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Sakuo Nakamura on Issa

Sakuo Nakamura

I wrote this haiku for my New Year’s greeting card of this year:

with Issa
over time and space
Happy New Year

Every day translator David Lanoue sends me one of Issa's haiku written in English. Referring to this haiku, I paint a haiga and post it to my blog.

It is impossible to paint the haiga without surmising Issa's image that appeared in his mind when he made the haiku. As well, without David's image provided by his translation, I could not paint my haiga.

Issa made his haiku over 200 years ago, in the Edo era. There are a lot of differences of custom, system and circumstance between his time and ours. The culture gap caused by time is very large. Frankly speaking, even a Japanese person like myself cannot understand all of his haiku.

On the other hand, I can nearly understand David's English. But translator David, I assume, feels difficulty in translating Japanese. This comes from the culture gap of time and space.

How do we bridge these gaps relating to time and the space? There are three devices: the year of composition, the kigo ("season word"), and similar haiku.

The year is always written before the haiku in the online archive. Clicking the "About Issa" page on the home page reveals Issa's biographical situation at the time of composition.

The kigo is found in the "Seasonal Anthology" link on the Issa home page. This is the most important key word in the haiku.

Thirdly, comparing a haiku to similar ones is sometimes very helpful, as you can look at haiku of the same year and kigo.

Here's how I make renku ("linked verse"). After getting the image from Issa and Dr. David, I form my own image. But there are still gaps between Japanese and the foreign translation. To fill this gap, I make a renku, adding to Issa's haiku two lines of seven onji ("sound units") each. The renku should be not duplicate the words of Issa's haiku. It should express Sakuo’s feeling and thinking. This is my goal.

Our three images together became the haiku of my New Year's greeting.

with Issa
over time and space
Happy New Year

As to the development hereafter, all personal brains in our time have combined to become a single, large brain. So much information is available to us in a minute. I use Google to research the text and image files necessary for my work. Those files' URLs appear in my blog, so that you can retrace my process in forming my image.

I would like to ask all Issa lovers to post their renku and haiga on the internet. I believe that a hundred persons will derive a hundred different images from each of Issa's haiku. If we could share these images, Issa will come nearer to us. Your replies to the Issa site and your comments to my blog are much appreciated.

My dream is to establish a common image of Issa throughout the world.

Japanese version