Canadian Zen Haiku canadien Vol 2 no 4

recognition vocabulary
Japan le Japon
le Canada
la France/l'Irlande Ireland

Japan le Japon






In Shigeki Matsumura's own words,
Canadian Zen Haiku "is an excellent
and worthy magazine." (08-2004)



Ishiyama no
Ishi yori shiroshi
Aki no kaze.

(Matsuo Basho, 1644-1694)

The stone of Ishiyama is indeed white.
But this cold autumn wind
is felt whiter still.

(translated by sigmats)

Basho composed this haiku in Nata-dera temple. "Ishiyama" is the rocky mountain of this temple. Though this haiku allows for some interpretations, its main purpose is in finding the autumn wind as white. In the ancient Manyoushu, the autumn wind was often expressed as "the metallic wind" or "the white wind." Traditional Japanese poetic literature generally assumes white to be the autumn color.



Aozora ni
Ibuki mo kumo mo

(Hino Sojo,1901-1956)

In the blue sky,
Mt.Ibuki, like clouds,
is sleeping.

(translated by sigmats)

I like this haiku. I often pass through near Mt. Ibuki, and every time I pass by it, I find myself admiring this haiku yet again as just the right expression for Mt.Ibuki, in all seasons. In 1931, Sojo made a trip for Mt. Ibuki in autumn and composed this lovely haiku. But the kigo * is "Yama nemuru (Mt. sleeping) ", which is winter kigo in our haiku. The commentator says, "It is queer to use the winter kigo for the sight which he viewed in autumn. Probably he would have composed this haiku, by recalling the sight afterwards in winter, or by revisiting Mt. Ibuki in winter."

"Kigo" = "sign" or "symbol", i.e. the key word which underpins the symbolic meaning of the haiku in question.



Ono no Komachi is a famous woman poet (kajin) in the 9th. century, and a matchless beauty. "Komachi" has become a synonym of a beauty. The "colour of the flower' suggests how well she looks.  This tanka contains three semantically related words.  Therefore, it allows for ambiguous interpretations. I translated it as literally as I possibly could.

Hana no Iro wa
utsurini kerina
Wagami Yo ni furu
nagame seshimani

(Ono no Komachi)

The color of the flower so beautiful
has faded away
in vain
while I pass my days,
looking out on the long rain pensively.

(translated by sigmats)

(Ozaki Housai, 1885-1926)

Koori-mise ga
Hyoito dekite

(Osaki Housai)

The sudden appearance
of ice shops
with white waves.

(translated by sigmats)

Hamabe no Uta
(The song at the beach)

Words; Kokei Hayashi
Composer; Tamezou Narita
(translated by sigmats )


Ashita Hamabe wo samayoeba
Mukashi no kotozo shinobaruru
Kaze no Oto yo Kumo no sama yo
yosuru Nami mo Kai no Iro mo

When walking along the beach in the morning,
I recall somehow my dear old things.
The sound of the wind, the flow of clouds
rolling in waves, the color of shells.


Yuube Hamabe wo motooreba
Mukashi no Hito zo shinobaruru
yosuru Nami yo kaesu Nami yo
Tuki no Iro mo Hoshi no Kage mo

When strolling along the beach in the evening,
I recall somehow my dear old people.
Coming in waves, returning away waves,
the light of the moon, the shadow of the star.

I often hear this song in the end of summer or the beginning of autumn. In this song, "yo" means calling out for the object, such as " Oh! ye, " and "mo" means "also or too."

To listen to this song, please go the link below, and click on the child song, then next HAMABENOUTA/ Temezou Narita.

HAMABENOUTA/ Temezou Narita: Child's Song


Kisagata ya
Ame ni Seishi ga
Nebu no hana.

Matsuo Basho (1644-1694)

Oh, Kisagata,
like a red silk flower in the rain,
reminding me of Seishi closing her eyes.

(translated by sigmats)


In Basho's own day, Kisagata was a real scenic beauty, along with Matsushima, in the Tohoku (Northeast) region. But since his day and age, due to land upheavals caused by a major earthquake, there remains little vestige of its former natural beauty. This haiku is justly famous, but not so popular as "Mogami" and "Sado", and probably for the above reason. Basho didn't compose haiku in Matsushima in his own words, probably because of its too extreme beauty. But we are happy to have his haiku in Kisagata. He composed it in a lofty style by quoting a classic Chinese poet, Sotouha. Seishi was a beauty whom Kousen, the monarch of Etsu, offered to Fusa, the a monarch of Go. He loved her so tenderly as to destroy his own country.

All notes on this page copyright by Shigeki Matsumura, co-editor, Canadian Zen Haiku ISSN 1705-4508 (copyright 2004)