Fallen leaves (ochiba)

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Fallen leaves (ochiba) and related kigo

***** Location: Japan
***** Season: All Winter . see below
***** Category: Plant


fallen leaves, falling leaves, ochiba 落葉 おちば

rake for sweeping fallen leaves, ochiba kaki 落葉掻(おちばかき)
... sweeping fallen leaves, ochiba haku 落葉はく
basket for collecting fallen leaves, ochiba kago 落葉籠(おちばかご)

time for the leaves to fall, ochiba doki 落葉時(おちばどき)
mountain (forest) with fallen leaves, ochiba yama 落葉山(おちばやま)

withered leaves, kareha 枯葉 (かれは)
When we walk among these leaves in a forest, they often make a special rustling sound, associated with the sadness, solitude and the hardships of the cold winter days of the Edo period and before that time.
"rustling leaves" is not a kigo, though, since it can also refer to leaves still on the trees which are rustling in the breeze. You have to specify this is your haiku.

decayed leaves, kuchiba 朽葉 (くちば)
They can be used as compost in spring. Many of our local farmers go to the woods in winter and carry loads of decayed leaves to their fields in an attempt to use natural fertilizers. This practise was common use before the advent of chemical fertilizers.

. . . CLICK here for Photos !


leaves of trees, ko no ha 木の葉 (このは)

falling leaves making a sound like rain, ko no ha no ame
... 木の葉の雨(このはのあめ)
falling leaves making a sound like sleet,
... ko no ha no shigure 木の葉の時雨(このはのしぐれ)
It reminds the Japanes of the sound of rain or sleet in winter. Here the action of falling and the sound this produces is the main theme of the kigo.

leaves falling down, leaves scattering, ko no ha chiru
burning tree leaves, ko no ha yaku 木の葉焼く(このはやく)


Fallen leaves from special trees:
all are kigo for early winter

"red leaves are falling down", momiji chiru 紅葉散る (もみじちる )
... chiru momiji 散紅葉(ちりもみじ)

larch trees shedding needles,
karamatsu chiru 落葉松散る (からまつちる)

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fallen leaves from the big magnolia,
Magnolia hypoleuca, hoo ochiba 朴落葉(ほおおちば)

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fallen leaves from the persimmon tree,
kaki ochiba 柿落葉, 柿落ち葉(かきおちば)

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fallen leaves from the gingko tree,
ichoo ochiba 銀杏落葉 いちょうおちば

one leaf of the paulownia tree, kiri hitoha 桐一葉
(this may also be placed in early autumn, see below)


yellow (leaves) falling, kooraku 黄落 (こうらく)
is a kigo for late autumn.
This may save the day of the misunderstandings, see below?!

From the fallen leaves it leads us to the withered trees, bare trees, kareki koboku 枯木 and related winter kigo.

For details about these trees, see related kigo below.


kigo for late mid-spring

kashiwa ochiba 柏落葉 (かしわおちば)
fallen leaves of oak trees
..... kashiwa chiru 柏散る(かしわちる)

kigo for late spring

haru ochiba 春落葉 はるおちば fallen leaves in spring
..... haru no ochiba 春の落葉(はるのおちば)
. . . CLICK here for Photos !


kigo for early summer

. sugi ochiba, sugiochiba 杉落葉(すぎおちば)
fallen needles (leaves) of cedar

tokiwagi ochiba 常盤木落葉 ときわぎおちば
(needles and leaves of evergreens falling)

matsu ochiba 松落葉(まつおちば) pine needles falling
momi ochiba 樅落葉(もみおちば) fir needles falling
hinoki ochiba 檜落葉(ひのきおちば) hinoki cyrpess needles falling

shii ochiba 椎落葉(しいおちば) quinquapin leaves falling
kashi ochiba 樫落葉(かしおちば) kashi oak leaves falling
kusu ochiba 樟落葉(くすおちば) camphor tree leaves falling

hiiragi ochiba 柊落葉(ひいらぎおちば) holly leaves falling
tsuge ochiba 黄楊落葉(つげおちば) boxwood leaves falling

mochi ochiba 冬青落葉(もちおちば) Aquifoliaceae
mokkoku ochiba 木檞落葉(もっこくおちば)


Some autumn kigo for special leaves

kigo for early autumn

. kiri hitoha 桐一葉 (きりひとは) one paulownia leaf
..... hitoha, hito ha 一葉(ひとは)one leaf
..... ichiyo, ichi yo
hitoha otsu 一葉落つ(ひとはおつ)one leaf falls
hitoha no aki 一葉の秋(ひとはのあき)autumn of one leaf
kiri no aki 桐の秋(きりのあき)paulownia in autumn


kigo for mid-autumn

. yanagi chiru 柳散る
leaves of the willow are falling

chiru yanagi 散る柳(ちるやなぎ)
yanagi kibamu 柳黄ばむ(やなぎきばむ)willow leaves getting yellow


kigo for late autumn

. itchoo chiru 銀杏散る (いちょうちる) gingko leaves falling

nanoki chiru, na no ki chiru 名の木散る (なのきちる)
leaves from famous special trees are falling

na no ki, lit. "trees with a name"


Why are fallen leaves a kigo for WINTER in Japan?

Most of us Europeans and the haiku friends in North America see them falling in autumn.... Even here in the rural Japan of Okayama they start falling in october, but it takes well into december until they are all gone.

In Japanese traditional poetry and in haiku, autumn is mostly associated with the beautiful colored leaves, momiji, and parties of viewing these beautiful leaves. In contrast to these autumn activities, haiku poets tend to see the "fallen leaves" in the next season, winter.

"Falling leaves" do indeed give us the feeling of late autumn, whereas "fallen leaves (the correct translation for ochiba)" are what is left over all winter, after they have fallen on the ground.

Trees need to get rid of their leaves to withstand the snow and cold in winter. Watching the colored leaves slowly decay on the ground reminds us strongly that winter is approaching fast, in fact is here now and will stay with us for quite a while.

This is a difficult kigo in the worldwide context. If you can accept the conventions of traditional Japanese haiku, it will be winter. You also have to consult with the leader of your group of linked verses and how he wants to use it.

Please add your thoughts to the discussion of fallen leaves in a worldwide kigo context!

Gabi Greve

CLICK for another one !
© PHOTO Gabi Greve, Persimmon leaf, September 2007

... ... ...

Quote from the University of Virginia Saijiki

Leaves drifting down one by one, and those driven off the branches by gusts of wind--all are potent signs of approaching winter. Ochiba refers both to leaves falling and to those already lying on the ground, though when the latter become dry and faded they are called "withered leaves" (kareha). The sound of these under foot calls to mind the dreariness of winter.


Priest Ryokan sweeping leaves

CLICK for original LINK !
© PHOTO www.kurashiki.co.jp/entsu-ji

Ryokan Memorial Day (Ryokan-ki, Japan)


The Bamboo Rake / Ray Rasmussen



Worldwide use

Things found on the way

Japanese page with beautiful colored fallen leaves.

Link with many more pictures, click any of the buttons.


ochite kara kaze hiki okosu hitoha kana

whenn it falls,
it makes a little wind -
one paulownia leaf

Machida Kyoko, the calligraphy Sensei
of Isabelle Prondzynski


sweeping fallen leaves -
the wind sweeps

sweeping the leaves
with a broom like old Jittoku -
again and again

Here you also find the story of the Broom and Jittoku.
Kanzan and Jittoku 寒山拾得

Gabi Greve


- - - - - Matsuo Basho - - - - -

留主のまに あれたる神の 落葉哉
rusu no ma ni aretaru kami no ochiba kana

The god is absent;
dead leaves are piling
and all is deserted.

Matsuo Basho
Tr. R.H.Blyth

The Gods are Absent (kami no rusu)
kigo for winter

fumi naranu iroha mo kakite kachuu kana

not enough for a letter
raking colored leaves
into the fire . . .


not enough for a letter
writing the IROHA
and into the fire . . .

A very early one by Basho, when still in Iga Ueno, Basho age 18 - 29. A typicle sample of the Teimon school 貞門風 of haikai.

This is a double pun
iroha 色葉 colored leaves and iroha いろは, the Japanese alphabet.
kakite 掻きて can mean to rake leaves or 書きて to write.

The cut marker KANA is at the end of line 3.

. Matsuo Basho 松尾芭蕉 - Archives of the WKD .


- - - - - Kobayashi Issa

ochiba shite nikui karasu wa nakari keri

fallen leaves--
not a single crow
is irksome

ochiba shite kerori to tateshi dozô kana

among fallen leaves
the storehouse

Tr. David Lanoue

- - - - -

neko no ko ga choi to osaeru ochiba kana

the kitten steps on
a blowing leaf

Tr. Chris Drake

This winter hokku is from the lunar 10th month (November) of 1815, when Issa had temporarily left his hometown to make a three-month trip back to the city of Edo and the area around it to see and reconnect with various haijin and students in the area. Most deciduous trees in lowland areas of Japan don't begin dropping their leaves until the tenth lunar month (November), and lunar winter begins with the tenth month, so "fallen leaf/leaves" is a winter image. Brightly colored leaves immediately after they fall, especially colored leaves floating on a pond or river, are often considered autumn images, depending on the exact season of the composition of the hokku and the kind of tree involved. In Issa's hokku, the limbs of most trees are probably already bare or have only a few leaves left on them, and faded leaves lie here and there on the ground. The kitten, however, is apparently interested in one leaf which seems to be skittering along the ground in a breeze or wind.

The verb osaeru implies that the kitten has a paw on the leaf and is holding it in place, enjoying its ability to keep the leaf from being blown somewhere else. Since it's a kitten, it may have been playing with the leaf a bit, allowing it to move here and there for a while, but when it decides to pounce its movements are deft and sure, with no wasted effort or hesitation. Issa is impressed by how lightly and naturally the kitten moves, with free and easy motions that make humans look clumsy, slow, and overly burdened by mental calculations. In the Edo language of Issa's day the adverbs choi to and, in many contexts, choi-choi meant: a bit, a little; lightly; easily, freely, effortlessly, simply, without difficulty, fluently, offhandedly, naturally, spontaneously, artlessly.
Issa wrote a similar hokku about an adult cat at about the same time.

Chris Drake

. WKD : Kobayashi Issa 小林一茶 in Edo .


落葉踏む きょうの明るさ あすもあれ  
ochiba fumu kyō no akarusa asu mo are

I tread on
fallen leaves in today's light--
let there be tomorrow, too

Mizuhara Shūōshi

There are a lot more haiku in this saijiki.


fallende Blätter
decken sich zu

Rainer Wolf
Germany, January 2010


red and yellow -
autumn spreads a carpet
weaving with leaves

Alex Serban
Romania, September 2010


falling leaves ...
news that an old flame
has passed away

first fallen leaves ...
my window panes clean
after a downpour

fallen oak leaf ...
one by one my friends
reach half a century

our son
and his wedding plans ...
first fallen leaves

Ella Wagemakers
Netherlands, August 2010


fallen leaves ...
a lizard running through
scares me

fallen leaves-
autumn wind chasing them
on the pavement

Sunil Uniyal
New Delhi, August 2010


fallen leaves ...
a lizard running through
my "Allah-ulakbar"

Heike Gewi
Still is Ramadan and 10 days to go...
Yemen, August 2010

Read this :


no unread
emails in your box...
first fallen leaves

Chen-ou Liu
Canada, September 2010


Shiki Kukai September 2010

silent night -
the crackling of footsteps
on fallen leaves

~ Rhoda Mutheu, Kenya

. Results from the Kenya Haiku Poets

Related words

*****fallen leaves of bamboo (take ochiba 竹落ち葉)

kigo for summer

***** bonfire (takibi 焚き火)

kigo for all winter

asa takibi 朝焚火(あさたきび)bonfire in the morning
yuutakibi 夕焚火(ゆうたきび)bonfire in the evening
yotakibi 夜焚火(よたきび)bonfire at night, nighttime bonfire
takibi ato 焚火跡(たきびあと)remains of a bonfire

A bonfire is lit outside to keep warm in winter. I remember our carpenters starting the day with a bonfire and before leaving, again, warming their hands at one. Farmers also burn a lot of trash with these bonfires, although it is not so common nowadays. Others put potatoes and sweet potatoes in the hot ashes to prepare for dinner.

***** burning fallen leaves (ochiba taki 落葉焚)
kigo for early winter

This kigo brings out the image of a remote temple or rural hamlet, where a priest in his long robes, equipped with a bamboo broom, is sweeping the temple grounds. In our valley, the smoke lingeres in the valley to bring a fragrance too, sometime of some sweet potatoes roasted in the ambers. It is also a kind of communicative "smoke sign", since we know: "Ah, Morita-san is burning his leaves!" when we look at the neighbour on the distand site of the valley.

ochiba taku imo ga kuro-gami tsutsumu kana

burning leaves--
sweet potatoes wrapped
in black paper

Issa / Tr. David Lanoue


The famous Zen priest, Ryokan san (Ryookan 良寛), also enjoyed to sweep his temple grounds, as you could see in the picture above.

The leaves are falling
Just enough to make a fire―
A gift of the wind!



西吹けば 東にたまる 落葉かな
nishi fukeba higashi ni tamaru ochiba kana

blowing from the west
fallen leaves gather
in the east

- - - - - Further Discussion :
. Yosa Buson 与謝蕪村 in Edo .


***** . matsu ochiba 松落ち葉 pine needles falling down

kigo for summer



Autumn Leaves (momiji, Japan) yellow leaves, colored leaves
and many related kigo

Gingko biloba tree (gingkoo)

Larch tree, Tamarack Tree, Larix kaempferi (karamatsu)

Magnolia, big magnolia flowers(hoo no hana)

Paulownia flowers (kiri no hana)  P. tomentosa

Persimmon (kaki)

Paper mulberry leaf (kaji no ha 梶の葉)
and writing poetry on leaves

. Trees in all seasons .


Leafy hair (ko no ha gami)

kigo for early winter

leaves on the hair, ko-no-ha-gami, konohagami, 木の葉髪

reflects leaves falling and lodging in one's hair, but also the elderly who are loosing their own hair.

kowai hodo ima shiawase ya ko no ha gami

my hair thinning –
I've never been happier, so much
so, that I feel frightened

Tomita Tomie (1912-2001)


Kushiro yori Nemuro e nagare konohagami

from Kushiro
they flow to Nemuro -
my thinning hair

Yamamoto Dadashi 山本駄々子 (やまもとだだし)

Kushiro and Nemuro are towns in Hokkaido.


Some Japanese Haiku with this kigo.
original is here


稲畑汀子 Inahata Teiko

木の葉髪   ko no ha gami    
93句 haiku 作品


. Hinoki cypress ヒノキ、檜、桧.
Chamaecyparis obtusa
ーーーーー and
asunaro hinoki アスナロ / 翌檜 Asunaro Hinoki
Thujopsis dolabrata



Gabi Greve said...


leafy hair, ko-no-ha-gami, 木の葉髪

kigo for ealy winter


Gabi Greve said...

autumn storm <>
all the leaves flutter
from the pile

Just back inside from a vain bout with the leaves, trying to clean
the gutters ...

November 2006, Gabi Greve

Tomislav Maretic said...

platana tree -
every leaf fluttering
in its own way

Tomislav Maretic

Anonymous said...

worn out
corners of a photograph
... fallen leaves

she has forgotten
her children's names
... autumn leaves

Ella Wagemakers

Anonymous said...

sweeping fallen leaves -
the wind sweeps



Hi Gabi- what a wonderful haiku you have penned. i love the interplay between the human and the wind.

it's good to read a haiku by someone who has a depth of understanding about the form.

excellent work. i hope your poetry helps give people here a deeper understanding of what a haiku can be.

bests wishes along your haiku path,


Anonymous said...

Opening your blogsites has become habitual, Gabi ... I even do it at work now!

fallen leaf ...
I decide to visit
a thermal spa

:>) Ella Wagemakers

Anonymous said...

Bashô wrote:

In the garden,
The fallen leaves appear
A hundred years old.


anonymous said...

Only exotic trees lose their leaves in autumn/winter here in Australia. Instead, they fall year around, during windy episodes and especially when they're under duress in the heat of summer.

A friend from Australia

Gabi Greve - Basho archives said...

Matsuo Basho

宮守よわが名を散らせ木葉川 / - - in 桜下文集
miyamori yo waga na o chirase konohagawa

宮人よ我が名を散らせ落葉川 / - - in 笈日記
miyamori yo waga na o chirase ochibagawa

Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

matsu ochiba 松落葉

uekiya no mukuchi medetashi matsu ochiba

this gardener
is really not talkative -
pine needles falling

Ishikawa Keiroo 石川桂郎 Ishikawa Keiro (1909 - 1975)
Haiku poet from Tokyo

about the uekiya, gardeners from Edo

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