KIGO - use in haiku

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The use of kigo in worldwide haiku


A traditional Japanese haiku contains one kigo.

Discussion see below.

Kigo 季語 is a word (GO 語) indicating the season (KI 季)in which the haiku takes place.
This is a short form for kisetsu no kotoba 季節の言葉, season word, seasonal word, seasonal phrase, seasonal expression.
Such a word or phrase does not only refer to a phenomenon in nature (the bees and the butterflies, the weather report), but it shows us how things change within each season.

Furthermore it incorporates the seasonal aspects in human life, such as ceremonies and festivals, livestyle and food, as they flow within the seasons. They are the large pool of "social season words".

Traditional Japanese haiku are about the changes of the season (not simply about nature !! ) and the season words help to express this feeling of change.

They carry the weight of Japanese poetic culture and can be called
"cultural keywords", the vocabulary a poet needs to write haiku.
Since many things are with us all year round, it takes the time when they are "at their best (shun 旬 )" usually, to use them in haiku.
WKD : Shun and Vegetables

Japanese Kigo are a Key to Japanese Culture

Worldwide Season Words are
a Key to Worldwide Cultures

Take your time to make yourself familiar with the broad range of Japaese kigo and then, after observing your surroundings, collect new season words for your own region and share them with your haiku friends.

Many Japanese kigo refere to poetry and customs of China, though.

. The Chinese roots of Japanese kigo .


About Japanese Kigo

"Do you know the true power of a seasonal word?
These words do not belong to the author of the poem, they do not belong to Basho or Issa or Kyorai. They belong to us.
Seasonal words are our national treasures.
They are like jewels, polished and made more precious by time.
Some seasonal words have been in use since the Edo period. When we pick up one of these jewels and use it in a haiku, it is rich with history.
They are the shared consciousness of our people. They capture the essence of Japanese life."

Read more of her thoughts on kigo
© Kuroda Momoko 黒田杏子


Sometimes the Japanese kigo is called "haiku no inochi" the lifeblood of the haiku, or "haiku no heso" the navel of the haiku. Beyond the flesh and bone of a haiku is the kigo, the marrow, the essence of it. Season words are one of the important ingredients that have chrystallized as a standard definition of a Japanese haiku during the ages.

Japanese season words, honed throught ages of poetry writing, carry a certain mood, an emotional state of experiencing things that should be reflected in the haiku they are used in. A haiku poet studies his saijiki to make sure he finds the right kigo to express the mood he wants to convey with his poem.

"Kigo o ikasu", to bring the kigo to life, is therefore one of the first words of advise a Japanese haiku sensei will give his students.

"Kigo ga kiite imasu", the kigo worked very well with this haiku, is a sentence of appraisal when the two other lines fit just perfectly to add to the image of this kigo.

"kigo ga ugokimasen"
The choosen kigo can not be replaced by another.
"kigo ga ugoku" 季語が動く
the kigo can be replaced by any other, thus it is rather weak.

The Japanese haiku in its relation to the season is also often called
"kisetsu no aisatsu", a seasonal greeting,
whereby the kigo carries the seasonal message.
In the hokku 発句 first verse of a renku 連句 linked poem of the Edo period and up to our times this was usually written by the most important guest (very often Matsuo Basho) as a greeting to the host.
By carefully choosing a plant or an animal for example the guest could playfully hint at a feature of his host.
It takes a few years of study with a Japanese sensei to be able to use kigo skillfully in this way.

We do have days in early spring and late autumn, where the four seasons seem to rush through within a few hours ... but that does not prevent the Japanese haiku poet from using kigo.

Since most kigo were defined before the advent of the modern calendar and adhere to the Asian lunar calendar, they to not always match the acutal seasons we have now in Japan and the vaste differences of seasons from Northern Hokkaido to Subtropical Okinawa.
Yet for the conventions and purpose of writing haiku, we use the saijiki to determine the "season" of a kigo, the "Haiku Season".

The Asian Lunar Calendar and Ceremonies

A lunar month started with no-moon, had the full moon on the 15th and 28 days to go.
The first lunar month of a year started the round of 12 months.
With the calendar reform in Japan, things changed, making the life of a haiku poet more difficult.

Please read the details here:

. The Asian Lunar Calendar and the
changing Dates of Japanese Ceremonies

. WKD Kigo Calendar - the 12 Months .


Spring rain (harusame), autumn wind (akikaze), these words might sound like the normal weather forecast to a non-Japanese.
But as Japanese kigo, they carry a lot of cultural associations from the long history of poetry in Japan and even classical China. For a Japanese, these simple words open a large door of associations to the width and depth and essence of human nature within the universe, and reach far beyond normal time and space.

They have been polished over centruies by poets, to reflect the ups and downs, joys and sorrows of human life.

As you can see in the statistics below, obsevances contributet a lot of the kigo. To really undertand a traditional Japanese haiku, you have to know a lot of cultural background that has nothing to do with simple vocabulary translation, but with Japanese and even Asian culture in general.

This "basic meaning" of a kigo is usually called
hon-i, hon'i, #honi 本意 (ほんい)
in Japanese. This is also pronounced ほい ho-i. The basic meaning is something a haiku poet has to learn like a new vocabulary with each kigo. It contains the cultural context of the word used in Japanese poetry and sometimes implies components not found in the natural surroundings.
It contains "poetic nature", not "nature nature".
By sharing the hon-i, poet and reader could enter the same world of associations.

established essence, genuine purports

A kiyose lists the kigo as a kind of vocabulary, the saijiki adds the hon-i information and gives example haiku to study the skilfull use of the words.


quote - Richard Gilbert
After haiku became a fully independent genre,
the term "kigo" was coined by Otsuzi Ōsuga (1881-1920) in 1908.
"Kigo" is thus a new term for the new genre approach of "haiku."
So, when we are looking historically at hokku or haikai stemming from the renga tradition, it seems best to use the term "kidai."
. WKD : Kigo and Kidai .


. WKD : hon-i 本意 - "the real meaning"
(honto no imi 本当の意味)

Reference : hon-i

My Daruma Museum is also a good reference about Japanese Culture.

. Daruma Museum Japan


You should not try to use Japanese kigo that do not fit your cultural background or region.
The aim of the World Kigo Database is to help you understand the basics of Japanese kigo to enable you to establish a saijiki of your own region, share the treasures of your own culture !
You will be the cultural ambassador of your area via haiku, open a gate to your regional culture via the introduction of your kigo.
Please help create and find new words that carry enough cultural background to be a new kigo for your area!

Even in Japan there are now movements to collect new kigo from rural areas, even in local dialect, to compile "local saijiki" with
"local kigo" (chibo kigo, chiboo kigo 地貌季語).

Kigo used in a worldwide context are
NOT pinned down to a calendar month.

Read the details on this problem HERE:

Kigo, Seasons and Categories


The Japanese characers 季語 can be written in Romaji in various ways
KIGO, "kigo", Kigo or kigo, even KIgo or kiGO ...

Some theorists of ELH (English Language Haiku) prefer to use the term "season word" for "kigo" originating in other cultures.
I think our ancestors have been observing nature and drawing conclusions on how the weather will develop, their very life depended on reading nature properly to survive. They used a lot of season words to describe their detailed and keen observations and pass their knowledge on to their children.
But these words are not "kigo". There are many Japanese season words which never became a kigo.

So what does it take
to change a "season word" into a "kigo" ?

A word or expression must be used in a haiku to become a "kigo", so it takes a haiku poet to do this transformation.
As we use the technical terms from Japanese poetic theory to talk about
haiku, saijiki, kire, kireji, ma, wabi, sabi, yuugen . .
we should also use the technical term
when a season word is used in a haiku in a language other than Japanese.

to be continued as the discussion goes on ... !

Gabi Greve


In Japanese haiku, we have kigo, seasonal words, which are not only the selected words typical of seasons but also an accumulation of more than a millennium of our poetry.
By making use of this kigo, we can convey the feeling of pain and agony in a simple line.

Emiko Miyashita about Arima Akito


Oasis in The Heart
Toshimi Horiuchi

A haiku without a kigo loses compactness and succumbs to the prosaic. Haiku follows this axiom: ‘The fewer the words, the broader the meaning.’ Season words provide haiku with tone; that is, intellectual and emotional color to embellish contents. Kigo tend to unite and synthesize the elements of words. These elements yield to kaleidoscopic combinations which leap and intertwine among multi-layered mutations in the reader's mind.

source : simplyhaiku/2010/06/24


The World of Kigo
by Kiyoko Tokutomi

When Kiyoshi and I formed the first English[-language] Haiku Group in San Jose in 1975, the first lesson we taught was about kigo. Because you want to guide the reader to grasp a specific feeling or impression, there should be only one kigo in a haiku. If there are more than one kigo in a haiku, the feelings you wish to convey become obscured or unclear.
And with only 5-7-5 syllables to work with, you will be wasting much of the valuable space within the haiku.
This “kigo-window” works the best if it stays clear.
It takes a lot of practice and polishing to achieve this goal.

source : youngleaves.org


Matsuo Basho and kigo

In the pre-Meiji era (before 1868), almost all haiku contained a kigo.
For example,

Japanese experts have classified
only about 10 of Matsuo Bashō's  hokku in the miscellaneous (zō) category (out of about 1,000 hokku).

As with most of the pre-Meiji poets, Bashō was primarily a renku poet (that is, he composed linked verse with other poets), so he also wrote plenty of miscellaneous and love stanzas for the interior lines of a renku. Usually about half the stanzas in a renku do not reference a season.
© More in the WIKIPEDIA !


Some thoughts at the beginning of 2008
Gabi Greve

After about four years now struggeling with collecting World Kigo, I think we made good progress and I want to thank all contributors for their great efforts.
The many regional saijiki we could establish within the framework of the database speak for themselves. And the many regional efforts listed otherwise are all big steps to the development of worldwide regional saijiki.

To use "Japanese" kigo outside of Japan brings its problems and should be considered carefully, just as the Japanese had to make considerations when writing "Chinese poetry" during the ages. A butterfly, a beloved Japanese kigo, will always be associated with the Chinese philosoper and poet Chuang Tsu.

To use regional kigo in a responsible way is encouraged by this Database project. To collect regional kigo is up to the regional poets and their efforts to produce a saijiki of their area. It does take a lot of effort, believe me, more than just writing haiku ... I have seen some projects die down simply because of petty infighting among regional poets.

I am glad to see the interest in kigo growing everywhere, even if there are also many voices for "haiku without kigo". Haiku is adapting to the needs of the poets worldwide, so are kigo.

The definition of HAIKU in non-Japanese-language environments is still an open problem that needs to be solved, or maybe left vague and open to personal interpretation !?

Enjoy your Haiku Life 2008!


Kigo Musings at the end of 2010
by Isabelle Prondzynski

Christmas Eve --
the house roof sparkles
in deep frost

New Year’s Eve --
the sundial sparkles
in deep frost

. . . Kigo Practise


Kigo and Zooka 造化 (zoka), the creative force
The creative force was an important abstract aspect of hokku since Matsuo Basho.
Kigo, on the other hand, are a real-life tool to be used when composing traditional Japanese hokku and haiku.
. Zooka, zōka 造化 the creative force and Haiku .


Are kigo just a cliche / cliché ?

cliche : a trite or overused expression or idea.

This question is sometimes asked in ELH discussions.

Kigo that are often used are proof that they are "well liked" and the author of the haiku is in good company with the peers of the genre.
They often refere to situations that naturally turn a person to write poetry, like an autumn sunset, cherry blossoms or a withered branch ...

I think the the problem of becoming a cliche lies in the combination (often called juxtaposition) with the two other lines of the haiku. If they are not fresh and bring a new idea to the situation, the whole haiku might slide into "tsukinami", the most ordinary.


Haiku is a poem born from a "season word."
Inahata Teiko , Japan

Haiku appreciates nature and our daily life by means of season words.
From the time you wake up till you say "good night" and retire in bed, your daily life at home and at school is filled with pleasant and unpleasant events, things you want to do, affairs with your friends or family members. Your life further includes a comfortable night, or sleepless hours as it is too cold or too hot. Have you ever stopped to think that all these routine affairs keep you closely related to all the vicissitudes on earth that follow the change of seasons?

Have you ever been aware of what nature has in store for your unbiased eyes and heart? Season words symbolize the nature-man relations.
Haiku is a poetry that expresses itself through season words:
this is the second condition of haiku.

It is important that we should pass down the seasonal words which our ancestors chose and formed .
I want you to study the correct meaning of each seasonal word and how to use it appropriately by consulting a saijiki.

© Inahata Teiko
Invitation to Haiku

History of Japanese Saijiki


by Charles Trumbull

Arguments against using a season word in haiku are voiced by

(a) people who find it too difficult or artistically limiting to do so,
(b) those who resist the Japanese season-word system because they find it too highly formalized and inappropriate for English poetry,
(c) iconoclasts who want haiku to be whatever they say it is, tradition be damned, or
(d) poets who would really rather be writing senryu or zappai (verses in haiku form that, respectively, treat human nature or are intended as pure slapstick).
But haiku is, after all, nature poetry.

Reprinted from the Haiku World Web site (May 2003)
source : Simply Haiku, October 2010


The Power of Kigo in different Haiku

In a haiku with only one theme (ichibutsu jitate) the kigo as the hero of the story sets the theme and the two other lines should give further explanations along the line of shasei, sketching from your moment.

In a haiku with a combination of two ideas (toriawase, often translated as juxtaposition), two lines present the theme and the kigo can be changed to set the mood for the scene. You have to choose your kigo carefully from the pool of avaliable options to set the right ambiance. Therefore it is necessary to know as many kigo as possible to choose a suitable one.
You need to choose a kigo that expresses your mood/feeling/atmosphere.
Study (learn by heart) as many kigo as you can while there is time and
use the appropriate one when you need it. The kigo should bring your two other lines "alive". It will carry a certain season as well as a certain mood for your situation.
KIGO are like the basic "vocabulary" you need to study in order to understand and use the "Haiku Language" properly.

Kireji, the cut in Haiku


Analyzing the kigo given in a large Japanese saijiki, there was the following distribution:

Astronomy ... 73
Climate ... 94
Geography, Earth ... 43
Human Affairs ... 706
Religion, Observances 357
Animals ... 164
Plants ... 361

Kametaro Yagi

Observances and human affairs do make up a big part of a saijiki!

Ceremonies and Festivals Saijiki

Memorial Days of Famous People, Celebrities Saijiki

my WASHOKU SAIJIKI ... Japanese Food as KIGO


Read more details about

Juxtaposition, kigo and the CUT in Haiku !


Quoting Bill Higginson:

Each of the more important seasonal themes has a long history of not just physical associations, but emotional tone as well. The more skilled the haiku poet, the more the poem works with or plays against these associations. A good haikai saijiki (almanac of seasonal topics and season words used in haiku and linked-poetry composition) explains these traditional associations.

For the haiku poet, this list simply represents those few seasonal topics that have deeply engaged Japanese poets for centuries, and, in some cases, for a millennium or more. Such a list can also help poets to know what to look for when they want to write a seasonal poem. In a saijiki, the systematic seasonal ordering of topics serves mainly to collect related phenomena together, and to arrange finished poems in a rational and aesthetically pleasing order.


The rationale behind season words is tradition,
not personal or local experience.

It makes sense to add certain items to a season word list according to local custom, such as holidays, unique cultural features, and particular weather phenomena or creature-behaviors unique to a specific region, provided they are included at times when poets have in fact noticed them and writen about them.

The overriding factor here is that, unless one is in a very distinctly different climatic zone than mid-temperate central Japan, on which the Japanese saijiki is nominally based, and the phenomenon in question is already recorded in a common Japanese saijiki, then *millions of poets* already relate to it that way.

Read the full quote here
. WKD : Bill Higginson
The rationale behind season words

Read more about this important topic here:
WKD : Seasons and Categories


Nature and Seasonal Words

One of the major differences between English-language haiku and Japanese haiku is the use of the seasonal word (kigo). There are two formal requirements of the hokku, now called haiku: the cutting word, which cuts the 17 syllable hokku in two, and the seasonal word. English-language haiku poets do not use cutting words per se, but they use the equivalent, either in the punctuation (such as a dash), with nouns, or syntax. The effect is very similar to the cutting word, and there have been many good poems that depend on the cutting.
However, there is no equivalent to the seasonal word. In fact, the use of a seasonal word is not a formal requirement in English-language haiku, as it is for most of Japanese haiku.


. Beyond the Haiku Moment
Haruo Shirane


The Poetics of Japanese Verse:
Images, Structure, Meter

Kawamoto Koji, 1999

Translations frequently do not, or cannot, convey the structural accomplishments of poetry, but this book reveals some of that underlying beauty through close readings and analysis of haiku and other forms.

The use of old 'waka' words was therefore, not inconsistent with 'haikai's' effort to renovate traditional poetry. The reliance upon classical poetic diction does not mean that 'haiku' was a slave to long-standing conventions. On the contrary, the legitimacy of the 'haiku' as a full-fledged poetic genre was made possible by the existence of a poetic lexicon comprising thoroughly stereotyped expressions evolved over the course of a thousand-year old tradition. Within this tradition, the mere mention of a single word automatically translated into a specific complex of thoughts, emotions, and associations.

The class of words known as 'kigo' or seasonal words, provides the representative example of such poetic diction. ...
However, it was not until after the maturing of 'renga' that artificial 'kigo' classifications systematically and inseparably yoked particular seasons to particular phenomenon ... including those which are not in reality exclusive to a single season. In other words, it was through the discretionary rules of 'renga' that things like the moon, deer, and fog became inextricably linked to autumn.
The justifications for these classifications derived from antecedent texts, particularly the dominant tendencies found in works that were widely regarded as superior poems. Here again, concern was not with reality, per se, but with a literary world .. mostly poetic in nature .. and the relative position of a word within a network of traditional literary expressions.
It is true that large numbers of new 'kigo' were established during the age of 'haikai'. Yet even in these instances poets continued to apply the same fundamental crieteria. As a result, any newly established 'kigo' generally remained subject to strong regulating influences of the initial and therefore paradigmatic verses in which they first appeared ... regardless of later changes in reality.
. Reference .


Up with Season Words
Michael Dylan Welch

As with most things in life, the key to successful haiku lies in finding a balance between extremes.

So, how to find the balance? I’m not sure I have an answer, except to say that the degree to which each individual haiku writer adapts the use of seasonal references into his or her haiku is likely a reflection of the poet's personality, poetic spirit, or deference to Japanese models.

source : Michael Dylan Welch / graceguts


In 2007 at the HNA meeting, the concept of "personal kigo" has been discussed.
Wheather a personal kigo can be understood and be relevant as kigo for other poets and readers will have to be shown.

For example:
The poet's yearly visit to the dentist every autumn.
The poet's birthday or wedding aniversary.

Birthday (tanjoobi)


personal kigo
the same pain
as this time last year

John Stevenson
Upstate Dim Sum -
A Biannual Anthology of Haiku and Senryu


Calendar reference kigo and time words

A special problem are the Calendar reference kigo, for example the names of each month and then the many festivals of a specific date and the memorial days.
You can add six months to a kigo from the Northern Hemisphere (the most common ones are still the Japanese kigo in this database) to get to its counterpart in the Southern Hemisphere. Some relevant kigo of this kind for the tropics which we covered so far are listed in the Kenya Saijiki.

The name of a month denote a well-defined season of an area, they are even listed in the category of "SEASON" in the Japanese saijiki.
But we must keep in mind that this season varies in each part of the wide world. December in the Northern Hemispere denotes a different season than December in the Southern Hemisphere or the Tropics.

Time words like "evening", "Sunday" are considered Topics for Haiku.

More is here
WKD . Seasons and Categories

Haiku poets from all parts of the world are encouraged to contribute their information about the moods and associations of a calendar reference kigo (for example, name of a month) from their area and a few haiku about it to finetune our understanding of these words in a worldwide poetry and haiku context.
It takes the positive co-operation and effort of all regional haiku poets to help with this calendar reference kigo issue.
And I am sure it can be solved in a positive way.
Please send me your contributions !

For starters, review these explanations for each kigo month of Japan:
(Remember, according to the Asian Lunar Calendar.)
"Haiku in Twelve Months"
Inahata Teiko


One or more kigo in traditional Japanese haiku ?

"Each haiku is composed of 17 syllables, and the 17 are divided into three groups: five, seven, and five.
We must use one kigo (a symbolic seasonal word) and must not use more than one."
Kyoshi Takahama, a Japanese Haikuist

One kigo in one traditional Japanese haiku is the guideline (yakusokugoto, promise), the "general rule", the advise a Japanese haiku sensei will give his student at the first encounter and keep reminding him afterwards.
(My own experience, passing on the instructions from Michiko sensei:

Write ten years according to the yakusokugoto, then you are able to judge for yourself when not to do so!
But first try to eliminate one of the kigo from your haiku, if your draft has more than one.).

But of course, there are exceptions. Gendai Haiku (Modern Japanese Haiku), Haiku in languages other than Japanese ...
Still for a beginner in the genre in any language, it seems a good piece of advise.

Some kigo are weak, like the butterfly or mosquitoe, which we encounter in many seasons.
Some kigo are strong, like summer, winter, events which occur only once a year and so on.
If two kigo are used in one haiku, one must be strong and the other a weak one to make sure the two kigo do not collide.

To be on the safe side,
only use one kigo in your own haiku and
enjoy the ones with two by the master poets ...
is another piece of advise I often hear in Japan.


Haiku World: An International Poetry Almanac
by William J. Higginson
ISBN 4-7700-2090-2
Kodansha International [Tokyo, New York, London], 1996

Many thanks to Bill Higginson for granting permission to share the following information from the introduction to his modern classic, Haiku World.


In Japanese as well as English and other languages, one occasionally encounters a poem with two season words. Should that happen, there are three possibilities, resulting in the following placement in this saijiki. Whichever season word dominates the seasonal understanding of a poem, and thus its placement in the saijiki, is said to be the season word of that peom. (I draw examples from the old masters to show that this is not just a modern phenomenon.)

Same season: When both season words relate to topics in the same season, the poem goes under the topic most central to its meaning if there is no conflict between the topics as to the time period within the season. If a time conflict does exist, it will be resolved in favor of the more limited time period. Sample poem:

uguisu o tama ni nemuru ka aoyanagi

with a warbler
for a soul is it sleeping?
graceful willow


BUSH WARBLER (uguisu) is an all spring topic, but WILLOW (yanagi) is specific to late spring, so the poem belongs under the latter topic. This poem is mainly about the willow, so the placement seems doubly appropriate. Basho changes Chuang-tsu's famous butterfly-dreaming man into a warbler-dreaming tree.

Different seasons, one dominates: When season words relate to topics in different seasons, usually one or the other obviously governs, and the poem will be placed under that topic in its season. Sample:

ogi nite sake kumu kage ya chiru sakura

with a fan
I drink sake in the shade . . .
falling cherry blossoms

Here Basho mimics a noh actor; when the play calls for drinking sake (rice wine, pronounced "sah-kay"), the actor mimes the motions using a closed folding fan as a prop. Since FALLING CHERRY BLOSSOMS (chiru sakura) is not only a topic appropriate to spring but actually happens in spring, the poem is definitely placed in spring. A FAN (ogi), normally a summer seasonal topic, can easily be present at other seasons

harahara to arare furisuguru tsubaki kana

the snow pellets come down
on these camellias


SNOW PELLETS or graupel (arare--often translated as "hail") may fall any time of year, but has long been recognized as a winter seasonal topic. When it is coupled with a topic strongly associated with springtime, such as CAMELLIAS (tsubaki), the poem in question must also find itself in spring. With the camellias, Buson does not have to say "spring snow pellets" (hara no arare), though that is a seasonal topic in its own right. NOTE: These camellias are most likely red.

Different seasons, neither dominates: When season words relate to topics in different seasons and there is no way to say definitively that the experience belongs in one or the other, the poem will be placed under the most appropriate topic in the all-year section. Sample:

tsuki hana ya yonjukunen no muda aruki

moon and blossoms . . .
forty-nine years of
pointless walking

Issa (1762 - 1826)

Though MOON is an autumnal topic and BLOSSOMS belongs to spring, here Issa uses "moon and blossoms" to mean poetry. Rather than preaching to others about art, Issa is mumbling to himself that his life has amounted to nothing but worrying about "moon and blossoms" -- a pointless task. Since the theme of the poem relates to "years" it belongs in the all-year section, under the topic YEAR or YEARS.

Note that most apparent conflicts between a season word and a word or phrase in a poem that might place the poem under a topic in the all-year section of the saijiki resolve in favor of the appropriate seasonal topic.

Bill Higginson
Haiku World: An International Poetry Almanac

... ... ...

Handbook: How to Write, Share and Teach Haiku
Excerpts online

Handbook: How to Write, Share and Teach Haiku
Glossary about kidai and kigo

William J. Higginson


"Double Seasonal Words" season word duplication
overlapping kigo
futatsu no kigo 二つの季語 two kigo
ki kasanari, kigasanari 季重なり, kigasane "doubling of seasons"
kizure 季ずれ two kigo of different seasons, to overlap seasons

At the time of Matsuo Basho, two kigo were used more often than nowadays, since three were not so many saijiki in print. The printing of saijiki was just beginning and kigo where added as poets started to write about more things.

 WKD : History of Japanese Saijiki


Generally speaking, in the case of double kigo one becomes the "leading" kigo, and the other "auxiliary". However, what is important is whether it works or not, whether it enhances the quality of the haiku or not, or at least whether it is an irritant or not.

The rejection of "yamabuki-ya" in favour of "furuike-ya" (the old pond) is an example of Basho's originality and innovative faculty, quite apart from the fact that the former would have constituted kigasanari (season word duplication), which probably would not have mattered at that time.

Susumu Takiguchi, WHR 05


Q: Is this a double kigo??

A: yes. but the presence of two kigo is not always a fatal error. double kigo should be avoided when they contradict each other or when they constitute redundancy. in some cases, one is subordinate to the other. it's often a matter of judgement. in order to avoid the effort of making the judgement, many people avoid using two kigo in the same haiku altogether.

timothy (Peshtigo) russell, SHIKI archives 2000


Kigo and Seasonal Reference:
Cross‑cultural Issues in Anglo‑American Haiku

By Richard Gilbert



The use of words: season words, keywords . Banya Natsuishi

Seasoning Your Haiku
Ferris Gilli / WHCschools 2001

List of Season Words, from The SHIKI Haiku Salon


古季語と遊ぶ Ko Kigo to Asobu

Enjoy Old Kigo !
By Uda Kiyoko, 2007


Launching of WHCworldkigo 2004


(C) Photo by Andrea D`Alessandro
WKD : german-kiyose


. Kigo, a Key to Japanese Culture:
An Interview with Gabi Greve, Japan
Robert D. Wilson, Interviewer
from Simply Haiku, Winter 2009, vol 7 no 4  


Millikin University Haiku Writer Profile
William J. Higginson


External LINKS in Japanese

季語歳時記 - Kigosai - 5000季語の検索サイト
source : kigosai.sub.jp

source : sogyusha.org


. haiku and kigo used as topics for haiku ! .



Anonymous said...

quote from here

David Landis Barnhill in his essay,
The Creative in Basho's View of Nature and Art, excerpted from the book, Matsuo Basho's Poetic Spaces:

"Nature is more than the beautiful scenes we see before us. There is a creative force in nature that fashions beauty with skillful artistry.

The creative is Basho's term for the spontaneous creativity of nature, which parallels the creativity of great art. The creative animates all things, and in doing so gives to them the beauty of flower and moon.

Life is animated by divine breath, which unifies all things in a single cosmic vitality, yet makes all thing distinct. Nature is ever shifting, and these transformations --- of each moment and through the four seasons --- are the flourishing of life. They give rise to deep feeling and outstanding art.

The artist, and every cultured person, should return to this cosmic creativity, recognize its beauty, and follow its movements."

Anonymous said...


.. .. .. .. .. .. .. TWO KIGO ...

"Whichever season word dominates the seasonal understanding of a poem, and thus its placement in the saijiki, is said to be the (emphasised) season word of that poem."

- Higginson, Haiku World p.33.

Anonymous said...


Chiyo-Jo Haiku Museum

Haiku and the seasons
The haiku is the world’s shortest poetic form. In principle it requires a season-word and adheres to a set formula. The haiku in Japanese consists of three lines of five, seven and five syllables each – a total of seventeen. (Some do, however, dispense with a season-word and stray from 5-7-5.) Even in English and other languages of the world, the haiku is defined as a poem written in three short, simple lines.

The season-word, or kigo, is a word in the haiku that evokes the feel of a certain season. It is a basic and important element in the composition of a haiku. The kigo should work on the reader's imagination, making up for the limited expression possible in the haiku form, and help towards establishing a common understanding between writer and reader.

Rules about the kigo

It is a fundamental rule that each haiku must contain a kigo. There are all sorts of things a kigo can be, whether it refers to the calendar, the weather, an aspect of people’s lives, regular events, ceremonies, plants, animals, or anything else.

With Japan having four very distinct seasons, kigo are arranged into groups not only in reference to spring, summer, fall and winter, but with a fifth category for the new year period as well. As a whole they form what is known as the saijiki, or almanac of seasonal words.

Because of this, such situations arise as with the word ‘frog’ which, although the frog is also a summer and autumn phenomenon, is defined as a springtime kigo. A frog in summer must therefore be referred to as a ‘summer frog’. In a haiku which uses more than one of such kigo, the kigo more intimately related to a particular season becomes its main one.

Haiku have become popular even in those countries that lack four distinct seasons. As kigo differ according to country, they have diverged and multiplied along with the various environments and natural settings the haiku now finds itself in.

Copyright(c) Chiyo-Jo Haiku Museum All Rights Reserved.

Anonymous said...

I have alwayw wondered about the use of kigo in haiku.

Haiku is, after all, a form that is still, essentially, Japanese.

It seems to me that if you enter the house of a people whose custom is to remove their shoes, you don't insist on keeping yours on--much less proceed to stand on their furniture.

A friend from Europa.

Gabi Greve said...

Dear Gabi san,

My haiku goal these days is to write kigo that fit naturally into the haiku rather than look like something I copied out of a book.

Indeed, I think that pretending there are no rules, even for beginners, does a disservice to everyone.

The simple definition, three lines, one kigo and a cut, is where everyone should begin.

Unfortunately, as many times as I saw you write that kigo season references are different from a weather report, I saw that no one paid attention.

This is the misunderstanding that really must be cleared up or people will be perpetually stuck at the point where they are insisting that they see dragonflies, snakeskins or whatevr in summer, fall and winter too.

Its clear to me that no one understands the connection to how we as humans create a mental structure out of the natural continuity of the seasons so that we may live within them, like a house.


Dear friend,
thanks for your kind understanding of the kigo problems outside of Japan.

Indeed, here in Japan we STUDY our SAIJIKI every day, haiku is study, study, study ...
and then a suitable kigo will be ready in my head when the situation calls for.

I will carry on writing about KIGO, now also at the



Anonymous said...

Issa and the moth... Yes, Gabi.

And folks we can learn a lot about KIGO from the lovely haiku since the LINKS Gabi provides us with the haiku posted always refer to the pages on which these haiku appear ALONG with an explanation of how the haiku work, and what KIGO they use (for each and every season), with notes on the kigo themselves.

In other words, the more we read the haiku Gabi posts, the more we all learn about KIGO, which are at the heart, or even are the heart of classical Japanese haiku.
The more haiku we read Gabi posts, the more about kigo, and actual kigo we learn.

... a friend

Anonymous said...

Space Vs. Place

But wait, if the subject is the area bounded by borders, be they physical or temporal, is that "space"?
How is "space" different from "place"?

Actually, this distinction is more than semantic sophistry. After all, to discuss the use of place in haiku is hardly an assignment worth doing. Haiku is the quintessential poem of place, one of its most common attributes if not, arguably, a defining characteristic, being the kigo, or seasonal word, which functions as a sort of dateline, specifying the particular time and location.

Haiku and White Space

Like the codified kigo of traditional Japanese haiku, the liniation of text does not culturally translate. Japanese is, after all, written vertically and Japanese haiku are generally expressed in a single column of symbols that can be apprehended instantly together, as with an illustration.

Early English language translators broke the lines into onji, or sound symbols, which led to our presumption of the three-line form. Like kigo, Western haiku poets have questioned this presumption and created a variety of solutions.

Read more here:
Haiku and its Relationship to Space
by Tracy Koretsky

Anonymous said...

Dhugal J. Lindsay's Haiku Universe

The use of kigo is very problematic in Western haiku. It has been proposed by many poets, that kigo is not possible over a great geographic range. However Japan is also spread over a great geographic range and the kigo problem is overcome by having different season word dictionaries ("saijiki") for different climates. eg Hokkaido Saijiki, Okinawa Saijiki, Brazil Saijiki, Hawaii Saijiki.

A kigo does not necessarily have to invoke a particular season. Although "air conditioner" and "ant" imply summer, "sweater" implies fall, and "sunglasses" implies a summer noon, most poets I know personally use a kigo for information rather than to imply a specific season. Although a sweater may not always be worn in Winter, it does imply that it is cold. Sunglasses would imply that a Westerner or mafia member were on the scene. (only in Japan I expect ;-)"Rape blossoms although normally a spring kigo may bloom in Summer in cold areas such as Hokkaido.

The ability to provide "instant access" to a setting is a major plus in using kigo.

Just by stating "migrating geese" it invokes in the reader all of the images associated with Autumn, but it also invokes a feeling of loss. Even if I did not know that a rose was a summer season word I would imagine most Westerners would still equate it with love.

Even if the season can not be guessed from the season word it still contains important information. However this association-conveyed information may differ with people of different cultural backgrounds. How do we know that "rose" in some country does not suggest death?

This may be a problem in the internationalization of haiku. Kigo such as "the anniversary of Picasso's death" might catch on relatively easily internationally though.

Some purists would argue that this sort of association should not be considered when making haiku, and that only the association that the author actually experienced themselves should be written of. I agree with this if the haiku in question is simply about the physically existing object before the poet.

However, my school of haiku often uses such objects as tools in conveying other truths and, as such, these associations must be taken into account even if not used.

Kaneko Tohta believes that Westerners do not and will not accept kigo as being integral to haiku and that a 6th kigo category should be stressed. "zoh". They are not really season words at all, but rather everyday objects that contain associated meaning. More like a "theme" word. A common zoh category word in Western HAIKU is "grave", another is "clock".

I do not agree with him. I feel that people use zoh already and that it needs no stressing. However the haiku tradition of kigo does need stressing as many Westerners believe it is unnecessary. (If it isn't stressed a little it may disappear and a very useful haiku tool with it).

Haiku must have kigo. This is a prerequisite of the haiku form. Most haiku poets put one in automatically and in very few cases is a haiku made which upon retrospect has no kigo. (It happens sometimes to me too). I personally believe that these are no less haiku (if the "haiku way of thinking" is present). However the conservative school maintains that anything without one is not a haiku. The addition/reinstatement of zoh as an accepted kigo category would solve this but I personally feel it unnecessary.

In any situation there will always be more than one kigo present. The challenge in haiku is to pick the right one to use to get your message across. "a skilled choice of words" is very important. However you must use that which is present at the scene and that which caused your experience/haiku moment.

(Looking in retrospect can sometimes cause you to forget what it REALLY was that caused the moment and this is where "intellectualism" - the "making" of haiku rears its ugly head.)

Part of the fun of haiku is the challenge of inserting a kigo and seeing the unthought of increases in imparted information that suddenly present themselves as a result. Things you might have thought of subconciously when you experienced the Kigo - Rest of poem bonding moment but may not have been aware of.


Anonymous said...

the German author Annika Reich, in "Was ist Haiku?" (in German, “What is Haiku?” in English) quotes from her personal communication with Kaneko Tôta:
"Takahama Kyoshi said kigo must be a rule, Bashô wrote seasonless poems. Before Kyoshi kigo was only a promise not a rule."

Read more here

Anonymous said...

And THANKS to Gabi for her very, very hard work. We can all only get better as poets the
more we read, write and discuss!

simply haiku

Anonymous said...

An Interview with Hasegawa Kai: Part 2
by Robert D. Wilson, Interviewer

Robert Wilson:
Is the use of kigo essential to the writing of a haiku? If so, why, and what is the purpose of kigo and the role it plays in haiku?

There are some English language poets who do not include a kigo in some of their haiku, using as a justification, that not everyone lives in a natural setting, such as those living in congested urban centers.

Kigo (words that express the seasons), which carry out important functions in haiku, were born from the soil of the idea I mentioned previously, that "humans are a part of nature."

The seasons are born from the revolution of the earth around the sun, and the first function of kigo is related to this. By including kigo in haiku, the rhythm of the earth's revolution is incorporated within the haiku.

The second function is that kigo bring an expansive world into haiku. Words are all products of the imagination, but kigo, in particular, are crystallizations formed by the imagination. We are able, for example, to roam freely within the universe contained within the kigo "hana" [flowers, especially cherry blossoms].

samazama no
koto omoidasu
sakura kana

calling to mind
all manner of things
cherry blossoms

This haiku describes remembering various things from the past while gazing at cherry blossoms, and kigo also have the same function. This is not related to whether one lives in the country or in the city. The revolution of the earth and the human imagination are the same in the country and in the city. The question is whether or not one is aware of living within the universe.

anonymous said...

In American English, "haiku" is an umbrella term, including, but not limited to, poems more or less connected to the Japanese tradition. (As purists and practitioners, we may not like this, but that's the way it is.)
With "kigo," my problem is not with the word, but with the referent.
I ask whether "kigo," when referring to, say, American haiku, means the same as it means when referring to Japanese haiku. My understanding is that the Japanese kigo has at least as much to do with culture—specifically, Japanese culture—as with nature. There is more to "cherry blossoms" in a Japanese haiku than in an American haiku. "moon" is one thing in a culture that has a tradition of autumnal moon-viewing, quite a different thing in a culture that has no such tradition. And the American ambivalence toward tradition per se complicates matters still further.

anonymous said...

kigo is not just a weather report
but a window into the poem !

an american haiku poet

Anonymous said...

the difference between kigo (Japanese haiku) and
season words (haiku in the rest of the universe):
season words are about nature; kigo are about a cultural code.

a friend from america in the rest of the universe

anonymous said...

Not to have seasonal images in haiku would mean eliminating kigo, a key element in haiku.


anonymous JT said...

‘Seasons play an important role in Japanese culture, which has long celebrated the appreciation of ephemeral beauty as a reflection of life itself.’

Japan Times

anonymous said...

Shirane says that the season word in haiku can function as
“a complex literary and cultural sign” that is “often highly fictional . . . .”

anonymous said...


2. the way poets were constantly trying to play with Japanese kigo (especially Basho), by using and utilizing them, by inverting their meaning, manipulating them, and radically twisting their traditional associations and expectations in order to constantly strive to create something new and fresh.

Scott Metz on 2nd Position, THF BLOG


Anonymous said...

Patricia Machmiller, THF:

Fourth of July
L. has asked: “I’m not at all sure that we should be using the Japanese word, kigo, though, for English-language haiku. Might the Fourth of July be a likely time to evaluate the use of the term?”

L., you are right. I have used the word kigo both here and in my opening comments knowing that there exists a school of thought that kigo are appropriate only to Japanese haiku, and that we who write in English should use the phrase season words.

I have a different view:
to me kigo is more than a season word, even in English. It is a poetic device that has been developed to a high degree through the Japanese haikai tradition. But its power is available in every language. It is a latent power that can be tapped by the haiku writer even without the codification or authorization that comes from an official saijiki.
I would agree that that Japanese have a highly structured kigo culture whereas we English-language writers find both the concept and the actual operation of kigo to be more fluid, less structured, more democratic. Ultimately the way the kigo operates in languages other than Japanese, its effectiveness as a poetic device, is determined not by a saijiki, but by readers.
Those in the southern hemisphere have a bigger intellectual adjustment to make since the fourth of July is a winter day of not much significance.


Anonymous said...

Japanese LINK about kigo



Haiku Kentei

Anonymous said...

An Interview with Jane Reichhold
by John McManus
JM: In haiku composition the use of kigo is essential for some poets whilst others deliberately write haiku without one. What are your thoughts on the use of Kigo in English-language haiku?

JR: The use of a season word in a haiku can be a big help. Many new-comers' haiku are very short or seem to have only two images. Adding a seasonal reference can often help 'nail the haiku down' into the reality with a nature image and give the poem the essential third line/image. Even for other writers, the addition of a seasonal reference can add realism, punch, and interest. As with any good tool or technique, the over-use of season words can bring on boredom – how many "spring rain" haiku can you read or write in a year?

Also, I have a problem with using season words as springboard or 'inspiration' for new haiku. This practice often leads to unrealistic combinations of images or what are pejoratively referred to as 'desk haiku.' I much prefer haiku that spring from an interaction between the author and nature-nature or human-nature.

I dislike the arguments over whether 'spider' is a spring kigo or an autumn one or the critique of a haiku based on whether there are "too many" kigo in a poem or pointing out that the kigo do not match. This seems mostly a waste of words better spent in writing haiku instead of putting down the works of someone else.

I do find kigo an excellent way to organize large amounts of previously written haiku. Understanding and using the principles of a saijiki (as I did with A Dictionary of Haiku where over 5000 haiku are in one book) can be very helpful for others to find haiku on a certain subject or even to find a haiku when one can only recall part of it.

I think proponents for the use of kigo can go too far when they state that haiku must have a season word or it is not a 'real haiku.' There are many excellent haiku out there that are surviving, and doing very well, without a kigo. However, this idea is a major one within the Japanese tradition and is partly what separates their haiku from those written in English.

anonymous said...

A fold in the paper
Kire and kigo in haiku
by Alan Summers

Introducing the "kigo lab" project:

The Kigo Lab does not seek to attempt to instil a kigo culture within international English-language haiku writing group of poets: it simply wishes to engage in the possibilities that an attempt at kigo may prove to be yet a potent device in an author’s armoury. One of its many purposes is that an author can consider including kigo in their variety of styles, whether for a collection-in-progress, or for competitions run by various organisations that prefer a seasonal aspect in haiku.

Its aims lie in the experiment of certain well-known words and phrases in the English language which have potential into being utilised, even eventually, however long-term, into evolving as a direct parallel to kigo.


Anonymous said...

To Kigo or Not to Kigo:
Hanging From a Marmot’s Mouth

by Robert D. Wilson


Gabi Greve - WKD said...

Shiki Kukai Temporary Archives

Historical Kukai Results (October 1996- April 2002)

Shiki Kukai Results - September 2002 to Present

A rich resource of kigo and EL Haiku to go with it.

Gabi Greve - WKD said...

the 12 Months

Gabi Greve said...

jikan 時間 time in Edo
Edo no jikoku 江戸の時刻


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