay. SoHoh was 73 years old then but was raising the boy after his daughter became a widow very young.

Hisajo’s second visit turned tragic. In SoHoh Museum, I saw her card dated 9 August 1937. She reports that she is doing fine by herself and adds one haiku:

asa fuji o (5) mishi kano mado ni (7) dare ga yoru? (5)

who‘s there now
at the window
I saw Morning Fuji

I have no way of knowing how the second visit was arranged, but she visited the villa soon after writing this haiku. Unlike the previous summer, the villa was packed with many guests from hot cities. Hisajo was asked to stay that particular night in a hotel room nearby prepared by the Tokutomis.

Hisajo refused to do so. Her pride, which she strived to uphold after being purged, was too sensitive and she took their kind arrangement as an insult. SoHoh meant to see Hisajo the next day, but she had already left Yamanakako town.


Kyoshi must have become Furious


Having found Hisajo’s approach to SoHoh on his return from Europe, Kyoshi must have become furious. Even though Hisajo did not take advantage of Kyoshi’s absence, Kyoshi might have thought so. Dictators have a tendency to be caught by the fit of anger. What I have to add is that SoHoh Tokutomi was the CEO of Kokumin Shimbun, a newspaper company, where Kyoshi was employed as a haiku columnist until he took over Hototogisu in 1898 on his getting married.

There must have been other reasons as I have repeatedly suggested. Tanabe Seiko simply concluded that Kyoshi did not like Hisajo and wanted to get rid of her. Mr. Masuda thinks Kyoshi discarded her before she moved to New Haiku Movement. For Hisajo it was not the matter of assumption. She was devastated and it is said that a cheerful smile was lost from her face since that time. She didn’t give up writing haiku, but she stopped going to any kukai: how much did she miss kukai-communion, conversation with fellow haijin or with her sincere haiku students?


Hisajo’s very last Years


Remember her two daughters had already left Kyushu and lived far away getting a higher education. (It was Hisajo that materialized their education in spite of their father’s opposition). In their house without children, Unai kept asking Hisajo, “What on earth did you do? Why did Kyoshi sensei, such a great and generous man, have to discard you?” Each day must have been a torture for Hisajo those days.

After she returned from her second visit to Lake Yamanaka, Hisajo must have felt she had no one to seek help from. Hisajo was said to have spent time doing housework, quarreling with Unai, growing various flowers in the garden, or sketching wild flowers she adored. What consoled her most, however, was the rereading of her past haiku, the glorious achievement she seriously cherished. She added her footnotes and comments on the definitive text.

As the U.S. air-raids over Kokura (a Pittsburgh of Japan for its steel industry) got frequent and heavy, Hisajo started to show some signs of problems. Escaping into the crowded shelter of their town, often by herself, Hisajo seemed to shut herself from the outside world to live in her own imagination. Unai was often in school, busy protecting his students.

And I have already told what Unai did in the first winter after Japan accepted unconditional surrender to the Allied Forces. Later in his life, he regretted having put Hisajo in the hospital.


What did Masako want to Prove?


For more than fifty years, Masako Ishi, Hisajo’s elder daughter, struggled to find the answer: why did Hisajo have to die that death? In 2002 I wrote to her reporting that I translated 30 haiku of Hisajo and published them on the web magazine. Mrs. Ishi wrote back, “ My deepest thanks to you. I am trying hard but the fire of my life is dwindling…” Impressed with the strength of her handwriting as well as her words, I wrote again but did not receive her response. Years passed and I learned that she passed away in 2007 at the age of 95.

Masako wanted to prove that Hanagoromo had to be terminated so that Tatsuko could become a leader for all women haijin of Japan with her editorship of Tamamo, or Beautiful Seagrass, the haiku magazine Kyoshi had encouraged Tatsuko Hoshino, his married daughter, to start, shortly before the start of Hisajo’s Hanagoromo on Kyushu Island. Hisajo had no intention to compete with Tatsuko and in fact she had heartily congratulated Tatsuko, but Kyoshi might have foreseen a danger. After the termination of Hanagoromo, Hisajo concentrated on writing haiku. Needless to say Kyoshi continued to help and support Tamamo all his life.

Masako wanted to prove that those haijin and writers who “co-fabricated” the Hisajo legend by feeding their episodes, or by writing a novel, a play, memoires and what-nots were less than Hisajo as a literary figure.

Masako wanted to prove why Kyoshi did not give his permission to Hisajo’s kushu. Long after Kyoshi died in 1959, Masako concluded: He knew better than anyone that Hisajo's kushu would outshine his daughter's work dangerously.

Masako assumed that Kyoshi fabricated the story, in the lingering social unrest caused by the defeat of Japan, to conveniently and nonchalantly solve people’s puzzlement in regards to the cruel announcement before the war, in other
words, the announcement to discard Hisajo from the dojin list printed in large
fonts on a Hototogisu page in October 1936.

Masako wanted a legal apology from those medical doctor haijin who illegally borrowed Hisajo’s hospital records, some out of curiosity, some only from a professional habit. A phrase or two written in there spread like a fire over the dry grass. The medical record had been missing when Masako asked for it and later it was secretly returned.

All her efforts were derived from her acute wish to console her mother’s soul. Masako got married in November 1937, had a baby and lived in Kamakura. She never had a chance to go back to her lonely mother living in Kokura. Kyushu was so distant from Kamakura, especially in those days with no bullet train, no airplane and the country in a social confusion specific to the wartime. Mitsuko married in 1941 and the newly weds left for Taiwan where the groom started his teaching career. Hisajo never saw Mitsuko after seeing them off at Port Moji. Masako’s last time with Hisajo was in July 1944 when Hisajo visited Masako and her baby by extending a leg of her trip after attending her old mother’s funeral in Osaka. Masako’s husband was away to the war then. Hisajo was a gentle mother to Masako. Hisajo was so good at playing with the baby.

What puzzled me was why Masako became a student of Tatsuko, or Kyoshi’s daughter, even though they both lived in small Kamakura. Masako, a very intelligent lady, must have thought she had to become an established haijin for the purpose of gaining influence in the haiku world. And she must have thought Hototogisu and Tamamo embodied the orthodox of Japanese haiku. Masako managed to become a leader of a small haiku kessha and had more than a few public occasions to talk about Hisajo with the likes of a daughter of Hashimoto Takako or Tatsuko herself. Masako self-published several books on Hisajo and was a part of the movement towards reassessing Hisajo.

Seiko Tanabe wrote, however, that Masako was too close and too attached in order to successfully perform the objective reassessment.

I respect Masako for what she did. There have been many “little” Hisajo cases in Japan. And in most cases sufferings were simply buried under the thick sheet of omote, the surface history.  Masako’s courage, determination, womanly agenda and shortcomings touch my heart.


Cobwebs of Social Manners


I do not think that the trauma of the Hisajo legend has vanished for good. I cannot declare that Hisajo was clearly and cleanly freed from the disgrace. Why did Masako let Kyoshi die before he made an apology to Hisajo and Masako herself? I can’t help reminding my readers of Kyoshi’s introduction given to Masako for Hisajo’s kushu; the publishing of Hisajo’s kushu happened six years after Hisajo’s death. Kyoshi’s introduction, cruel only in a alibi-free way, must have tortured Masako.

The three haiku Masako wrote at Kyoshi’s death in 1959, however, were well-composed polite greeting verses for the occasion. This must mean how hard it was to pursue the truth in the cobwebs of social manners and social hierarchy in the Japanese haiku world. Once Masako gained a certain level of influence, she was then hindered by all sorts of social expectations to behave properly…Masako was torn just like her mother between her initial purpose and her manners for Kyoshi and her cordial acquaintanceship for Tatsuko.

Needless to say Kyoshi had a great deal of good and kind aspects as well and there were TPOs (time, place and occasions) in which Masako thanked Kyoshi heartily in spite of, or forgetting temporarily, her initial purpose. Every time she came home after having “a good time” with Kyoshi and Tatsuko, she must have been frustrated at herself. No wonder Masako looked so burdened to young Ms. Wada when she first visited the SoHoh museum.


Kyoshi’s Achievement


From a different point of view, Kyoshi beautifully succeeded in newly structuring one enormous and organic system called Haidan, or haiku society, placing him at the invincible top. He must have followed the innate Japanese cultural tradition that tends to be based on the love of blood and love of authority. Most Japanese traditional arts, such as Kabuki, Noh, Flower Arrangement, and Tea Ceremony believe in hereditary continuation of the school/organization/skill/art through the blood…

How distant is this achievement from Basho’s!  Shiki could never have imagined this development of his Modern Haiku movement.


Let us go back to Hisajo’s Haiku, Hisajo’s Challenge


Let us free Hisajo from all those cobwebs. I believe that Hisajo in translation should be able to fly as high as she wished. Her soul will be fully consoled when her haiku are known, loved, and respected by people around the world.

In contrast with the process through which each haiku is bundled with others’ submissions and assessed by Kyoshi one by one without any context, it was natural for some dedicated Hototogisu haijin to think that they should have a better chance to acquire the authoritative “I” by writing gunsaku, or a group of haiku on the same topic and sending them as one submission. It is said the gunsaku was felt by Kyoshi another deviation from the tradition. But who can blame Hisajo for wanting to challenge this a little bit?  Hisajo was torn between the two situations:

1. Her Genuine Respect for Kyoshi, who discovered, and once admired
    her enthusiastically


2. Her straightforward artist spirit that drove her to free writing

I find her desire for free expression evident in her gunsaku haiku series. Thus, Chapter 7 is dedicated to her gunsaku series.

Please read Hisajo's gunsaku haiku composed shortly before the purge in my humble translation. (I will be improving each translation in years to come).


Buddha, the Light of Lapis Lazuli


All the haiku were compiled by Hisajo herself. The title above was by her also. She compiled them in two groups: “Kagoshima, the birth place” and “Nostalgia for Okinawa”. All were included in the June1934 issue of Haiku Kenkyu, an independent (or Kyoshi-free) haiku magazine which started in March 1934 and was to grow into a general haiku magazine. (Later editors include Kenkichi Yamamoto and Jushin Takayanagi).



Kagoshima, My Birth Place


1. zabon saku (5) gogatsu to nareba (7) hi no hikari (5)

     in awesome sunlight
May comes with the bloom
of a pomelo-orange

2. zabon saku (5) gogatsu no sora wa (7) ruri no goto (5)

May sky looks
just like lapis lazuli
when pomelos bloom

3. ten aoshi (5) rokitsu wa noki wo (7) uzume saku (5

     the blue heaven—
kumquat-oranges keep blooming
till our eaves buried

4. hana zabon (5) kobore saku to ni (7) sumu tanoshi (5

     pomelo petals spilling
     over our front door—
     what fun to live in that house

      5. kaze kaori (5) zabon sakuto ni (7) tou wa dare (5)

frangrant wind,
who is paying us a visit
when our pomelo blooms

      6. nangoku no (5) gogatsu no tanoshi (7) hana zabon (5)

 in the south country
 May is the fun month
 pomelo oranges bloom

      7. zabon saku (5) waga aretsuki no (5) sora matama (8)

the jewel blue sky—
zabon blooms in May
my birth month


Nostargia for Okinawa


Hisajo lived in Naha city, on the Main Okinawa Island for two years from 1895 to 1897 when she became seven.

1. umi hoozuki (5) naraseba tooki (7) otome no hi (5)

blow a sea lantern,
and the sound takes you back to
the girlhood long past

2. tokonatsu no (5) aoki shioabi (7) waga sodatsu (5)

I grew up
bathing in the emerald sea
of everlasting summers

3. tsumagureni (5) yubi some kawashi (5) koi wakaku (7)

with touch–me-nots
we dye each other’s nails,
was that a love…

4. sendan no (5) hana chiru Naha ni (7) nyugaku su (5)

in Naha
through falling purple blossoms
my first day to school

5.shima no ko to (5) hana basho no mitsu no (9) amaki suu (5)

an islander and I
both suck the sweet nectar
of a basho-bloom

6.satokibi (5) kajirishi koro no (7) unaigamin (5)

I had a bobbed hair
and loved chewing
sugar canes

7. yojukage (5) habu tori no ko to (7) asobi motsu (5)

in the shade
of the Banyan tree, I play
with a boy snake hunter

8. hitode fumi (5) kani to tawamure  (7) iso asobi (5)

who stepped on starfish
and sported with crabs?
jolly, jolly seashore

9. murasaki no (5) kumo no ue naru (7) temariuta (5)

above the purple cloud
of Chinaberry blooms,
we sing nursery rhymes

10. umi-hoduki (5) kuchi ni fukumeba (7) ushio no ka (5)

a sea lantern
gently put into my mouth,
wow, scent of the sea! 

11. umi hoozuki nagareyoru ki ni hishi to hae

growing dense and thick
on a driftwood, sea lanterns
laid by shellfish

12. shio no ka no (5) gungunkawaku (7) kai hiroi (5)

the sea-scent
quickly evaporates

our shell gathering

13. hiki nokoru (5) iwama no shio ni (7) umi hoozuki (5)

in the tide pool made
between rugged rocks
sea lantern



Haiku on Cranes

(December 1934)


Hisajo wrote most impressive gunsaku haiku on the crane, a dignified symbol of good fortune.

 Preceding these haiku, her moving essay on the crane meat, which was believed to lengthen life, was published in the March 1934 issue of Karitago, a haiku magazine edited by Kaido Kiyohara living in Korea (cf. Korea was one territory of Imperial Japan). One day her haiku student shared with Hisajo some meat of a crane sent to her from her sister living in Korea. Hisajo examined her saijiki for the citing of Crane Knife, which must have been included based on classical courtly cooking. Even though she could not find how to use the crane knife, she ritualized the process and served the cooked meat with a variety of freshly boiled spring vegetables, to Unai, and to her old mother who happened to be visiting the couple. She even saved a strip or two and brought them to a hospital bed for an inpatient, the child-son of another haiku student.

It was in December of the same year that she wrote as many as 61 haiku on the crane, all from one trip (over night or two nights) that she took by herself. Her destination was Yashiro Basin, Kumage County, Yamaguchi Prefecture, known as an important migratory destination of large-sized nabetsuru-cranes from Siberia (its average wingspan: 160~180cm, or  5’ 3” to 6 feet). Crane is a winter kigo, because they come to Yashiro, Yamaguchi or to Izumi city, Kyushu to spend the winter time there. Hisajo wanted to see them at the moment of their arrival from Siberia. Here I translate 24 haiku which I found in various sources. Only a few of them were published in the February 1935 issue of Hototogisu. I wish I could have found all 61!

Hisajo arranged her haiku in two groups.


I Go See the Cranes


 1. tsuru mau ya (5) hi wa kin’iro no (7) kumo o ete (5)

cranes are up soaring—
the sun has just put on
golden clouds

2. yamabie ni (5) haya kotatsu shite (7) tsuru no yado (5)

mountain chill,
a crane-watchers’ inn
with a kotatsu* already

*heater used under a table covered by a large kilt

3. mukau yama (5) maitatsu tsuru no (8) koe sumeri (5)

heading for the mountain
how clear the crane’s voice
as it flies up

4. mai orite (5) kono mo kano mo no (7) tsuru nakeri (5)

landing cranes
each calls to each other
in an impressive way

5. tsuru mau ya (5) inagi ga aguru (7) shimo kemuri (5)

cranes are up soaring—
frost-smoke rises
from rice easels*
*wooden installation with horizontal bars over which rice ears are hang to dry

6. tsuru naite (5) yuubinkyoku mo (7) kikubiyori (5)

under the cranes’ trill
the post office too enjoys
this chrysanthemum weather

7. furi aogu (5) sora no aosa ya (7) tsuru wataru (5)

how azure the sky
when I look up at
arriving cranes

8. tsuki takashi (5) too no inagi wa (7) usukirai (5)

lofty is the moon
rice ear easels in distance
wearing gauzy fog

9. akatsuki no (5) tazu naki wataru (7) nokiba kana (5)

cranes flying
across the dawn-sky,
their trill heard under this eave

10. tsuru no sato (5) kiku sakanu to wa (7) arazarishi (5)

this crane village
no houses not having
blooming chrysanthemums



A Solitary Crane and Cranes in Flock


1. mai agaru (5) habataki tsuyoshi (7) tazu hyaku wa (5)

skyward flapping
of their wings, the power of
one hundred cranes

2. tazu mauya (5) nichirin mine o (7) nobori kuru (5)

paddy-cranes soaring—
the daystar is on the rise
along a mountain

3. furi aogu (5) sora no aosa ya (7) tsuru wataru (5)

how azure the sky
when I look up at
arriving cranes

4. yori soite (5) nozuru wa kuroshi (7) kusa momiji (5)

so close to each other
wild cranes looking dark—
the fall colored grass

5. hina -zuru ni (5) oya-zuru nani o (7) tsuibameru (5)

parent cranes
keep pecking for their chicks
I wonder at what?

6.  hatago ya no (5) sedo nimo orinu (7) tsuru no mure (5)

a flock of cranes
landed by the back door of
a travellers’ inn

7.  sanwa tsuru (3) mai sumu sora o (7) nagame keri (5)

three beautiful cranes
gliding in the clearest sky
what a scene to see—

8. gakudo no (5) eshaku yasashiku (7) kusa momiji (7)

each young pupil
greets me by a gentle bow—
the fall colored grass

9. chikazukeba (5) nozuru mo utsuru (7) karita kana (5)

as I go near
wild cranes move away—
this paddy of rice stubs

10. oomine ni (5) kodamasu tsuru no (7) koe sumeri (5)

a clear echo
across majestic mountains
voice of cranes

11. gunkaku no kage mai utsuru yamada kana

the shadows move
from a paddy to another
a flock of cranes

12. oozorani mai wakaretaru tsuru mo ari

in the big sky
a crane winged away
from others

13. mai orite tanomo no tazu wa naki kawashi

 coming down
cranes exchange greetings
on the rice paddy

14. tsuru no kage maiorirutoki ooinaru

the shadow of a crane
looms large
when it comes down



Mt. Fuji and a Traveler  (1936)


1. kogiidete (5) sakasafuji miezu (7) mizusumashi (5)

rowing out
yet mirrored Fuji’s not there
only the whirligigs

2. kuri no hana (5) koyori no gotsoshi (7) ameshizuku (5)

the chestnut blossoms
raindrops coming down twisted
like a paper string

3. okure yuku (5) kohan wa tanoshi (7) kusagi oru (5)

catching up slowly
on the nice lakeside path

a twig with blooms snapped

4. kaki tsurusu (5) kohan no chamise (7) fuchi ni hae (5)

their hanging persimmons
clear in the deep
a teahouse on the lake

5. oya hitori (5) ko hitori kayano (7) kyaku hitori (5)

a single parent
with only one child, one guest
in a mosquito net

6. ame tsuyoshi (5) benkeisoh mo (7) tsuchi ni fushi (5)

the strong rain
a stout grass
bending to the ground

7. kurino hana (8) soyogeba mine wa (7) tenkirai (5)

the chestnut blossom
when it sways, the mountain peak
somewhat fogged

8. kanakana ni (5) mezamete ureshi (7) gozen yo ji (5)

by the monk cidadas’ call

happy at four

9. kuri no hana (5) soyogeba harenu (7) mado no fuji (5)

the chesnut blossom
when it sways, I can see Fuji
at the window

10. tori no su mo (5) nurete aka fuji (7) minideyo to (5)

a drenched bird-nest
inviting me to come out:
“don’t miss red Fuji”


the end of Chapter 7

November, 2010











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