the light of English Haikai Movement Installment 9
Hisajo in 2011
*Hanagoromo – the title of the Hisajo
Exhibit in 2011
While I was not
in shape after the East Japan Great Earthquake all through
the summer months and into early autumn of the year 2011
many in the West, including Ren Masuda, worked towards the
Hisajo Exhibit. The Exhibit was held in the Literary Museum
of Kitakyushu city from 3 November to 25 December 2011. Take
note that Kitakyushu city, or North Kyushu city, includes
the former Kokura city where Hisajo spent all her married
life. The museum sits right in Kokura ward of Kitakyushu
Ren Masuda sent me an Exhibit catalogue, titled
Hanagoromo, edited by three women curators of the
museum. The production touched me with its delicate design
and a great deal of Hisajo artifacts and biographical data.
Kind readers of my prologue of this Hisajo installments
might remember a gauzy cloud of embarrassment that Mr.
Ushida, a former village official of Ohara, Aichi Pref.
almost unconsciously wore when the topic touched how to
introduce Hisajo to the general public. The Hisajo catalogue
opens with the greeting from Mr. Ryuzo Saki, the museum
director appointed by the city:
Here is an excerpt of his greeting:
the sky over the city
soon grows murky
famed haiku is on pure morning glories against the smoky
sky of Kokura, a rising industrial city of the time. Is
her unblemished, fair and fresh self subtly projected
onto the image of morning glories? Her life in Kokura
tended to be cloudy and did not bring about happiness
and contentment to her. Even after her death, what was
called Hisajo Legend was spread and a severe season
continued between the city and Hisajo. But today our
city tries to evaluate, honor and is committed to pass
down to the future generations, Hisajo’s excellent
works. We facilitate our haiku contests and/or events
involving child participants to help promote this cause.
I hereby express my sincere hope that we can cut open a
new history between the two: Hisajo and Kokura.
gratitude goes to all those who supported this Exhibit,
including the bereaved family of Hisajo, The Literary Museum
of Kagoshima and Mr. Ren Matsuda who had initiated the
Hisajo re-evaluation many years ago. ***
Even though the
realization of the Hisajo Exhibit took no less than 60 years
after Hisajo’s death and was not in the lifetime of Masako
Ishi whose effort and struggle were instrumental to
re-evaluate Hisajo, her mother, I am impressed with the
director’s words knowing how immovable most Japanese
officers of any kind of administration usually are.
The content of the Exhibit catalogue, following Mr.
Director’s official opening message above, consists of six
main parts, each subtitled with one haiku of Hisajo.
Prologue Hisajo before haiku:
I grew up
bathing in the emerald sea
of everlasting summers
Chapter 1 : The
joy and distress in Self-Expression:
a teacher’s wife
has not become a Nora
Hisajo Resurrects through Haiku:
(re-translated in 2012)
Hisajo’s Brilliant Haiku:
the shady asoka blooms
on Buddha’s birthday
Chapter 4: “The
Elimination” from Hototogisu Dojin List:
of a woman; yukata
(re-translated in 2012 )
do not fade
(translated for this catalogue)
following appendices make a great resource for researchers:
Haiku of Hisajo
*The Chronological Records of Hisajo’s life
*The list of Exhibit items
*List of Relevant Literature
Below I take notes as I turn the catalogue pages:
1. Hisajo and Kagoshima:
In Chapter 7 of my Hisajo installments, I translated 7 great
haiku Hisajo composed on Kagoshima, her birth place. One
photograph on page 5 grabbed me. I did not know that the
site of her house is now the site of the Greek Orthodox
Church of Kagoshima Prefecture. One hundred and twenty two
years have passed since Hisajo was born on this site, in a
house surrounded by citrus trees and hedges. A high concrete
building beside the church indicates the enormous change the
area went through over the time. It still tells me she was
born into a nice area of a thriving city. I have reread and
appreciated those seven haiku even more.
mother looks intelligent:
The biggest picture on page 5 was taken in Taipei, Taiwan,
in 1899: Mother with two daughters and a young woman ( the
family employed a maid--ey) Sayo, the mother, looks
strong-willed and intelligent. Hisajo’s elder sister, Shizu,
who was to marry a high-ranking Navy officer, looks reserved
as her name suggests (her Kanji means silence), and looks
somewhat distant as if to know her place in the family. Her
younger sister closely together with Sayo is Hisajo, and the
girl’s rich and black hair resonates with her straight gaze
at the camera. Hisajo was 9 years old. Mr. and Mrs. Akabori,
Hisajo’s parents, had a traditional virtue of Japanese
humbleness and were always kind to everyone including
servants and non-Japanese. They were born pre-Meiji, i.e.,
in the last days of Shogunate, father in mountaneous Nagano
Pref, mother in Izushi, the old castle town in Hyogo Pref.
3. Hisajo and education:
Still today the vicinity of Ochanomuzu station in Tokyo has
got an air of academic flavor. On page 6 we find a class
photo of Ochanomizu Girls High School with tall Hisajo right
in the center. The famed school required all the students to
wear the medal attached to their tightly woven obi-belt.
Hisajo was an apple in her father’s eye and he preserved her
A+ history exam with his sumi-scribble: “descendents should
refer” (the photo on page 7).
Later in her life, Hisajo arranged to meet, at Ochanomizu
Bridge, Yamaguchi Seiton, a Hototogisu haijin who would
cross the bridge to walk to Tokyo University where he
taught, with the intention to seek for his help in her
struggle to obtain Kyoshi’s introduction to her dream ku-shu.
Seiton sympathized, but did not help her.
Ochanomizu is well-known also for Tokyo Ressurection
Cathedral of the Greek Orthodox Church of Japan. Most people
call it Nicholas Cathedral. The edifice was completed one
year after Hisajo’s birth. Hisajo must have heard the bells
of Nicholas every so often while learning in Ochanomizu
Girls High School. (I wonder if those who acquired the site
in Kagoshima for their Greek Orthodox church knew it….)
Hisajo was educated not only in high school, but also in
traditional disciplines: See the dignified flower
arrangement license issued from Ikenobo on page 7. Her
letter to her father-in-law in Aichi Pref. (page 8) is also
very impressive and proves her excellence in calligraphy.
The post card in pen from Unai to Miss Hisajo is also very
interesting on page 8 placed right by Unai’s self-portrait
and Hisajo’s photo taken soon after their marriage.
4. Hisajo’s adulthood:
I recognize the same features as those of the 9 year old
girl in Taiwan on the young woman, probably at the age of
19, in a fine kimono on page 7.
Then marvel at subtle
changes that Hisajo went through after her marriage with
Unai. To me Hisajo in the front by a white azalea on page 11
photo, is a gorgeous bloom herself, looking most confident
of all Hisajo photos in the catalogue. This big-family shot
was taken in her parents’ home in Mejiro, Tokyo, most likely
in 1917 and her brother, Gessen, to whom Kyoshi wrote the
letter (which is also exhibited), is standing with his woman
behind the white azalea. Hisajo is with her two little
girls; the toddler sits watched by her grand-father
and aunt Shizu. The grandfather, or Hisajo’s father, died so
soon in 1918 and six years later in 1923 this house
collapsed in the Great Kanto Earthquake, making Hisajo’s
mother leave Tokyo embracing only her happy memories. She
chose to live with her eldest son’s family far in Hyogo
prefecture, which, in turn, meant that Hisajo lost her
“home” in Tokyo because of the Great Earthquake.
Hisajo lost her sister, Shizu, in 1926, then in 1929 her
brother, Gessen, who introduced haiku to Hisajo, died. Both
the eldest brother and Sayo, her affectionate mother, passed
away during the War and before Hisajo’s tragic death.
The family photograph together with all of them must have
been very precious for Hisajo.
Hisajo looks strong and pretty in a professional portrait
taken with Unai and Masako, their daughter, on page 13.
her inner self gradually became torn between the marriage
life and her pursuit of haiku. After attending her father’s
third memorial rites in 1920, she became ill, and was away
from her husband and daughters for one whole year: back and
forth between treatment and convalescent periods, in and out
of a few hospitals in Tokyo. She finally decided to return
to Kokura, and there she was drawn to Christianity. See a
group shot on page 17, taken in front of the church, with a
foreign lady. Hisajo is the one who sees another direction.
The photograph on page 16 taken in 1921 is a superb shot of
graceful Hisajo. This must be exactly how Hisajo and her
younger daughter Mitsuko looked when Miss Saito, who was
later called Teijo, one of 4T, received them at her parents’
home in Kumamoto, Kyushu. As Hisajo’s encounter with
Hashimoto Takako, another 4T, occurred in the following
year, Takako must have met Hisajo with this gracefulness as
well. Soon after their encounter Hisajo began to “commute”
to Takako’s mansion to teach haiku.
If you can look closely, Hisajo in her dark kimono, on page
39, looks mature and even noble. She sits, keeping low
profile, in the middle of members of Shiragiku-kai, or White
Mum Haiku Group. (In October 1946, Kyoshi published an
episode of “Hakone-maru incident” in which these ladies
were, erroneously, described as uncontrollable.)
She looks a little tired on page 23 in 1931 and even more so
on page 41 taken in 1932, each was taken in a occasion of
Amanogawa gathering and the members on the photo include Yoshioka Zenjido, Yokoyama
Hakkoh, Kanzaki Ruru and Dr. and Mrs. Kubo. Hisajo sits at
the left end of the first row in 1931.
Hisajo sits next to Takeshita Shizunojo at the right end of the first row, in
1932. I can sense Hisajo was not necessarily comfortable in
Hisajo on page 46 has completely lost her youth, and looks
different to me…but we see a proud and poised woman here.
She is here as a grand-mother of a new family. Does she look
like a person destined to die of hunger 3 years later in a
special hospital cell?
For that matter please see her
portrait on page 53, too.
5. Hisajo writes many
The letter from sick Hisajo in Tokyo to 10 year old Masako
in Kokura (page 16):
Masako-san, how are you doing?
Do you listen to what your father says? If you want
something, I will send. Don’t be envious to others’
possessions. Go to your father for any question, ask for his
assistance when you are in trouble. Mother is praying for
you, wishing you to be a good girl. Don’t tell a lie, don’t
cheat. Both your father and our old nanny will take good
care of you. So do not worry. Please let me hear from you.
Write and let your mom know how you are each day. Be sure to
take kind care of your health. And when you can, find time
to review your school lessons too.
From your mother
*note: Hisajo had signed Hisa, then drew lines over it and
changed it to “mother”. This letter was written mostly in
kata-kana for easy reading.
Hisajo wrote a few letters to Kanzaki Ruru, (see page 35 and
Kanzaki Ruru (his former family name: Kurata), was the
second son of Mr. Kurata, a free-spirited entrepreneur and a
traditional land owner in one, and was Unai’s student in
Kokura High School. Ruru later founded his own business in
Kokura. He was well-versed in literature and Hisajo
recognized him as a rising haijin. He belonged to Amanogawa
haiku group. His elder brother, by the name Chikara Kurata,
was trained as engineer but became President of Hitachi
Corporation, whose personal history is included in Nikkei’s
auto-biography series. I read and learned that their father
once ventured into a railroad installation project in
Taiwan. Hisajo must have felt close to him.
Hisajo’s letter to Ruru dated on August 16, 1932 was written
around the time her decision was being made to terminate
Hanagoromo, her haiku magazine. The last issue
went to the printer, with her sudden announcement dated 28
August,1932, of the magazine termination on or around this
date. This August was the month Hisajo’s hugely admired
haiku in Hototogisu magazine was the topic of a feature
discussion on Amanogawa magazine. The four members including
Ruru evaluated her haiku. There seemed to exist complicated
and emotional exchanges between Hisajo and male Amanogawa
members and Ruru tried to solve the complication. It is said
Ruru’s attempt failed.
Translation of the caption attached to the Exhibited
My personality always causes people to go away from me,
causes pain in souls, annoys people—I
will just be quiet and wait until I receive God’s kindness
falling onto my soul...
Hisajo wrote again on October 31, 1932, in the month when
she was promoted, by Kyoshi, to a Dojin, an honorable
member, of Hototogisu:
I have learned a life-long lesson through experiencing the
termination of my magazine and I am grateful—I
have completely given up the hope to restart my haiku
magazine, but I have a desire to get resurrected through
Hisajo’s third letter to Ruru is on page 41 dated May 10,
was lucky to meet Mizuhara mShuoshi-sama as well! I got the
feeling that my kushu might be published from Kohransha
publishing company. This has been such a pleasant trip that
I name it my blossom journey.—
Hisajo’s positive feeling, her kushu was never published. We
can confirm from this letter that what she meant as
something different in the previous letter to Ruru was her
dream of publishing her kushu, the anthology of her haiku.
From these letters I receive the impression that Hisajo was
able to be herself when she wrote to him, wildly emotive in
the first letter, honest and composed in the second and
innocent like a child in the third letter. Always natural
and unguarded. Ruru must have meant a lot to Hisajo both as
a talented haijin and a great friend; I dare say her soul
must have loved him. (Hisajo’s spiritual attachment,
however, was not understood as such by Takako, who spread a
negative rumor.) Ruru had to die of tuberculosis on February
28, 1936. Ruru’s widowed wife once told that Hisajo walked,
climbed and found the kind of flower Ruru wanted to see on
his death bed.
Hisajo encouraged fellow-women by sending her letter (page
17, 23, & 27)
Soon after returning to Kokura in 1920, Hisajo wrote to
Tsurujo, Kyoshi’s niece
with whom she attended kukai in Tokyo. Those were the
formative days of the woman haiku movement. Kyoshi, in his
attempt to spread haiku among women, first invited his own
female relatives. Hisajo and Tsurujo seemed to become good
friends. In her letter on page 17 Hisajo writes about her
daily life filled with housewifely duties and about her
rather anxious feelings of living so far in Kokura,
disconnected from Tokyo life.
In the letter to Fukuda Umeko dated September 7, 1929, shown
on page 23, Hisajo gently encourages Umeko to keep
submitting her haiku to Amanogawa.
Hisajo, a judge for Amanogawa’s women's section, had placed
Umeko first. Fukuda Chotei, or Umeko’s son, became a
Hototogisu Dojin in the post-war era and contributed this
letter to a feature Haiku magazine titled “Hisajo”, issued
in 1980, which was one of the counter-efforts against the
The letter on page 27 is dated April 9 and addressed to
Yukie, the priest’s wife at Hiko mountain-top shinto shrine.
Yukie was being kindly invited, by Hisajo, to
start composing haiku herself when the shrine offered the
place to a kukai at Hiko mountain in 1930. Hisajo was an
establised haijin acknowleded by respectable citizenship.
Hisajo’s letters to Kyoshi
Hisajo, a member of Tokyo based Hototogisu, was handicapped
in terms of distance and wrote many letters to Kyoshi, the
editor. They had nice mutual correspondence records to a
certain point. See Kyoshi’s letter dated January 9, 1932 on
page 34, appreciating Hisajo’s gift of a hand-made pillow
filled with hand-picked chrysanthemum petals.
According to Kyoshi, she wrote as many as 230 letters during
6 years starting in 1934, to which he did not respond. He
did not throw them away either and after her death used some
of them for his “novel” he “wrote” for a commercially-based
magazine. The letter shown on the right side of page 42 is
the one Kyoshi skipped when he wrote “the novel”. The
curators judge that the letter must have been written on May
25, 1934, while she was still a Dojin. She sounds desperate
I wonder why she was so positive in her letter to Ruru only
two weeks before.
Here is an excerpt:
I cried through the night... I will retreat embracing the
memory of my 19 years of haiku.~~ I will not be taking
another trip to Tokyo and I won’t have a chance to see
you~~~ I will be spending the rest of my life like a nun,
praying for your health and for the happiness of your
daughter. ~~ (I say to myself ) I can not give up haiku.
Retirement acutely hurts ... Hisajo respected you as her
sun, as her moon on her way of Haiku. Yet I have to retreat
from haiku so that I won’t hurt other women. so I won’t
threat the position of Teijo, so I won’t replace Mrs. Aoi
Honda, so I won’t outshine your daughter. Quietly I put out
the lapis lazuli light.
She continued to write letters even after the elimination
announcement in October, 1936, shown on the bottom left side
of page 43. She did not join
Shuoshi’s group even though he ardently invited her. See
Shuoshi’s letter to her
on the right side of page 43.
A post card drawn by Hisajo for Kyoshi, shown on the same
page, is most interesting to me. Her scribble says she drew
Mt. Jonen, one peak of Japan Alps from her upstairs room.
She writes to Kyoshi: I pray for your good health.
It is dated September, 1936, only one month before the
elimination. She must have visited Sohoh living on Lake
Yamanaka and wrote those haiku on Mt. Fuji in August of the
year. She knew full well that Kyoshi wouldn’t write the
introduction for her dream kushu, nevertheless she drew such
a nice sketch for him... I wonder who kept and offered this
post card for this Exhibit.
6. Hanagoromo, the magazine Hisajo published:
The career peak of Haijin Hisajo came when she published her
haiku magazine in 1932. You could verify it by the fact that
she had the honor of
Hototogisu Kanto three times from 1932 to 1934. Hototogisu
was the major and even the only national haiku magazine in
those days and Hisajo’s haiku
submission, each time with five haiku, was selected for the
top page of three issues: July 1932, July 1933 and May 1934.
The artifacts regarding her peak are covered from page 32 to
Front and back covers of all issues of Hanagoromo
are shown on page 31.
The existence of a stone-hanko, or the magazine stamp, tells
us her original intention to continue her magazine for much
much longer... On page 32
the general content of all five issues are shown. The page
itself is a strong
manifestation that Hisajo had a broad and historical vision
about haiku and
was sincere in her teaching, in her own creative writing, in
academic study and in editing. She took a toil so that
talent of each contributor would be fairly and effectively
Let me conclude “the tour of the catalogue” by translating
Hisajo’s Address for the First Issue of Hanagoromo
(on page 32) An emotive manifesto:
I stand on the budding grass and see into myself: My path,
as a wife, a mother and also as a haijin, had been thorny. I
have to call it a tread of failures, the outcome of the
contradiction between my personality and the situation.
“She is zero as a woman; repeating Arts, Arts, all the time
and not giving any attention to housework. She is queer and
heretic!” So often have those words been thrown at my face.
Having been oppressed and spat on, I thought of dying
A friend I loved, more than once, abandoned me and went
away. Yet the fire of life keeps on burning and the earth is
forever blessed with new buds. Having tripped over and
fallen down, I find myself rising alone again from the
bottom of the despair—encouraged
to fight and proceed, consoled solely by nature and haiku. I
have had neither social position nor wealth.
wonder my fragile talent has been eroded by rains and
winds for the past twenty years and here I am about to
reach the age of decline. Nevertheless I confirm that I
stake happiness in this world and the full length of a
woman’s life on Arts. With a hope of tilling again the
ground hardened by my recent slump, I humbly start this
magazine, something very small, making the use of my gap
time between various house chores. (The rest of
her address is omitted from the catalogue).
Cover of the Hisajo Catalogue