The HAIKU is a magnificent hymn to life.
The HAIKU is a magnificent hymn to life.

The HAIKU is a magnificent hymn to life.

Born nearly four centuries ago in Japan, under the name of haikai, haiku is the world’s shortest poetic form. An art of ellipsis and suggestion, a poem of the revealed moment, it seeks to awaken in us an awareness of life as a miracle. This collection of over three hundred poems explores the work of the four great masters of Japanese haiku, Bashô, Buson, Issa and Shiki, as well as many others, including Ryôkan, Hôsai and Santôka.

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Grapes, by Yakata-sensei

A haiku is a traditional Japanese poem in a very short form: seventeen syllables (in Japanese) that form a single sentence, divided into three lines. A haiku should be read in one breath.
The haiku, often linked to the spectacle of nature and the seasons, captures a fleeting emotion or sensation and reveals the infinitely small; it surprises by suggesting unexpected connections.


This morning autumn –
in the mirror
my father’s face

( Murakami Kijô )

This autumn sunset –
it looks like
the Land of Shadows

( Matsuo Bashõ )

under the autumn moon
there are no more enemies

( Takahama Kyoshi )

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Autumn painting by Yakata sensei

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Seven autumn herbs under the moon, by Ohara Koson

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Asano Takeji – Drizzle at Ukimido, 1950

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Lake Oshi in the Hakone Hills in Early Autumn (1938), Tsuchiya Koitsu (1870-1949), Woodblock print (44.4 × 29.2 cm)

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Nezame on the Kiso River from the Selected Views of Japan series, 1925, Hasui Kawase, born Bunjirō Kawase – (1883 – 1957, Japan)

Japanese painter and illustrator working in the printmaking technique, famous above all for his landscapes. He was one of the most prolific and talented artists of the “Shin-Hanga” or pictorial revival movement.


Spring is coming
I’m forty-three –
still here in front of my bowl of white rice

( Kobayashi Issa )

First spring –
the rain beads
on the still bare branches

( Takahama Kyoshi)

A sachet of simples
on my sickbed –
spring is reborn

( Masaoka Shiki )

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Cherry blossom in front of a temple door, print by Yoshida Toshi

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Spring in Atagoyama by Kawase Hasui

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 Early Spring by Shiihashi Kazuko

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Spring by Hiroshi Yoshida


Washed leeks
white leeks –
how cold they are!

( Matsuo Bashõ )

Night of frost –
my bones
scrape the mattress

( Yosa Buson )

After my tears –
the fullness
of my white breath

( Hashimoto Takako )

Hasui Kawase, Mount Fuji and Lake Kawaguchi (circa 1930)

Kansa-no-Miya Shrine under snow, Kawase Hasui

Kawase Hasui, Snowy night in Urayasu, Yuki no yoru, Urayasu

Snow at Mukojima, 1931, Kawase Hasui

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Winter mountain landscape, with natural pigments on silk, from the “Song of the Four Seasons” series (四季の歌), by Kojima Koukei (小島光径), a contemporary Japanese landscape artist from Tokyo born in 1931.

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Snow at Kinkakuji (1922), Kawase Hasui (1883-1957)

Japan as seen by Utagawa Hiroshige in “Snowy night in Kambara”, 1833.

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Utagawa Hiroshige
“Atagoshita and Yabu Lane (Atagoshita Yabukōji)”, 1857, woodcut (nishiki-e)

Kawase Hasui, Snowy night in Urayasu, Yuki no yoru, Urayasu


They contemplate
the ocean of June –
the Buddhas at the back of the temple

( Masaoka Shiki )

In the coolness
I settle –
and fall asleep

( Matsuo Bashõ )

Summer night –
the sound of my clogs
makes the silence vibrate

( Matsuo Bashõ )

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Takahashi Hiroaki (Shôtei) 高橋松亭弘明, Early summer rain

                             Boat among the lotuses, Hokusai Katsushika (1760-1849), © Bibliothèque nationale de France.
One of the 27 known plates, signed: “zen Hokusai Manji”.
Inscriptions: in the rectangular cartouche, top right, is the name of the series (Hyakunin isshu uba-ga-etoki) and, in the square cartouche, the name of the poet (“Funya no Asayasu”) and his poem (“Shiratsuyu ni / kaze no fukishiku / aki no wa / tsuranuki”).

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Shichiri beach in Suruga province (Sôshû Shichiri-ga-hama) | © Bibliothèque nationale de France

Katsushika Hokusai – Ejiri in the province of Suruga (Sunshu Ejiri) from the series Thirty Views of Mount Fuji


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