Selected haiku

translated (and annotated)
by Martin Thomas

"Here the idea and background of this project can be found.

未知 の 地 に / 地 図 の 旅 す る / 夜 長 か な
michi no chi ni / chizu no tabi suru / yonaga kana

Long autumn night -
a journey with the atlas
to unknown places

Ra 井 和 生 (千葉) Arai Kazuo (Chiba) [1]

In this haiku there is a successful combination of the seasonal word and the subject, which brings the drawn picture into the eyes of the readers. During the "long night" (yonaga 夜 長) is a classic season word for autumn. This should describe the impression that the nights of autumn seem unusually long compared to the short summer nights, almost even longer than the winter nights. Accordingly, it is not difficult to imagine the author of this poem as he leans over maps on one of these long autumn nights and travels on paper to countries and regions he has not yet visited himself. It is up to the imagination of the readers whether it is a matter of concrete travel planning or rather the general longing for the distance.


春 昼 や / 踏 み 切 り 音 の / 歌 ふ ご と
shunchu ya / fumikiri-oto no / utau goto

Spring noon -
the signal at the level crossing
is like a song

Ann 宮 麻 里 子 (東京) Sannomiya Mariko (Tōkyō)

For many, waiting at a level crossing with the barriers lowered is more of an annoying part of everyday life. In addition, where the acoustic signal of the chime, which should draw attention to the approaching train, has the potential to drive the waiting man mad. But not in this haiku. On a "spring afternoon" (shunchu 春 昼) - the seasonal word of this haiku - the warning signal suddenly doesn't seem to be so annoying anymore. On the contrary, the lowered barriers offer the opportunity to take a short break from everyday life. The monotonous ringing may even be like a lullaby, where behind the word of the season there is also the sleepy, tired feeling of a mild spring day.


弾 初 や / 音 や は ら か き / 古 ピ ア ノ
hikizome ya / oto yawarakaki / furu piano

The first game in the new year -
the sound is soft
of the old piano

) 京 子 (名古屋) Shimizu Kyōko (Nagoya)

The repertoire of Japanese seasonal words seems almost inexhaustible. The readers of Haiku International should this become clear quickly, the magazine is more committed to classic haiku. Some of the annual words are recognizable as such at first glance, some are more hidden in the background. So also in this poem. Here it is "the first time an instrument is played in the new year"hikizome弾 初), which takes over the function of the season word. It is by no means a modern word of the season. Previously, this was mainly used to refer to the playing of classic Japanese instruments such as the Koto 琴, the Shamisen 三味 線 or the Biwa 琵琶. In the meantime, however, it is also used for playing modern western instruments. It will be the New Year category (shinning 新年) assigned.


読 初 は / 去年 の 栞 の / と こ ろ よ り
yomizome wa / kyons no shiori no / tokoro yori

New Year's reading -
the bookmark from last year
marks the beginning

Ada と し 子 (東京) Wada Toshiko (Tōkyō)

In addition to the first musical activity in the new year, which was presented in the previous haiku, it also has the "first reading in the new year" (yomizome 読 初) in the Japanese "seasonal dictionaries" (saijiki 歳 時 記) done. The author of this poem begins reading in the new year where she left off in the old year. In the New Year's hustle and bustle, which in the case of Japan is comparable to the Christmas hustle and bustle in this country, she probably did not find time to finish reading the book. The poem lives particularly through this fresh-looking description of the turn of the year, which comes across as quite lively. By the way, the game with the season words is so far carried out in Japan that an identical name for the "first poetry in the new year" (yomizome 詠 初) exists.


村 中 は / 早 寝 早起 き / 豊 の 秋
murajū wa / hayane hayaoki / toyo no aki

Blessed Fall -
the whole village
early in bed and early on your feet

W 田秀夫 (弘 前) Iwata Hideo (Hirosaki)

To what extent a village community described in this way still corresponds to real life reality is questionable. At least for all those readers who, like the author of this haiku, live in a large city with around 170.000 inhabitants, the poem might seem a little anachronistic. Perhaps this effect is intentionally intended by the author and he would like to draw attention to alternative life concepts in this way. After all, the city of Hirosaki and the surrounding area are known for being one of the largest apple producers in the country. The "rich autumn" (toyo no aki豊 の 秋) describes a year in which the crop yields are particularly abundant because there was no weather damage. Loudly, the second segment in particular reverberates in the ears, which looks much smoother in the Japanese original than in the bulky German transmission - hayane hayaoki早 寝 早起 き ("go to bed early, get up early").


消 え て ゆ く / 記憶 の ご と く / 散 る 木 の 葉
rent yuku / kioku no gotoku / chiru ki no ha

How my memories fade
so fall too
the leaves of the trees

) 戸 暁 子 (堺) Yamato Akiko (Sakai)

This haiku beats in contrast to most of the other poems in the current edition of Haiku International a very melancholic tone. The author compares the falling leaves from the trees in autumn to the fading of her own thoughts and memories. These seem to tarnish bit by bit, just as the individual leaves slide gently to the ground one by one. This process, which continues at a leisurely pace, but is also inevitable, is underlined in Japanese by the flowing speech melody. So the haiku has despite the uncertain future - what is left in the end when all the leaves have fallen from the trees? - a mild, well-tuned undertone. The underlying season word is the "falling leaves" (ochiba 落葉), which stands for winter and here in the form of "falling leaves" (chiru ha 散 る 葉) is present.


寒 鯉 の / 二 匹 向 き 合 ふ / 無言 劇
kangoi no / nihiki mukiau / mugongeki

Act without words:
two koi in the deepest winter
face to face

Ya 谷 ま り え (東京) Mariya Marie (Tōkyō)

It's no secret that a large majority of Japanese people like to eat fish. A friend recently told me that when visiting aquarium together, a Japanese spoke less about the beauty of the animals than about their potential taste. I was just as surprised when I looked up the word "Winter Koi" (kangoi 寒 鯉) in the corresponding entry in the seasonal dictionary found the comment that these were particularly tasty. In the poem above, this ambiguity probably doesn't matter. Rather, the author describes the phenomenon that the koi often remain motionless at the bottom in winter, and this is preferred in the group. The colorful "brocade carp" popular in the local area (nishikigoi 錦鯉) have only been bred as ornamental fish in Japan since the second half of the 2th century.


リ ハ ビ リ の / 結果 待 た れ る / 冬 景色
rihabiri no / kekka matareru / fuyugeshiki

Winter landscape -
warten auf
the success of rehab

Ū 香 (兵 庫) Shūkō (Hyōgo)

The rehabilitation process after an accident or an operation is often tedious and lengthy. This fact is described by the author of this haiku. The "winter landscape" (fuyugeshiki 冬 景色), which according to the seasonal dictionary is associated with loneliness, abandonment and desolation, underlines the impatient feeling of finally wanting to see results of the daily exercises. It can also be the winter landscape itself that stands in the way. After all, it is not possible to go for walks and excursions outdoors when it is snowing and slippery. The haiku thus also includes the longing for spring.


初 詣 / 今年 も 同 じ / 願 い 事
hatsumōde / kotoshi mo onaji / negaigoto

Shrine visit for New Year -
This year too
the same wish

鈴木 慕南 (東京) Suzuki Bonan (Tōkyō)

One of the best-known Japanese traditions is inevitably the first visit to the temple or shrine in the New Year, known as hatsumōde初 詣. Currently around three quarters of the Japanese population participate in this custom. The most popular shrine in the Tōkyō area, the Meiji Shrine (Meiji jingu 明治 神宮), annually records more than 3 million visitors during the first three days of the new year. The visit is used for an obligatory New Year's prayer and the purchase of new "talismans" (o-mamori お 守 り). What the author of this haiku is praying for cannot be said exactly. Either his heart's desire has not been fulfilled or he is praying for lasting health, happiness, success or the like this year as well.


肉 筆 は / 心 の 温 み / 年 賀 状
nikuhitsu wa / kokoro no nukumi / nengajō

New Year card -
the handwritten words
warm my heart

Aki 滝 眞 珠 雄 (千葉) Kodaki Masuo (Chiba)

Another tradition that is maintained at the turn of the year in Japan is the writing of "New Year's cards" (nengajō 年 賀 状), whereby writing is now probably the wrong word. Often the greeting cards to friends, acquaintances, work colleagues and relatives are no longer written by hand, but printed themselves, commissioned from a print shop or even bought completely prefabricated and only provided with the appropriate address. This is where the above haiku comes in. The author seems to be very happy that he received a New Year's card, which was still written by hand in the digital age.

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