Category Archives: Haiku

Selected Senryu

Senryū (川柳, literally ‘river willow’) is a Japanese form of short poetry similar to haiku in construction: three lines with 17 syllables [5-7-5]. Senryū tend to be about human foibles while haiku tend to be about nature, and senryū are often cynical or darkly humorous while haiku are more serious. [Adapted from]

Senryu Poems of the People, by J.C. Brown, Tuttle, 1990

Selected Poems

Notes: A hyphen – indicates a long vowel; hold it an extra count. Double consonants sometimes hold for two counts.


ne ni hosomu

inochi shinjita

eda no saki

— Sho-ichi

“The tip of the branch believes in the hidden life of the root.”


samazama no

na o motsu hanabi

mina kemuri

— Keisen

“Fireworks, variously named, are all just smoke.”


hana saite

itemo zasso-

hiki nukare

— Ko-bo-

“Bloom though they may, weeds are pulled up.”


nusutto neko

ana no aku hodo

mite nigeru

— Kaishinji

“The thieving cat stares hard, then runs away.”


massugu ni

yuki ni cho-cho-

hima ga ari

— Kaho-

“A butterly that goes straight has free time.”


doko e yuku

kumo ka to mireba

kieru kumo

— Gokason

Looking at clouds, “Wondering where they’re going, the clouds disappear.”


Kimi no Na Wa and Twilight


Kataware-doki Fragment of Time

We are told in the movie, Kimi no Na Wa, that kataware-doki means twilight in the dialect of Hida, where Mitsuha lives. Iwakage has more about the land of Hida as seen in the movie, if you click here. 

Strange things can happen during kataware-doki, the toki time of kataware. And they do, in the movie.

Kataware means a fragment. Fragment of time. Also, the fragment of the meteor that crashes to earth in Hida, obliterating Mitsuha’s hometown.

Let’s consider the fragment of time called kataware-doki. Twilight is a fascinating time of day — or is it night? It is the time between day and night, when it is neither day nor is it night. It is kure, dusk. Many haiku have been written about kure. Here’s one by Basho.

kono michi ya / yuku hito nashi ni / aki no kure.

This path —  no one walks it  —  autumn twilight

This lonely path that Basho describes could be a viewed as an autumn day turning into night, or as late autumn when the season turns to winter. It may even allude to the time when his life is coming to a close.

Kure is a border between two things such as light and dark, life and death, between two instants of time. It is at such a border that all things are possible.

As we were pondering twilight, Earth and Sky posted an article on three definitions of twilight, saying “You can define twilight simply as the time of day between daylight and darkness, whether that’s after sunset, or before sunrise.” They explain how Civil, Nautical, and Astronomical Twilight are defined — astronomically.

Still, these definitions do not explain how we feel about twilight.

Photo: Earth at twilight as viewed from space, NASA


2017.12.04 Update. Basho in his autumn haiku used kure for dusk. The character for dusk is 昏, also read kare. We noticed that, in the movie, the teacher also explained kataware-doki as karetaso and tasokare. We find that tasokare is written 黄昏, where the first character means yellow and the second is dusk. Now, kare usually means “he, him.” But kare if pronounced tare or dare would mean “who?”

So, we are back to the title of the movie, slightly rephrased, as:

Who are you?

Perhaps that was question being posed by Makoto Shinkai.


Image credit: NASA

Women of Haiku

These are only some of many wonderful haiku in the book by

Makoto Ueda, Far Beyond the Field: Haiku by Japanese Women, Columbia Univ. Press, 2003.

ぬれいろ や     あめ の した てる     ひめ つつじ

nureiro ya   ame no shita teru   himetsutsuji

adorned with raindrops     from the shower, a sparkling     princess azalea

          — Den Sutejo. 1633-1698

まご ども に     ひき おかされて     とし の くれ

mago domo ni   hiki okasarete   toshi no kure

Grandchildren come and drag me out of bed — the year’s end

          — Kawai Chigetsu 1634-1718

サびしさ を     わが もの がお や     あさ の はと

sabishisa wo   waga mono gao ya   asa no hato

Crying as though   the sole owner of all loneliness   a dove in autunm

          — Kawai Chigetsu 1634-1718

さと の こ の     はだ まだ しろし     もも の はな

sato no ko no     hada mada shiroshi     momo no hana

not yet suntanned     a village child’s complexion     peach blossoms in bloom

          — Chiyojo 1703-1775

Chiyo-ni: Woman Haiku Master

Donegan and Ishibashi, Chiyo-ni: Woman Haiku Master. Tuttle, 1998


Chiyo-ni is arguably the most prominent haiku poet after Basho. Indeed, she is the woman haiku poet of all time. Chiyo-ni was born nine years after Basho died, in 1703, in the town of Matto. Matto is now a part of Hakusan-shi in Ishikawa-ken, and many of her works are held in the Matto City Museum.

Chiyo-ni studied with Kagami Shiko, Basho’s disciple, and even as a child was composing haiku. She was very active in haiku circles, not joining any particular one. Haiku was, and still is, a social art. Haiku was composed in a circle of poets. Chiyo-ni was no different, and she created haiku with many others.

Chiyo was her birthname, and she was called Kaga no Chiyo-jo, after the Kaga region where she lived. Her name changed to the suffix ni which means nun, when she took her vows as a Buddhist nun. She still retained the freedom to pursue her love and skill of haiku. Chiyo-ni’s activities are too numerous to mention here, and we refer you to this book.

Chiyo-ni poduced a large number of haiku and renga. One of my favorite haiku:

yuugao ya        mono no kakurete        utsukushiki

moonflowers —        the beauty        of hidden things

And another:

iriai o        sora ni osayuru        sakura kana

evening temple bell        stopped in the sky        by cherry blossoms

What is remarkable about Chiyo-ni is the life she lived devoted to haiku. Her road to spiritual awakening was the Way of Haiku.