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Showing posts with label INFO. Show all posts


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 :


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 :

source :


. haiku and kigo used as topics for haiku ! .


Seasons and Categories

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Haiku Seasons, Categories and
their worldwide use

For a general definition of kigo, read the General Information.

Kigo and its use in Japanese haiku.

Nature provides us with variuos phenomenon during the seasons, but NOT with words about them.

We humans make up words, classify them, write poetry with them and collect them in almanachs.
The Japanese have been the first to put their seasonal words into collections, call the short poems HAIKU and archived them in books called SAIJIKI, that is why even today as haiku poets we stick to these human conventions and we use these books as reference for our own haiku.

Traditional Japanese haiku are about the many changes during the seasons (not simply about nature ! but about the seasonal changes of nature), the changes in the life of plants and animals, heaven and earth, but also the changes in the daily life of humans within the society, like festivals and food.

The Japanese saijiki started in a time when the Asian lunar calendar was used in Japan, so even now we have a sort of timeslip of one month between the ... natural phenomenon.. and the .. kigo about them ...
February, equated to the second lunar month, for example is early spring in the Asian Lunar Calendar system but late winter in the reality of the weather conditions in most parts of Japan.
Consider Northern Hokkaido and Southern Okinawa ... and yet Japanese haiku poets use the same saijiki when they write about natural phenomenon.

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


A Japanese saijiki is a handbook of the culture of Japan, a travelouge through our many festivals, a description of our food and drink, a celebration of our nature.
Kigo are not ment to be a weather forecast or a biology textbook, but a reference to these words used in the Japanese poetic cultural context.

Kigo are not simply seasonal words representing animals, plants and natural phenomenon, they also include local festivals and other human activities, and thus carry a lot of cultural background information.

The first advise of a haiku teacher (sensei) in Japan is always:
Go get yourself a saijiki and read it many times.


For the worldwide approach to kigo, we must differentiate between the "Haiku Season" and the natural phenomenon and human activites occuring at a certain season at a certain place.

To complicate our endeavor, we also have to deal with the Asian Lunar Calendar and the 24 seasonal points (periods), which were applied in Japan before the introduction of the Western Calendar, when kigo were already used in Japanese poetry. Better read this article before you conitnue.

I compiled the basics about this Asian lunar calendar system here:
The Lunar Calendar in Japan /
The 24 Seasons (juunishi sekki 二十四節季)

They are further divided into

. 72 seasonal points (shichinuniko 七十二候)
72 seasonal spells

Most of them are KIGO.


The classical seasons of Japanese haiku are

Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter and the New Year.
Each season comes in four sections:

early, middle, late and all the three of them.

Months will not be used to define a SEASON, because of the differences in the Northern and Southern hemisphere, see below. SPRING is SPRING. (This should not be mistaken. For areas outside Japan, each season is defined by your standards, where a haiku poet writes about it, see below for "Calendar reference kigo".)

Even in Japan, rangeing from Northern Hokkaido to Sub-tropical Okinawa, the seasonal phenomenon do not always correspond with the haiku seasons, which apply mostly to Central Japan. The problem of the lunar calendar defining the traditional Japanese haiku seasons has also to be considered. See below.

For the worldwide context here are some guidelines.
Usually it is necessary to know the area, from where the haiku poet is writing, to appreciate the use of kigo he/she uses in the poetry.

Northern and Southern Hemisphere
If there is not specific mention in the WKD, a calendar reference kigo refers to the Northern Hemisphere as its place of origin, since haiku and the saijiki concept originates in Japan.
For the Southern Hemisphere, add six months.
For a calendar reference kigo originating in the Southern Hemisphere, add six months to get to its Northern counterpart.
These adjustments will not be mentioned specifically for each kigo.
SEE: Adjustments for Australia

Calendar reference kigo
are for example the names of each month and then the many festivals of a specific date and the memorial days of people or things.
Japanese haiku poets up from the North of Hokkaido down to the South of Okinawa have no problem when using DECEMBER as a kigo within the convention of writing haiku, for example. Neither do the Japanese haiku poets who live in Brazil complain about the saijiki.

............... Examples for the use of Japanse Kigo

Example: First Snow, hatsuyuki 初雪
This will be a haiku with a kigo indicating the early winter, never mind the month when it happens in your area.

Example: Butterfly, choo 蝶
This is a kigo for spring (when the first butterflies are seen). To indicate a butterfly seen in a different season, it will be a "Summer Butterfly (natsu no choo)", "Autumn Butterfly (aki no choo)" etc, with the added determining word of the season.

Example: Christmas
a typical calendar time reference kigo
Kigo for Mid-Winter in the Northern Hemisphere. (Will be mentioned)
Kigo for Summer in the Southern Hemisphere. (Will not be mentioned.)
Kigo for "Hot and Dry Season" in the Tropics. (Will not be mentioned, see below.)

. Kigo Calendar - the 12 Months .

to be added.


Non-seasonal words used in haiku have been labeled in many ways:

keywords, non-seasonal topics, all-season topics,
miscellaneous : zakku 雑句; zappai 雑俳
haiku without a season word : muki, mu-ki, 無季, muki no ku 無季の句, muki haiku 無季俳句 ...
"free format haiku" as used by the Shiki Monthly Kukai

... wrongly called : all season kigo (!), quite a contradiction in terms, since KI means season
... "muki kigo": this expression does not exist in the Japanese language !

These words will be collected in the
Non-seasonal Haiku Topics .

The term "all-season kigo, all season kigo" is a misunderstanding and should not be used in this context.

Mukigo ... The Season of 'No-Season'
Problems of Terminology ... a discussion !!!


Here is a piece of advise from Gabi :

If you are inspired by the nature around you, that is your season !
And if you find a kigo to fit that season, all the better for your haiku!

A butterfly in winter is just that, fuyu no choo, a butterfly in winter! Even in Japan, that is what I see once in a while.

Keep observing what is going on around you and write your haiku about it! That is always the first step.

Read your saijiki (dictionary of kigo) in a leisurely moment to remember some of the words that are used as kigo, and what they mean in a certain culture. Maybe they come in handy at another time when you are about to write your haiku. That is the second step.

The more kigo you remember, the more you can later use them in your haiku, that is the Japanese approach to literature.
More is here:

This is a good piece to read for starters.

Check the Japanese Beginner's Saijiki to get familiar with some of the Japanese kigo.
Japanese Haiku Topical Dictionary, University of Virginia Library


..................The Classification of Seasons
As of Summer 2005

This will be a problem we have to solve as we go along. We do not need to establish definite rules to be followed ...we work as we go and when the necessity arises.
The basic notion we have to keep in mind is that we are dealing with “Haiku Seasons” which even in Japan do not correspond to the calendrical ones.
(The tolerance of Japanese haijin about this discrepance should be our ideal in trying to achive consensus ...)

For the temperate climates, stick to the Japanese definitions. For the rest, see where it leads us, compare with the attempts of others and keep improving our definitions.


Adjustments for some areas

For special areas and seasons around the world, we have to make adjustments. They will not be mentined for most kigo that originate in other regions, for example Christmas, but only for kigo originating in the region.

。。。。。。。 India

According to the classical text of the Ritusamharam we will introduce six haiku seasons in India, two more that the four seasons of the Japanese Saijiki.

Each Indian seaseon comprises only two months, whereas in the Japanese saijiki, each season (except the New Year), comprises three months and is divided in early, middle and late part of the season.

Here are the six seasons for INDIA

Summer – called Grishma –in the months of Jaishthya and Aashadh
approximately May and June

Rains – called Varsha - in the months of Shravan and Bhadrapad
approximately July and August

Autumn called Sharad - in the months of Aashwin and Kartik
approximately September and October

Frost – called Hemant – in the months of Margshishya and Pousha
approximately November and December

Winter called Shishir - in the months of Magh and Phalgun
approximately January and February

Spring known as Vasant - in the months of Chaitra and Vaishakh
approximately March and April

Read more details in the INDIA SAIJIKI.


。。。。。。。 Kenya and the Tropics

In Kenya and the Tropics, we have the following seasons for Haiku

.. .. .. hot season
.. .. .. long rains
.. .. .. cool season
.. .. .. short rains

Some of the rainy season kigo appear twice in the course of the year.

Read more details in the KENYA SAIJIKI.


。。。。。。。 Multiple-Season Listings

They will be necessary in very few special cases.

by William J. Higginson

Wind chimes in Spring, a discussion


Online Saijiki for special areas

The World Kigo Database project encourages haiku poets around the world to submit their kigo and haiku about regional items.
Here are the saijiki we support so far

ALASKA Saijiki
AUSTRALIAN Seasons and Saijiki
CANADA Saijiki
Chesapeake Bay Saijiki, USA
GERMAN Saijiki
INDIA Saijiki
ISSA and the Seasons
KENYA Saijiki including the Tropics
North American Saijiki LIST
OKLAHOMA Saijiki (under construction)
Trinidad and Tobago Saijiki

Saijiki for Japanese Buddhist and Shinto Ceremonies and Festivals
Saijiki for Memorial Days of Famous People
Tea Ceremony Saijiki

For more Japanese TOPICAL saijiki, see below.

SEASONS … All about the Seasons of the world Waverly Fitzgerald

WKD : Worldwide Calendar Systems

Snow, Moon and Blossoms, SETSUGEKKA 雪月花
Essay by Isamu Kurita
Understanding the Japanese Mind

More to be added.


Non-Seasonal Topics

Words which are often used in haiku and renku, but are not specific for any season of their own. To express a season with them, use another kigo with it.
Sometimes Japanese haiku without a season word are called mu-ki muki, 無季, sometimes words without as seasonal aspect are called keywords in America.
The concept of keyword is not common in Japan.

Japanese Haiku without a season word might rather be classified as SENRYU 川柳.

These words are collected here in our Database:
Non-seasonal Haiku Topics .

For more about the concept of keywords, read the General Information.



The seven Japanese Categories are:

jikoo 時候 Season, climate, time 
tenmon 天文 Heaven, natural phenomena, astronomy, celestial
chiri 地理 Earth, geography, terrestrial
seikatsu 生活 Humanity, daily life, livelihood
gyooji 行事 Observances, seasonal events, occasions
doobutsu 動物 Animals, Zoology
shokubutsu 植物 Plants, Biology

For Observances and calendar-related season words we have to make adjustments for the Northern and Southern Hemisphere. Thus Christmas will be a WINTER kigo in the North and a SUMMER kigo in the South of the globe.

Since each kigo carries a certain mood or emotional state, the Japanese haiku poet makes sure to study his saijiki and the associations of each kigo.

The Season:
includes general climate, reminders of the previous season, solstice or equinox (i.e., the middle of the season), the months, time and length of day, temperature, approaching the end of the season, anticipating the beginning of the next season.
The name of a month implies a different climatic season in different parts of the world. This is expecially important for the tropical areas, where DECEMBER is a kigo for the hot and dry season in Kenya and the Southern Hemisphere, where DECEMBER is a summer kigo, for example.

The Heavens :
sky, heavenly bodies, winds, precipitation, storms, other sky phenomena, light and shade.
In Haikai, there is also a linking theory involving "heavenly phenomenon" TENSOO てんそう【天相】 and here is one of the eight hattai of the shichimyo hattai 「shichimyoo hattai 七名(しちみよう)八体」theory. With respect to the preceding KU, it links like "cold/warm", "shadow/sun". This theory stems from Kagami Shikoo 各務支考(かがみしこう).
source : 七名八体

The Earth :
landscape, seascape, fields, forests, bodies of water.
© etext. virginia. university

WKD : the END of each season, expressed in KIGO

Humanity and Observances, two important categories for HAIKU
find the related KIGO of the WKD here !

. SEASON ... a category for KIGO
WKD - complete SAIJIKI

The categories are related to the Chinese/Japanese way of classifying things into

ten chi jin 天地人 heaven - earth - mankind


is a kind of encyclopedia or anthology about seasonal things in Japan, not necessarily only about kigo for haiku.


Collecting Local Japanese Kigo (chibo kigo, chiboo kigo 地貌季語)
Kigo from rural and sometimes remote Japanese areas, even in local dialect, used by the regional haiku poets.
by Miyasaka Shizuo 宮坂静生

We have local saijiki of all the regions of Japan,
from Hokkaido to Okinawa
Furusato Dai Saijiki ふるさと大歳時記

There are many Saijiki available from AMAZON.COM, they have a
list of more than 1500 books:



The Museum of Haiku Literature (Haiku Bungakukan 俳句文学館) has the world's only library devoted exclusively to collecting and preserving haiku works for future generations.
Hyakunin-cho Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 169-8521, Japan
Museum of Haiku Literature

Gendai Haiku Kiiwaado Jiten
(Modern Haiku Keywords Dictionary)
夏石番矢(なついし ばんや) Natsuishi Banya, 1990

Eigo Saijiki (Seasonal Topics in English) 英語歳時記
Narita Shigetoshi 成田成寿 (編集)
ISBN 4-327-16008-3 , 1978.
. Details .

Nichi-Ei Haiku Saijiki 日・英俳句歳時記
Katoo Kooko 加藤耕子, 1991


A new approach

Muki Saijiki 無季歳時記 -- A contradiction in terms ?
Modern Haiku Association, Japan

Gilbert gives the English as
Muki-Kigo Saijiki ?? 無季季語歳時記 ??
Muki Saijiki ?? 無季歳時記 ??
The Modern Haiku Association Muki-Kigo Saijiki

The above kanji constructions (re-translations from the English) give no results when googeling. "Muki Kigo" is a contradiction in terms and NOT used in Japanese. Kaneko Tohta uses the expression "Mu Kigo 無季語".

The correct Japanse for this section of the saijiki is as follows:

現代俳句歳時記 無季
Gendai Haiku Saijiki / Muki
Modern Haiku Saijiki / Haiku without a season word

Mukigo 無季語 ... The Season of 'No-Season'
Problems of Terminology ... a discussion !!!


Japan and the Culture of the Four Seasons:
Nature, Literature, and the Arts

Haruo Shirane

Elegant representations of nature and the four seasons populate a wide range of Japanese genres and media -- from poetry and screen painting to tea ceremonies, flower arrangements, and annual observances. In Japan and the Culture of the Four Seasons, Haruo Shirane shows how, when, and why this practice developed and explicates the richly encoded social, religious, and political meanings of this imagery. Refuting the belief that this tradition reflects Japan's agrarian origins and supposedly mild climate, Shirane traces the establishment of seasonal topics to the poetry composed by the urban nobility in the eighth century.

After becoming highly codified and influencing visual arts in the tenth and eleventh centuries, the seasonal topics and their cultural associations evolved and spread to other genres, eventually settling in the popular culture of the early modern period.

Contrasted with the elegant images of nature derived from court poetry was the agrarian view of nature based on rural life. The two landscapes began to intersect in the medieval period, creating a complex, layered web of competing associations. Shirane discusses a wide array of representations of nature and the four seasons in many genres, originating in both the urban and rural perspective: textual (poetry, chronicles, tales), cultivated (gardens, flower arrangement), material (kimonos, screens), performative (noh, festivals), and gastronomic (tea ceremony, food rituals). He reveals how this kind of "secondary nature," which flourished in Japan's urban architecture and gardens, fostered and idealized a sense of harmony with the natural world just at the moment it was disappearing.

Illuminating the deeper meaning behind Japanese aesthetics and artifacts, Shirane clarifies the use of natural images and seasonal topics and the changes in their cultural associations and function across history, genre, and community over more than a millennium.

In this fascinating book,
the four seasons are revealed to be as much a cultural construction as a reflection of the physical world.
source :

Read another fascinating review by :

. Book Review by DAVID BURLEIGH .


.........................The World Kigo Database
maintains an ongoing discussion about the subjects mentioned above.

Join here with your opinions.

Kigo Open Discussion Forum

Haiku Topics Open Discussion Forum

Alphabetical Index of the Worldkigo Database




General Information


General Information

! WKD ... Read this first !

 Seasons and Categories for haiku

The use of kigo in worldwide haiku



Bill Higginson

For haiku composition, on a superficial level whether a season word refers to early, middle, or late in a given season--or to the whole season--means little; presumably a single haiku reflects the events and emotional values of a particular time. But as we connect more and more with the depths of the haiku tradition, we begin to understand that a great haiku makes use of seasonal themes in a deeper way.

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 seasons of traditional Japanese poetry are not the same as our common notion of each season today. Rather, as in earlier times in Europe, each season centers on its solstice or equinox. We know that the European view used to accord with the Japanese tradition because even in English today "midsummer" and "midwinter" refer to times near the solstices of their respective seasons. (The same is true of "Mittsommer" in German and its cognates in other Germanic languages; the Feast of Saint John [le Saint-Jean in French, il San Giovanni in Italian, 26 June] is understood as comparable to Midsummer's Day in England.)

If we abandon the traditional view and insist on understanding "spring" as running from the spring equinox to the summer solstice, one-third to one-half the items in the traditional seasonal arrangement will be out of place. Since the progress of a renku normally involves not only the seasons, but movement within the seasons, I believe renku poets will be best served if we adhere to the traditional arrangement, which will keep our renku in accord with all the linked poems of hundreds of years past as well as others being written today.

Bill Higginson
(Posted with permission)


Comments of members of the WHCworldkigo Discussion Forum
on an article about KIGO in the Wikipedia

By Michael Baribeau

There is much debate as to what is haiku, most of which is due to the divergent Western style from the Japanese style and the confusion of which style is being defined. Except for a few exceptions (muki), JAPANESE haiku have kigo. The Japanese culture has a much greater affinity and emphasis on the seasons than the West does. When the West adopted haiku, their
interpretation of Japanese translated haiku was that they were about nature in general instead of about seasons in specific.

Being that many Japanese kigo are too subtle by Western standards, Western readings of JAPANESE haiku usually missed the seasonal association. So WESTERN haiku are free form in that they don't require kigo and although the WESTERN haiku were once required to be about nature instead (which often had kigo incidentally) they don't anymore and now the focus is placed on the topics being chaste.

However, if you intend to use a definition that WESTERN haiku require a kigo then may I suggest labeling the haiku a style of haiku such as neo-classical haiku. I wouldn't recommend the terms classical or traditional which might also suggest the 5-7-5 form. Although Western haiku originally had a syllabic form of 5-7-5 most are now written in free verse.

The article speaks that kigo are culture/region specific and uses pumpkins for an example but than goes to describe Japanese seasons in detail. I don't sense a clear distinction between Japanese and other region's kigo.

In the West the 'harvest' moon or 'autumn' moon is an autumn kigo but not the moon in general, while depending on adjectives and phrasing it is actually a kigo used in all four seasons by the Japanese.

Although the article is very informative and clear for the most part, I would like to see it clarify when it is speaking of Japanese kigo or some other region's.

Michael Baribeau


"Kigo - go or no go"

by Dennis Holmes

I was a student of the late Fujita Akegarasu (1934 - 2004).
Akegarasu sensei believed kigo is essential to the art of haiku. Kigo to the Japanese writer of haiku is part of the foundation of the poem. From my (non-Japanese studying Japanese haiku) view, what this means is a melding of feeling using the kigo as an anchor.

I am not sure if "anchor" is the right word, perhaps, "catalyst" is better, in that, kigo, does not itself change, but, rather acts to help the reader feel the depth of the verse. That is, the "heart" of the haiku. As has been mentioned earlier in previous discussions on haiku being from the beginning of a "renga" sequence, then, more stand-alone as Shiki sensei believed, it became haiku from the hokku. The hokku gives a strong hint as to what haiku should be.

Hokku was the "greeting" to get the linked verse started. In this, hokku set the framework, season and setting for the group to continue. These aspects were retained in what became haiku. In fact, if you take the hokku by itself, you essentially have haiku.
This is still very valid in haiku of Japan today. If you want to confirm that assessment, just look at any collection of haiku from the proliferation of haiku circles (haiku writer groups) in Japan today. I would like to see the rest of the world adhere as closely as possible to this Japanese spirit when writing poems that represent the haiku art.

Retain both kigo and kireji in spirit and practice as essential components of any haiku. The techniques I currently feel sound are: developing a world seijiki; and using equivalent punctuation for the Japanese kireji. Also, there are many more reusable components such as kakekotoba (word play) that may cross the translation bridge between English and Japanese.

As with any literary congress between two diverse cultures... something will inevitably be lost in translation, but, the essential spirit of the haiku art supported by "ARTifacts" such as kigo and kireji (to mention just two) will limit that loss to a minimum, I do so hope.

"chibi" (pen-name for Dennis M. Holmes)


By Carlos Fleitas

I read the Wilkipedia article and i liked it, especially when it raised the issue: Must haiku include a kigo? In my view that question leads to a more general one, at least if one observes what is going on today, particularly in the international internet haiku community: This question could be What is haiku?

This shouldn't be so suprising to us. In the 20th. century in the West due to the amazing revolution in the arts, the question was: What is Art? All the aesthetics, technical and traditional rules were just tossed away. Let's take for example music. Beginning with Schoenberg, Berg, Von Webern, Varese, later with Pierre Schaffer, John Cage, Ligetti etc. Many musicians, even now, think that modern and contemporary music is not "music" at all. Some go a little bit furhter saying that they are just "noises".

But this has happened age after age in music. Bach's early pieces where sometimes doomed because they accused him of introducing "shocking variations (viele wunderliche Variationen) and strange notes (viele fremde Tone)", in the church hymns (Malcolm Boyd) and finally he lost his job! (Arnstad period). Music of the Middle Ages, which is so extraordinarily rich, went through periods of intense confrontation. "Romantics" where suspicious of "destroying" the meaning and quality of music. Therefore, in the entire history of arts debate of opposing argument was normal, and often very passionate.

At some point, elder generations thought popular music such as rock was not music and that it was just "noise". Therefore we have two sets of opinions: traditional and contemporary in music and art in general.

Back to haiku. Let me point out some ideas. Some are obvious, but that helps me express my thoughts.

1) Haiku was born in Japan.

2) Ancient or traditional or classical haiku (Basho, Issa, Buson) was a fixed form that included kigo and kireji, except for some few exceptions.

3) As time went by, frontiers were pushed, for example by Santoka, Ogiwara Seisensui, Ozaki Hosai, Nakatsuka Ippekiro and many others. Even metaphor was widely used in classic (Haruo Shirane) and "free haiku" in Japan .

4) Shiki restored haiku to it's origins as you well know. He kept kigo and 5.7.5 and also freshend it up. He gave new life to it.

Bottom line:
From its Japanese origins, haiku has gone a long way and some haijin write a totally different kind of haiku compared with the classical or neo-classical ones. I.e. with no kigo, no 5.7.5. They also explore new subjects unknown to classic haiku

5) Haiku was introduced to the West.

6) In the West something very similar happened, although some Spanish and LAm haijin started directly writing a very diferent kind of haiku. Even religious nuns and monks wrote what they called "religious haiku" (Ty Hadman) The first haiku written in Spanish was by Tablada. This great poet surprisingly called them haikai. It was because he felt they where closeer to the "spirit of haikai" (he meant some humorous detail in the poems), but they where as Octavio Paz stated haiku in themselves.

Other great Latin American writers such as Borges wrote haiku which he identified as such, with no kigo but for few exceptions (i recall one), or kireji, although he mantained the 5.7.5 syllable issue. And other writers did this also. But it is true that they did not consider themselves as haijin, i mean, they wrote haiku as an exception.

7) If we observe what is going on in the Haiku International Community nowadays, there are haijin who write neo-classical haiku, and think that not keeping to the 'rules' makes a composition unworthy of being called haiku.

8) On the other side, there are haijin who claim they are writing true haiku, but do not use kigo or any fixed form at all.

9) Things are going so far that we nowadays can read "urban haiku" and even "sci-fi haiku". No kigo at all, no 5-7-5. And sci-fi haiku!!! This influence has come from the USA as far as i know.

10) So now in the West we have the same division of opinions - traditional and contemporary.

My opinion these days is that both of them are right. It is just that they are different styles of haiku. My main concern is trying to express rationally what is the essence of haiku, the so called "spirit of haiku" that is present in neo-classical, free, urban, sci-fi, vanguard haiku, and others to come. Haiku today is a polysemic term, it has multiple meanings.

This sort of "crisis" from my point of view is healthy, because it fosters diversity.I do not know what Japanese haijin think of Western haiku, but sometimes i have found that Western haijin are more "japanese" than Japan's haijin. There is an extraordinary article by Serge Tome (Belgian editor and haijin) who compares contemporary japanese haiku with western haiku. One issue is the use of the personal pronoun "I" in haiku. In the West, the great majority of haijin have banned it, (at first i did also) and if you submit a haiku with it, they decline to consider it a haiku. Maybe this comes from the influence of zen in the West, particularly in the States, but this is a guess.

In his article Tome finds out that in Japan nowadays the use of "I" in a haiku is not banned at all if i remember well.

The difference between Western Haiku is cultural, not a poetic or a literary one. (See below paragraphs of Haruo's Shirane.)

Maybe we should call it "Western haiku" instead of haiku in this part of the world. I think this would be more accurate.
Spanish and LAm haijin are getting used to calling their work: "haiku written in spanish" to emphazise the cultural environment where it began.
I do remember Kerouac fostering what he called "American haiku".

Bottom line:
I think we should face the questions: Must haiku include a kigo? What is haiku? with an open-mind reminding ourthelves that haiku has an extraordinary reach in the world today. The diversity of haiku now is something that enriches it and maybe a new idea is wating to be born in haiku. Also i think we should keep close to what is happennig at the present time. I mean, a new kind of haiku, that may be developing throughout the world, even sci-fi haiku. Maybe we are living in an age of transition. I can't tell, but it would not be impossible if we look to history.

Here are several magnificent paragraphs excerpted from a paper by Haruo Shirane :
"Beyond the haiku moment" but although it focus on the USA, i think it could be applied to all international haiku communities.

I was once told that Ezra Pound's famous metro poem first published in 1913, was not haiku.

The apparition of these faces in the crowd: Petals on a wet, black bough .

If I remember correctly, the reason for disqualification was that the metro poem was not about nature as we know it and that the poem was fictional or imaginary. Pound's poem may also have been ruled out since it uses an obvious metaphor: the petals are a metaphor for the apparition of the faces, or vice versa. This view of the metro poem was based on the three key definitions of haiku - haiku is about direct observation, haiku eschews metaphor, and haiku is about nature - which poets such as Basho and Buson would have seriously disputed."

"One of the widespread beliefs in North America is that haiku should be based upon one's own direct experience, that it must derive from one's own observations, particularly of nature. But it is important to remember that this is basically a modern view of haiku, the result, in part, of nineteenth century European realism, which had an impact on modern Japanese haiku and then was re-imported back to the West as something very Japanese. Basho, who wrote in the seventeenth century, would have not made such a distinction between direct personal experience and the imaginary, nor would he have placed higher value on fact over fiction."

"In short, while haiku in English is inspired by Japanese haiku, it can not and should not try to duplicate the rules of Japanese haiku because of significant differences in language, culture and history. A definition of Engish-language haiku will thus, by nature, differ from that of Japanese haiku. If pressed to give a definition of English-language haiku that would encompass the points that I have made here, I would say, echoing the spirit of Basho's own poetry, that haiku in English is a short poem, usually written in one to three lines, that seeks out new and revealing perspectives on the human and physical condition, focusing on the immediate physical world around us, particularly that of nature, and on the workings of the human imagination, memory, literature and history. There are already a number of fine North American haiku poets working within this frame so this definition is intended both to encourage an existing trend and to affirm new space that goes beyond existing definitions of haiku."

"One consequence of a narrower definition of haiku is that English-language anthologies of haiku are overwhelmingly set in country or natural settings even though ninety percent of the haiku poets actually live in urban environments. To exaggerate the situation, North American haiku poets are given the alternative of either writing serious poetry on nature (defined as haiku) or of writing humorous poetry on non-nature topics (defined as senryu). This would seem to discourage haiku poets from writing serious poetry on the immediate urban environment or broader social issues. Topics such as subways, commuter driving, movie theaters, shopping malls, etc., while falling outside of the traditional notion of nature, in fact provide some of the richest sources for modern haiku, as much recent English-language haiku has revealed, and should be considered part of nature in the broadest sense."

"However, if haiku is to rise to the level of serious poetry, literature that is widely respected and admired, that is taught and studied, commentated on, that can have impact on other non-haiku poets, then it must have a complexity that gives it depth and that allows it to both focus on and rise above the specific moment or time. Basho, Buson and other masters achieved this through various forms of textual density, including metaphor, allegory, symbolism and allusion, as well as through the constant search for new topics. For North American poets, for whom the seasonal word cannot function in the fashion that it did for these Japanese masters, this becomes a more pressing issue, with the need to explore not only metaphorical and symbolic possibilities but new areas - such as history, urban life, social ills, death and war, cyberspace, Haiku need not and should not be confined to a narrow definition of nature poetry, particularly since the ground rules are completely different from those in Japan."

In Basho's day, haikai was two things:
1) performance and social act, and
2) literary text.

As a social act, as an elegant form of conversation, haikai had to be easily accessible; it had to be spontaneous; it had to perform social and religious functions. Thus, half of Basho's haiku were greetings, parting poems, poetic prayers. They served very specific functions and were anchored in a specific place and time, in a dialogic exchange with other individuals. For Basho, however, haikai was also a literary text that had to transcend time and place, and be understood by those who were not at the place of composition.

To achieve this goal, Basho repeatedly rewrote his poetry, made it fictional, gave it new settings, added layers of meaning, emphasized the vertical axis (linking it to history and other literary texts), so that the poem would have an impact beyond its original circumstances. One hopes that more North American haiku poets can take inspiration from this complex work."

Post Scriptum:
Two or three years ago, some haiku concerning Windows failures spread all over the Net. They were 5-7-5 and awesome!

Carlos Fleitas


Chibi answers:

Dear Carlos san

Kigo is essential to the art of haiku. Also, I disagree with Shirane sensei, respectively. I have to take a strong stance in this because I see transfering the art form to another language can retain artifacts such as kigo and kireji. These are at least two essential components to retain haiku form, fit, and function. If there is divergence, then, I contend, the result is not haiku.

We should take advantage of the amount of direct communication that the internet allows. The internet is a tremendous connectivity tool and can afords us with a tigher (closer cultural proxsimity) understanding and association with teachers and practisioners of Japanese haiku. Given our modern technology, perhaps, this will facsilitate a deeper understanding. Regional kigo can be allowed and readily understood as we become aware of more of the world.

I fully support the idea of the "World Saijiki". Though, historically, as is my understanding, the saijiki was sanctified by a sensei or group.

Kireji, the cut, the pause, is essential to the form of haiku. I look at it as one of the touthstones. I also feel if you allow any errosion of this... you are not writing haiku.
I feel I am not skilled to explain deeper, but, the cut is very much Japanese and intrinsically "natural".



CARLOS answering

Dear friend:

I appreciate your sincerity. Diversity of opinions from my point of view enrich us and make us feel we are an active part of this wonderful kigo project lead by our dear Gabi-san, and also as members of the worldwide haiku community.

There maybe a misunderstanding.

*) I just uploaded parts of Shirane's article because i thought it was a different, diverse approach to haiku and kigo issue that may interest gk, and also i wanted to share with all the members of this list.

*) I am not a Shirane's partisan, although i admire his work.

*) What i like most about Shirane's paper is that it "shook my ideas", but that is something concerning my personal style. The core of what i learned reading his paper is this: haiku is more subtle than i thoughr it was. And that encourages me to perfect, if i am able to, my haiku in the future.

*) I understand your point of view in fact i am a "neoclassical haijin (or at least i hope i am a haijin), therefore i foster the use of kigo and kireji. (Kireji is different in spanish haiku than in japanese haiku. We do not have the cutting syllable "ya", so we use another kind of caesura, mainly the natural pauses in language). I have written many essays in Spanish and English and they are full of my great concern and support for kigo in haiku.

*) I have been writting since a a sort of haibun, in Spanish for a couple of years in Spanish, titled Cuaderno de Haiku (Haiku Notebook). All the haiku there have kigo and kireji (as we use it in Spanish) My haiku in Spanish and the ones in English (except some few exception) also contain kigo and kireji. There are other reasons why i am very fond of kigo in haiku, but this would go beyond the limits of our subject.

*) I support strongly the idea that there are regional kigo, and that is why i joined WHCkigo.

*) Now i am open to explore new frontiers in haiku, such as vanguard haiku. Recently i wrote a mandala "haiku" and send it to WHCvanguard.
Maybe it is not haiku, i can not claim it is. If it is not, at least i think haiku has inspired it. Furthermore, nowadays i have changed my previous opinion and consider "urban haiku" which is evolving rapidly in Spain and LAm community, genuine haiku, although many of them do not have kigo. Some of them maybe are senryu, that is true also.

*) The issue whether this is or is not haiku, depends in my view, on what one considers haiku to be. I.e. if one considers that haiku has to have its essential axis on kigo and kireji. Of course everything that is out of the definition will not be considered haiku. I understand it. And i find it is not only a good point, but that everyone has the right to have his/her opinion, and no doubt yours is very well-founded. I was very impressed when you wrote:
"I see transfering the art form to another language can retain artifacts such as kigo and kireji."
It is a very strong and good point indeed.

I think Basho or Buson would not have considered sci-fi "haiku" as haiku at all.
Or the computer generated one's or many other similar "haiku" varieties. Yesterday i conducted a web search and i found strange kinds of "haiku" I had not time to read them all but there is a web dedicated to Harry Potter's "haiku" and Frida Kahlo "haiku"!!.
Amazing this Internet of ours!

*) I also think that all this diversity of opinions makes me feel we are alive and moving on, and exploring with passion, because passion in our case means enthusiasm, which is the major drive humans have to explore, and could help me produce better haiku, i think.

*) And last but not least, i think that haiku is a tiny yet powerful ambassador that extraordinarily, has made it possible for people from all over the world to come toghether and know each other. Personally it has enrichened my life very much. I also foster the idea that folks should communicate as much as possible, freely and without restrictions. And haiku makes it possible. I have made an enormous number of friends from all over the world, which pleases me very much.

I am proud and delighted to be a member of the worldwide haiku community, and of this WHCworldkigo project.

Carlos Fleitas

End of the Comments. May 6, 2005


Further Reading

* Kigo Versus Seasonal Reference in Haiku:
Observations, Anecdotes and a Translation

... By Richard Gilbert (quoted from Simply Haiku, Autumn 2005)

* Kigo and Seasonal Reference, by Richard Gilbert March 2006

* The Importance of Season Words, by Kametaro Yagi

* Beyond Kigo, by Jim Kacian

* Season words, keywords, and others. by Ban'ya Natsuishi

The ideas presented in the further reading essays mentioned above do not all correspond to the promotion of kigo as pursued with this WKD database.

Seasons and Categories, used by the World Kigo Database


Launching WHC worldkigo 2004

Back to the Worldkigo Index


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