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10000 haiku out of 10000

year unknown

.元日にかわいや遍路門に立
ganjitsu ni kawai ya henro kado ni tatsu

on New Year's Day
a cute little pilgrim
at the gate

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s.

year unknown

.元日や日本ばかりの花の娑婆
ganjitsu ya nihon bakari no hana no shaba

New Year's Day
this world of Japan's
blossoms

This is a revision of a haiku of 1821:

ganjitsu ya dochira muite mo hana no shaba

on New Year's Day
everywhere, a corrupt world's
blossoms

The word shaba refers to the Buddhist notion of a fallen age, the "Latter Days of Dharma."

year unknown

.元日の日向ぼこする屑家かな
ganjitsu no hinata bokosuru kuzuya kana

basking
in the New Year's sun...
my trashy hut


year unknown

.昼頃に元日になる庵かな
hiru-goro ni ganjitsu ni naru iori kana

around noon
New Year's Day begins...
little hut

Issa flaunts his laziness, even on this most auspicious day of the year.

year unknown

.人並の正月もせぬしだら哉
hito nami no shôgatsu mo senu shidara kana

no run-of-the-mill
New Year's Day
for the slob

This is a revision of an 1813 haiku:

yoso nami no shôgatsu mo senu shidara kana:

no customary
New Year's Day
for the slob

Issa refuses to observe all the niceties of seasonal conventions, such as sweeping the house or putting a pine-and-bamboo decoration on his gate. His New Year's Day is not "like anybody else's" (hito nami ni).

Shidara, which means slovenly or disorderly in modern Japanese, in earlier times stood for any condition or course of events; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 773. Shinji Ogawa points out that by the time of Chikamatsu Monzaemon (1653-1724) the negative meaning of shidara was well established.

year unknown

.正月が二日有ても皺手哉
shôgatsu ga futsuka arite mo shiwade kana

First Month, second day--
my wrinkled
hands

The word "my" doesn't appear in the original.

year unknown

.正月や現金酒の通ひ帳
shôgatsu ya genkin sake no kayoichô

First Month--
recording the cash spent
on sake

An allusion to New Year's libations ... and their cost.

Shinji Ogawa adds that ("Kayoichô is a handbook used by a delivery boy. The master account book is kept in the store. It was the custom in Edo period for people to buy daily necessities on credit and pay off the debt at the end of the year. Issa obviously has not paid his last year's debt, so he is obliged to pay in cash for the sake to celebrate the New Year. We can picture the delivery boy writing down 'paid in cash' in the handbook."

year unknown

.猫塚に正月させるごまめ哉
neko tsuka [ni] shôgatsu saseru gomame kana

on the cat's grave
in First Month...
dried sardines

A New Year's offering to the departed pet, left by a child (or, perhaps, Issa?).

year unknown

.行灯のかたぴらよりけさの春
andon no katappira yori kesa no haru

to one side
of my paper lantern...
spring's first dawn

Or: "the paper lantern."

I assume that katappira is a combination of kata ("one") and hira, which in Issa's time could refer to anything thin and flat, like paper or leaves. Here, it seems to refer to one face of the paper lantern. Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1416. This undated haiku is almost identical to one written in 1825, which ends with the phrase, ake no haru ("first of spring").

year unknown

.草の戸やいづち支舞の今朝の春
kusa no to ya izuchi shimai no kesa no haru

at my hut
what will come of it?
spring's first dawn

Shinji Ogawa has pointed out to me that kusa no to is not to be read literally as "grass door," but figuratively as "my hut." Izuchi is an old word that can mean dochira ("whichever") or doko ("wherever"); Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 137.

year unknown

.けさ春と掃まねしたりひとり坊
kesa haru to haku mane shitari hitori-bô

spring's first dawn--
the priest pretending
to sweep

Spring's first dawn is New Year's morning.

Shinji Ogawa comments: "On New Year's morning Issa, or a lonely priest, performs a sweeping in name only. Sometimes, Issa called himself Issa-bô (Priest Issa)."

year unknown

.ふしぎ也生れた家でけさの春
fushigi nari umareta ie de kesa no haru

amazing--
in the house I was born
spring's first morning

Since the haiku is undated, we have no way of knowing exactly how long Issa had been absent from his home in Kashiwabara village when he wrote this. Shinji Ogawa notes that he had been away for so long, he must have had many things on his mind, myriad thoughts and memories whirling within--summed up cryptically by the single word, "amazing" (fushigi). In 1816 he writes a similar haiku:

fushigi nari umareta ie de kyô no tsuki

amazing--
in the house I was born
seeing this moon

year unknown

.ふしぎ也生れた家でけふの春
fushigi nari umareta ie de kyô no haru

amazing--
in the house I was born
spring begins today

The haiku has the prescript, "After fifty years' absence, returning to my native village."

year unknown

.塵の身も拾ふ神あり花の春
chiri no mi mo hirou kami ari hana no haru

even for this body of dust
a guardian god!
blossoming spring

Shinji Ogawa explains that the phrase hirou kami ("the god who picks you up") is part of a longer expression: suteru kami areba hirou kami ari ("If a god discards you, there must be another god who may pick you up"). This is a rewrite of a haiku of 1816:

konna mi mo hirou kami arite hana [no] haru

even for me
there's a guardian god!
blossoming spring

The revised haiku has the standard seven sound units in the middle phrase, not the eight of hirou kami arite.

In yet another revision, Issa begins with chiri no mi wo ("even for this body of dust").

year unknown

.とてもならみろくの御代を松の春
totemo nara miroku no miyo wo matsu no haru

now begins
the Future Buddha's reign...
spring pines

According to the Shingon sect, Miroku Bodhisattva will become a Buddha far in the future, to save all beings who cannot achieve enlightenment.

year unknown

.庵の春寝そべる程は霞なり
io no haru nesoberu hodo wa kasumu nari

spring at my hut--
tall as a sleeping man
the mist

Shinji Ogawa explains that the phrase, nesoberu hodo wa, means "as much as a lying down person." He paraphrases the haiku: "New spring at my hut...here the mist trails just as low as a lying down person."

year unknown

.初春や千代のためしに立給ふ
hatsu haru ya chiyo no tameshi ni tatsu tamau

spring begins
as it has deigned to do
for a thousand ages

This haiku has the prescript, "In a picture of Mount Fuji." Did Issa include this poem in a haiga (haiku painting)?

year unknown

.我国はけぶりも千代のためし哉
waga kuni wa keburi mo chiyo no tameshi kana

my province--
even the smoke
an ancient thing

Shinji Ogawa explains that chiyo no tameshi can be translated as "old precedent." He believes that this haiku alludes to an incident described in the Kojiki, a Japanese history compiled in 712: "One day the Emperor Nintoku of the fifth century looked down upon the country from a high mountain. As he did not see much smoke, he released the people from the tax for three years. As a result, the court decayed but the country was filled with smoke. Of course, the smoke was cooking smoke."

year unknown

.はる立や門の雀もまめなかほ
haru tatsu ya kado no suzume mo mamena kao

spring begins--
sparrows at my gate
with healthy faces

Originally, I translated the last phrase, "little faces," since Issa writes, literally, "bean-sized faces" (mamena kao). Shinji Ogawa informed me that mame signifies "healthy" when it is used as an adjective. He adds that "bean-sized face is, however, not totally impossible but less likely."

year unknown

.神とおもふかたより三輪の日の出哉
kami to omou kata yori miwa no hi no de kana

from where the gods live
Miwa's
sunrise

Shinji Ogawa notes that miwa ("great god") can refer to Miwa Shrine or Mount Miwa. He paraphrases: "in the direction of the godly place ... Miwa's sunrise." Issa is referring to the first sunrise of the new year.

year unknown

.よその蔵からすじかひに初日哉
yoso no kura kara sujikai ni hatsu hi kana

from a neighbor's storehouse
shining slantwise...
year's first sun

This haiku has the prescript, "First Day." It is similar to one written in 1819:

dozô kara sujikai ni sasu hatsu hi kana

from the storehouse
shining slantwise...
year's first sun

Shinji Ogawa writes, "I infer that Issa痴 house opened only toward the west; the other half was shared by his half brother, so that all Issa could see was the first sunlight reflected by the storehouse's wall."

year unknown

.初空のもやうに立や茶の煙
hatsu-zora no moyô ni tatsu ya cha no keburi

rising into
the year's first sky...
tea smoke


year unknown

.雨のない日が初空ぞ翌も旅
ame no nai hi ga hatsu-zora zo asu mo tabi

if it's not raining
it's the year's first sky!
tomorrow too, travel

This haiku has the prescript, "On a journey." Shinji Ogawa paraphrases: "No matter what the date is, it's the first sky of the year to me, if it is not raining. Tomorrow I'll be still on a journey."

year unknown

.はつ空を拵へる也茶のけぶり
hatsuzora wo koshiraeru nari cha no keburi

forming the year's
first sky...
tea smoke

Issa says that the smoke forms or creates the sky, an extremely creative statement. Perhaps he feels that the sky isn't complete without smoke rising languidly into it.

year unknown

.御降りをたんといただく屑屋哉
o-sagari wo tan to itadaku kuzuya kana

welcoming in loads
of new year's rain...
trashy house

A comic haiku about a leaking roof. Tan to is an old expression that means takusan ("a lot"); Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1036.

year unknown

.大原や恵方に出し杖の穴
ôhara ya ehô ni ideshi tsue no ana

big field--
my New Year's walk
follows holes made by canes

This haiku refers to the New Year's custom of visiting a shrine or temple located in a lucky direction. Issa wrote two other versions of this haiku, both dated 1818. In one, he begins with oku saga ya ("deep in Saga"); in the other, he begins with hata heri ya ("edge of a field").

year unknown

.とし神やことしも御世話下さるる
toshi-gami ya kotoshi mo o-sewa kudasaruru

O New Year's god
this year too
send help!


year unknown

.梅の花まけにこぼすや畚下し
ume no hana mage ni kobosu ya fugo oroshi

plum blossoms fall
in the hairdo...
lowering the basket

This haiku refers to a custom at a certain Buddhist temple in Kyoto. On the first Day of the Tiger of each year, pilgrims could purchase the temple's famous flint stones by lowering a basket with their money into a hole. Unseen monks below would then exchange the stones for the money.

Shinji Ogawa notes that the hiragana symbols make should be pronounced mage: an old-fashioned Japanese hairstyle. The blossoms are falling onto someone's hair.

year unknown

.三日月や畚引上る木末から
mikazuki ya fugo hiki-ageru kozue kara

sickle moon--
hauling up the basket
through branches

This haiku refers to a custom at a certain Buddhist temple in Kyoto. On the first Day of the Tiger of each year, pilgrims could purchase the temple's famous flint stones by lowering a basket with their money into a hole. Unseen monks below would then exchange the stones for the money.

The moon is a "three-day moon"...just a sliver.

year unknown

.斎日やぞめき出されて上野迄
sainichi ya zomeki desarete ueno made

a fast day--
drawn by the uproar
to Ueno

Though it is a religious day of fasting (sainichi) in the New Year's season, there are noisy, boisterous blossom-viewing parties at Ueno. Shinji Ogawa notes that this haiku can be read two ways: "Even though it is a fast day, the uproar of blossom-viewing parties drew me to Ueno," or '"Even though it is a fast day, my jovial friends drew me to Ueno."

year unknown

.やぶ入やきのふ過たる山祭り
yabuiri ya kinou sugitaru yama matsuri

servant on holiday--
the mountain festival
ended yesterday

After New Year's (First Month, 16th Day), servants in the cities were given time off to return to their native villages and families. The dances in question are sacred Shinto dances (kagura). The servant in this haiku arrives home a day late. An earlier version of this haiku, dated 1804, ends with the phrase, yama kagura ("Shinto dances on the mountain").

year unknown

.やぶ入の顔にもつけよ桃の花
yabuiri no kao ni mo tsuke yo momo no hana

on the homecoming servant's
face too...
peach blossoms

In an earlier version of this haiku, dated 1808, Issa ends with ume no hana ("plum blossoms"). After New Year's (First Month, 16th Day), servants in the cities were given time off to return to their native villages and families.

year unknown

.薮入りや二人並んで思案橋
yabuiri ya futari narande shian-bashi

Servants' Holiday--
two in a row
on Meditation Bridge

After New Year's (First Month, 16th Day), servants in the cities were given time off to return to their native villages and families. Shian-bashi, literally translated, is "Meditation Bridge."

This haiku is similar to one written in 1817:

yabuiri ga kanara[zu] tatsu ya shian-bashi

the Servants' Holiday
in full swing!
Meditation Bridge

A note on yabuiri: Japanese is highly metaphorical, very flexible. Literally, yabu-iri means "going into the thicket," but "thicket" is a metaphor for leaving the big city, going into the "sticks"--the remote home village somewhere in the trees. In some of Issa's haiku another layer of metaphor is added: the Servant's Holiday stands for a particular servant on holiday: a "homecoming servant."

year unknown

.小松引人とて人をながむかな
ko matsu hiku hito tote hito wo nagamu kana

yanking up a little pine
he watches
the watchers

Pulling up a young pine tree on the first day of the Year of the Rat is a custom that originated in China. Shinji Ogawa explains that its purpose was to bring good luck or longevity. This is similar to a haiku of 1821 that ends with the phrase, ogamu nari ("he says a prayer"). Shinji notes that the humor of this haiku lies in the fact that people want to watch the ceremonial pine pulling, but at the same time the pine puller wants to watch the people ... watching him.

year unknown

.袴着て芝にころりと子の日哉
hakama kite shiba ni gorori to ne no hi kana

in formal trousers
curled asleep on the lawn...
first day of Rat

Pulling up a young pine tree on the first day of the Year of the Rat is a custom that originated in China. Shinji Ogawa explains that its purpose was to bring good luck or longevity. Here, someone sleeps through the celebration. Gabi Greve notes that "Hakama is an outer garment worn over the kimono that is either split between the legs like pants or non-split like a skirt. Hakama pants originated as an outer garment to protect samurai warriors' legs from brush when riding a horse. Today, the hakama is worn as formal attire for ceremonies, traditional Japanese dance, artists and martial arts."

year unknown

.かま獅子があごではらひぬ門の松
kamashishi ga ago de harainu kado no matsu

pruned by the antelope's
jaws...
New Year's pine

This haiku refers to the New Year's pine-and-bamboo decoration. The animal in question is a Japanese serow, a goatlike antelope that lives deep in the mountains.

The verb harau is being used in its sense of "to prune" as in eda wo harau ("prune a branch"). The -inu ending forms the perfect tense ("has pruned").

year unknown

.ひよいひよいと藪にかけるや余り注連
hiyo[i] hiyo[i] to yabu ni kakeru ya amari shime

here and there
hanging in the thicket...
New Year's ropes

This haiku is similar to one written in 1819 that begins, "two or three/ hang in the thicket... (futa[tsu] mi[tsu] yabu ni kakeru ya). Shime refers to ceremonial ropes with tufts of straw. Here

year unknown

.外ならば梅がとび込福茶哉
soto naraba ume ga tobikomu fukucha kana

going outside
plum blossoms dive in...
my lucky tea

Issa is drinking fukucha: "lucky tea" of the new year.

year unknown

.影法師もまめ息災で御慶かな
kageboshi mo mame sokusai de gyokei kana

my shadow too
in good health...
"Happy New Year!"

This haiku has the prescript, "Traveling alone." Shinji Ogawa notes that mame signifies "healthy" when used as an adjective. For this reason, I translate mame sokusai as "in good health." In an earlier version, I had it "fit and trim," but Issa doesn't appear "trim" in his portraits. Sokusai is a word with special resonance for Buddhists, signifying a sense of tranquility in the knowledge that the merits of Buddhism can overcome the misfortunes of this world; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 927.

In modern Japanese the "o" in kagebôshi is lengthened to two on ("sound units"); Issa writes it with just one.

Issa ends an 1817 version of this haiku with the phrase, "dawn of spring" (kesa no haru).

year unknown

.つぶれ家の其身其まま御慶哉
tsubure ya no sono mi sono mama gyokei kana

my ramshackle hut
just as it is...
"Happy New Year!"

The "my" doesn't appear in the original, but the dilapidated structure is certainly Issa's--based on countless similar allusions to the poet's home. The "just-as-it-is" state of the house reflects the poet's Jôdoshinshû Buddhism. The sect founder of Jôdoshinshû, Shinran, advocated a similar attitude concerning one's salvation and future rebirth in the Pure Land.

year unknown

.いく廻り目だぞとし玉扇又もどる
iku meguri me da zo toshidama ôgi mata modoru

how many times
a New Year's gift?
the fan returns

This undated haiku is similar to one written in 1824:

meguri-meguri to toru toshidama ôgi kana

making the rounds
as a New Year's gift...
paper fan

year unknown

.草の戸やけさのとし玉とりに来る
kusa no to ya kesa no toshidama tori ni kuru

my humble hut--
all morning they come
for New Year's gifts

This undated haiku is a revision of one written in 1814:

waga io ya kesa no toshidama tori ni kuru

my hut--
all morning they come by
for New Year's gifts

Shinji Ogawa has pointed out to me that kusa no to is not to be read literally as "grass door," but figuratively as "my hut."

year unknown

.とし玉茶どこを廻つて又もどる
toshidama cha doko wo megutte mata modoru

New Year's gift of tea--
where did you go
on your journey back to me?

Normally, I avoid rhyme in haiku, but the rhyme in this translation "just happened," so I've left it in. A haiku about regifting.

year unknown

.わんぱくや先試みに筆はじめ
wanpaku ya mazu kokoromi ni fude hajime

the naughty child
attempts first...
year's first writing

Shinji Ogawa notes, "It is a Japanese custom to write with a writing brush on the second day of the year."

year unknown

.子宝や棒をひくのも吉書始
ko-dakara ya bô wo hiku no mo kissho hajime

treasured child--
his cane dragging
the year's first writing

This haiku refers to the year's first calligraphy. But instead of using a brush, the child draws a character on a larger scale--most likely in snow. Shinji Ogawa, who helped with this translation, notes, "It is a Japanese custom to write with a writing brush on the second day of the year."

year unknown

.人の世は此山陰も若湯哉
hito no yo wa kono yama kage mo waka yu kana

world of man--
even in mountain shade
New Year's water

This haiku refers to the first water boiled on New Year's Day (waka yu). Issa honors this ritual even on his secluded mountain.

year unknown

.浴みして旅のしらみを罪始め
yuami shite tabi no shirami wo tsumi hajime

first hot bath--
for my journey's lice
first sin

Shinji Ogawa explains that Issa is punning in this haiku. The final phrase, tsumi hajime not only denotes "first sin" but suggests that the poet is "pinching" the lice, after his bath. He believes that this is a "very poor quality" haiku that is a throwback to the pre-Bashô period in which haiku were merely "funny and vulgar" toys of the noble and samurai classes. I prefer to view this haiku in the context of Jôdoshinshû Buddhism. According to Shinran, the founder of this most popular of Japanese sects to which Issa belonged, sin (including louse murder) is inevitable in this fallen world and age.

year unknown

.若水やそうとつき込む梅の花
wakamizu ya souto tsukiko[mu] ume no hana

into the year's first
water softly...
plum blossoms


year unknown

.鳴く猫に赤ン目をして手まり哉
naku neko ni akambe wo shite temari kana

making a face
at the whining cat...
bouncing her ball

Or: "bouncing his ball."

Playing with a ball (temari) is an activity associated with the New Year's season. Akambe (or akanbe or akanbee), which literally means to turn one's eyelids inside out. It denotes making a face at someone: sticking out one's tongue.

year unknown

.切凧のくるくる舞やお茶の水
kire tako no kuru-kuru mau ya ocha no mizu

broken kite dancing
'round and 'round...
Ocha-no-Mizu

Ocha-no-mizu, a section of Edo (today's Tokyo) literally means, "tea water." Shinji Ogawa alerted me to the fact that the kite is dancing over this place, not "into the tea water"!

year unknown

.凧抱て直ぐにすやすや寝る子哉
tako daite sugu ni suya-suya neru ko kana

hugging his kite
soon he's sound asleep...
the child

Flying kites is a New Year's activity for boys; this particular one has spent all of his energy in the excitement of the day, and now sleeps, hugging his beloved kite. The haiku paints a picture of pure, trusting love--the love of a child for a toy. The image has much to teach adult readers, if they open themselves to it.

year unknown

.門獅子やししが口から梅の花
kado shishi ya shishi ga kuchi kara ume no hana

lion puppet at the gate--
from his mouth
plum blossoms

A lion puppet play (shishimai) is a popular New Year's entertainment.

year unknown

.かたむべき歯は一本もなかりけり
katamubeki ha wa ippon mo nakari keri

teeth to harden
this New Year's meal...
not even one


year unknown

.歯固は猫に勝れて笑ひけり
hagatame wa neko ni katarete warai keri

New Year's tooth-hardening
meal...the cat wins
and laughs

This haiku refers to a special tooth-hardening meal eaten in the New Year's season. The cat, with better and harder teeth, seems to be laughing at poor Issa.

year unknown

.長閑さや垣間を覗く山の僧
nodokasa ya kakima wo nozoku yama no sô

spring peace--
a mountain monk peeks
through a fence

Kaki can be translated as "fence" or "hedge." Shinji Ogawa feels that this is a humorous reference to a scene from The Tale of Genji (Chapter 5), wherein Prince Genji peers through a wattle fence and catches sight of ten-year old Murasaki. Shinji notes, "In spring, even a mountain monk becomes a Peeping Tom." Issa plays with this same image in another comic haiku, but in this case a cat takes the place of the famous prince; search the archive for "Genji."

year unknown

.草麦のひよろひよろのびる日ざし哉
kusa mugi hyoro-hyoro nobiru hizashi kana

the grass and wheat
tottering...
sunlight stretches on

It's a long day of springtime. Mugi is a generic term that refers to several grains: wheat, barley, oats, and rye.

year unknown

.舞々や翌なき春を笑ひ顔
mai-mai ya asu naki haru wo warai kao

water spider
on spring's last day...
laughing face

Shinji Ogawa helped with this translation. The mai-mai is also called a "water spinner."

year unknown

.行春や我を見たをす古着買
yuku haru ya ware wo mitaosu furugigai

spring departs--
the old clothes buyer
ignores me

Jean Cholley identifies this as a haiku written in the period 1798-1800; En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 41. In Issa zenshû it is simply listed as an undated poem (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 1.64.

In this self-ironic portrait Issa suggests that he is so ragtag and beggarly-looking, the used clothes merchant looks past him, confident that he has nothing worth buying.

Originally, I translated furugigai as "old clothes seller," but Sakuo Nakamura suggests that "buyer" fits better here: he or she looks with disdain at Issa in his poor-looking clothes.

year unknown

.淡雪や犬の土ほる通のはた
awayuki ya inu no tsuchi horu michi no hata

light snow--
a dog digs a hole
by the road


year unknown

.小烏や巧者にすべる春の雨
ko-garasu ya kôsha ni suberu haru no ame

the little crow
slips so cleverly...
spring rain

This is a rewrite of an 1812 haiku; in the original the crow was a "field crow" (no-garasu).

year unknown

.安堵して鼠も寝るよ春の雨
ando shite nezumi mo neru yo haru no ame

taking it easy
the mouse sleeps too...
spring rain


year unknown

.たびら雪半分交ぜや春の雨
tabira yuki hambun maze ya haru no ame

half of it
is flitting snowflakes...
spring rain

Tabira yuki is an old expression that connotes a light, flitting snow; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1019. Winter was long in Issa's snowy, mountainous province.

year unknown

.入道が綻ぬふや春の雨
nyûdô ga hokorobi nuu ya haru no ame

the priest is mending
a rip...
spring rain


year unknown

.春雨や相に相生の松の声
harusame ya ai ni aioi no matsu no koe

spring rain--
growing side by side
whispering pines

This haiku has the prescript: "Congratulations on a new marriage." The "pines' voices" (matsu no koe) refer to the sighing of wind through their branches. Shinji Ogawa notes that aioi means "growing up together" and "growing old together," and so this word is often used in wedding speeches.

year unknown

.春雨や夜も愛するまつち山
harusame ya yoru mo ai [su]ru matchi yama

spring rain--
at night, too, making love
on Mount Matchi

Shinji Ogawa notes that there is a mountain called Matchi, but "Mount Matchi" (matchi yama) is also a pillow word (conventional poetic expression) for "waiting." He believes that there are many love poems associated with Mount Matchi.

year unknown

.夜談義やばくちくづれや春の雨
yo dangi ya bakuchi kuzure ya haru no ame

night sermon
backsliding gamblers...
spring rain

This is a rewrite of an earlier haiku of 1818: "spring rain--/ backsliding gamblers/ and a night sermon." Here, Issa reverses the order of images.

year unknown

.ぼた餅や辻の仏も春の風
botamochi ya tsuji no hotoke mo haru no kaze

rice cake with bean paste
for the crossroads Buddha...
spring breeze

In its original form (1814), this haiku focuses on Jizô, the guardian deity of children. In another version (1819) it focuses on a "Buddha of the thicket" (yabu no hotoke).

year unknown

.春風や供の女の小脇差
harukaze ya tomo no onna no ko wakizashi

spring breeze--
a female servant's
short sword

Shinji Ogawa assisted with this translation. In his original verison of this haiku (1819), Issa pictures "a little servant girl" (tomo no musume).

year unknown

.鬼の面狐の面や春の風
oni no men kitsune no men ya haru no kaze

faces of devils
faces of foxes...
spring breeze

Or: "a devil's face/ a fox's face..."

Shinji Ogawa explains that men in this context means a mask used in a spring celebration.

year unknown

.笠うらの大神宮や春の風
kasa ura no daijingû ya haru no kaze

inside my umbrella-hat
a charm from Ise Shrine...
spring breeze

Issa is referring to the great Shinto shrine at Ise.

Shinji Ogawa helped me to understand Issa's meaning. Literally, the poet has Ise Shrine under his umbrella-hat; actually, this is a lucky charm which he purchased at Ise Shrine.

year unknown

.春風に吹れた形や女坂
haru kaze ni fukarete nari ya onnazaka

the spring breeze pushes
somebody
down the slope

Onnazaka is a gentle slope.

year unknown

.春風に吹れ序の湯治哉
haru kaze ni fukare tsuide no toji kana

while the spring breeze blows
a healing
bath


year unknown

.春風や芦の丸屋の一つ口
harukaze ya ashi no maruya no hitotsu-guchi

spring breeze--
the round reed hut's
one door


year unknown

.春風や歩行ながらの御法談
haru kaze ya aruki nagara no ôhôdan

spring breeze--
the priest gives his sermon
walking along


year unknown

.一つ葉の中より吹や春の風
hitotsuba no naka yori fuku ya haru no kaze

out of the dyer's-weed
it blows...
spring breeze

Shinji Ogawa notes that hitotsuba is the name of a weed: "a dyer's-weed."

year unknown

.おぼろ月松出ぬけても出ぬけても
oboro-zuki matsu denukete mo denukete mo

hazy moon in the pine--
passing through
passing through

As it rises in the sky, the moon passes through the branches of the pine. The season word in this haiku, oboro, refers to spring haze.

Sakuo Nakamura pictures the setting in high country, where Issa lived. There, "the hazy moon is rising up at our eye level; the tree is slender, and the moon can be seen through the young leaves."

year unknown

.福狐啼たまふぞよおぼろ月
fuku kitsune naki tamau zo yo oboro-zuki

a lucky fox
deigns to bark...
hazy moon

The season word in this haiku, oboro, refers to spring haze. In Japanese folklore the fox is a powerful spirit.

year unknown

.ほくほくと霞んで来るはどなた哉
hoku-hoku to kasunde kuru wa donata kana

rap-a-tap
who's that coming
in the mist?

Issa hears the clacking of someone's walking stick.

year unknown

.けふもけふもかすんで暮らす小家哉
kyô mo kyô mo kasunde kurasu ko ie kana

today too, today too
living in mist...
little house

A wonderful portrait of the poet's life and, by extention, the life of all human beings.

year unknown

.かすむ日に古くもならぬ卒塔婆哉
kasumu hi ni furuku mo naranu sotoba kana

in the misty day
not growing older...
grave tablets

There are two definitions for sotoba: (1) a Buddhist shrine constructed to contain Buddha's ashes, used in memorial services for the dead; (2) a wooden grave tablet; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 946. Sakuo Nakamura and Gabi Greve believe that Issa has the second meaning in mind when he uses this term.

year unknown

.霞とや朝からさはぐ馬鹿烏
kasumu to ya asa kara sawagu baka karasu

in spring mist
from morning on a ruckus...
foolish crow

Or: "foolish crows."

year unknown

.かすむ日や大旅籠屋のうらの松
kasumu hi ya ôhatagoya no ura no matsu

misty day--
behind the big inn
a pine


year unknown

.さらばさらばの手にかかる霞かな
saraba saraba no te ni kakaru kasumu kana

farewell! farewell!
hands waving
in the mist

This undated haiku is similar to one written in 1817:

kasa de suru saraba saraba ya usu-gasumi

waving umbrella-hats
farewell! farewell!
thin mist

In both poems, Issa paints a picture of people bidding each other farewell in spring mist. Because of the mist, their hand gestures and their bowing heads are hard to see. As one walks away from the other, his shape soon is swallowed by the mist, and is seen no more. In both of these haiku, Issa captures the delicate emotion that the Japanese called sabi, a sort of existential loneliness that the great poet Bashô valued highly.

year unknown

.たつぷりと霞と隠れぬ卒塔婆哉
tappuri to kasumu to kakurenu sotoba kana

well hidden
by the spring mist...
grave tablet

There are two definitions for sotoba: (1) a Buddhist shrine constructed to contain Buddha's ashes, used in memorial services for the dead; (2) a wooden grave tablet; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 946. Sakuo Nakamura and Gabi Greve believe that Issa has the second meaning in mind when he uses this term. In my first translation, I read the nu in kakurenu as a negative: "not quite hidden." Shinji Ogawa tells me, in this case, nu makes the perfect tense: "hidden."

year unknown

.湖のとろりとかすむ夜也けり
mizuumi no torori to kasumu yo nari keri

the lake is slowly
lost in mist...
evening falls


year unknown

.陽炎や子をかくされし親の顔
kagerô ya ko wo kakusareshi oya no kao

heat shimmers--
missing a child
the parent's face

In an earlier haiku (1803) the subject is a mother bird:

kagerô ya ko wo nakusareshi tori no kao

heat shimmers--
having lost a child
the bird's face

"Heat shimmers" are the wavy bends in the air that one sometimes sees in the distance on a warm day--a phenomenon associated with springtime in Japan.

year unknown

.陽炎や犬に追るるのら鼠
kagerô ya inu ni owaruru nora nezumi

heat shimmers--
a field mouse chased
by the dog

"Heat shimmers" are the wavy bends in the air that one sometimes sees in the distance on a warm day--a phenomenon associated with springtime in Japan.

year unknown

.陽炎や草の上行くぬれ鼠
kagerô ya kusa no ue yuku nure nezumi

heat shimmers--
to the top of the weed
a wet mouse

Or: "to the top of the blade of grass." Kusa can signify "grass" or "weed." In this case, it must be a stout plant (stout enough for a mouse to climb it), certainly not the type of grass that grows in most suburban lawns.

year unknown

.我雪も連て流れよ千曲川
waga yuki mo tsurete nagare yo chikuma kawa

float away
my snow too...
Chikuma River

Shinji Ogawa offers this wonderful translation:

Take my snow too
into your flow...
Chikuma River

year unknown

.門前や杖でつくりし雪げ川
monzen ya tsue de tsukurishi yukigegawa

before the gate--
my cane makes a river
of melting snow


year unknown

.大雪を杓子でとかす子ども哉
ôyuki wo shakushi de tokasu kodomo kana

melting the big snow
with a spoon...
a child

A shakushi is a sort of serving spoon or ladle for rice or soup; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 822.

year unknown

.親犬が瀬踏してけり雪げ川
oya inu ga sebumi shite keri yukigegawa

mother dog
testing the depth...
snow-melt river


year unknown

.門畑や米の字なりの雪解水
kado hata ya kome no ji nari no yukige mizu

garden at the gate--
forming the word "rice"
the melted snow


year unknown

.門畠や棒でほじくる雪解川
kado hata ya bô de hojikuru yukigegawa

garden at the gate--
with my cane digging
a snow-melt river


year unknown

.我門のかざりに青む苗代田
waga kado no kazari ni ao[mu] nawashiroda

my gate's adornment--
the rice seedlings
turning green


year unknown

.御彼岸のぎりに青みしかきね哉
o-higan no giri ni aomishi kakine kana

in honor of the equinox
the hedge
turns green

Issa is referring to the spring equinox. Kakine can be translated as "fence" or "hedge." In this haiku, it is definitely a hedge.

year unknown

.袖あたり遊ぶ虱の彼岸哉
sode atari asobu shirami no higan kana

heading for my sleeve
to play...
spring equinox louse


year unknown

.出代や六十顔をさげながら
degawari ya roku jû-zura wo sage nagara

a migrating servant
laid off...
his sixty year-old face

In springtime, old servants were replaced by young ones. The old ones would leave their employers to return to their home villages; the young ones traveled in the opposite direction. In earlier times this took place during the Second Month; later, the Third Month. The old servant, with his sixty-year old face, finally returns to his home village after many, many years. Shinji Ogawa assisted with this translation.

year unknown

.青の葉は汐干なぐれの烏哉
ao no ha wa shiohi nagure no karasu kana

some stay behind
in the green leaves...
low tide crows

Nagure is the same as nagori ("vestiges," "remains"); see Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1213. The crows at low tide are doing the same thing as their human counterparts: looking for shellfish. A few linger behind in trees and field.

year unknown

.鶴亀の遊ぶ程ずつやくの哉
tsuru kame no asobu hodo-zutsu yaku no kana

the crane and the tortoise's
playground...
burnt field

In an earlier version of this haiku, the burnt field was the playground of "children" (kodomora). The crane and tortoise, emblems of longevity, contrast pointedly with the transience of the field's grass that has gone up in smoke.

year unknown

.風雲ややけ野の火より日の暮るる
kazagumo ya yakeno no hi yori hi no kururu

windblown clouds--
the fires of burning fields
bring sunset


year unknown

.松苗の花咲くころは誰かある
matsu nae no hana saku koro wa dare ka aru

when this pine sapling
grows to flower...
who'll be here?

While Issa plants the pine, he wonders who will stand under its shade, one day, when it reaches maturity.

year unknown

.恋猫のぬからぬ顔でもどりけり
koi neko no nukaranu kao de modori keri

the lover cat
his face so innocent
comes home

This haiku was written in 1824-25. It is a rewrite of a haiku of 1822, in which the cat returns from his amorous adventures with an "I'm not talking face" (nakanu kao shite).

year unknown

.恋猫や口なめづりをしてもどる
koi neko ya kuchi namezuri wo shite modoru

the lover cat
licking his chops
comes home

In a similar haiku of 1824 the cat licks his chops while "escaping" (nigeru). In that poem, it would seem that the food that makes him lick his lips has been stolen. Or has the cat in this haiku found another person willing to feed him?

year unknown

.髭前に飯そよぐ也猫の恋
hige saki ni meshi soyogu nari neko no koi

on his whisker tips
rice grains tremble...
the lover cat


year unknown

.ちる桜鹿はぽつきり角もげる
chiru sakura shika wa pokkiri tsuno mogeru

cherry blossoms scatter--
snap! the buck's antlers
come off

Robin D. Gill points out that pokkiri in the Edo era connoted "the sound made when a hard thing breaks."

year unknown

.雀子や人が立ても口を明く
suzumego ya hito ga tatte mo kuchi wo aku

baby sparrow--
even when people come
opening his mouth

This undated haiku is a revision of one written in 1807. The original version starts with the phrase, "nestling" (su no tori ya).

year unknown

.鳥の巣も鬼門に立つや日枝の山
tori no su mo kimon ni tatsu ya hie no yama

the bird's nest, too
in the unlucky direction...
Mount Hie

In an earlier version of this haiku (1821), Issa begins with "the black kite" (tobi). The "unlucky direction" (kimon) is the northeast.

year unknown

.雀子が中で鳴く也米瓢
suzumego ga naka de naku nari kome fukube

the baby sparrow
chirps inside it...
rice gourd

A rice gourd, according to Shinji Ogawa, can be the size of a basketball. In a haiku written in 1816 Issa has a bat chirping in the gourd.

Note the alliteration of the middle phrase, "naka de naku nari."

year unknown

.鶯の苦にもせぬ也茶のけぶり
uguisu no ku ni mo senu nari cha no keburi

the nightingale
not at all concerned...
tea smoke


year unknown

.鶯の苦にもせぬ也辻ばくち
uguisu no ku ni mo senu nari tsuji bakuchi

the nightingale
not at all concerned...
gambling at the crossroads

This haiku is a rewrite of one that Issa composed in 1813. He ends the original version with "little gambling shack" (bakuchi goya).

year unknown

.鶯のぬからぬ顔や東山
uguisu no nukaranu kao ya higashi yama

the nightingale's
"I'm perfect" face...
Higashi Mountains

The verb nukaru in Issa's time meant to commit a careless blunder; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1270. Issa uses its negative form (nukuranu) to modify the bird's face: the nightingale has an expression that is "not blundering."

According to Sakuo Nakamura, Higashiyama ("Eastern Mountains") is the collective name for a number of mountains located between Kyoto and Lake Biwa: a total of 36 peaks, one of which is the temple mountain, Hieizan.

year unknown

.鶯や尿しながらもほつけ経
uguisu ya shito shi nagara mo hokkekyô

nightingale--
even while pooping, sings
Lotus Sutra

The Lotus Sutra is one of Mahayana Buddhism's most popular texts. Issa imagines that the bird is chirping passages of it, intimating that birdsong, to Issa, is natural prayer.

This is an undated revision of a haiku written in 1816. In the original poem, the bird poops.

year unknown

.鶯も上鶯の垣根かな
uguisu mo jô uguisu no kakine kana

even among nightingales
royalty
on the fence

In an earlier version of this haiku, written in 1819, Issa ends with inaka kana: "the countryside." In other words, some nightingales are bumpkins.

year unknown

.鶯のまてにまはるや組屋敷
uguisu no mate ni mawaru ya kumiyashiki

the dragnet of nightingales
closes in...
police station

Usually pronounced made, mate signifies "both hands"; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1527.

According to Shinji Ogawa, there is an old Japanese phrase, te ga mawaru ("hands are circulated" or "hands are in circulation"). This means that a thief is being pursued; that police are "closing in." In this haiku, nightingales substitute for the police. Ironically, they "besiege the police quarter."

year unknown

.鶯の幾世顔也おく信濃
uguisu no ikuyo kao nari oku shinano

many generations
had your face, nightingale...
deep Shinano

Shinano, present-day Nagano Prefecture, was Issa's home province.

year unknown

.鶯のはねかへさるるつるべ哉
uguisu no hanekaesaruru tsurube kana

the nightingale
is bouncing about...
well bucket

I picture a nightingale landing on a hanging bucket that starts rocking wildly up and down: an ephemeral moment captured in haiku.

year unknown

.鶯も水を浴せてみそぎ哉
uguisu mo mizu wo abisete misogi kana

the nightingale
splashes too...
purification font

The bird bathes in the font that holds water for hand-washing purification at a shrine

year unknown

.鶯や隅からすみへ目を配り
uguisu ya sumi kara sumi e me wo kubari

nightingale--
from one corner to another
his searching eyes


year unknown

.夕雲雀どの松島が寝よいぞよ
yû hibari dono matsushima ga ne yoi zo yo

evening lark--
which pine island's
good for sleeping?

This is a revision of an 1803 haiku in which Issa asks the lark, "which pine island's/ your sleeping place?" (dono matsushima ga ne-dokoro). Issa is referring to Matsushima, the famous sightseeing resort consisting of many tiny pine islands. While the Japanese reader will instantly get a mental picture from the proper name, Matsushima, the English reader may or may not. For this reason I have translated the name literally as "pine island."

year unknown

.野大根も花となりにけり鳴雲雀
no daiko mo hana to nari keri naku hibari

even the field's
radishes blooming...
the lark singing!

Originally, I had the radishes "becoming flowers," but Shinji Ogawa points out that radishes, being roots, do not themselves bloom.

year unknown

.漣や雲雀に交る釣小舟
sazanami ya hibari ni majiru tsuri kobune

ripples on water--
mingling with the larks
a fishing boat

Shinji Ogawa helped with this translation.

year unknown

.湖におちぬ自慢やなくひばり
mizuumi ni ochinu jiman ya naku hibari

"I won't fall
in the lake!"
the lark sings

This haiku is a rewrite. In the original poem (1822), Issa ends with "evening lark" (yû hibari).

year unknown

.臼からも松の木からも雲雀哉
usu kara mo matsu no ki kara mo hibari kana

from the rice cake tub
from the pine...
skylarks

There are two types of usu or mill: (1) shiki usu (grinding hand-mill) and (2) a large wooden tub used for rice or herb cake making. The cake maker pounds the ingredients with a wooden mallet. The second definition fits here.

year unknown

.墓からも花桶からも雲雀哉
haka kara mo hana oke kara mo hibari kana

from the grave
and from the flowerpot...
skylarks!


year unknown

.おれを見るや雉伸上り伸上り
ore [wo] miru ya kiji nobi-agari nobi-agari

looking at me
the pheasant on tiptoe
on tiptoe

Though nobi-agari literally means "on tiptoe," a secondary meaning is "arrogantly." The pheasant seems to be looking at the poet with haughty disdain.

year unknown

.雉鳴くやころり焼野の千代の松
kiji naku ya korori yakeno no chiyo no matsu

a pheasant cries
in the burned field, look!
an ancient pine

Chiyo no matsu signifies "a thousand year-pine." Shinji Ogawa notes that korori can be translated as "suddenly" or "abruptly." I believe that Issa is modifying the pheasant's surprise as it suddenly seems to notice the old, lonely pine.

year unknown

.草原を覗れてなく雉子哉
kusabara wo nozokarete naku kigisu kana

peeking into
the grassy meadow...
a pheasant cries

Shinji Ogawa sees the pheasant's cry as its protest. Issa is saying, "How do you feel when strangers peep into your house?"

year unknown

.雨だれは月よなりけりかへる雁
amadare wa tsuki yo nari keri kaeru kari

the bright moon in raindrops
from the eaves...
the geese depart

An amadare is an eavesdrop, where water falls from a roof's overhang. This is a spring haiku; the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands).

year unknown

.連もたぬ雁もさつさと帰りけり
tsure motanu kari mo sassa to kaeri keri

a goose without companions
flying fast as he can
returns

In an earlier version of this haiku, composed in 1816, the lone goose is "plodding along" (tobo-tobo).

year unknown

.けふ迄のしんぼ強さよ帰る雁
kyô made no shimbo tsuyosa yo kaeru kari

up to today
such perserverance and strength!
returning geese

This haiku is a revision of one written in 1817, in which the geese (or goose) shows "great perserverance" (yô shinbo shita) and appears at Issa's gate. The poet admires the disciplined, hard-traveling geese.

year unknown

.けふ迄はよく辛抱した雁よ雁よ
kyô made wa yoku shimbo shita kari yo kari yo

up to today
such great perserverance...
wild geese! wild geese!

This haiku is a revision of one written in 1817, in which the geese (or goose) appears at Issa's gate. The poet admires the disciplined, hard-traveling geese.

year unknown

.雁鳴や今日本を放るると
kari naku ya ima nippon wo hanaruru to

geese honking--
now they leave behind
Japan

This haiku has the prescript, "Off to foreign shores."

year unknown

.みちのくの田植見てから帰る雁
michi no ku no taue mite kara kaeru kari

after seeing rice planting
in remote provinces...
the geese depart

This is a spring haiku; the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands).

year unknown

.行たいか雁伸上り伸上り
yukitai ka kari nobi-agari nobi-agari

thinking of taking off?
goose on tiptoe
on tiptoe


year unknown

.古池や先御先へととぶ蛙
furu ike ya mazu o-saki e to tobu kawazu

old pond--
please, you go first
frog jumping

This haiku has the prescript, "Looking at the ruins of Bashô's hut." The opening phrase, "old pond" (furu ike ya), is a playful reference to Bashô's famous haiku: furu ike ya kawazu tobikomu mizu no oto:

old pond--
the frog jumps in
with a splash

Shinji Ogawa adds, "I would like to point out the humor Issa put into the haiku. The old pond is not any pond but the pond of the great haiku master Bashô. Therefore, there must be the descendants of Bashô's frog [in the pond]. The ordinary frogs, perhaps Issa's, must pay respect to the frogs of high birth. When it comes to this type of humor, Issa towers above the rest."

year unknown

.今の間に一喧嘩して啼かはづ
ima no ma ni hito kenka shite naku kawazu

now they're quarreling
the croaking
frogs


year unknown

.薄緑やどさり居て鳴く蛙
usumidori ya dosari suwatte naku kawazu

pale green
sitting down with a thump...
croaking frog

Dossari (in this case shortened to dosari) can mean "thump"/"plop" or "a large quantity." The first definition applies here; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1169.

year unknown

.大榎小楯に取つて啼かはづ
ôenoki kotate ni totte naku kawazu

the big nettle tree
as his shield...
croaking frog

A kotate (also pronounced kodate) is a type of shield; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 622. Shinji Ogawa assisted with this translation.

year unknown

.御地蔵の膝にすわつてなく蛙
o-jizô no hiza ni suwatte naku kawazu

in holy Jizo's lap
squatting, croaking
frog

Jizô is the beloved guardian deity of children.

year unknown

.御社へじくなんで入るかはづ哉
o-yashiro e jikunande iru kawazu kana

taming the flesh
he enters a shrine...
frog

The frog appears (comically) as a flesh-taming arhat.

Shinji Ogawa glosses jikunande as an expression meaning "for self-discipline": ji = "self"; kunan = "hardship"; de = "ly" (in English to make the word adverbial). In an 1826 haiku Issa uses jikunande to describe a frog moving through a thorn bush.

year unknown

.けふ明し窓の月よやなく蛙
kyô akeshi mado no tsuki yo ya naku kawazu

in the open window
a bright moon
croaking frogs


year unknown

.供部屋にさはぎ勝なり蛙酒
tomobeya ni sawagi katsu nari kawazu sake

the uproar in the servants' room
beats the frogs...
drinking party

This undated haiku resembles one that Issa wrote in 1825:

tomobeya ga sawagi katsu nari nenshi sake

the uproar in the servants' room
wins out...
New Year's toasts

year unknown

.寝た牛の頭にすはるかはづかな
neta ushi no atama ni suwaru kawazu kana

squatting on the head
of a sleeping cow...
a frog


year unknown

.花桶に蝶も聞かよ一大事
hana oke ni chô mo kiku ka yo ichi daiji

on the flower pot
does the butterfly, too
hear Buddha's promise?

According to its prescript in the two diaries in which it appears, this haiku was inspired by a memorial service that Issa attended, suggesting a temple scene wherein the congregation is chanting the nembutsu--("namu amida butsu")--the Pure Land Buddhist prayer that celebrates Amida Buddha's vow to help sentient beings be reborn in the Western Paradise; Issa zenshû (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 2.467; 9.222.

year unknown

.一人茶や蝶は毎日来てくれる
hitori cha ya chô wa mainichi kite kureru

drinking tea alone--
every day the butterfly
stops by

This undated haiku is a rewrite of one that Issa composed in 1813. The original version begins with "weak tea" (cha no awa).

year unknown

.蝶とぶやしんらん松も知つた顔
chô tobu ya shinran matsu mo shitta kao

a butterfly flits--
even Shinran's pine
seems to know

This undated haiku is a slight rewrite of one that Issa composed in 1818:

chô yuku ya shinran matsu mo shitta kao

butterfly departs--
even Shinran's pine
seems to know

Shinran founded the Jôdoshinshû (True Teaching Pure Land) Buddhist sect to which Issa belonged.

year unknown

.木の陰やてふと宿るも他生の縁
ki no kage ya chô to yadoru mo tashô no en

sharing tree shade
with a butterfly...
friends in a previous life

This haiku has the prescript, "A little girl was serving as my guide on a mountain road, when a capricious rain suddenly fell." Issa presents a variant of this haiku in another text with a more explanatory prescript: "Being guided on a mountain road by a young girl named Butterfly, when a sudden rain came pattering down." In the moment of composition the "butterfly" was a little girl, not an insect. However, the haiku is just as tender if we imagine a real butterfly.

year unknown

.つぐら子の口ばたなめる小てふ哉
tsugura ko no kuchi-bata nameru ko chô kana

baby in a basket--
licking the edge of her mouth
little butterfly

Or: "his mouth."

A tsugura is a container of woven straw used to keep things warm. Here, it serves as a cradle; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1087.

year unknown

.田の人の内股くぐるこてふかな
ta no hito no uchimata kuguru ko chô kana

creeping through
the rice farmer's legs...
little butterfly

In a related haiku written in 1814, Issa sees "creeping through" the crotch of a plowman.

year unknown

.庭のてふ子が這へばとびはへばとぶ
niwa no chô ko ga haeba tobi haeba tobu

garden butterfly--
the child crawls, it flies
crawls, it flies...

Leslie Anderson writes, "The child symbolizes the human position, and the butterfly symbolizes transformation or improvement. Issa ingeniously relays that it is a natural instinct for human beings to desire or seek greater dreams. Perhaps, in the eyes of Issa, such dreams may have included rebirth. Although the butterfly (dreams) may seem beyond reach, the child (humans) does not crawl forever. Eventually, he/she begins to walk, then grow and, ultimately, he/she is able to touch the butterfly (his/her dreams)."

Keishondra Sampson adds, "Pure Land Buddhism teaches of reincarnation as everyone is moving toward becoming a Buddha and reaching Enlightenment. The child crawling and chasing the butterfly represents everyone chasing the hope of reaching Enlightenment."

year unknown

.門の蝶子が這へばとびはへばとぶ
kado no chô ko ga haeba tobi haeba tobu

butterfly at the gate--
the child crawls, it flies
crawls, it flies...

Issa presents a little motion picture: a baby crawls through a meadow toward a butterfly; the butterfly flits away and alights a little farther off. Undaunted, the baby crawls again toward its new, colorful friend, who, once again, flits away. Baby and butterfly play a back-and-forth game of Catch Me If You Can.

year unknown

.はつ蝶や会釈もなしに床の間へ
hatsu chô ya eshaku mo nashi ni toko-no-ma e

first butterfly--
without formal greeting
entering the alcove

It is customary when entering the alcove of a Japanese house to give a formal salutation to the people within. The butterfly, of course, ignores human etiquette.

year unknown

.夕暮にがつくりしたと草のてふ
yûgure ni gakkuri shita yo kusa no chô

evening
is such a downer...
meadow butterfly

The butterfly seems "down" (gakkuri shita) because its day of cavorting is over.

year unknown

.世の中は蝶も朝からかせぐ也
yo no naka wa chô mo asa kara kasegu nari

in this world
from dawn to dusk
even a butterfly must toil

In the original, the butterfly toils "from morning" (asa kara). To complete the idiom in English, "to dusk" has been added.

year unknown

.内中にきげんとらるる蚕哉
uchinaka ni kigen toraruru kaiko kana

the whole house
pays them court...
silkworms

Bridget Dole comments, "I am reminded of something I read about the raising of silkworms and how the families with silkworms in their attics were very careful of the silkworms' moods. They were careful not to make loud noises, display discord, etc. because they needed the silkworms to spin uninterrupted (a cocoon is made of one long strand of silk. If a silkworm stops spinning, it may not have enough silk left to make another cocoon). Anyway, I'm just wondering if toraruru could be translated to indicate the catering of the people to the silkworms."

Indeed, Shinji Ogawa offers this translation:

They are soothed
by the whole family
silkworms...

year unknown

.惣々にきげんとらるる蚕哉
sô-sô ni kigen toraruru kaiko kana

quickly people
pay them court...
silkworms

Bridget Dole comments, "I am reminded of something I read about the raising of silkworms and how the families with silkworms in their attics were very careful of the silkworms' moods. They were careful not to make loud noises, display discord, etc. because they needed the silkworms to spin uninterrupted (a cocoon is made of one long strand of silk. If a silkworm stops spinning, it may not have enough silk left to make another cocoon). Anyway, I'm just wondering if toraruru could be translated to indicate the catering of the people to the silkworms." Shinji Ogawa offers this translation:

In a hasty manner
they are soothed
silkworms...

He comments, "It is Issa's humor to show the odd combination of the hasty manner and the soothing. Nevertheless, Issa's sketch is accurate and skillful. It is a hasty manner because the farmers are so busy; the soothing is half-hearted only because it is the custom."

year unknown

.それ虻に世話をやかすな明り窓
sore abu ni sewa wo yakasu na akarimado

don't be mean
to that horsefly
skylight!

Shinji Ogawa comments, "This is Issa's domain." Sympathy for his fellow creatures, large and small, pervades Issa's haiku.

year unknown

.夕月や鍋の中にて鳴田にし
yûzuki ya nabe no naka nite naku tanishi

evening moon--
pond snails singing
in the kettle

This haiku has the prescript, "Hell." Pure Land Buddhists maintain that there are "Six Ways" of possible future life reincarnation: (1) as a sufferer in hell, (2) as a hungry ghost, (3) as an animal, (4) as an angry demon, (5) as a human being, or (6) as a heavenly being. This haiku is poem 1 of a six-poem series on the Six Ways. Two versions of this series exist; one appears in the 1812 book, Kabuban, while the other was published posthumously by Issa's students in Issa hokku shû in 1829. The present haiku appears only in the later, 1829 version. Shinji Ogawa believes that the "singing" is the sound of the snails spitting water. Debi Bender theorizes that Issa is hearing the hissing of the shells, "making a noise, something like air escaping a tea-kettle, only not as loud." In an earlier translation, I rendered yûzuki as "night moon," but Shinji believes that the more literal "evening moon" is better. He explains, "To distinguish the evening moon from the night moon is rather important for the fate of the pond snails. The kettle may have been prepared for tonight, and the pond snails may not have tomorrow. But, the pond sails are singing. This seemingly tranquil scene well deserves to be described as Hell. Issa, in his well-disciplined way, keeping it low key, using plain everyday words and common settings without any adjective, without a drop of blood, describes Hell. Hell is not a matter of the next world, but here. It is a reality in which we must kill others in order to survive. Worse, we may call it a feast."

Colleen Rain Austin translates the snails as "whelks." She writes the following about this haiku: "Regarding the whelks: they fit in their shell very snugly and have a hard shell at the end of their 'foot' that they can pull up and use to seal themselves in with when they are threatened. As they are grilled or boiled, they steam in the shells and the loss of moisture causes their bodies to shrink and steam escapes through the edges of the seal causing a shrill whistling noise like a high-pitched scream. It isn't something you are likely to forget and also, the haiku is definitely regional, Issa was from my side of Japan and had a lot of experiences out of the norm of Edo, which may be why he didn't include it in the final Kabuban. The whelks are done when the button-like seal pops out and the shrieking stops. I also think he was playing with onomatopoeia here as my translation would be a little different:

Snails shriek
in the ringing kettle
neither knows the other

...which is more somber and like Buddhist Hell, where we are causing ourselves and each other suffering through our lack of awareness."

year unknown

.蛤や在鎌倉の雁鴎
hamaguri ya zai-kamakura no kari kamome

O clams
meet the geese and gulls
of Greater Kamakura!

The scene is on the outskirts (zai) of Kamakura; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 669. The word "meet" doesn't appear in Issa's orginal text, but this seems to be his implication. The hungry wild geese and sea gulls are feasting on the clams.

year unknown

.萩の芽や人がしらねば鹿が喰
hagi no me ya hito ga shiraneba shika ga kuu

bush clover sprouting--
when people aren't looking
the deer eats

Or: "the deer eat." Issa doesn't specify singular or plural.

year unknown

.人つきや野原の草も若盛り
hito tsuki ya nohara no kusa mo waka-zakari

pricking people--
new grasses of the plain
are precocious!


year unknown

.若草で足拭ふなり這入口
wakakusa de ashi nuguu nari hairiguchi

wiping their feet
on the baby grass...
doorway


year unknown

.若草や今の小町が尻の跡
wakakusa ya ima no komachi ga shiri no ato

baby grass--
the stylish woman leaves
her butt print

Komachi is a beauty or a belle. In a haiku of 1813, the print is left in fallen blossoms:

chiru hana ya ima no komachi ga shiri no ato

fallen blossoms--
the stylish woman leaves
her butt print

year unknown

.我国は草さへさきぬさくら花
waga kuni wa kusa sae sakinu sakura kana

in my province
grass blooms too...
cherry blossoms

Bunmi Abraham writes, "Literally, he is comparing grass to blossoms, but symbolically the grass represents the ordinary people, and the cherry blossoms represent the rich nobles. Even though the nobility are important and rich, ordinary people are just as important."

This undated haiku is an alternate version of one that Issa wrote in 1820:

waga kuni wa kusa mo sakura wo saki ni keri

my province--
even the grass blooms
cherry blossoms

R. H. Blyth identifies the blooming grass in this haiku as "primroses," which he calls the people's flower, contrasting with the noble cherry blossoms; A History of Haiku (Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1964) 1.350, overleaf.

year unknown

.なの花にだらだら下りの日暮哉
na no hana ni dara-dara ori no higure kana

in flowering mustard
step by step sinking...
sun

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s. Rape (or canola) is a bright yellow flowering oil seed plant.

year unknown

.菜畠の花見の客や下屋敷
na-batake no hana mi no kyaku ya shimo yashiki

a visitor views
the field of rape...
villa shed

Or: "visitors." Rape (or canola) is a bright yellow flowering oil seed plant. In Issa's time, shimo yashiki denoted a shed located on the premises of a daimyo's residence in the suburbs of Edo. See Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 806.

year unknown

.菜の花や西へむかへば善光寺
na no hana ya nishi e mukaeba zenkôji

flowering mustard--
and looking west
Zenko Temple

More than a beautiful postcard of color and perspective, this haiku has religious resonance. Zenkô Temple (Zenkôji) is the major Pure Land temple in Issa's home province. Since the Buddha's Pure Land was thought to lie somewhere in the mythic west, the direction alluded to in this haiku is significant. Shinji Ogawa adds, "A rape plant blooms bright yellow flowers in spring in Japan. The seeds are used to make cooking oil. It is rather a common sight in spring that the bright yellow flowers cover the farmland as far as the eye can reach. Obviously, Issa was well aware of Buson's famous haiku, na no hana ya tsuki wa higashi hi wa nishi ni, that is, 'Flowering rape.../the moon in the east/ the sun in the west.'"

year unknown

.野大根酒呑どのに引れけり
no daikon sake nomi dono ni hikere keri

drunk on sake
he yanks
the radish

My translation changes the focus of this haiku. Shinji Ogawa explains: "The leading actor is the radish, not the drunkard." He proposes:

the radish
is yanked out
by Mr. Drunkard

This correctly presents the haiku's "leading actor," but passive voice is less forceful than active voice in English, especially in English poetry. Complicating matters further, Issa ends with the verb, not with the drunkard. Perhaps:

the radish
by Mr. Drunkard
is yanked out

This translation is the most faithful to Issa's grammatical emphasis and poetic structure, but not very natural-sounding.

year unknown

.木々もめを開らくやみだの本願寺
kigi mo me wo hiraku ya mida no honganji

the tree buds, too
open up...
Amida's Hongan Temple

Hongan Temple is named after the "Original Vow" (hongan) of Amida Buddha, who promised to rescue all who relied on his liberating power. What else is opening in this haiku, suggested by the word "too" (mo)? The doors of the temple? Issa's heart?

year unknown

.北浜の砂よけ椿咲にけり
kita hama no suna yoke tsubaki saki ni keri

North Beach's
sand-barrier camellias
in bloom


year unknown

.春の日の入所なり藤の花
haru no hi no iri-tokoro nari fuji no hana

the setting place
for the spring sun...
wisteria blossoms

Shinji Ogawa explains that haru no hi in this context means "the spring sun," not "the spring day." I have revised my translation accordingly.

year unknown

.梅さくや子供の声の穴かしこ
ume saku ya kodomo no koe no ana kashiko

blooming plum--
the voices of children
sound reverent

A revision of an 1813 haiku that begins, "plum blossom scent" (ume ga ka ya). One of the old meanings of anakashiko is to express fear or fright, and so I originally thought that the children were pretending to be scared. However, as Shinji Ogawa points out, this word can also refer to feeling great reverence or awe for a person; hence, in old-style letters, it is used as an expression equivalent to "yours truly." Shinji suggests, as a translation solution, that the children's voices "sound noble." I think "reverent" might work even better. The normally boisterous children lower their voices reverently in the divine presence of the blossoms. See Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 48.

year unknown

.梅さくや犬にまたがる金太郎
ume saku ya inu ni matagaru kintarô

plum blossoms--
riding a dog
the Golden Boy

Shinji Ogawa notes that a doll of Kintarô ("Golden Boy") riding a bear is a popular doll for the Boy's Festival of fifth day, Fifth Month. There is no such doll showing him riding a dog. The change from bear to dog reflects Issa's sense of humor. In Japanese folklore Kintarô is a boy-hero, an exaggerated depiction of the Heian Era samurai, Sakata no Kintoki.

He wrote a similar haiku in 1813 about another legendary boy-hero:

ume saku ya inu ni matagaru momotarô

plum blossoms--
riding a dog
the Peach Boy

year unknown

.紅梅や縁にほしたる洗ひ猫
kôbai ya heri ni hoshitaru aria neko

red plum blossoms--
on the porch
the bathed cat dries

Shinji Ogawa helped me to see that heri refers to "porch," not to the "edge" of the plum blossoms.

year unknown

.家内安全と咲けり門の梅
kanai anzen to saki keri kado no ume

the family's good fortune
in bloom...
plum tree at the gate

The original version of this haiku (1816) has a different ordering of images:

kado no ume kanai anzen to saki ni keri

gate's plum tree--
the family's good fortune
in bloom

year unknown

.黒塗の馬もぴかぴか梅の花
kuro nuri no uma mo pika-pika ume no hana

even the black lacquered
horse is glittering!
plum blossoms

This undated haiku is a revision of one that Issa composed in 1821. In the original poem, the horse "flashes bright!" (isamu ya).

year unknown

.ちりめんの猿がいさむや梅の花
chirimen no saru ga isamu ya ume no hana

the cloth monkey
in high spirits...
plum blossoms

This haiku was written some time between 1806 and 1811. Specifically, the doll is made of crepe (chirimen). Gabi Greve suggests that Issa may be referring to the migawari-zaru of Naramachi: a monkey charm used to take on one's bad luck. In the old section of Nara, she notes, there's a special custom of hanging out a small red monkey to ward off evil.

year unknown

.梅がかや狐の穴に赤の飯
ume ga ka ya kitsune no ana ni aka no meshi

plum blossom scent--
at the fox's hole
red beans and rice

The food is an offering left for the fox--a powerful spirit that, if not placated, could possess people.

year unknown

.梅の木や庵の鬼門に咲給ふ
ume no ki ya io no kimon ni saki tamau

plum tree--
on my hut's unlucky side
blooming!

The tree is located in the unlucky quarter (the northeast), yet it blooms.

year unknown

.梅満り酒なき家はなき世也
ume miteri sake naki ie wa naki yo nari

plum in full bloom--
a house without sake
can't be found

Shinji Ogawa helped me to understand the syntax of this haiku. He offers his own translation:

Plum in full bloom...
No house in the world
without sake

year unknown

.片隅の天神さまもうめの花
kata sumi no tenjinsama mo ume no hana

even the heavenly gods
crowd 'round...
plum blossoms


year unknown

.門口やつつぱり廻る梅一枝
kado-guchi ya tsuppari mawaru ume hito e

in my gate
thrust out, swaying
plum branch

Shinji Ogawa assisted with this translation. He observes, "The haiku depicts a humorous scene of a branch of beautiful plum in bloom and the inconvenience. I think the gate must be Issa's, otherwise the value of the haiku may be greatly reduced."

year unknown

.下谷一番の顔して梅の花
shitaya ichiban no kao shite ume no hana

the first and best
of Shitaya Ward...
plum blossoms

In another haiku with the same opening lines, Issa provides the prescript, "A song for playing ball." Evidently, the haiku borrows its first two lines from a children's song.

Sakuo Nakamura notes that the famous amusement center of Shitaya ward is located north of Asakusa, between Asakusa and Edo castle. He believes that it was a residential block in Edo (today's Tokyo). Issa's best friend in Edo, Ittupyô, was a priest at the Buddhist temple, Hongyô-ji in Nippori, very near to this ward.

year unknown

.捨扇梅盗人にもどしけり
sute ôgi ume nusubito ni modoshi keri

abandoned fan--
I return it
to the plum blossom thief

At first, I assumed that the plum blossom thief could be Issa, but Robin D. Gill notes that the grammar indicates that Issa is returning the fan to the thief.

year unknown

.ちる梅を屁とも思はぬ御顔哉
chiru ume wo he to mo omowanu o-kao kana

not giving a damn
that plum blossoms fall...
his stern face

This haiku has the prescript, "Picture of Great Master Dharma." Dharma (Bodhidharma) was the Buddhist patriarch who brought Ch'an (Zen) Buddhism from India to China. Shinji Ogawa explains that the expression, he to mo omowanu (consider it less than a fart) is a Japanese colloquial expression for "don't care a bit about it."

Originally, I translated o-kao as "his saintly face," but Gabi Greve and Sakuo Nakamura feel that "stern" is more befitting.

year unknown

.鳥の音に咲うともせず梅の花
tori no ne ni sakô to mo sezu ume no hana

the bird is singing
but it ain't blooming...
plum tree

The bird in this haiku must be a nightingale (uguisu)--a bird conventionally linked to plum blossoms.

year unknown

.薮梅の散もべんべんだらり哉
yabu ume no chiru mo ben-ben darari kana

in the thicket
the plum blossoms scatter
languidly


year unknown

.比もよし五十三次華見笠
koro mo yoshi go jû san tsugi hanami-gasa

good timing!
at all 53 post towns
umbrella-hatted blossom viewers

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s. There were fifty-three post towns on the Tôkaidô highway from Edo (today's Tokyo) to Kyoto.

year unknown

.似た声の径は聞也華雲り
nita koe no michi wa kiku nari hana kumori

two voices that sound alike
make their way...
clouds of blossoms

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s. "Blossoms" (hana) can signify cherry blossoms in the shorthand of haiku.

year unknown

.正直はおれも花より団子哉
shôjiki wa ore mo hana yori dango kana

honestly--
even more than blossoms
I love dumplings!

This is a revision of an 1814 haiku. The original starts with the phrase, ariyô wa ("if truth be told").

Makoto Ueda notes that Issa is alluding to a Japanese proverb, "Dumplings rather than blossoms"; Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 94.

year unknown

.花さくやとある木陰も開帳仏
hana saku ya to aru kokage mo kaichôbutsu

cherry blossoms--
under every tree
a Buddha on display

This haiku is a revision of a poem of 1818, in which the blossoms are scattering (hana chiru ya).

An image of Buddha that is normally locked inside a temple is being displayed outdoors.

"Blossoms" (hana) can denote cherry blossoms in the shorthand of haiku.

Sakuo Nakamura comments that in Zenkôji Temple, near Issa's native village, a famous "secret Buddha" is displayed to the public once a year. At the time, gamblers are allowed to play on the temple grounds, and so "Buddha on display" also connotes gambling.

year unknown

.花の世は石の仏も親子哉
hana no yo wa ishi no hotoke mo oyako kana

world of blossoms--
even the stone Buddhas
parents and children

"Blossoms" (hana) can denote cherry blossoms in the shorthand of haiku. Just as families stroll and picnic among the blooming cherry trees, Issa imagines that the big and small statues of Buddha are families too. Alastair Watson writes, "Yet again, Issa delivers a loaded verse: a juxtaposition of ephemeral blossoms and (relatively) longer-lasting stone Buddhas, with young and old humans ... transiency all around!"

This is a revision of a haiku of 1818, in which the middle phrase reads: "even among the Buddhas" (hotoke ni mo sae).

year unknown

.花の世は地蔵ぼさつも親子哉
hana no yo wa jizô bosatsu mo oyako kana

world of blossoms--
even the holy Jizos
parents and children

"Blossoms" (hana) can denote cherry blossoms in the shorthand of haiku. Just as families stroll and picnic among the blooming cherry trees, Issa imagines that the big and small statues of Jizô are families too.

This is a revision of a haiku of 1818, in which the middle phrase reads: "even among the Buddhas" (hotoke ni mo sae).

Jizô is the beloved guardian deity of children.

year unknown

.花さくや爺が腰の迷子札
hana saku ya jiji ga koshi no maigo fuda

cherry blossoms--
around grandpa's waist
a name tag

Shinji Ogawa notes that maigo fuda has two meanings: one is a sign or illustration of lost child, and the other is an address tag on a person to prevent from going astray. In the case of this haiku, he suspects that the latter is the case. The old man may be suffering from Alzheimer's.

This undated haiku is very similar to one written in 1821:

toshiyori no koshi ya hanami no maigo fuda

around the old man's waist
blossom viewing...
a name tag

In the shorthand of haiku, "blossoms" (hana) can mean "cherry blossoms."

year unknown

.空色の傘のつづくや花盛り
sora iro no kasa no tsuzuku ya hana sakari

sky-blue parasols
one by one...
blossoms at their peak

This is an undated version of a haiku that Issa composed in 1823:

sora iro no kasa tsuzuku nari hana no kumo

sky-blue parasols
one by one...
blossom clouds

In the shorthand of haiku, "blossoms" (hana) can mean "cherry blossoms."

year unknown

.御印文の頭に花のちりにけり
go-inmon no atama ni hana no chiri ni keri

onto the paper amulet
cherry blossoms
scatter

An inmon is a paper charm or amulet sold at Buddhist temples; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 181.

"Blossoms" (hana) can denote cherry blossoms in the shorthand of haiku.

year unknown

.声々に花の木蔭のばくち哉
koe-goe ni hana no kokage no bakuchi kana

fussing, fussing
in the blossom shade...
gamblers

Pure Land Buddhists maintain that there are "Six Ways" of possible future life reincarnation: (1) as a sufferer in hell, (2) as a hungry ghost, (3) as an animal, (4) as an angry demon, (5) as a human being, or (6) as a heavenly being. This haiku is poem 4 of a six-poem series on the Six Ways. Issa thus poetically associates gamblers with angry demons.

Two versions of this series exist; one appears in the 1812 book, Kabuban, while the other was published posthumously by Issa's students in Issa hokku shû in 1829. The present haiku appears only in the second, 1829 version.

"Blossoms" (hana) can denote cherry blossoms in the shorthand of haiku.

year unknown

.さすが花ちるにみれんはなかりけり
sasuga hana chiru ni miren wa nakari keri

when cherry blossoms
scatter...
no regrets

Issa begins the haiku with the word sasuga: "truly" or "as one might have expected." Here, the first meaning seems to fit. He proposes that, "truly," the cherry blossoms fall to death without regret.

This undated haiku resembles one that Issa wrote in 1821:

miren naku chiru mo sakura wa sakura kana

without regret
they fall and scatter...
cherry blossoms

In a related haiku (1809), he urges the blossoms to trust in Amida Buddha's liberating power:


tada tanome hana wa hara-hara ano tôri

simply trust!
cherry blossoms flitting
down

"Blossoms" (hana) can denote cherry blossoms in the shorthand of haiku.

year unknown

.寝ころぶや御本丸御用の花の陰
ne-korobu ya o-honmaru go-yô no hana no kage

curled to sleep--
the important official
in cherry blossom shade

This haiku has the prescript, "At Mokubo Temple." An official of the "inner citadel" (honmaru) should be about his business (go-yô), but the blooming cherry blossoms have drawn him to their beauty ... and to a nap. A honmaru normally refers to the inner citadel of a castle, where the lord of the castle lives; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1502.

"Blossoms" (hana) can denote cherry blossoms in the shorthand of haiku.

year unknown

.花衣よごれ去来と見ゆる也
hana koromo yogore kyorai to miyuru nari

my dirty blossom-viewing
robe...
I look like Kyorai!

Or: "his dirty blossom-viewing/ robe.../ he looks like Kyorai." Shinji Ogawa notes that Kyorai, or Kyorai Mukai, is a name of one of Basho's disciples. Issa's haiku alludes to Kyorai's haiku: "as many days I wait/ for blossom-viewing,/ my clothes gets dirty."

year unknown

.花見笠一日わらぢのぐはひ哉
hanami-gasa ichi nichi waraji no guai kana

my blossom-viewing umbrella-hat...
but all day
straw sandals in such a state!

Shinji Ogawa notes that guai is difficult to translate. It means "a condition." In this case it means, he believes, to be annoyed or to be trouble, because of the condition of his straw sandals.

year unknown

.蕗の葉に煮〆配りて花の陰
fuki no ha ni nishime kubarite hana no kage

a vegetable hodgepodge
on butterbur leaves...
cherry blossom shade

"Blossoms" (hana) can denote cherry blossoms in the shorthand of haiku.

This undated haiku seems to be a revision of one that Issa wrote in 1816. In that version he ends with "mountain cherry blossoms" (yama-zakura).

year unknown

.ほくほくと花見に来るはどなた哉
hoku-hoku to hanami ni kuru wa donata kana

rap-a-tap
who's that coming
to view the blossoms?

Issa hears the clacking of someone's walking stick. Compare this haiku to a similar undated one:

hoku-hoku to kasunde kuru wa donata kana

rap-a-tap
who's that coming
in the mist?

year unknown

.親負て子の手を引いてさくら哉
oya oute ko no te wo hiite sakura kana

carrying his mother
and leading his child by the hand...
cherry blossoms!

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s. Three generations go together to view the blossoms.

Shinji Ogawa assisted with this translation.

year unknown

.軍勢甲乙入べからずとさくら哉
gunzei kô-otsu iri-bekarazu to sakura kana

"No soldiers
allowed!"
say the cherry blossoms

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s. Shinji Ogawa assisted with its translation.

year unknown

.花桜是にさへ人の倦日哉
hana sakura kore ni sae hito no aku hi [kana]

cherry trees in bloom--
yet some people
are tired of it

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s.

year unknown

.見かぎりし古郷の桜咲にけり
mikagirishi furusato no sakura saki ni keri

the home village
I abandoned...
cherry trees in bloom

This haiku has the prescript, "Third Month, 20th day, entering Kashiwabara." Kashiwabara was Issa's native village. In his translation, Yuzuru Miura renders the first line, "In my deserted home village," implying that the town is devoid of people; Classic Haiku: A Master's Selection (Boston/Tokyo: Tuttle, 1991) 25. Here is an instance where knowledge of Issa's biography helps to uncover his meaning. From his early teens up to his fifties Issa is the one who "deserted" Kashiwabara; it never became, even to this day, a ghost town.

Gregory Wonderwheel translates this poem: "The cherry blossoms/ of the old hometown I abandoned.../ still blooming there." He comments: "Beyond the technical aspects of translating, I listen for Issa's Buddhism in every haiku he writes. Here, I see 'the old hometown' as the Buddha nature that we all abandon in a manner of speaking when we develop dualistic consciousness. When we return to the old hometown, that is when we have some insight into our original nature, we see the cherry blossoms (i.e., the world of appearances) in a new light."

year unknown

.ばばが餅ととが桜も咲にけり
baba ga mochi toto ga sakura mo saki ni keri

grandma's rice cakes
and papa's cherry tree
in bloom!

In an earlier version dated 1817, the middle phrase is "grandpa's cherry tree" (jijii ga sakura).

year unknown

.待々し桜と成れど田舎哉
machi-machishi sakura to naredo inaka kana

cherry blossoms
I waited and waited for...
countryside

This haiku is a rewrite of an 1813 verse, which ends with hitori kana ("alone").

year unknown

.桜花ちれちれ腹にたまる程
sakura hana chire chire hara ni tamaru hodo

O cherry blossoms
fall! fall!
enough to fill my belly

Instead of focusing on their beauty, Issa humorously emphasizes the fact that he will eat the blossoms.

This is an undated revision. The original haiku, written in 1814, starts with the phrase, yama-zakura ("mountain cherry blossoms").

year unknown

.百尋の雨だれかぶる桜哉
momohiro no amadare kaburu sakura kana

a thousand gallons
shower from the eaves...
cherry blossoms

This haiku has the prescript, "Yoshino." Yoshino is a famous place for viewing the cherry blossoms. Literally, Issa says that the blossoms are "showered by 100 fathoms of eavesdrops," but since most English speakers think of a fathom as a unit of ocean depth, this term would be confusing. I substituted "a thousand gallons" for "a hundred fathoms" to express the idea of an enormous amount of water spilling from the eaves. To help me visualize this, Shinji Ogawa sent images of a temple's multi-tiered pagoda.

An amadare is an eavesdrop, where water falls from a roof's overhang.

year unknown

.としよりも目の正月ぞさくら花
toshiyori mo me no shôgatsu zo sakura hana

even an old man
has New Year's eyes...
cherry blossoms

The sight of the cherry blossoms puts the old man (Issa?) in a happy, "First Month" mood. This is an undated revision of a haiku written in 1823. The original poem starts with kochitora mo ("we").

year unknown

.門桜ちらちら散るが仕事哉
kado sakura chira-chira chiru ga shigoto kana

gate's cherry tree
all this flit-flit flitting
is work!

The blossoms are scattering. Note Issa's middle phrase, chira-chira chiru ga: a nice example of sound play.

year unknown

.君が代の大飯喰ふてさくら哉
kimi ga yo no ômeshi kuute sakura kana

a hearty meal
of Great Japan's rice...
cherry blossoms

"Great Japan" is my translation of kimi ga yo, a phrase that refers to the emperor's reign and begins the Japanese national anthem. Issa would have known the lyrics, though not the current melody which came after his time. In this haiku, whereas ômeshi ("big rice") can denote any kind of hearty meal, I choose to translate it more literally as a hearty meal of rice. This goes with the patriotic feeling of the haiku. Issa is in Great Japan under Great Japan's cherry blossoms and eating the great food of Japan: rice.

year unknown

.君なくて誠に多太の桜哉
kimi nakute makoto ni tadai no sakura kana

without you--
how vast
the cherry blossom grove

This undated haiku is a version of one written in 1817:

kimi nakute makoto ni tadai no kodachi kana

without you--
how vast
is the grove

R. H. Blyth reads the above haiku's fourth kanji as "large"; A History of Haiku (Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1964) 1.385. Since this choice makes the compound tadai ("great"), which makes sense in the context, I have followed his lead in my translation of both this and the 1817 poem, even though this adds an extra syllable to the "middle seven" phrases.

year unknown

.さくらさく哉と炬燵で花見哉
sakrua saku kana to kotatsu de hanami kana

cherry trees in bloom--
warmed by a brazier
blossom-gazing

Though it's springtime, winter cold lingers. A kotatsu is a quilt-covered brazier.

year unknown

.里の子の袂からちる桜かな
sato no ko no tamoto kara chiru sakura kana

trickling from
a village child's sleeve...
cherry blossoms

The cherry trees have begun to scatter their blossoms. Their brief, precious time of blooming is ending, and now delicate, pale pink petals are everywhere, even in the little kimono sleeve of a child. First, the petals fell from trees; now, they fall again, this time from the child's kimono, suggesting a deep connection between the little human being and Great Nature.

year unknown

.先生なくなりてはただの桜哉
sensei nakunarite wa tada no sakura kana

the master being dead
just ordinary...
cherry blossoms

According to the prescript to this haiku, it was inspired by a Buddhist memorial service for Seibi, Issa's haiku master. Shinji Ogawa offers this paraphrase: "Since my haiku master is gone, they become ordinary cherry blossoms."

year unknown

.散る桜心の鬼も出て遊べ
chiru sakura kokoro no oni mo dete asobe

cherry blossoms fall--
come out and play
devil in me!

This is an undated haiku. In a haiku written in 1813, Issa invokes his "inner devil" with similar terms:

hana no yama kokoro no oni mo dete asobe

blossoming mountain--
come out and play
devil in me!

year unknown

.散る桜心の鬼も角を折る
chiru sakura kokoro no oni mo tsuno wo oru

cherry blossoms scatter--
even the devil in me
has lost his horns

As Issa likes to do sometimes, this haiku is the antithesis of another one (also undated):

chiru sakura kokoro no oni mo dete asobe

cherry blossoms fall--
come out and play
devil in me!

In one version, the devil seems ready for carousing, but in the other his horns have broken off (tsuno wo oru)--not a good sign for a devil!

year unknown

.散桜称名うなる寺の犬
chiru sakura shômyô unaru tera no inu

in falling cherry blossoms
growling to Amida Buddha...
temple dog

Shômyô is another name for the nembutsu chant: "Namu Amida Butsu" ("All praise to Amida Buddha!"). As the blossoms fall, reminding us of death and transition, Issa reminds us to trust faithfully in Amida's vow to enable our rebirth in the Pure Land--and ultimate enlightenment. Even the dog seems to understand.

In an almost identical haiku of 1810, the temple dog growls his prayer as "blossoms" fall (hana chiru). Since hana can be read as "cherry blossoms," the two poems are virtually the same.

year unknown

.隣から気の毒がるや遅ざくら
tonari kara ki [no] dokugaru ya oso-zakura

the neighbor expresses
his condolences...
late-blooming cherry tree

Or: "late-blooming cherry trees."

year unknown

.寝並んで遠見ざくらの評議哉
ne narande tômi-zakura no hyôgi kana

lying down in a row--
discussing the distant
cherry blossoms

A similar, also undated haiku by Issa:

ne narande tô yûdachi no hyôgi kana

lying down in a row--
discussing
the distant storm

year unknown

.畠中にのさばり立る桜哉
hata naka ni nosabari tateru sakura kana

lording over
the farm field...
a cherry tree in bloom

Nosabaru is an old word that means to behave selfishly or in an arrogant manner; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1292.

year unknown

.末世末代でもさくらさくら哉
masse matsudai demo sakura sakura kana

a corrupt world
in its latter days...
but cherry blossoms!

The term masse refers, in Pure Land Buddhism, to these "latter days" of corruption. The beauty of the blossoms (almost?) makes up for the depravity of the world.

Issa adds emphasis by repeating: "cherry blossoms! cherry blossoms!" (sakura sakura). This repetition doesn't work as well in English.

Shinji Ogawa notes that Issa's repetition, sakura sakura kana, connotes the fact that many people are crazy for cherry blossom viewing. The word, demo ("although," "still" or "despite"), suggests that Issa may be saying, "Although it's a corrupt world in its latter days, people still have the heart to appreciate the beauty of cherry blossoms--or they are merry with the blossom viewing."

year unknown

.深山木のしなの五月も桜哉
miyamagi no shinano no gogatsu mo sakura kana

Shinano's deep wooded mountains
even in Fifth Month...
cherry blossoms

Shinano, present-day Nagano Prefecture, was Issa's home province. It is known for its long, cold winters and late springs. Cherry trees are supposed to bloom in the springtime, but in Shinano (in the poem) they bloom in Fifth Month: mid-summer by the old Japanese calendar.

year unknown

.欲面へ浴せかけたる桜哉
yoku tsura e abise-kaketaru sakura kana

pouring onto
the faces of sinners...
cherry blossoms

Issa juxtaposes the heavenly and the mundane: the cherry blossoms and the covetous faces of humans.

year unknown

.桃咲や犬にまたがる悪太郎
momo saku ya inu ni matagaru akutarô

peach blossoms--
riding a dog
the naughty boy

Issa wrote a similar haiku in 1813:

ume saku ya inu ni matagaru momotarô

plum blossoms--
riding a dog
the Peach Boy

year unknown

.けろりくわんとして烏と柳哉
kerorikan to shite karasu to yanagi kana

keeping their cool--
the crow
the willow

Undated but from the Bunsei Era. In a Japanese dictionary of obsolete words and expressions, kerorikan is defined as "appearing to show no concern or interest." Issa coined it. See Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 574. Nanao Sakaki translates the first line, "As if nothing had happened"; Inch by Inch: 45 Haiku by Issa (Albuquerque: La Alameda Press, 1999) 46. In an earlier version, Issa had a wild goose alongside the willow. According to Shinji Ogawa, this later version is more widely known in Japan.

year unknown

.犬の子の踏まへて眠る柳哉
inu no ko no fumaete nemuru yanagi kana

the sleeping puppy
paws
at the willow

There's no deep level of meaning, no hidden symbolism, yet this simple image is powerful--oozing with love.

year unknown

.門柳しだるる世事はなかりけり
kado yanagi shidaruru seji wa nakari keri

the willow at my gate
droops
just because

Shinji Ogawa explains: "The phrase yanagi shidaruru or 'willow droops'... connotes feminine attraction. The haiku is saying, 'Nothing worthy for my gate willow to droop is happening'."

year unknown

.洗たくの婆々へ柳の夕なびき
sentaku no baba e yanagi no yû nabiki

to the old woman
doing laundry, the evening
willow bows


year unknown

.眠り覚て柳の雫聞夜哉
nemuri samete yagi no shizuku kiku yo kana

waking from sleep--
drip-dripping willow
in the night

In his Japanese, Issa gives emphasis to the word "hear" (kiku): he depicts a night of listening to the sound of the raindrops dripping from the willow. The sound has awakened him and now is keeping him awake.

year unknown

.墓手水御門の柳浴てけり
haka teuzu o-mon no yanagi abite keri

cemetery font--
the willow at the gate
bathes

Death and life.

year unknown

.右は月左は水や夕柳
migi wa tsuki hidari wa mizu ya yû yanagi

moon to the right
water to the left...
the evening willow


year unknown

.水まして蝦這のぼる柳哉
mizu mashite ebi hai-noburu yanagi kana

water rising--
the shrimp crawls up
the willow

Ebi can mean shrimp, prawn or lobster. In my original translation, I went with "lobster," but Bob Bagwill suggests "crayfish" is more realistic, especially if Issa is referring to fresh water rising.

There is an old Japanese saying, "Fishing for sea bream with shrimp" (ebi de tai wo tsuru), which means gaining a great profit from a small investment. Issa might be using ebi in a similar way: referring to a small crustacean; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 243.

Since "shrimp" (ebi) for Issa would have referred to both marine and freshwater varieties, I have decided to use this word in my revised translation.

year unknown

.柳からまねまね出たり狐面
yanagi kara mane-mane detari kitsune tsura

peeking out
from the willow tree...
face of a fox

The word mane can mean "imitation"; more specifically it can refer to something that pretends; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1531. Issa describes the fox's action of showing its face as mane-mane, which I picture to describe a process of hesitancy, as if it pretends to show itself then withdraws--again and again. In English, I could come up with no better expression for this than "peeking out."

year unknown

.夏の寝覚月の堤へ出たりけり
ge no nezame tsukimi ni dote e detari keri

waking from summer sleep--
moon gazing
on the levee

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s. Dote is an old word for levee, dike or embankment; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1171.

year unknown

.夏の夜や河辺の月も今三日
natsu no yo ya kawabe no tsuki mo ima mikka

summer night--
the moon by the river
just a sliver

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s. The rhyme in my translation is accidental--so I decided to allow it. The moon is a "three-day moon"...just a sliver.

year unknown

.夏の夜や枕にしたる筑波山
natsu no ya ya makura ni shitaru tsukuba yama

in the summer night
it's a pillow...
Mount Tsukuba

Mount Tsukuba is located near the city of Mito in Ibaraki Prefecture.

year unknown

.短夜をさつさと開く桜かな
mijika yo wo sassa to hiraku sakura kana

popping open
in the short summer night...
cherry blossoms

his haiku has the prescript, "Shinano." Though cherry blossoms are associated with spring, they bloom late in Issa's cold and mountainous province of Shinano. Issa's hometown of Kashiwabara is 2100 feet (700 meters) above sea level. I thank Robin D. Gill for assisting with this translation.

Shinji Ogawa notes that the expression sassa to ("quickly") suggests human action, and so it "personifies the cherry blossoms. Personification is one of the techniques that Issa prefers."

year unknown

.暑き夜や藪にも馴てひぢ枕
atsuki yo ya yabu ni mo narete hiji makura

hot night in the trees--
I'm getting used to it
arm for a pillow


year unknown

.けふもけふも翌もあついか薮の家
kyô mo kyô mo asu [mo] atsui ka yabu no ie

today too, heat
and tomorrow, more heat?
house in the trees


year unknown

.じつとして白い飯くふ暑かな
jitto shite shiroi meshi kuu atsusa kana

quiet and still
I eat my white rice...
the heat

Or: "he eats" or "she eats." It's too hot for much movement.

year unknown

.稗の葉の門より高き暑哉
hie no ha no kado yori tataki atsusa kana

from the barnyard grass
at the gate, rising...
the heat


year unknown

.萱庇やはり涼しき鳥の声
kaya-bisashi yahari suzushiki tori no koe

cooling under the eaves
and just as cool...
birdsong

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s.

In a nice example of synaesthesia, Issa feels "cool air" in the voice of the bird.

year unknown

.涼風を真向に居へる湖水哉
suzukaze wo mamuki ni ieru kosui kana

facing the cool breeze
straight on...
a lake

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s.

year unknown

.涼しさは三月も過る鳥の声
suzushisa wa yayoi mo sugiru tori [no] koe

cool air--
"Third Month has passed!'
sings the bird

Or: "the birds sing." This is an early haiku written in the 1790s.

In the old Japanese calendar, summer began with the first day of Fourth Month. cool air is a summer season word in haiku, referring to people cooling themselves in the evening, in a shady place, or perhaps with a cool breeze. The bird thus is announcing the beginning of summer.

year unknown

.涼風も隣の竹のあまり哉
suzukaze mo tonari no take no amari kana

the cool breeze
through my neighbor's bamboo
just a remnant

In other words, the tree is blocking the breeze so that only its remnants can reach Issa's house. As Shinji Ogawa notes, amari in this context signifies a remant or leftover.

In the original version, composed in 1815, the breeze-blocker is a pine tree:

suzukaze mo tonari no matsu no amari kana

the cool breeze
through my neighbor's pine
just a remnant

year unknown

.朝涼や汁の実を釣るせどの海
asasuzu ya shiru no mi wo tsuru sedo no umi

morning cool--
fishing for soup stock
in his back door sea

Issa's phrase, sedo no umi ("back door sea"), leads me to picture a fishing hut with a back door that opens to the sea.

This is an undated rewrite of a haiku of 1817. In the original version, Issa starts with the phrase, "evening cool" (yûsuzu ya). The rewrite has the prescript, "Chôshi"--a port town in Chiba Prefecture, which was known as Shimosa Province in Issa's day.

year unknown

.涼しさは蚊を追ふ妹が杓子哉
suzushisa wa ka wo ou imo ga shakushi kana

cool air--
my wife chases a mosquito
with a spoon

Or: "a girl chases..." Imo ("sister") is a literary word for "dear one"--an intimate term that a man uses to refer to his beloved; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 454. In some cases Issa uses the term to refer to his wife; in others, he uses it to refer to a little girl.

year unknown

.涼しさや扇でまねく千両雨
suzushisa ya ôgi de maneku senryô ame

cool air--
he beckons with his fan
a rain of golden coins

Or: "she beckons with with her fan." I picture a beggar beckoning with his or her fan, hoping for a rain of senryo: coins worth one thousand ryô each. A ryô equals 4,000 mon, the basic currency of the period which took the form of a coin with a hole in its middle so that it could be strung on a string. In Issa's day six mon could pay for a bowl of rice.

How, then, to translate a "rain of senryo"? Shinji Ogawa suggests the phrase, "million dollar rain," but to my ears the word "dollar" sounds too American and incorrectly suggests an image of paper money. If a single mon = 25 cents of contemporary U.S. currency, a ryô would be a coin worth 4,000 quarters: $1,000 (U.S.) or 630」 (U.K.). A senryo would be this amount times 1,000 = one million dollars (U.S.) or 630,000」. A "rain" of such coins would indeed represent a fabulous amount of wealth. Issa must be exaggerating. This seems to be a case of wishful thinking, a beggar's fantasy. For this reason, I have made the coins "golden"; even though the senryo were not made of gold, this English adjective suggests great value.

This haiku does not appear in the authoritative collection of Issa, Issa zenshû. I found it in Issa to kuhi (Tokyo: Kankohkai 2003) 53. It appears engraved in a haiku stone.

year unknown

.雨三粒天から土用見舞かな
ame san tsubu ten kara doyô mimai kana

three raindrops
a greeting card from heaven...
midsummer heat

In the hot "dog days" of midsummer, the cooling rain comes as a gift from above. Shinji Ogawa explains that it is a Japanese tradition to send a letter of inquiry in the hot summer season called doyô mimai or shochû mimai.

In a similar haiku of 1823 Issa writes:

kono ame wa ten kara doyô mimai kana

this rain
a greeting card from heaven...
midsummer heat

year unknown

.五月雨夜の山田の人の声
satsuki ame yoru no yamada no hito no koe

Fifth Month rain--
in a mountain field at night
voices

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s. The "field" is a rice field. Evidently, farmers are working late, despite the rain. "Fifth Month rain" (samidare) pertains to the old lunar calendar; it would be June rain in the present calendar. Shinji Ogawa observes, "In the modern Japanese sense, May weather consists of mostly fair days, not cold, not hot, in the best season of the year. Therefore, May rain is very pleasant in modern Japanese sense. On the other hand, samidare (May rain in old Japanese), is the June rain that falls day after day, creating high humidity and helping mold to grow in the corners of the house."

year unknown

.五月雨の竹にはさまる在所哉
samidare no take ni hasamaru zaisho kana

in Fifth Month rain
tucked among bamboo...
farmhouse

"Fifth Month rain" (samidare) pertains to the old lunar calendar; it would be June rain in the present calendar. Shinji Ogawa observes, "In the modern Japanese sense, May weather consists of mostly fair days, not cold, not hot, in the best season of the year. Therefore, May rain is very pleasant in modern Japanese sense. On the other hand, samidare (May rain in old Japanese), is the June rain that falls day after day, creating high humidity and helping mold to grow in the corners of the house."

year unknown

.朝顔に翌なる蔓や五月雨
asagao ni asu naru tsuru ya satsuki ame

vines today
morning-glories tomorrow...
Fifth Month rain

Shinji Ogawa paraphrases: "They are mere vines now, but inferring from the buds they carry, they will become morning-glories tomorrow."

year unknown

.ちさい子が草背負けり五月雨
chisai ko ga kusa seoi keri satsuki ame

a small child
a bundle of hay on his back...
Fifth Month rain

A haiku of deep ninjô, "human feeling."

year unknown

.夕立や乞食どのの鉢の松
yûdachi ya kojiki dono no hachi no matsu

rainstorm--
a beggar with his potted
pine

This is a revision of an earlier haiku, in which a "crossroads beggar" (tsuji no kojiki) appears.

year unknown

.夕立を見せびらかすや山の水
yûdachi wo misebirakasu ya yama no mizu

showing off
with a cloudburst...
mountain's water

The original version of this haiku, written in 1821, ends with the phrase, "god of the mountain" (yama no kami).

year unknown

.翌ははや只の河原か夏の月
asu wa haya tada no kawara ka natsu no tsuki

tomorrow morning
a humdrum river beach again?
summer moon

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s.

Tonight the beach is magical with the full summer moon and (perhaps rowdy) moon-gazers, but tomorrow morning it will be back to normal.

year unknown

.夏の月河原の人も翌引る
natsu no tsuki kawara no hito mo asu hikeru

summer moon--
this river beach crowd
gone tomorrow

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s.

year unknown

.家陰行人の白さや夏の月
ya-kage yuku hito no shirosa ya natsu no tsuki

the man's whiteness
walking in the house's shadow...
summer moon

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s. Shinji Ogawa notes that in summer people tend to wear whitish clothes. In this haiku, the summer moon illuminates such clothing.

year unknown

.ツあらしかいだるげなる人の顔
aoarashi kaidarugenaru hito no kao

wind on the greenery--
the weary faces
of people

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s.

Aoarashi denotes "wind blowing over fresh greenery" and is a summer season word in haiku. In this poem, I picture farm workers who have toiled so hard for the green crops to arise that now their faces seem weary and languid.

Shinji Ogawa notes that, even though Issa wrote the word kaitarugenaru, it would have been pronounced kaidarugenaru; I have adjusted the Japanese text accordingly.

year unknown

.草刈の馬に寝て来ル青あらし
kusa kari no uma ni nete kuru aoarashi

to the grass-cutting
horse where he lies...
wind on the greenery

Or: "where she lies."

Aoarashi denotes "wind blowing over fresh greenery" and is a summer season word in haiku.

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s.

year unknown

.夏山ののしかかつたる入江哉
natsu yama no noshi-kakattaru irie kana

the summer mountain
leans
on the cove

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s.

Shinji Ogawa notes that the subject of noshi-kakattaru ("leans on") is the mountain, not (as I originally translated it) the cove.

year unknown

.姫ゆりの心ありげの清水哉
himeyuri no kokoro arige no shimizu kana

touching the princess lily's
heart...
pure water

The flower is a Japanese red-star lily, literally, a "princess lily."

The phrase, kokoro arige no, means "to have an inclination for." The flower is fond of the pure water. In my translation, I keep the word "heart" (kokoro).

year unknown

.わらぢ売る木陰の爺が清水哉
waraji uru kokage no jiji ga shimizu kana

selling straw sandals
in the shade, an old man...
pure water


year unknown

.青田原箸とりながら見たりけり
aodabara hashi tori nagara mitari keri

green rice field--
grabbing the chopsticks
he watches

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s. Thinking way ahead to harvest time, the farmer can almost taste the grain to come.

year unknown

.箸持つてぢつと見渡る青田哉
hashi motte jitto miwataru aoda kana

chopsticks in hand
his steady gaze
on the green rice field

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s. Thinking way ahead to harvest time, the farmer can almost taste the grain to come. The editors of Issa zenshû believe that miwatasu (to overlook, see far) should be read where Issa writes miwataru; (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 1.277. In an earlier translation, I wrote, "patiently he waits," but Shinji Ogawa believes that jitto is being used in the sense of "attentively." The farmer is surveying the green rice field(s), possibly during a rest break, attentively.

year unknown

.下手植の稲もそろそろ青みけり
heta ue no ine mo soro-soro aomi keri

even poorly planted
rice plants
slowly, slowly...green!

Some rice plants might have been placed crookedly in the flooded field, but even they turn green in time.

Ivan M. Granger comments on this haiku in his book, The Longing in Between: Sacred Poetry from Around the World (Poetry Chaikhana 2014): "No matter how imperfect we imagine our circumstances to be--lack of education, finances, travel, guidance, whatever we think is missing and holding us back--still we inexorably grow green. Spirit awakens in us with utter disregard to the limiting details of our lives." (7).

year unknown

.かたつぶりそろそろ登れ富士の山
katatsuburi soro-soro nobore fuji no yama

little snail
inch by inch, climb
Mount Fuji!

In Issa's time, climbing Mount Fuji was thought to be a sacred pilgrimage. However, not everyone could make the climb. Therefore, imitation Mount Fujis (small, sculpted hills) were built at various shrines, such as Asakusa Shrine in Edo, so that everyone, including the infirm and elderly, could reap spiritual benefit by climbing them. Issa's snail is climbing one of these pseudo-mountains. Its climb has both Shinto and Buddhist significance. For Shinto, Mount Fuji is the home of the great goddess Konohanasakuya-hime, enshrined near the summit. For Buddhists, it is the abode of Dainichi Nyorai 大日如来, the Buddha of All-Illuminating Wisdom, and its snowy peak represents a supreme state of meditative concentration or zenjo 禅定. The snail climbs to the goddess's blessing; the snail climbs to enlightenment.

According to Kai Falkman, "[This] haiku shows Issa's compassionate irony. However, as anyone can see, Issa presents Mount Fuji at the end of the poem in order to achieve a maximum pun"; see Understanding Haiku: A Pyramid of Meaning (Winchester, VA: Red Moon Press, 2002) 105.

This is the first haiku by Issa that I read. I found it in J. D. Salinger's novel, Franny and Zooey. In that particular translation, the haiku begins with the snail and ends with the word, "slowly": "O snail/ Climb Mount Fuji,/ But slowly, slowly!" Other translators, including Matthew Gollub, present the same ordering of images; Cool Melons--Turn to Frogs! The Life and Poems of Issa (New York: Lee and Low Books, 1998). I agree with Kai Falkman: the order of images in Issa's original poem is important. He starts with a little snail, advises it to keep climbing, and only at the very end does he pull camera focus from close-up to wide-angle and reveal the vast sweep of locale and task: this snail is climbing ... Mount Fuji! See my discussion of this haiku in Haiku Guy (Winchester, Virginia: Red Moon Press, 2000) 114-18.

year unknown

.大川へはらはら蚤を御祓哉
ôgawa e hara-hara nomi wo misogi kana

to the great river
fleas go flitting...
rite of purification

This haiku refers to a Shinto purification ritual that takes place in Sixth Month in the traditional Japanese calendar. One of the observances is to launch special shrine boats in water; see Kiyose (Tokyo: Kakugawa Shoten, 1984) 162. Shinji Ogawa adds that the most popular forms of the ritual involve (1) entering a shrine through the chinowa (a large ring made of woven reeds) or (2) going to a river and releasing a paper boat containing a paper doll (katashiro). As the doll drifts away it is thought to take "all unclean things with it."

year unknown

.御鴉も鶯も潜る茅の輪哉
o-karasu mo uguisu mo kuguru chinowa kana

crow and nightingale
pass through it too...
purification hoop

This haiku refers to a hoop made out of miscanthus reed, used for a summer purification ritual. If one passes through it, one is protected from infectious diseases. In this haiku, both a crow and a nightingale pass through, suggesting that the hoop welcomes both commoners (crows) and nobility (nightingales).

year unknown

.それでこそ古き夕べぞ葺菖蒲
sore de koso furuki yûbe zo fuki ayame

the perfect thing
for an old-time evening...
thatch of irises

The night before the annual Boy's Festival (fifth day, Fifth Month), eaves of houses were thatched with grafts of blooming irises; Kiyose (Tokyo: Kakugawa Shoten, 1984) 122.

year unknown

.鳴さうな虫のあれあれ葺あやめ
naki-sô na mushi no are-are fuki ayame

an insect singing?
look! look!
thatch of irises

The night before the annual Boy's Festival (fifth day, Fifth Month), eaves of houses were thatched with grafts of blooming irises; Kiyose (Tokyo: Kakugawa Shoten, 1984) 122. In this haiku, a hard-to-spot insect sings among the irises.

year unknown

.君が代は乞食の家ものぼり哉
kimi ga yo wa kojiki no ie mo nobori kana

Great Japan!
even a beggar's house
has a summer banner

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s. "Great Japan" is my translation of kimi ga yo, a phrase that refers to the emperor's reign and begins the Japanese national anthem. Issa would have known the lyrics, though not the current melody which came after his time.

year unknown

.つかれ鵜の節句やすみもなかりけり
tsukare u no sekku yasumi mo nakari keri

weary cormorant--
no festival holiday
for you

Japanese fishermen use cormorants. Tied to a tether, these sea birds dive for fish that they are forced to disgorge. In this haiku, the hard-working bird is deprived of an annual festival day off (sekku yasumi).

year unknown

.汗拭て墓に物がたる別哉
ase fukite haka ni monogataru wakare kana

mopping sweat--
at his tomb I tell my story
then go

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s. Shinji Ogawa paraphrases the second two phrases: "I talked to his tomb and parted."

year unknown

.小娘も菩薩気どりよ更衣
ko musume mo bosatsu kidori yo koromogae

even the little girl
poses like a saint...
new summer robe

Or: "even the little daughter." Specifically, the child is posing like a bodhisattva (bosatsu): a Buddhist saint who has returned to the world on a compassionate mission to awaken others. . In the original version of this haiku (1815) Issa begins with "even the servant" (sansuke mo).

year unknown

.小短き旅して見たや更衣
ko mijikaki tabi shite mita ya koromogae

taking a tiny trip
to see and be seen...
new summer robes


year unknown

.更衣松風聞に出たりけり
koromogae matsu kaze kiki ni detari keri

new summer robes--
listening to the pine breeze
they emerge


year unknown

.杉の香に鶯ききぬ衣がへ
sugi no ka ni uguisu kikinu koromogae

amid scented cedars
a nightingale's song...
new summer robes


year unknown

.朝湯から直に着ならふ袷哉
asa yu kara sugu ni ki narau awase kana

after morning's hot bath
trying it on...
summer kimono


year unknown

.白妙の帷子揃ふ川辺哉
shirotae no katabira sorou kawabe kana

one and all
in white summer kimonos...
riverbank

The light summer garment in question is made of hemp: katabira. In this archive, I translate both katabira and awase as "summer kimono."

year unknown

.寺の児赤かたびらはいつ迄ぞ
tera no chigo aka katabira wa itsu made zo

temple toddler--
how long will you wear
your little red kimono?

The light summer garment in question is made of hemp: katabira. In this archive, I translate both katabira and awase as "summer kimono." In this haiku, a tiney acolyte at a Buddhist temple is wearing a katabira. In my translation, I decided that it would be more effective to describe it as a "little red kimono" as opposed to "red summer kimono." Issa alludes to the idea of growth. The child won't fit the cute little kimono for long.

year unknown

.夕ぐれの古帷子を我世かな
yûgure no furu katabira wo waga yo kana

evening's old
summer kimono...
my world

The light summer garment in question is made of hemp: katabira. In this archive, I translate both katabira and awase as "summer kimono."

year unknown

.我門や蓙一枚のなつ座敷
waga kado ya goza ichi mai no natsu zashiki

at my gate--
one straw mat
my summer room

This haiku is undated. In a poem of 1819 Issa begins with the phrase, "pine tree shade" (matsu kage ya).

year unknown

.かくれ家や死ば簾の青いうち
kakurega ya shinaba sudare no aoi uchi

secluded house--
if I die may the bamboo blinds
still be green

A revision of a haiku that Issa wrote in 1805:

mi hitotsu ya shinaba sudare no aoi uchi

my life--
if I die may the bamboo blinds
still be green

year unknown

.むら雨やほろがやの子に風とどく
murasame ya horogaya no ko ni kaze todoku

a rain shower--
in her little mosquito net
touched by the breeze

Or: "his." The child is inside a little mosquito net (horogaya). This is an early haiku written in the 1790s.

year unknown

.翌日も翌同じ夕べや独り蚊屋
asu mo asu onaji yûbe ya hitori kaya

tomorrow night and the next
the same...
in my mosquito net, alone

Though the editors of Issa zenshû don't list it as such, this haiku is a variant of one written in 1809. The only difference is that the original haiku has the particle ka instead of ya, making the opening phrase a question: "tomorrow night and the next the same?" (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 1.305-6.

year unknown

.鹿の背にくすくす鳥の昼寝哉
shika no se ni kusu-kusu tori no hirune kana

on the deer's back
the songbird takes
a siesta


year unknown

.人並に猿もごろりと昼寝哉
hito nami ni saru mo gorori to hirune kana

like the humans
a monkey too
curled up for siesta


year unknown

.松影や扇でまねく千両雨
matsu kage ya ôgi de maneku senryo ame

pine tree shade--
he beckons with his fan
a rain of golden coins

Or: "she beckons with with her fan." I picture a beggar beckoning with his or her fan, hoping for a rain of senryo: coins worth one thousand ryô each. A ryô equals 4,000 mon, the basic currency of the period which took the form of a coin with a hole in its middle so that it could be strung on a string. In Issa's day six mon could pay for a bowl of rice.

How, then, to translate a "rain of senryo"? Shinji Ogawa suggests the phrase, "million dollar rain," but to my ears the word "dollar" sounds too American and incorrectly suggests an image of paper money. If a single mon = 25 cents of contemporary U.S. currency, a ryô would be a coin worth 4,000 quarters: $1,000 (U.S.) or 630」 (U.K.). A senryo would be this amount times 1,000 = one million dollars (U.S.) or 630,000」. A "rain" of such coins would indeed represent a fabulous amount of wealth. Issa must be exaggerating. This seems to be a case of wishful thinking, a beggar's fantasy. For this reason, I have made the coins "golden": even though the senryo were not made of gold, this English adjective suggests great value.

year unknown

.団扇張つて先そよがする浮草哉
uchiwa hatte mazu soyogasuru ukisa kana

after re-papering
the first thing I fan...
duckweed

In this undated revision of a haiku written in 1805, Issa replaces "weeds" (mugura) with "duckweed" (ukisa). Shinji Ogawa explains that uchiwa hatte means "to re-paper the fan." After Issa puts new paper on his fan, he playfully fans the plant.

year unknown

.結構にかやりの上の朝日哉
kekkô ni kayari no ue no asahi kana

how pretty
over smudge pot smoke...
morning sun

This haiku refers to the custom of smoking out mosquitoes using the dense smoke of a smudge pot.

year unknown

.蚊いぶしや赤く咲けるは何の花
ka ibushi ya akaku sakeru wa nan no hana

in smudge pot smoke
blooming red...
what flower is that?


year unknown

.畠々や蚊やりはそよぐ虫の鳴
hata hata ya kayari wa soyogu mushi no naku

garden after garden
smudge pot smoke wafts
insects sing


year unknown

.浦風に旅忘レけり夕涼
ura kaze ni tabi wasure keri yûsuzumi

in the beach breeze
my travels forgotten...
evening cool

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s.

year unknown

.松陰に人入替る涼み哉
matsu kage ni hito irekawaru suzumi kana

in pine tree shade
people take turns...
the cool air

There's only so much space under the pine to enjoy its shade. Therefore, people do so in shifts.

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s. It has the prescript, "Spending the night at Karazaki." Hiroshige has a painting titled "Evening Rain at Karazaki." Karazaki is on the shore of Lake Biwa.

year unknown

.草履ぬいで人をゆるして涼み台
zôri nuide hito wo yurushite suzumi dai

everyone kick off
your straw sandals!
evening cool

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s. Shinji Ogawa provides a literal paraphrase: "Taking straw sandals off and being friendly ... cool dais." He adds that "the mood may correspond to the American expression,'Take your shoes off and make yourself at home'." In a related haiku written around the same time, Issa writes:

mina zôri nugazu ni tôre yûsuzumi

everyone keep on
your straw sandals!
evening cool

In both haiku, Shinji explains, Issa's idea is: Forget formality; let's enjoy the moment.

year unknown

.皆草履ぬがずに通れ夕涼
mina zôri nugazu ni tôre yûsuzumi

everyone keep on
your straw sandals!
evening cool

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s. Shinji Ogawa paraphrases: "Don't bother to take your straw sandals off and come right in . . . evening cool." In a related haiku written around the same time, Issa writes:

zôri nuide hito wo yurushite suzumi dai

everyone kick off
your straw sandals!
evening cool

In both haiku, Shinji explains, Issa's idea is: Forget formality; let's enjoy the moment.

year unknown

.身の上の鐘ともしらで夕涼み
mi no ue no kane to mo shirade yûsuzumi

not knowing the bell
rings away life...
evening cool

In a haiku written in 1823 Issa changes perspective:

mi no ue no kane to shiritsutsu yûsuzumi

knowing the bell
rings away life...
evening cool

year unknown

.夜涼や足でかぞへるしなの山
yo suzumi ya ashi de kazoeru shinano yama

evening cool--
with my feet counting
the mountains of Shinano

Shinano was Issa's home province: Nagano Prefecture today.

year unknown

.煤けたる家向きあふて夕涼み
susuketaru ie mukiaute yûsuzumi

turning to face
my soot-blackened house...
evening cool

This haiku was written in the mid-Bunka Era (1804-1818).

year unknown

.夜に入ば下水の側も涼み哉
yo ni ireba gesui no soba mo suzumi kana

as night falls
even next to a sewer...
cool air

This haiku has the prescript, "Edo" (today's Tokyo). It is a revision of a haiku of 1819, in which the people cooled themselves "above" (no ue) the sewer.

year unknown

.雨の日やひとりまじめに田を植る
ame no hi ya hitori majime ni ta wo ueru

rainy day--
alone and diligent
planting rice

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s.

year unknown

.道とふも遠慮がましき田植哉
michi tou mo enryogamashiki taue kana

even asking directions
I hesitate...
rice planters

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s. In my first translation, I had the rice planters as the "reserved" ones in the scene, but Shinji Ogawa explains that it is Issa who hestitates when asking the farmers for directions, because they are so busy. This interpretation is in line with the fact that 1790s was a period of incessant travel for Issa. He would have had to ask for directions many, many times.

year unknown

.もたいなや昼寝して聞田うへ唄
motaina ya hirune shite kiku taue uta

ashamed
napping, hearing
the rice-planting song

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s.

year unknown

.しなのぢや上の上にも田うえ唄
shinano ji ya ue no ue ni mo taue uta

Shinano road--
higher and higher
the rice-planting songs

Issa's home province of Shinano is a mountainous area. Even at high elevations, there are terraced rice fields.

year unknown

.鶯も笠きて出よ田植唄
uguisu mo kasa kite ide yo taue uta

you, too, nightingale
go with an umbrella-hat!
rice-planting song

A happy exaggeration. Issa fancies that the nightingale (uguisu) should go forth into the field, like the rice-planting farmers, wearing an umbrella-hat.

year unknown

.しかの子にわるぢえ付けななく烏
shika no ko ni warujie tsukena naku karasu

don't teach your tricks
to the fawn!
cawing crows

The fawn is innocent. Issa beseeches the worldly crows not to teach it their cunning ways.

year unknown

.萩の葉にかくれくらする鹿の子哉
hagi no ha ni kakure kurasuru kanoko kana

in bush clover
staying well hidden...
a fawn

In this haiku Issa has fun with the "h" and "k" sounds of hagi, ha, kakure, kurasuru, ka, ko, kana.

year unknown

.こんな夜は庵にもあろか時鳥
konna yo wa io ni mo aro ka hototogisu

is the night this nice
back at the hut?
cuckoo

Issa doesn't literally say that the night is "nice," but I feel that this is implied by the phrase, "this kind of evening" (konna yo).

year unknown

.うの花も馳走にさくかほととぎす
u no hana mo chisô ni saku ka hototogisu

are you feasting
on tofu dregs too?
cuckoo

The expression u no hana can mean, literally, "deutzia blossoms." A second meaning is "bean curd refuse." Also called okara, this is the lees by-product of tofu-making. It is called u no hana because the whiteness of the tofu by-product is similar to that of the deutzia flower of early summer.

This haiku is undated, but in two related haiku, written in Fifth Month 1816, Issa scatters tofu refuse for a cuckoo and then warns him not to get indigestion from it.

year unknown

.どこを押せばそんな音が出ル時鳥
doko wo oseba son[na] ne ga deru hototogisu

where were you poked
to make that sound...
cuckoo?

This undated haiku is identical to one of 1812, except that the singer is a "mountain deer" (yama no shika).

year unknown

.江戸庭へ片足入れば時鳥
edo niwa e kata ashi ireba hototogisu

stepping one foot
in an Edo garden
"cuckoo!"


year unknown

.そつと鳴け隣は武士ぞ時鳥
sotto nake tonari wa bushi zo hototogisu

sing soft!
a samurai lives next door
cuckoo


year unknown

.柳から明て鳴きけりほととぎす
yanagi kara akete naki keri hototogisu

after dawn hits
the willow...
a cuckoo sings

Shinji Ogawa translates yanagi kara akete as "the willow tree dawned first" or "the dawn begins at the willow tree."

year unknown

.それそこの朝顔つむな閑古鳥
sore soko no asagao tsumu na kankodori

don't peck that
morning-glory!
mountain cuckoo


year unknown

.百両の鶯老を鳴にけり
hyaku ryô no uguisu oi wo naki ni keri

the priceless nightingale
warbles
even in summer

The seasonal reference of this haiku is to nightingales (uguisu) that are still singing in summertime.

This is an undated rewrite of a haiku of 1813. In both versions, a nightingale that costs one hundred ryô sings of old age. Issa might be referring to a caged bird or, as Shinji Ogawa suggests, a "priceless" bird in the wild. Shinji adds that "old" in this haiku refers not so much to old age as to the season word of "a nightingale in summer." For this reason, he suggests as a translation for oi wo naki ni keri: "warbles in summer."

year unknown

.鶯も老をうつるな草の家
uguisu mo oi wo utsuru na kusa no ie

nightingale--
don't catch old age!
thatched house

The seasonal reference of this haiku is to nightingales (uguisu) that are still singing in summertime.

Issa suggests that the oldness of his house might be contagious. This is an undated rewrite of a haiku of 1820. The original version ends with the phrase, "my house" (ore ga ie). In another undated rewrite, it ends with "house in the trees" (yabu no ie).

year unknown

.鶯も老をうつるな藪の家
uguisu mo oi wo utsuru na yabu no ie

nightingale--
don't catch old age!
house in the trees

The seasonal reference of this haiku is to nightingales (uguisu) that are still singing in summertime.

Issa suggests that the oldness of his house might be contagious. This is an undated rewrite of a haiku of 1820. The original version ends with the phrase, "my house" (ore ga ie). In another undated rewrite, it ends with "thatched house" (kusa no ie).

year unknown

.よい風を鼻にかけてや行々し
yoi kaze wo hana ni kakete ya gyôgyôshi

taking credit
for the good wind...
reed thrush

The phrase hana ni kakeru is an idiom for being proud of something. Shinji Ogawa suggests the translation, "bragging of." The original form of this haiku, written in 1814, has the reed thrush seeming proud about a "cool breeze" (suzukaze).

year unknown

.笠程な花が咲たぞとべ蛍
kasa hodona hana ga saita zo tobe hotaru

a flower big
as an umbrella-hat...
fly there firefly!

Or: "fireflies!" A revision of an 1810 haiku. The original poem doesn't end with a command. Shinji Ogawa explains that kasa hodo no "means a flower as big as an umbrella-hat." He adds, "I think Issa expresses his joy over the blooming of a big flower."

year unknown

.蚊いぶしにやがて蛍も行にけり
ka ibushi ni yagate hotaru mo yuki ni keri

mosquito smudge smoke--
soon the fireflies
leave too

A poem about collateral damage. This undated haiku doesn't appear in Issa's journals, but exists on a manuscript written in his handwriting.

year unknown

.茶の水も筧で来る也蛍来る
cha no mizu mo kakehi de kuru nari hotaru kuru

from the tea water's
water pipe also comes...
a firefly

In my original translation, I left out the word "also," but, as Reza from Taiwan points out, this is an important literal fact. It implies that two things are emanating from the pipe: water and the firefly. Reza adds that a firefly's habitat is near water, especially pure, clean water. Thus, Issa implies that the water used for the tea is of the purest quality. Jason Mak suggests, "Perhaps even the firefly has come to partake of it."

Kakehi refers to a water pipe or flume. In earlier times, it was an open trough--as the following picture shows.

year unknown

.一握草も売也ほたるかご
hito nigiri kusa mo uru nari hotaru kago

sold with a clump
of grass...
firefly cage

Shinji Ogawa, who assisted with this translation, notes, "To a country boy like Issa it might seem strange to make merchandise out of a handful of grass."

year unknown

.蛍こよ蛍こよとよひとり酒
hotaru ko yo hotaru ko yo to yo hitori-zake

come, firefly!
firefly, come!
drinking alone

Issa's drink, of course, is sake. Shinji Ogawa explains that the repeat symbol in Issa's text applies to the entire phrase, hotaru ko yo, not, as I had first assumed, to ko yo alone.

year unknown

.宵越しの豆腐明りの薮蚊哉
yoigoshi no tôfu akari no yabu ka kana

left out all night
the tofu gleams...
mosquitoes

Or: "a mosquito."

Shinji Ogawa believes that some sort of mold or bacteria is making the tofu gleam.

According to R. H. Blyth, "thicket mosquito" (yabu ka) refers to a species of "striped mosquitoes"; Haiku (Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1949-1952; rpt. 1981-1982/reset paperback edition) 3.805. Robin D. Gill notes that the scientific name for these large striped, bloodthirsty mosquitoes is Stegomyia fasciata, according to Kenkyûsha's Japanese-English Dictionary.

year unknown

.夕暮や蚊が鳴出してうつくしき
yûgure ya ka ga nakidashite utsukushiki

evening falls--
the whine of mosquitoes
pretty


year unknown

.昼の蚊を後ろにかくす仏かな
hiru no ka wo ushiro ni kakusu hotoke kana

midday's mosquitoes
hidden behind
the Buddha of stone

Shinji Ogawa notes that the doer of the action (of hiding) is the statue of Buddha. He offers a more literal translation:

hides midday's mosquitoes
in his back
statue of Buddha

year unknown

.豊年の声を上けり門の蝿
hônen no koe wo age keri kado no hae

"It's a good year!"
they buzz...
flies at the gate

Literally, it is a "fruitful year."

year unknown

.川中へ蚤を飛ばする旦哉
kawa naka e nomi wo tobasuru ashita kana

into the river
fleas are tossed...
sunrise

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s. When I first translated it, I assumed that ashita meant "tomorrow." Shinji Ogawa explained, in this context, ("ashita is the literary expression for morning not for tomorrow, just like the English word, 'morrow.' It is confusing even to Japanese students." He adds that the Chinese character Issa uses shows the sun just above the horizon line: sunrise.

year unknown

.うら山を遊び歩行や寺の蚤
ura yama wo asobi aruku ya tera no nomi

on a pleasure walk
up the mountain...
temple flea

Literally, the flea is walking up the "back mountain" (ura yama): the mountain behind the temple.

year unknown

.羽蟻出る迄に目出度庵哉
ha-ari deru made ni medetaki iori kana

until the winged ants
come out
my fortunate hut

This is a revision of a haiku that Issa wrote in 1819:

ha-ari deru made ni medetaki hashira kana

until the winged ants
come out
a fortunate pillar

year unknown

.ねがはくば念仏を鳴け夏の蝉
negawakuba nembutsu wo nake natsu no semi

if you're praying
pray to Amida Buddha!
summer cicadas

The nembutsu prayer is "Namu Amida Butsu"--"All praise to Amida Buddha!"

For Issa, even non-human "Buddhists" can benefit from Amida's vow to make possible their rebirth in the Pure Land.

year unknown

.我宿のおくれ鰹も月よ哉
waga yado wa okure katsuo mo tsuki yo kana

at my house
late-summer bonito
and bright moon

Shinji Ogawa explains, "Bonitos swim, along the Black Current (or Japan Current), from the Philippine Sea to the northern sea around Hokkaido. They pass near Tokyo (Edo) in spring [old calendar = summer] on their way to the north. They return to pass Tokyo in the fall on their way back to the south." In haiku, bonito is a summer season word.

This haiku is an undated revision of one that Issa wrote in 1804. The original version begins with the phrase, "in one village" (kata zato wa).

year unknown

.昼顔にふんどし晒す小僧かな
hirugao ni fundoshi sarasu kozô kana

in day flowers
airing out his loincloth...
little boy

Literally, a "little priest" (kozô) is involved. However, in Japanese this expression can mean any little boy.

year unknown

.けし提て群集の中を通いけり
keshi sagete gunshû no naka wo tôri keri

carrying a poppy
he passes through
the crowd


year unknown

.善尽し美を尽してもけしの花
zen tsukushi bi wo tsukushite mo keshi no hana

virtue beyond virtue
beauty beyond beauty...
just a poppy!

The particle mo, in this context, means "after all that"--according to Shinji Ogawa. The third line literally reads, "after all that you are still a poppy." This, Shinji says, "is Issa's humorous twist."

year unknown

.扇にて尺をとらせるぼたん哉
ôgi nite shaku wo toraseru botan kana

made to measure it
with a fan...
the peony

In the original form of this haiku, the peony was merely measured by means of a fan. In this revision, Issa changes the verb form so that the peony is the cause of the action, forcing the person to measure it.

year unknown

.掃人の尻で散たる牡丹かな
haku hito no shiri de chiritaru botan kana

petals scattered
by the sweeper's butt...
peony


year unknown

.蓮の香や昼寝の上を吹巡る
hasu no ka ya hirune no ue wo fuki meguru

midday nap--
the scent of lotuses
meanders


year unknown

.犬の声ぱつたり止て蓮の花
inu no koe pattari yamite hasu no hana

suddenly
the dog stops barking...
lotus blossoms!


year unknown

.なでしこや地蔵菩薩の跡先に
nadeshiko ya jizô bosatsu no ato saki ni

blooming pinks
behind and in front
of holy Jizo

Jizô is the beloved guardian deity of children.

year unknown

.浮草や魚すくふたる小菅笠
ukikusa ya uo sukuutaru ko suge-gasa

duckweed--
rescuing a fish scooped up
with a little sedge hat

Shinji Ogawa explains that sukuutaru can mean "scooped" as past tense or as an adjective. According to the editors of Issa zenshû, Issa would have pronounced duckweed, ukikusa. Modern pronunciation = ukigusa; (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 1.403.

year unknown

.朝富士の天窓へ投る早苗哉
asa fuji no atama e hôru sanae kana

hurled at the head
of morning Fuji...
rice plants

In the summer, stalks of rice are transplanted from their seedling beds into flooded fields. What, exactly, is Issa picturing here? Is this a poem of perspective, in which rice plants are being thrown in the foreground, making it seem like they're aimed at Fuji's snowy "head"? Or...?

year unknown

.象潟や蛍まぶれの早苗舟
kisagata ya hotaru mabure no sanae fune

Kisa Lagoon--
sparkling with fireflies
the rice planting boat

Kisa Lagoon (Kisagata) was ravaged by an earthquake in 1804. This undated haiku was probably written some time before that event.

year unknown

.麦秋の小隅に咲る椿かな
mugi aki no kosumi ni sakitaru tsubaki kana

blooming in a nook
of ripened barley...
camellias

Mugi is a generic term that refers to several grains: wheat, barley, oats, and rye. Shinji Ogawa explains that the phrase "barley's autumn" (mugi no aki) refers, in fact, to the summer season. The name derives from the fact that ripened barley "is comparable to the sight of a rice field in autumn."

year unknown

.ことし竹真直に旭登りけり
kotoshi take masugu ni asahi nobori keri

newborn bamboo--
straight up the morning sun
climbing

Literally, the bamboo is "this year's" (kotoshi).

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s.

year unknown

.藪竹もわかいうちとてそよぐ也
yabu take mo wakai uchi tote soyogu nari

the thicket's bamboo
like all young folk...
agitated

This is an undated revision of a haiku of 1812. In the original version Issa ends with sawagu nari ("raising a ruckus").

year unknown

.竹の子の影の川こす旭哉
takenoko no kage no kawa kosu asahi kana

bamboo shoot shadows
cross the river...
morning sun

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s. Shinji Ogawa assisted with its translation.

year unknown

.一番の大竹の子を病かな
ichiban no ôtakenoko wo yamai kana

the tallest
of the bamboo shoots...
sickly

Perhaps the tall bamboo shoot has bent over--as others have done in Issa's poems on this topic.

year unknown

.葉がくれの瓜を枕に子猫哉
ha-gakure no uri wo makura ni ko neko kana

in leafy shade
a melon for a pillow...
a kitten


year unknown

.草の戸や一月ばかり冷し瓜
kusa no to ya hito tsuki bakari hiyashi uri

my hut--
the only cooling melon
is the moon

輯hinji Ogawa has pointed out to me that kusa no to is not to be read literally as "grass door," but figuratively as "my hut."

Issa alludes often to his poverty. Here, he comically laments his lack of a melon. The round moon serves as a substitute.

year unknown

.門口にわか葉かぶさる雨日哉
kado-guchi ni wakaba kabusaru ame hi kana

the gateway shelters
fresh green leaves...
a rainy day

This early haiku was composed in the 1790's.

year unknown

.存分に藤ぶら下るわか葉哉
zonbun ni fuji burasagaru wakaba kana

wisteria dangles
to its heart's content...
fresh green leaves

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s.

year unknown

.芝でした腰掛茶屋や夏木立
shiba de shita koshikake chaya ya natsu kodachi

making the lawn
a sit-down teahouse...
summer trees

Issa is alluding to the shade provided by the trees.

This is an undated haiku. In 1819 Issa writes, in a similar vein:

shiba de shita yasumi-dokoro ya natsu kodachi

making the lawn
a vacation spot...
summer trees

year unknown

.法談のてまねも見へて夏木立
hôdan no temane mo miete natsu kodachi

the preacher's
hand gestures...
the summer trees

In this visual haiku an itinerant preacher tells passers-by about Amida Buddha's vow to allow all who trust in him rebith in the Pure land. Issa watches his earnest hand gestures but also, at the same time, the green summer trees that surround him. The connection between the two images is left to the reader's imagination. When I contemplate this haiku, I suspect that Issa is purposely zoning out the preacher's words, implying that the beauty of Nature itself--embodied in the trees--is Buddha's promise. This is a rewrite of an 1820 haiku, in which the sermon takes place at night. The 1820 haiku, in turn, is a variant of an 1814 poem about a sermon in the withered fields of winter.

year unknown

.大寺は留主の体也夏木立
ôtera wa rusu no tei nari natsu kodachi

the big temple
looks empty...
summer trees


year unknown

.門脇や栗つくだけの木下闇
kado waki ya kuri tsuku dake no ko shita yami

no lazing at the gate
they husk chestnuts...
deep tree shade

Literally, the haiku reads: "at the gate they only husk chestnuts ... deep tree shade." Normally, people laze under tree's shade on a summer's day, but in this case that shade is being used only by workers. Since Issa's Japanese readers would understand the implications of the dake ("only") in the poem, I've added "no lazing" to my translation.

In an almost identical haiku composed in 1815, the people are husking "barley" (mugi).

year unknown

.柿の花おちてぞ人の目に留る
kaki no hana ochite zo hito no me ni tomaru

persimmon blossoms
falling...
only now noticed

Shinji Ogawa paraphrases: "persimmon blossoms ... only after falling down they are noticed." He adds, "Persimmon blooms in a very modest way; the view of the red-brown flowers is obscured by the summer leaves."

year unknown

.卯の花の垣はわらぢの名代哉
u no hana no kaki wa waraji no nadai kana

deutzia blossom hedge--
famous straw sandals
for sale

The idea that the sandals are for sale isn't stated in Issa's Japanese but is implied. Kaki can be translated as "fence" or "hedge." In this case, the latter fits.

This undated haiku is a revision of one that Issa wrote in 1816. In the original version, Issa depicts a "gate" (kado) instead of a hedge.

year unknown

.花うばら垣ね曲る山家哉
hana ubara kakine magareru yamaga kana

circled by a hedge
of wild roses...
mountain home

Of the seventeen on (sound units) in this musical haiku, twelve have the vowel sound of a.

year unknown

.もまれてや江戸のきのこは赤くなる
momarete ya edo no kinoko wa akaku naru

handled and squeezed
Edo's mushrooms
turn red

In an earlier version of this haiku, written in 1821, Edo's "plums" (sumomo) are being handled. Might Issa be implying, humorously, that the mushrooms are blushing?

year unknown

.御地蔵の玉にもち添ふ李哉
o-jizô no tama ni mochi-sou sumomo kana

added to
holy Jizo's jewel...
a plum

Jizô is the beloved guardian deity of children.

Most statues of Jizo hold a jewel in the left hand. This one also holds a plum.

year unknown

.門の月暑がへれば人もへる
kado no tsuki atsusa ga hereba hito mo heru

moon at the gate--
as the heat dwindles
so do people

This is a rewrite of a haiku of 1821. The original poem ends with the phrase, tomo mo heru ("so do companions"). As summer heat gives way to autumn cold, fewer people are outside, moon-gazing.

year unknown

.次の間の行灯で寝る夜寒哉
tsugi no ma no andon de neru yozamu kana

by the next room's lamplight
I sleep...
a cold night

This undated haiku portrays a scene at an inn. In a similar, dated poem (1815), Issa eats his rice by the light of his neighbor's lamp:

tsugi no ma no hi de meshi wo kuu yozamu kana

by the next room's lamplight
eating my rice...
a cold night

year unknown

.庵の夜の遊かげんの夜寒哉
io no yo no asobi kagen no yozamu kana

night in the hut
feeling like carousing...
a cold night

This haiku is undated. It's a rewrite of a haiku of 1815:

muda hito no asobi kagen no yozamu kana

vain mankind
feeling like carousing...
a cold night

Issa would like to go out and carouse, but the night is too cold.

year unknown

.我庵や夜寒昼寒さて是は
waga io ya yozamu hiru samu sate kore wa

at my hut
cold nights, cold days...
ah well


year unknown

.山見ても海見ても秋の夕哉
yama mite mo umi mite [mo] aki no yûbe kana

looking at the mountain
looking at the sea...
autumn evening

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s.

year unknown

.御旅宿の秋の夕を忘れたり
o-ryoshuku no aki no yûbe wo wasuretari

at the inn
the autumn evening
is forgotten

I picture Issa and other guests of the inn drinking plenty of sake, "forgetting."

year unknown

.芦の穂を蟹がはさんで秋の夕
ashi no ho wo kani ga hasande aki no yû

crabs jamming themselves
in the cattails...
autumn night


year unknown

.島々や一こぶしづつ秋の暮
shima-jima ya hito kobushi-zutsu aki no kure

every little island
fist after fist...
autumn dusk

This is an undated rewrite of a haiku composed in 1811. Issa starts the original poem with "Matsushima." Matsushima is the famous sightseeing resort consisting of many tiny pine islands. Issa imagines that they look like fists jutting up from the water.

The third phrase of this haiku, aki no kure, means both "autumn night" and "autumn's end."

year unknown

.夜は長し徳利はむなし放れ家
yo wa nagashi tokuri wa munashi hanare ie

the night is long
my bottle, empty
my house, set apart

Issa is referring (sadly) to his sake bottle.

year unknown

.夕蝉の翌ない秋をひたと鳴く
yû semi no yoku nai aki wo hita to naku

evening cicada--
a last nearby song
to autumn

It's the last night of autumn. Tomorrow, winter.

year unknown

.霜おくやふとんの上の天の川
shimo oku ya futon no ue no ama no gawa

frost has formed
on the futon...
Milky Way above

This haiku has the prescript, "On a boat." Issa's phrase, "Heaven's River" (ama no gawa) refers to the Milky Way. The stars of the galaxy are reflected in the frost.

year unknown

.ゆかしさよ田舎の竹も天の川
yukashisa yo inaka no take mo ama no gawa

charming--
in rural bamboo too
the Milky Way

Issa's phrase, "Heaven's River" (ama no gawa) refers to the Milky Way. Issa is happy to find it even in this backward province far from the capital.

year unknown

.出る月のかたは古郷の入江哉
deru tsuki no kata wa furusato no iri-e kana

where the moon is rising
the home village's
cove

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s. During this period, Issa was traveling far from his native village of Kashiwabara in the mountains of Shinano Province, a place, incidentally, without a "cove" (iri-e), which would suggest that Issa is seeing some other village in the moment: someone else's hometown.

year unknown

.さぞ今よひ古郷の川も月見哉
sazo koyoi kokyô no kawa mo tsukimi kana

on the river back home too
no doubt...
moon gazing

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s. Issa traveled far and wide during this period. In this haiku, he thinks wistfully of his native village of Kashiwabara, imagining what might be going on there tonight, under the moon.

year unknown

.月今よひ古郷に似ざる山もなし
tsuki koyoi kokyô ni nizaru yama mo nashi

tonight's moon--
no mountain not like
the ones back home

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s. Issa traveled far and wide during this period. His native village of Kashiwabara has plenty of mountains surrounding it. Perhaps Issa derives comfort from the familiar scene. Shinji Ogawa, who assisted with this translation, helped me to grasp the meaning of Issa's double negative: nizaru ("not resemble," "be unlike") and yama mo nashi ("not a mountain") together denote, "not a mountain is unlike" the mountains back home in Shinano Province (present-day Nagano Prefecture).

year unknown

.月今よひ古郷に似たる山はいくつ
tsuki koyoi kokyô ni nitaru yama wa ikutsu

tonight's moon--
how many mountains resemble
the ones back home?

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s. It is a revision of the following, changing statement to question:

tsuki koyoi kokyô ni nizaru yama mo nashi

tonight's moon--
mountains just like
the ones back home

year unknown

.月今よひ山は古郷に似たる哉
tsuki koyoi yama wa kokyô ni nitaru kana

tonight's moon--
mountains just like
the ones back home

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s. Issa traveled far and wide during this period. His native village of Kashiwabara has plenty of mountains surrounding it. In this scene, he appears homesick.

In another haiku of the same period, he captures the same idea but uses a negative construction:

tsuki koyoi kokyô ni nizaru yama mo nashi

Shinji Ogawa translates the second and third phrases: "not a mountain is unlike the mountains back home."

year unknown

.月やこよひ舟連ねしを平家蟹
tsuki ya koyoi fune tsuraneshi wo heike-gani

harvest moon--
side by side with the boat
a Heike crab

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s.

Crabs with special markings resembling faces of samurai are thought to be reincarnated heroes who died in a famous battle, recounted in the medieval Tale of the Heike.

year unknown

.古郷に似たる山をかぞへて月見哉
kokyô ni nitaru yama wo kazoete tsukimi kana

counting mountains
like the ones back home...
moon gazing


year unknown

.よ所からはさぞ此島を月見哉
yoso kara wa sazo kono shima wo tsukimi kana

elsewhere, no doubt
someone's viewing this island
this moon

Issa provides an interesting perspective: he stands on an island under the moon, imagining the viewpoint of another person, on another island, looking in his direction. The imagined scene is a worthy subject for a painting: a little pine island, the shining moon, and because of his out-of-body perspective, Issa is there too, immersed in his own picture.

year unknown

.数珠かけて名月拝む山家哉
juzu kakete meigetsu ogamu yamaga kana

prayer beads dangling
a harvest moon prayer...
mountain home

This haiku was written in the mid-Bunka Era (1804-1818).

year unknown

.御の字の月夜也けり草の雨
on no ji no tsuki yo nari keri kusa no ame

it's become a top-notch night
of harvest moon!
rain-drenched grass

This undated haiku is a rewrite of a haiku written in 1822. Issa has simply changed tsuki ("moon") to tsuki yo ("moonlit night"). Shinji Ogawa translates the prescript to the 1822 poem: "As the night progressed, the sky cleared."

year unknown

.御の字の月夜なりけり草の花
on no ji no tsuki yo nari keri kusa no hana

it's become a top-notch night
of harvest moon!
wildflowers

Except for its last word, this undated haiku is identical to another undated haiku, which in turn is a rewrite of a haiku written in 1822. In both of the earlier versions, Issa ends with kusa no ame ("rain on the grass" or "rain-drenched grass"). In this version, he ends with kusa no hana ("wildflowers"), completely changing the meaning. Did Issa mean to write the character for ame and accidentally write hana instead? Or did he purposefully change the last word and the punch line of the haiku? You decide.

year unknown

.十五夜もただの山也秋の雨
jûgoya mo tada no yama nari aki no ame

harvest moon night
on the mountain, like any other...
autumn rain

Issa literally refers to the night as "night of the 15th" (jûgoya). In the old calendar, there were two harvest moons: the 15th day of Eighth Month (this is the more important meigetsu) and the 13th day of Ninth Month. As Shinji Ogawa points out, "The fifteenth night (the harvest moon night) view has become a just ordinary mountain (view) because of the autumn rain ... no moon."

year unknown

.名月や羽織でかくす欲と尿
meigetsu ya haori de kakusu yoku to shito

harvest moon--
hiding with their coats
lust and piss

Or: "hiding with my coat" or "hiding with his coat." I prefer to visualize a group of moon-gazers whose hidden, sinful reality contrasts starkly with the divine moon. This is a funny and raw haiku with Pure Land Buddhist overtones. According to Shinran, the patriarch of the Jôdoshinshû sect to which Issa belonged, we are all, inescapably, sinners.

year unknown

.名月や仏のやうに膝をくみ
meigetsu ya hotoke no yô ni hiza wo kumi

harvest moon--
sitting cross-legged
like Buddha


year unknown

.住吉の灯また消ル秋の風
sumiyoshi no tomoshi mata kiyuru aki no kaze

Sumiyoshi's lamps
die out again...
autumn wind

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s. Sumiyoshi is a Shinto shrine in Osaka.

year unknown

.秋風や藻に鳴虫のいくそばく
akikaze ya mo ni naku mushi no ikusobaku

autumn wind--
singing in the duckweed
how many insects?

The word ikusobaku denotes an unknown number; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 107.

year unknown

.鳥飛や人は藻に鳴秋の風
tori tobu ya hito wa mo ni naku aki no kaze

a bird takes flight--
a shout in the duckweed
autumn wind

Or: "birds take flight." A person (hito) cries out, scaring the bird or birds.

year unknown

.芦の穂の波に屯ス野分哉
ashi no ho [no] nami ni tamuro su nowaki kana

a barracks amid waves
of rushes gone to seed...
autumn gale

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s.

Tamuro is a camp, barracks, or quarters for soldiers; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983)1027.

year unknown

.内に居ばおどり盛りの野分哉
uchi ni oreba odori sakari no nowaki kana

when it comes inside
it dances full fury...
autumn gale

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s.

year unknown

.ざぶざぶと暖き雨ふる野分哉
zabu-zabu to nukuki ame furu nowaki kana

splish-splash
a warm rain falls...
autumn gale

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s.

year unknown

.ぬくき雨のざぶりざぶりと野分哉
nukuki ame no zaburi-zaburi to nowaki kana

warm rain falling
splish-splash...
autumn gale

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s.

year unknown

.野分して又したたかのわか葉哉
nowaki shite mata shitataka no wakaba kana

autumn gale--
but the new leaves
hang tough

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s. Shinji Ogawa notes that shitataka means "strong" and modifies the new leaves, not, as I originally thought, the damage to the leaves done by the gale. I have revised.

year unknown

.山は虹いまだに湖水は野分哉
yama wa niji imada ni mizu wa nowaki kana

rainbow over the mountain
yet on the lake
an autumn gale

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s.

Originally, I read the kanji for "lake water" as mizuumi mizu, but Shinji Ogawa says that a Japanese person would naturally shorten this to kosui or mizu. The latter fits the normal 5-7-5 pattern of Japanese sound units.

year unknown

.寝むしろや野分に吹かす足のうら
nemushiro ya nowaki ni fukasu ashi no ura

sleeping mat--
the autumn gale blowing
the soles of my feet


year unknown

.いつぞやがいとまごひ哉墓の露
itsuzoya ga itoma[go]i kana haka no tsuyu

just the other day
we said goodbye...
dewy grave

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s. According to R. H. Blyth, graves are visited in Seventh Month of the old calendar, between the 13th and 15th; Haiku (Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1949-1952; rpt. 1981-1982/reset paperback edition) 1027.

year unknown

.白露に片袖寒き朝日哉
shira tsuyu ni kata sode samuki asahi kana

in the silver dew
one sleeve cold...
morning sun

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s. Issa feels warm on the sunlit side, cold on the other. Issa wrote this version in 1794:

tsuyu no no ni kata sode samuki asahi kana

in the dewy field
one sleeve cold...
morning sun

year unknown

.人問わば露と答へよ合点か
hito towaba tsuyu to kota[e] yo gatten ka

if someone asks
answer: it's a dewdrop
OK?

This enigmatic haiku alludes to a line from Ise monogatari.

Zoltan Barczikay notes that the reference is to Episode 6, which he paraphrases: In short, a man falls in love with a woman, and one night they flee from the place they live. When crossing the Akuta river, the woman sees a dewdrop on the grass and asks what is it. Later, they spend the night in an abandoned storehouse, not knowing that an oni (devil) is living there. The man stays outside with his bow and arrows. During the night, the oni devours the lady. Her cries are deafened by the thunder. In the morning, when he discovers what happened, he recites:

shiratama ka / nani zo to hito no / toishi toki
tsuyu to kotaete / kienamashi mono o

When she asked: "white gem, what could it be? A jewel?"
--I wish I had replied "it is a dewdrop" and died on the spot...

I wonder if Issa might be using this literary reference to make a point about the world in a Buddhist sense: that it is, in one of his favorite phrases: tsuyu no yo, a "dewdrop world."

year unknown

.身の上の露ともしらでさはぎけり
mi no ue no tsuyu to mo shirade sawagi keri

unaware of life
passing like dewdrops...
they frolic


year unknown

.白露の身にも大玉小玉から
shira tsuyu no mi ni mo ôtama ko tama kara

even among silver
dewdrops...
some big, some little

Is this social satire, a comment on human hierarchy? Shinji Ogawa, who helped with this translation, writes, "It is hard to know what Issa implied [in this haiku], but in Japanese tradition dewdrops are often referred as the souls passed away."

year unknown

.稲妻やすすきがくれの五十顔
inazuma ya susuki-gakure no go jû kao

lightning flash--
in plume grass ensconced
a fifty year-old's face

Or: "faces."

This haiku was written in the mid-Bunka Era (1804-1818).

year unknown

.稲妻に泣もありけり門すずみ
inazuma ni naku mo ari keri kado suzumi

the lightning flash
makes someone cry...
cooling at the gate

Most people, farmers especially, rejoice to see the lightning--a harbinger of a good rice harvest. Still, it makes person at the gate, most likely a child, cry.

year unknown

.朝霧にあはただし木の雫哉
asa-giri ni awatadashi ki no shizuku kana

in morning mist
a frenzy of drops
from the tree

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s.

year unknown

.秋霧や河原なでしこぱつと咲く
aki-giri ya kawara nadeshiko patto saku

autumn mist--
the river beach's pinks
have bloomed in a flash

This is haiku is undated. Shinji Ogawa notes that the reason for the "sudden" bloom of the pinks is the sudden lift of the autumn mist. It is related to a poem of 1804:

aki-giri ya kawara nadeshiko miyuru made

autumn mist--
the river beach's pinks
barely visible

year unknown

.かたみ子や母が来るとて手をたたく
katamigo ya haha ga kuru tote te wo tataku

the orphan child
summons his mother
clapping

In one text this haiku has the prescript, "Dead wife's first Bon Festival"; Issa zenshû (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 9.229.

The Bon Festival of the Dead takes place in Eighth Month in the old lunar calendar. At this time, people light lanterns to guide their ancestors' spirits back home.

Issa, who himself was an orphan, watches his child clapping at his mother's grave: a common gesture that precedes prayer at Shinto shrines. The child hopes to wake up his mother's spirit so that she can return to him.

year unknown

.末の子や御墓参りの箒持
sue no ko ya o-haka mai[ri] no hôki mochi

the youngest child
on the grave visit
brings the broom

According to R. H. Blyth, graves are visited in Seventh Month of the old calendar, between the 13th and 15th; Haiku (Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1949-1952; rpt. 1981-1982/reset paperback edition) 1027.

year unknown

.かき立つて履見せる灯籠哉
kaki tatte hakimono miseru tôro kana

stoking it
to find my shoes...
lantern for the dead

The Bon Festival of the Dead takes place in Eighth Month in the old lunar calendar. At this time, people light lanterns to guide their ancestors' spirits back home. In this comic haiku, Issa finds a less than pious use for the lantern's light.

This undated rewrite has an earlier version (1822) that begins with the phrase, "at times [I use it]" (aru toki wa).

year unknown

.御揃ひや孫星彦星やしやご星
o-soro[i] ya mago-boshi hiko-boshi yashago-boshi

a gathering of stars--
children, grandchildren
great-great-grandchildren

This undated haiku relates to two written in 1823 and 1825, where Issa sees stars as children, grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren. Tanabata is a festival that takes place on the seventh day of Seventh Month. According to a romantic legend, two celestial lovers--the stars Altair and Vega--are separated by Heaven's River (the Milky Way). One night a year (Tanabata night), they cross the starry river to be together. In this haiku, Issa pushes the myth even further, imagining that the lover stars, over time, have produced many shining offspring.

year unknown

.川上にしばし里ある花火哉
kawakami ni shibashi sato aru hanabi kana

upstream a village
for just a little while...
fireworks

Hiroshi Kobori believes that the village is familiar to Issa; that perhaps he visited it in his boyhood. This is an early haiku written in the 1790s. The village is visible just for "a while" (shibashi) because the fireworks flare up, then darkness returns.

year unknown

.しずかさや外山の花火水をとぶ
shizukasa ya toyama no hanabi mizu wo tobu

silence--
the mountain's fireworks
fly into water

Toyama (often translated as "foothills") refers to any mountain located near a village; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1185.

year unknown

.しばらくは湖も一つぱいの玉火哉
shibaraku [wa] umi mo ippai no tamabi kana

in a flash the lake
is filled...
with fireworks!


year unknown

.しばらくは闇のともしを花火哉
shibaraku wa yami no tomoshi wo hanabi kana

for a moment
the darkness is lighted...
fireworks


year unknown

.縁はなや二文花火も夜の体
en hana ya ni mon hanabi mo yoru no tei

at verandah's edge
two-penny fireworks
in the night

The mon was the basic currency of Issa's time. It took the form of a coin with a hole in its middle so that it could be strung on a string. In Issa's day six mon could pay for a bowl of rice. In this haiku, the fireworks cost two mon, which would have a modern equivalent of approximately fifty cents (U.S.) I prefer the translation "two-penny" to "half dollar," since the latter sounds too American.

year unknown

.負角力親も定めて見ていべき
make-zumô oya mo sadamete mite ibeki

defeated sumo wrestler--
his father
must be watching

Or: "his parents/ must be watching." This undated haiku is a rewrite of a poem of 1792. In the original version, Issa poses the question: "Is his father watching too?" (sono ko no oya mo mite iru ka).

year unknown

.楠に汝も仕へしかがし哉
kusunoki ni nare mo tsukaeshi kagashi kana

protecting the camphor tree
too...
scarecrow

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s. Shinji Ogawa points out that there was a military general of the fourteenth century named Kusunoki ("camphor tree"). Is Issa suggesting that the scarecrow is a loyal retainer who "serves" (tsukaeshi) the lordly tree?

year unknown

.人はいさ直な案山子もなかりけり
hito wa isa suguna kagashi mo nakari keri

like people
an upright scarecrow
can't be found

Shinji Ogawa explains that the third word in this haiku, isa, is traditionally followed by shirazu ("not knowing"). He adds that the most famous example of the usage of isa is the tanka (#42) in Kokinwakashu compiled in the early tenth century:

hito wa isa
kokoro mo shirazu
furusato wa
hana zo mukashi no
kani nioi keru

I don't know about people's minds, but the flowers in my home village smell as they used to.

Shinji continues: "In Issa's haiku shirazu ("not knowing") is curtailed, but a negative phrase nakari keri makes the haiku grammatically sound. The haiku says, 'I don't know about the people, but an upright scarecrow can't be found.' Of course, the expression 'I don't know about the people' or 'not mentioning the people' is a euphemistic way to say 'like people'."

year unknown

.老の身やかがしの前も恥しき
oi no mi ya kagashi no mae mo hazukashiki

my old age--
even facing a scarecrow
ashamed


year unknown

.姨捨しあたりをとへばきぬた哉
obasuteshi atari wo toeba kinuta kana

when I ask the way
to Obasute...
pounding cloth

In Japan and Korea, fulling-blocks were used to pound fabric and bedding. The fabric was laid over a flat stone, covered with paper, and pounded, making a distinctive sound.

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s.

Obasute (sometimes Ubasute) is a mountain in Issa's home province of Shinano (today's Nagano Prefecture) where old people were, according to legend, "thrown away": left to die. It was also known as Sarashinayama. Today it is called Kamurikiyama.

year unknown

.飯けむり賑ひにけり夕ぎぬた
meshi kemuri nigiwai ni keri yûginuta

an abundance
of cooking smoke...
evening cloth-pounding

In Japan and Korea, fulling-blocks were used to pound fabric and bedding. The fabric was laid over a flat stone, covered with paper, and pounded, making a distinctive sound.

year unknown

.近砧遠砧さて雨夜かな
chika kinuta tô-ginuta sate ame yo kana

cloth-pounding near
cloth-pounding far...
a rainy night

In Japan and Korea, fulling-blocks were used to pound fabric and bedding. The fabric was laid over a flat stone, covered with paper, and pounded, making a distinctive sound.

year unknown

.神前の草にこぼして新酒哉
shinzen no kusa ni koboshite shinshu kana

into the grass
at the shrine, pouring...
new sake

The brewing of new sake (rice wine) is an autumn event. Here, someone (Issa?) pours a libation to the god of the shrine in thanksgiving for the good harvest. This is an early haiku written in the 1790s.

year unknown

.うかれ舟や山には鹿の妻をよぶ
ukare fune ya yama ni wa shika no tsuma wo yobu

pleasure boat--
on the mountain a deer
calls his wife

This early haiku was composed in the 1790's.

year unknown

.おれがふく笛と合すや鹿の声
ore ga fuku fue to awasu ya shika no koe

making a duet
with my flute...
cry of a deer


year unknown

.淋しさに鵙がそら鳴したりけり
sabishisa ni mozu ga sora naki shitari keri

solitude--
that song the shrike
is singing!

A mozu is a bull-headed shrike, a carnivorous bird.

year unknown

.鵙なくやむら雨かはくうしろ道
mozu naku ya murasame kawaku ushiro michi

a shrike sings--
rain puddles dry
on the back road


year unknown

.雁おりて畠も名所のひとつ哉
kari orite hata mo meisho no hitotsu kana

geese landing--
the farmer's field too
a famous resort

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s. The common field, for the geese, is a "famous resort" (meisho).

year unknown

.天津雁おれが松にはおりぬ也
amatsu kari ore ga matsu ni wa orinu nari

celestial geese--
none of them come down
to my pine

Shinji Ogawa notes that the nu in orinu, in this case, signifies a negation: the geese don't land.

year unknown

.門の雁袖引雨がけふも降
kado no kari sode hiku ame ga kyô mo furu

geese at my gate--
another seductive rain
falls today

The expression, sode hiku, literally denotes dragging one by the sleeve; metaphorically, it refers to seduction. The migrating geese enjoy the rain enough to linger another day.

year unknown

.雁おりよ昔の芦の名所也
kari ori yo mukashi no ashi no meisho nari

geese descend--
the ancient rushes
a famous resort


year unknown

.雁鳴やあはれ今年も片月見
kari naku ya aware kotoshi mo kata tsuki mi

geese honking--
this damned year, too
moon gazing interrupted

This haiku has the prescript, "On a journey."

Shinji Ogawa explains that "one moon viewing" (kata tsuki mi) means "incomplete moon viewing," since true moon viewing should be done twice: on the fifteenth day of Eighth Month (around the middle of September, modern calendar) and the thirteenth day of Ninth Month (about the second week of October, modern calendar). He adds, "According to some theories, the two moon-viewings must be done in the same garden. Being on the journey so often, Issa was not able to enjoy a complete moon-viewing."

year unknown

.山雀も左右へ別るる八島哉
yamagara mo sau e wakaruru yashima kana

the titmice split
to the left and right...
Yashima Island

The place could be translated "Ya Island"; shima (island) is part of its name. This is an early haiku written in the 1790s.

year unknown

.満汐や月頭には虫の声
michi shio ya tsuki atama ni wa mushi no koe

high tide--
atop the moon's head
insects singing

A funny exaggeration. The tide is in, leaving no dry place for the singing insects. Issa fancies that they have all taken refuge on the head of Goddess Moon. Despite its humor, the haiku achieves gravity by presenting a sublime moment of moon, glimmering sea, and the ecstatic chanting of insects.

year unknown

.虫の声しばし障子を離れざる
mushi no koe shibashi shôji wo hanarezaru

the insect's song
on the paper door
lingers

At first I visualized an insect's shadow on a sliding paper door (shôji), but Shinji Ogawa suggests that we should not read mushi no koe figuratively to mean "a singing insect" but literally as "an insect's voice." The voice or song of the insect stays on the paper door "for a while" (shibashi). This phrasing intensifies the poetic focus on sound.

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s.

year unknown

.鳴ながら虫の流るる浮木かな
naki nagara mushi no nagaruru ukigi kana

still singing
the insect drifts away...
floating branch

Sakuo Nakamura views this as a haiku of pity, not only for the insect, but for human beings, who cannot escape time going by and the inevitable end.

year unknown

.蓑虫や鳴ながら枝にぶら下る
minomushi ya naki nagara ni burasagaru

the bagworm
sings a song dangling
from a branch

The bagworm is a moth larva inside a dry, fibrous case. Literally, it is called the "straw raincoat bug" (minomushi). Its "singing," according to Shinji Ogawa, was a popular but erroneous belief in Issa's time. Like earthworms, whose singing is also noted in the haiku of Issa and others, bagworms have no organ to produce sounds.

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s.

year unknown

.蓑虫が餅恋しいと鳴くにけり
minomushi ga mochi koishii to naki ni keri

the bagworm
sings a song...
"I love rice cake!"

The bagworm is a moth larva inside a dry, fibrous case. Literally, it is called the "straw raincoat bug" (minomushi). Its "singing," according to Shinji Ogawa, was a popular but erroneous belief in Issa's time. Like earthworms, whose singing is also noted in the haiku of Issa and others, bagworms have no organ to produce sounds.

Shinji adds that the bagworm's song--though it was actually another insect making it--was thought to be a chi-chi sound which, in Japanese, was interpreted as "papa," "father" or "longing for father." Issa humorously twists chi-chi ("father") into mo-chi ("rice cake").

year unknown

.日ぐらしや我影法師のあみだ笠
higurashi ya waga kageboshi no amida-gasa

a cicada chirrs--
my shadow's umbrella-hat
makes a halo!

The higurashi is a type of cicada. The name, as Shinji Ogawa points out, means "evening cicada." One dictionary calls it, a "clear toned cicada." Shinji explains, "An evening cicada sings in rich modulation in a sing-song way." While ordinary cicadas are associated with summer, higurashi is an autumn season word in haiku, "based on the elegant tones."

Literally, Issa sees in his own shadow an "Amida umbrella-hat" (amida-gasa), an old expression that denotes a halo; see Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 70. Amida is the Buddha to which Pure Land devotees such as Issa faithfully depend for rebirth in the Western Paradise. The poet is delighted to see in his shadow the blessing of an unexpected halo. The image is both funny and profound: funny because Issa devotes much ink in his journals to describing his own sinfulness; and yet profound, too, in that it reminds us that even sinners, thanks to Amida Buddha's grace, can become saints.

year unknown

.夕日影町いつぱいのとんぼ哉
yû hikage machi ippai no tombo kana

sunset--
the town is buzzing
with dragonflies


year unknown

.蜻蛉の百度参りやあたご山
tombô no hyakudo mairi ya atago yama

the dragonfly's
100 prayer pilgrimage...
Mount Atago

Hyakudo mairi is a practice of praying while moving back and forth one hundred times between a shrine or temple and some fixed point in that shrine or temple's precincts. It can take two forms: making the cicuit one hundred times without stopping or visiting a shrine or temple on one hundred consecutive days. Atago is a mountain near Kyoto with a major shrine at its summit. On the 24th day of Sixth Month in Issa's time pilgrims who climbed to it just once would reap the benefits of one thousand climbs: the so-called sennichi mairi. Issa's lucky dragonfly must be visiting the temple on a special day that multiplies the spiritual benefit of the journey by one hundred. .

year unknown

.ぬぎ捨し笠に一ぱいいなご哉
nugi-suteshi kasa ni ippai inago kana

the discarded
umbrella-hat is loaded...
with locusts

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s.

year unknown

.ばらばらと臑に飛つくいなご哉
bara-bara to sune ni tobitsuku inago kana

rustle, rustle
leaping at my shins...
locusts

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s.

year unknown

.水鉢にちよつと泳ぎしいなご哉
mizu hachi ni chotto oyogishi inago kana

a quick dip
in the water bowl...
locust


year unknown

.きりぎりす野の牛も聞風情哉
kirigirisu no no ushi mo kiku fuzei kana

song of the katydid--
even the field cow
a connoisseur

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s. A katydid (kirigirisu) is a green or light brown insect, a cousin of crickets and grasshoppers. The males possess special organs on the wings with which they produce shrill calls. Although katydid is the closest English equivalent, many translators (such as R. H. Blyth) use the more familiar "grasshopper" and "cricket." See Haiku (Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1949-1952; rpt. 1981-1982/reset paperback edition) 4.1068-69.

year unknown

.小便の身ぶるひ笑へきりぎりす
shôben no miburui warae kirigirisu

laugh at my piss
and shudder...
katydid

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s. A katydid (kirigirisu) is a green or light brown insect, a cousin of crickets and grasshoppers. The males possess special organs on the wings with which they produce shrill calls. Although katydid is the closest English equivalent, many translators (such as R. H. Blyth) use the more familiar "grasshopper" and "cricket." See Haiku (Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1949-1952; rpt. 1981-1982/reset paperback edition) 4.1068-69.

Makoto Ueda, in his translation of this haiku, renders kirigirisu "grasshoppers"; Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 34.

year unknown

.我死なば墓守となれきりぎりす
ware shinaba haka mori to nare kirigirisu

when I die
guard my grave
katydid!

Though this is an early haiku written in the 1790s, it's a possible candidate for Issa's death verse. He asks the little insect to guard his grave and, we presume, to continue his poetic legacy by "singing" over it.

year unknown

.赤い花頬ばつて鳴きりぎりす
aka[i] hana hôbatte naku kirigirisu

cheeks stuffed
with a red flower
the katydid sings

A katydid (kirigirisu) is a green or light brown insect, a cousin of crickets and grasshoppers. The males possess special organs on the wings with which they produce shrill calls. Although katydid is the closest English equivalent, many translators (such as R. H. Blyth) use the more familiar "grasshopper" and "cricket." See Haiku (Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1949-1952; rpt. 1981-1982/reset paperback edition) 4.1068-69.

year unknown

.きりぎりす声をからすな翌も秋
kirigirisu koe wo karasu na asu mo aki

don't get hoarse
katydid! tomorrow is
autumn too

A katydid (kirigirisu) is a green or light brown insect, a cousin of crickets and grasshoppers. The males possess special organs on the wings with which they produce shrill calls. Although katydid is the closest English equivalent, many translators (such as R. H. Blyth) use the more familiar "grasshopper" and "cricket." See Haiku (Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1949-1952; rpt. 1981-1982/reset paperback edition) 4.1068-69.

year unknown

.古犬や蚯蚓の唄にかんじ顔
furu inu ya mimizu no uta ni kanji-gao

the old dog
looks as if he's listening...
earthworms sing

One Japanese saijiki, a book of season words with examples, says the following about the expression "earthworms sing" (mimizu naku): "Earthworms don't sing. On autumn evenings, when one says one is hearing the 'jii-jii' song of earthworms, in fact they are referring to mole-crickets"; Kiyose (Tokyo: Kakugawa Shoten, 1984) 296. Shinji Ogawa notes, in modern usage, the expression can refer to any "unknown bugs" singing in the autumn.

year unknown

.片隅に日向ぼこして隠居菊
kata sumi ni hinata bokoshite inkyo kiku

in a little nook
basking in the sun...
hermit chrysanthemum

This undated haiku has the prescript, "An impromptu verse in front of the hermit Ryohô's garden." It is a slight revision of one written in 1821:

kata kage ni hinata bokori ya inkyo kiku

in a secret place
basking in the sun...
hermit chrysanthemum

year unknown

.酒臭き黄昏ごろや菊の花
sake kusaki tasogare goro ya kiku no hana

the smell of sake
around about dusk...
chrysanthemum


year unknown

.猫の鈴夜永の菊の咲にけり
neko no rin yonaga no kiku no saki ni keri

cat's bell--
in the long night the chrysanthemum
has bloomed


year unknown

.痩菊もよろよろ花となりにけり
yase kiku mo yoro-yoro hana to nari ni keri

the emaciated chrysanthemum
totters
into bloom

This undated haiku is similar to one that Issa wrote in 1813:

yase kusa no yoro-yoro hana to nari ni keri

the emaciated grass
totters
into bloom

year unknown

.大菊の秋もずんずとくれにけり
ôgiku no aki mo zunzu to kure ni keri

for the big
chrysanthemum too
autumn ends quickly


year unknown

.朝顔をふはりと浮す茶碗哉
asagao wo fuwari to ukasu chawan kana

morning-glories
softly floating...
in the teacup


year unknown

.鈴がらりがらり朝顔ひとつさく
suzu garari-garari asagao hitotsu saku

the shrine's bell
jingles, a morning-glory
blooms

This haiku has the prescript, "At a Shinto shrine" (literally, "Before the god"). For this reason, I have added "shrine" to my translation, even though Issa does not qualify the bell in this way in the body of his haiku. Readers who favor a more faithful translation should ignore the word "shrine's" in the first line.

Shinji Ogawa observes that garari-garari is not an old word meaning "promptly," as I first thought, but an onomatopoetic expression for the jingling sound of a bell. He explains, "There is a rope hanging down in front of a Shinto shrine. A bell or bells are attached to the rope. Just before praying, we shake the rope to jingle the bells, I guess, to draw the god's attention."

year unknown

.夕立をくねり返すや女郎花
yûdachi wo kuneri kaesu ya ominaeshi

shaking her body
in the summer rain...
maiden flower

Shinji Ogawa explains that kuneri kaesu means to "repeatedly wriggle."

year unknown

.鹿垣にむすび込るる萩の花
shika kaki ni musubi-komaruru hagi no hana

woven into
the deer fence...
bush clover blooms

Kaki can be translated as "fence" or "hedge."

year unknown

.山畠やそばの白さもぞつとする
yama hata ya soba no shirosa mo zotto suru

mountain field--
blooming buckwheat's whiteness
makes me shiver

Or: "makes one shiver"; Issa doesn't specify who is shivering. The white blossoms covering the fields remind him of snow. This is a rewrite of an 1817 haiku that starts with the phrase, "Shinano road."

Makoto Ueda translates the last phrase, "makes me shudder." He suggests that anything resembling snow sent "chills down his spine"; Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 4-5. I don't see this haiku as a negative comment on snow. In my view, Issa is simply being playful, claiming to shiver at the sight of the buckwheat blossoms that look like snow.

year unknown

.寒いぞよ軒の蜩唐がらし
samui zo yo noki no higurashi tôgarashi

it's cold!
a cicada in the eaves
with hot peppers

The peppers are being stored on the thatch of the eaves. Issa plays with the similar sounds of higurashi ("cicada") and tôgarashi ("red cayenne peppers").

This undated haiku was written at some point in the Bunka Era (1804-1818).

The higurashi is a type of cicada. The name, as Shinji Ogawa points out, means "evening cicada." One dictionary calls it, a "clear toned cicada." Shinji explains, "An evening cicada sings in rich modulation in a sing-song way." While ordinary cicadas are associated with summer, higurashi is an autumn season word in haiku, "based on the elegant tones."

year unknown

.穂すすきや細き心のさわがしき
ho susuki ya hosoki kokoro no sawagashiki

plumes of plume grass--
the thin hearts
swishing

R. H. Blyth translates the last two phrases as if the haiku refers to a person, perhaps Issa: "the helpless tremblings/ of a lonely heart" (Haiku, Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1949-1952; rpt. 1981-1982/reset paperback edition) 4.1093.

I follow Blyth in translating ho as "plumes." The plume grass has produced seed-bearing "heads" or "ears"--but neither of these words sounds quite right. "Plume," however, nicely suggests the feathery structure in question. See A History of Haiku (Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1964) 1.396.

year unknown

.夕紅葉谷残虹の消へかかる
yûmomiji tani zankô no kie kakaru

evening's fall colors--
the rainbow in the valley
fades away

Perhaps the "rainbow" is figurative: as evening darkens the valley, the bright tints of autumn foliage fade like a rainbow. This is an early haiku written in the 1790s.

year unknown

.涼しさのたらぬ所へ一葉哉
suzushisa no taranu tokoro e hito ha kana

to a place
the cool air missed...
a leaf falls


year unknown

.幸にやきもちくるむ一葉かな
saiwai ni yakimochi kurumu hito ha kana

the roasted rice cake
wrapped for luck...
paulownia leaf

Literally, Issa writes, "one leaf" (hito ha), but this is haiku shorthand for a paulownia leaf. According to its prescript, this haiku was written at a place called Shirousagi-tei: "White Rabbit Mansion."

Shinji Ogawa comments: "In a Chinese book, Enanji (in Japanese pronunciation) published in the early third century, it is written that when a paulownia leaf falls, the world's autumn is known. The 'world's autumn' implies the changing of the dynasty. Since paulownia leaves are the crest of the Tyotomi family that ruled Japan in the sixteenth century and was ruined by the Tokugawa, the word hito ha ("one paulownia leaf") implies a sort of sadness. Knowing this, Issa uses the word hito ha in a completely different way to make the haiku comical. In Issa's day, haiku was called haikai, which means 'comical poem' and, therefore, the comical aspect was regarded as important."

year unknown

.あつぱれに咲揃ふ昼の槿哉
appare ni saki-sorou hiru no mukuge kana

splendidly blooming
en masse, midday's
roses of Sharon

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s.

year unknown

.あつぱれの山家と見ゆる木槿哉
appare no yamaga to miyuru mukuge kana

a splendid mountain home
and roses
of Sharon

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s.

year unknown

.朝ばかり日のとどく渓のむくげ哉
asa bakari hi no todoku tani no mukuge kana

the early sun
reaches the valley...
roses of Sharon

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s.

year unknown

.てふてふのいまだにあかぬ木槿哉
chôchô no imada ni akanu mukuge kana

butterflies never
tire of them...
roses of Sharon

Shinji Ogawa notes that akanu in this haiku signifies, "to not grow tired of."

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s.

year unknown

.花木槿家不相応の垣ね哉
hana mukuge ie fusôô no kakine kana

roses of Sharon--
the hedge too good
for the house

Kaki can be translated as "fence" or "hedge." Since Issa is referring to blooming shrubs, the latter translation fits here. The house must be drab or delapidated; the lovely roses of Sharon aren't "suitable" for it (fusôô).

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s. Issa wrote two haiku on this topic during this period.

year unknown

.花木槿里留守がちに見ゆる哉
hana mukuge sato rusugachi [ni] miyuru kana

such roses of Sharon!
yet the village
looks empty

Shinji Ogawa translates the phrase, rusugachi ni miyuru as "it looks rather vacant." Issa is saying, "No one is viewing such beautiful flowers. Where is everybody?"

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s. Issa wrote two haiku on this topic in the same journal.

year unknown

.木槿しばし家不相応のさかり哉
mukuge shibashi ie fusôsô no sakari keri

roses of Sharon--
too good for the house
they bloom

Kaki can be translated as "fence" or "hedge." Since Issa is referring to blooming shrubs, the latter translation fits here. The house must be drab or delapidated; the lovely roses of Sharon aren't "suitable" for it (fusôô).

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s. Issa wrote two haiku on this topic in the same journal.

year unknown

.影法師の畳にうごくふくべ哉
kageboshi no tatami ni ugoku fukube kana

its shadow moves
across the tatami mat...
the gourd

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s.

year unknown

.へちまづる切つて支舞ば他人哉
hechima-zuru kitte shimaeba tanin kana

after cutting
the loofah vine...
strangers

This biographical haiku has the prescript, "Divorce." In Eighth Month of 1824 Issa divorced his second wife, Yuki. Lewis Mackenzie prints a different ending to this haiku not found in Issa zenshû: ("moto no mizu" ("Throw it back in the water!"). See The Autumn Wind: A Selection from the Poems of Issa (London: John Murray, 1957; rpt. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1984) 45.

year unknown

.栃の実やいく日転げて麓迄
tochi no mi ya iku hi korogete fumoto made

horse chestnut--
how many days till you roll
down the mountain?

This is a slight revision of a haiku written in 1814. The original begins with tochi no ko, which carries the same meaning as tochi no mi ("horse chestnut").

year unknown

.団栗と転げくらする小猫哉
donguri to koroge kurasuru ko neko kana

having a tumble
with the acorn...
kitten

A revision of an earlier haiku, in which the kitten "prances" (hanetsukurasuru) with the acorn.

year unknown

.雨上り柱見事にきのこ哉
ameagari hashira migoto ni kinoko kana

rain is over--
on the post a splendid
mushroom

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s.

year unknown

.我好て我する旅の寒さ哉
ware sukite ware suru tabi no samu[sa] kana

though I'm loving
these travels of mine...
it's cold!

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s.

year unknown

.門垣にほしておく也丸氷
kado kaki ni hoshite oku nari maru kôri

leaving it to melt
on the wall by the gate...
round ice

This undated haiku recalls one that Issa wrote in 1813:

ariake ya tsuki yori maruki sute kôri

dawn--
round as the moon
the tossed-out ice

I picture ice that has formed in a water bucket. In the present haiku, Issa sets it on the wall as a kind of (ephemeral) treasure.

year unknown

.さわぐ雁そこらもとしが暮るかよ
sawagu kari sokora mo toshi ga kururu ka yo

clamoring geese--
over there is the year
ending too?

In the original version of this haiku, dated 1813, the middle phrase is different: toshi wa soko kara, but the meaning is the same.

year unknown

.手枕や年が暮よとくれまいと
temakura ya toshi ga kure yo to kure mai to

an arm for a pillow--
the year ends
or doesn't end

This is a rewrite of a haiku of 1825 that begins, "makes no difference to me" (aa mama yo).

Issa prefaces this version with the note, "After drinking sake."

year unknown

.初時雨夕飯買に出たりけり
hatsu shigure yûmeshi kau ni detari keri

first winter rain--
going out to buy
dinner


year unknown

.洛陽やちとも曲らぬ初時雨
rakuyô ya chito mo magaranu hatsu shigure

Kyoto--
falling straight down
the first winter rain

Rakuyô is an old name for Kyoto; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1728.

year unknown

.山鳩が泣事をいふしぐれ哉
yama-bato ga nakigoto wo iu shigure kana

the mountain pigeon
grumbles...
winter rain

Issa has been accused of being anthropomorphic in his attribution of human moods and emotions to animals. Indeed, in this example the reader might infer that Issa is projecting his own displeasure at the winter rain in his depiction of the pigeon. Even so, the haiku suggests that a bird, too, has consciousness, feeling, and a legitimate point of view. Who are we to say that it isn't grumbling?

year unknown

.しぐれ捨てしぐれ捨てけり野の仏
shigure sute shigure sute keri no no hotoke

the winter rain
dumps and dumps...
Buddha in the field

In a haiku of 1821, Issa ends with "a crossroads Buddha."

year unknown

.山寺の豆入日也初時雨
yamadera no mame iri hi nari hatsu shigure

mountain temple--
on bean-parching day
the first winter rain

In an earlier version of this haiku, dated 1823, Issa ends with mura shigure: "non-stop winter rain."

year unknown

.かけがねの真赤に錆びて時雨哉
kake-gane no makka [ni] sabite shigure kana

the door latch
rusting scarlet...
winter rain


year unknown

.鶏頭の立往生や村時雨
keitô no tachiôjô ya mura shigure

the blooming cockscomb
dies standing up...
steady winter rain

The cockscomb is a blooming plant, an autumn season word in haiku.

The expression, mura shigure, signifies winter rain that passes through strongly and incessantly; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 110; 1603.

year unknown

.しぐるるや逃る足さへちんば鶏
shigururu ya nigeru ashi sae chinba-dori

winter rain--
the lame chicken
limps away


year unknown

.山人の火を焚立る時雨哉
yamaudo no hi wo takitateru shigure kana

the mountain hermit's
fire is rising...
winter rain

Issa juxtaposes the cozy interior of the hermit's hut with the harsh world outside. He may be referring to himself.

year unknown

.こがらしや壁のうしろはえちご山
kogarashi ya kabe no ushiro wa echigo yama

winter wind--
behind the wall
Echigo mountains

Or: "Echigo mountain." Echigo is one of the old provinces of Japan, today's Niigata Prefecture. A northern land, it is famous for its coldness. In Issa's time "the mountains of Echigo" would have been synonymous with a cold place in the north.

Hiroshi Kobori comments on the word, kogarashi ("winter wind"). In early Japanese poetry, this refers to the wind that blows through trees, breaking branches and turning the leaves brown. By Issa's time it means "a dry windy day during the late autumn-deep winter season." It is classified as a winter season word.

year unknown

.木がらしや天井張らぬ大御堂
kogarashi ya tenjô haranu ômidô

winter wind--
and the great temple hall
is ceiling-less

Shinji Ogawa translates tenjô haranu ômidô as "the great temple hall without a ceiling." In this particular Buddhist temple hall, there's nothing keeping out the cold wind.

Hiroshi Kobori comments on the word, kogarashi ("winter wind"). In early Japanese poetry, this refers to the wind that blows through trees, breaking branches and turning the leaves brown. By Issa's time it means "a dry windy day during the late autumn--deep winter season." It is classified as a winter season word.

year unknown

.木がらしや塒に迷ふ夕烏
kogarashi ya negura ni mayou yû-garasu

winter wind--
he can't find his roost
the evening crow

Hiroshi Kobori comments on the word, kogarashi ("winter wind"). In early Japanese poetry, this refers to the wind that blows through trees, breaking branches and turning the leaves brown. By Issa's time it means "a dry windy day during the late autumn-deep winter season." It is classified as a winter season word.

year unknown

.じつとして雪をふらすや牧の駒
jitto shite yuki wo furasu ya maki no koma

stone still
he lets the snow fall
colt in the pasture


year unknown

.雪散るやきのふは見へぬ借家札
yuki chiru ya kinou wa mienu shakuya fuda

falling snow--
yesterday it wasn't there
"House for Rent" sign

The original version of this haiku, composed in 1813, has an "Empty House" (akiya) sign.

year unknown

.うまさふな雪やふふはりふふはりと
uma sôna yuki ya fûwari fûwari to

looking delicious
the snow falling softly
softly

As written, this haiku does not appear in Issa zenshû (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79). It exists on a haiku stone in Issa's native village; Issa to kuhi (Tokyo: Kankohkai 2003) 28.
Issa's poem, a variant of a haiku written in 1813, begins with muma: mumasôna yuki ya fûwari fûwari to.

Muma is a colloquial substitute for uma ("delicious"), just as muma, in earlier times, substituted for uma ("horse"); Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1601.

In Matthew Gollub's whimsical translation of this haiku for his children's book, the snowflakes are "mouth-watering" and "heaven's snack"; Cool Melons--Turn to Frogs! The Life and Poems of Issa. New York: Lee and Low Books, 1998. Illustrations by Kazuko G. Stone.

year unknown

.念仏に拍子付たる霰哉
nembutsu ni hyôshi tsuketaru arare kana

keeping the beat
of the prayer to Buddha...
hailstones

The prayer being chanted is the nembutsu: "Namu Amida Butsu" ("All praise to Amida Buddha!").

year unknown

.箕の中の箸御祓や散霰
mi no naka no hashi o-harai ya chiru arare

stuck in his winnow
chopsticks and a charm...
hailstones

This haiku is undated. In a poem of 1819 Issa writes:

mi no naka no hashi yo o-fuda yo akibiyori

stuck in his winnow
chopsticks and a charm...
clear fall weather

Both haiku are portraits of a farmer, who carries in his winnowing fan chopsticks and a good luck charm. In the undated poem, the farmer is most likely holding the fan over his head to shield himself from the hail.

A winnow or winnowing fan is a farm implement used to separate chaff from grain.

year unknown

.逃水のにげかくれてもかれの哉
nigemizu no nige-kakurete mo kareno kana

a mirage running
and hiding...
withered fields

This early haiku was composed in the 1790's. Issa plays with the word nige (flee) in nigemizu (mirage: literally, fleeing water) and nige-kakurete (running and hiding).

year unknown

.ばせを忌やことしもまめで旅虱
bashôki ya kotoshi mo mame de tabi-jirami

Basho's Death-Day--
another year in good health
my journey's lice

The haiku poet, Bashô, was famous for his travels. Issa, on the occasion of his great predecessor's death anniversary (Tenth Month, 12th day), seems proud of his vagrant life--and the attendant lice!

This anniversary is also called "Winter Rain Anniversary" (shigure ki) and "The Old Man's Anniversary" (okina ki).

year unknown

.寒垢離や首のあたりの水の月
kangori ya kubi no atari no mizu no tsuki

midwinter bathing--
his head, the moon
in the water

During the midwinter purification ceremony, a bather's bald head takes the place of the moon in the water.

year unknown

.煤掃て松も洗て三ケの月
susu haite matsu mo araute mika no tsuki

sweeping the soot
washing the pine...
sickle moon

This haiku is a rewrite of one composed in 1817. The earlier poem has the middle phrase, "washing the fence." The moon is a "three-day moon"...just a sliver. Shinji Ogawa clears up a mystery concerning the rômaji spelling of mikazuki ("three-day moon"). He notes, ("Mikezuki is the old way of spelling in kana letters, but the pronunciation has always been mikazuki."

year unknown

.おく小野や藪もせき候節季候
oku ono ya yabu mo sekizoro sekkizoro

remote field--
even in a thicket
Twelfth Month singers!

Sekizoro refers to a Twelfth Month custom in which strolling female singers wandered from town to town, singing festive celebration songs; Kiyose (Tokyo: Kakugawa Shoten, 1984) 348. Shinji Ogawa adds, "They covered their mouths like ladies in the Arab countries. They usually consisted of three or four persons with some types of musical instruments."

Gabi Greve translates one of these songs:

T'is the end of the season!
As in every year, in every year,
may the treasures, silver and gold
gather and fly to the storehouse
of this honorable home owner!

sekizoro
maitoshi maitoshi
danna no o-kura ni kingin o-takara
tobikome maikome

year unknown

.傾城がかはいがりけり小せき候
keisei ga kawaigari keri ko sekizoro

the beautiful courtesan
pets the child...
Twelfth Month singer

The lady is a courtesan (keisei) dressed in a fine kimono. She is caresssing a child singer.

Sekizoro refers to a Twelfth Month custom in which strolling female singers wandered from town to town, singing festive celebration songs; Kiyose (Tokyo: Kakugawa Shoten, 1984) 348. Shinji Ogawa adds, "They covered their mouths like ladies in the Arab countries. They usually consisted of three or four persons with some types of musical instruments."

year unknown

.跡臼は烏のもちか西方寺
ato usu wa karasu no mochi ka saihôji

is the next batch of rice cakes
for the crow?
Saiho Temple

Shinji Ogawa notes that ato usu means "the next batch of rice cakes" (not, as I originally thought, the "tub in back"). Saihôji is a Buddhist temple in Kyoto. In an dated version of this haiku (1813), Issa makes a statement instead of a question: "The next batch of rice cakes is for the crow" (ato usu wa karasu no mochi ya).

There are two types of usu or mill: (1) shiki usu (grinding hand-mill) and (2) a large wooden tub used for rice or herb cake making. The cake maker pounds the ingredients with a wooden mallet. The second definition fits here.

year unknown

.餅つきや大黒さまもてつくつく
mochi tsuki ya daikoku sama mo te tsuku-tsuku

pounding rice cakes--
even the god of wealth
watches eagerly

Daikoku is a god of wealth. In a related haiku of 1819, Issa writes:

mochi tsuki ya tana no daikoku niko-niko to

pounding rice cakes--
the altar's god of wealth
beams a smile

In the above haiku, Daikoku on the home altar seems to be smiling with anticipation for the rice cake offerings.

year unknown

.江戸の子の在所の親へ衣くばり
edo no ko no zaisho no oya e kinu kubari

from their son in Edo
a gift for country parents...
new clothes

Or: "from their daughter." This haiku alludes to the Twelfth Month custom of providing gifts of new clothes, usually for one's relatives.

year unknown

.両国や舟も一組とし忘
ryôgoku ya fune mo hito-gumi toshiwasure

Ryogoku Bridge--
even on a boat, people
drinking away the year

This haiku refers to an end-of-year drinking party.

Ryôgoku Bridge is the oldest of the major bridges crossing the Sumida River in Edo (today's Tokyo). It links the provinces of Shimosa and Musashi, hence its name, which means, "Both Provinces."

According to Maruyama Kazuhiko, Ryôgoku was a famous east-west bridge where people would gather to enjoy the cool of evening. In this case, instead of pleasant cool air, the bitter cold of night stretches to the east and west. See Issa haiku shû (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1990; rpt. 1993) 132, note 637.

An earlier version of this haiku, dated 1817, starts with the phrase, "Fukagawa" (fukagawa ya).

year unknown

.小十年跡暦や庵の壁
ko jû nen ato no koyomi ya io no kabe

about ten years old--
the calendar
on my hut's wall

Or: "the almanac."

year unknown

.親と子と別れ別れや追れ鳥
oya to ko to wakare wakare ya oware tori

mother and children
are separated...
hunted birds

Or: "father and children." Shinji Ogawa notes, "The phrase wakare wakare (are separated) is of the descriptive mood, not the imperative (split up!). The phrase oware tori means "chased birds."

The hunters are using falcons to catch their prey.

year unknown

.逃鳥や子をふり返りふり返り
nige tori ya ko wo furikaeri furikaeri

the fleeing bird
turns back to her children
turns back...

A hunting scene. The mother or father bird, pursued by a falcon or hawk, keeps turning back toward the nest.

year unknown

.芭蕉塚先拝む也はつ紙子
bashô-zuka mazu ogamu nari hatsu kamiko

at Basho's grave
beginning with a prayer...
first paper robe

Paper robe (kamiko) is a winter season word: a thin, wind-resistant outer kimono. "First paper robe" (hatsu kamiko) refers to the first one worn in the season.

The great haiku poet Matsuo Bashô was associated with winter rain, and he wrote well-known poems about paper robes. His death anniversary, which falls on the 12th day of Tenth Month, is also called "Winter Rain Anniversary" (shigure ki).

year unknown

.ぶつぶつと衾のうちの小言哉
butsu-butsu to fusuma no uchi no kogoto kana

grumble, grumble
in the winter quilt..
nagging


year unknown

.鼠らよ小便無用古衾
nezumi-ra yo shôben muyô furu fusuma

hey mice
no pissing on my old
winter quilt!


year unknown

.舟が着いて候とはぐふとん哉
fune ga tsuite sôrô to hagu futon kana

the boat arrives--
peeling off
the quilts

According to Lewis Mackenzie, this haiku was written at Osaka. See The Autumn Wind: A Selection from the Poems of Issa (London: John Murray, 1957; rpt. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1984), 63.

year unknown

.橇を子等に習つてはきにけり
kanjiki wo kora ni naratte haki ni keri

snowshoes--
children show me how
to put them on

Shinji Ogawa has two theories as to the meaning of this undated haiku in its original form. Issa was born and raised in snowy mountains, so he certainly knew how to put on snowshoes. Nevertheless, there are many local variations of such shoes, so if he happened to be in another province, he might need someone (in this case, children) to show him how to wear them. Shinji's other theory is that the children aren't showing him how to put on the snowshoes, but rather are indicating that the snow in a certain area requires them. For my translation, I follow Shinji's first theory. In either case, the haiku presents a delightful role-reversal: a child (or children) teaching an adult. This is one of Issa's favorite themes: we have much to learn from children.

year unknown

.そり引や犬が上荷乗て行
sori hiku ya inu ga uwani nosete yuku

a man pulls a snow sled
a dog atop
the cargo

Or: "a woman pulls."

year unknown

.大犬が尻でこぢるや雪筵
ôinu ga shiri de kojiru ya yuki mushiro

the big dog
wriggles in butt-first...
snow shed


year unknown

.おとろへやほた折かねる膝頭
otoroe ya hota orikaneru hizagashira

weak with age--
can't even break kindling
with my knee

Hizagashira literally means "kneecap" or "bend of the knee."

year unknown

.大名もほた火によるや大井川
daimyô mo hotabi ni yoru ya ôi-gawa

a war lord too
draws near our fire...
Oi River

The fire is a wood fire. The Ôi river flows through Shizuoka Prefecture. Dammed and tamed today, in Issa's time it was an impediment to travelers, with no bridges or ferries allowed by the Shogunate. People had to cross on the shoulders of bearers.

In this haiku, the winter cold honors no social distinctions among human beings.

year unknown

.旅人にほた火をゆづる夜明哉
tabibito ni hotabi wo yuzuru yoake kana

giving a traveler
my place by the fire...
dawn

The fire is a wood fire.

year unknown

.わらづとの納豆煙るほた火哉
warazuto no nattô keburu hotabi kana

straw-wrapped natto
smolders...
little wood fire

Nattô is fermented or "spoiled" soybeans--popular among the Japanese but, for many foreigners, a gastronomic challenge. In Issa's time it was especially eaten in the winter for health reasons, and therefore is a winter season word. In this haiku, Issa includes two winter season words: nattô and hotabi ("wood fire").

year unknown

.ひとり身や両国へ出て薬喰
hitori mi ya ryôgoku e dete kusuri kuu

my life alone--
all the way to Ryogoku Bridge
for medicine

"Medicine" (kusuri) is a winter season word.

Ryôgoku Bridge is the oldest of the major bridges crossing the Sumida River in Edo (today's Tokyo). It links the provinces of Shimosa and Musashi, hence its name, which means, "Both Provinces." Evidently, one could purchase winter medicine there.

This undated haiku resembles one that Issa wrote in 1822:

hitori mi ya kusuri kuu ni mo miyako made

my life alone--
just to take medicine
a trip to Kyoto

year unknown

.鰒くふてしばらく扇づかひ哉
fugu kuute shibaraku ôgi zukai kana

after pufferfish soup
soon fans
are flitting

Pufferfish soup (fukuto-jiru) is a winter season word.

year unknown

.鰒喰ぬ顔で子どもの指南哉
fugu kuwanu kao de kodomo no shinan kana

making a face
he turns down the pufferfish soup...
teaching the children

Pufferfish soup (fukuto-jiru) is a winter season word.

Kodomo no shinan can mean "a child teacher" or "a teacher for children." In my first translation, I assumed the former, but Shinji Ogawa feels that the latter is more likely in this case. The adult "teaches" children to dislike the soup.

Issa writes a similar haiku in 1824 about wild boar stew:

shishi kuwanu kao de kodomo no shishô kana

making a face
he turns down the boar stew...
teaching the children

year unknown

.みそさざい九月三十日も合点か
misosazai kugatsu misoka mo gatten ka

hey wren!
do you realize it's Ninth Month
30th day?

This undated haiku seems to be a revision of this one that Issa wrote in 1813:

misosazai kono tsugomori wo gatten ka

hey wren!
do you realize
it's the 30th?

In the old Japanese calendar, the 30th day of Ninth Month was the last day of autumn. Since the wren is a winter bird, Issa is either saying: "You're a day early!" or: "Get ready; your season starts tomorrow!"

John, a subscriber to Daily Issa, writes, "What Issa is--somewhat satirically--implying here is that wrens do not need calander prompts."

year unknown

.村千鳥そつと申せばかつと立
mura chidori sotto moseba katto tatsu

if I just whisper
the flock of plovers
bursts into flight

This undated haiku is an alternate version of one that Issa wrote in 1819. That poem ends with hatto tatsu: "rises at once."

year unknown

.寒けしや枯ても針のある草は
samukeshi ya karete mo hari no aru kusa wa

cold--
the withered grasses
with prickles

This is an undated revision of a haiku that Issa wrote in 1816. The original version begins with the phrase, toga-togashi ("putting up a fight").

year unknown

.我門や只四五本の大根倉
waga kado ya tada shi go hon no daikon-gura

my gate--
just four or five radishes
in store

This is a revision of an 1820 haiku in which six radishes remain.

Shinji Ogawa explains, "The radishes are not stored in a storage house but are buried in the ground in the late autumn for the winter. In the snow-country, usually a stick is standing to locate the spot covered with snow."

year unknown

.今見れば皆欲目也枯木立
ima mireba mina yokume nari kare kodachi

still I see them
how they were...
bare winter trees

This haiku has the prescript: kurama hotoke. Though he spells it unconventionally, using the hiragana symbols kura followed by the kanji for maru ("circle"), I believe that Issa is referring to a Buddha at the Kurama Temple in Kyoto. If so, what is the connection between the head note and the haiku? Shinji Ogawa notes that the haiku embraces two times: now and the past. The poet gazes now at the bare winter trees with fondness and partiality (yokume), recalling the time earlier in the year when they were lush with life and leaves. This earlier view, Shinji writes, "was an illusion." Is Issa attempting to see the trees (and life) the way the Buddha sees them: as illusions, impermanent, unreal? Shinji paraphrases: "looking now at the bare winter trees, those were all illusions (the summer trees)."

year unknown

.楢の葉の朝からちるや豆腐桶
nara no ha no asa kara chiru ya tôfu oke

an oak leaf this morning
fallen
in the tofu tub

This is an undated revision of a haiku that Issa wrote in 1804. The original version ends with "tofu tank" (tôfu-bune).

year unknown

.水仙の笠かりて寝る雀哉
suisen no kasa karite neru suzume kana

borrowing the umbrella-hat
daffodil...
sleeping sparrow

This is an undated revision of a haiku of 1813. In the original poem, Issa ends with neru ko suzume ("sleeping little sparrow"). He seems to have made the revision to avoid the irregular 6-syllable third phrase.

year unknown

.水仙や垣にゆひ込むつくば山
suisen ya kaki ni yuikomu tsukuba yama

daffodils wreathing
into the fence...
Mount Tsukuba

Mount Tsukuba is located near the city of Mito in Ibaraki Prefecture. Kaki can be translated as "fence" or "hedge."

year unknown

.元日や上々吉の浅黄空
ganjitsu ya jôjôkichi no asagi-zora

on New Year's Day
lucky! lucky!
a pale blue sky

New Year's Day was the first day of spring in the old Japanese calendar.

1788

.永き日や水に画を書鰻掻き
nagaki hi ya mizu ni e wo kaku unagikaki

a long day--
the eel catcher writes pictures
on the water

Unagikaki is a tool for catching eels. Here, the bored fisherman uses it to draw on the surface of the water. See Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 217.

1788

.出代りや蛙も雁も鳴別れ
degawari ya kawazu mo kari mo naki wakare

migrating servants--
even frogs and geese
cry when they part!

In springtime, old servants were replaced by young ones. The old ones would leave their employers to return to their home villages; the young ones traveled in the opposite direction. In earlier times this took place during the Second Month; later, the Third Month.

1788

.舞蝶にしばしは旅も忘けり
mau chô ni shibashi wa tabi mo wasure keri

dancing butterflies--
my journey forgotten
for a while

Or: "butterfly." One of Issa's earliest travel poems, this haiku is found in a collection called Fifty-three Post Towns; there were 53 post towns on the Tôkaidô highway from Edo (today's Tokyo) to Kyoto.

1788

.淋しさはどちら向ても菫かな
sabishisa wa dochira muite mo sumire kana

solitude--
whichever way I turn...
violets!

Shinji Ogawa comments, "In this haiku, the violets are not the source of comfort but the cause of the loneliness." In my original translation I assumed the opposite.

This haiku has the prescript, "Goyu." Goyu was one of the fifty-three post towns on the Tôkaidô highway from Edo (today's Tokyo) to Kyoto. This haiku appears in the anthology, Fifty-three Post Towns; Makoto Ueda, Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 14.

1788

.色鳥や木々にも花の放生会
iro tori ya kigi ni mo hana no hôjôe

colorful birds
set free in the trees...
blossoms

This refers to the custom of setting a bird free at a funeral or memorial service. To Issa, it seems as though the spring blossoms on the branches are a colorful flock released in such a ceremony: "an outgrowth of the Mahayana [Buddhist] respect for all forms of life." See Daigan and Alicia Matsunaga, Foundation of Japanese Buddhism, Vol. 1 (Los Angeles/Tokyo: Buddhist Books International, 1974) 19.

1788

.苔の花小疵に咲や石地蔵
koke no hana ko kizu ni saku ya ishi jizô

moss blossoms bloom
in a little crack...
stone Jizo

Or: "in little cracks." Jizô is the beloved guardian deity of children. This haiku has the prescript, "Ôiso." Ôiso was one of the fifty-three post towns on the Tôkaidô highway from Edo (today's Tokyo) to Kyoto. This haiku appears in the anthology, Fifty-three Post Towns; Makoto Ueda, Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 14.

1789

.木々おのおの名乗り出たる木の芽哉
kigi ono-ono nanori idetaru ko no me kana

every tree
with its calling card...
spring buds

Literally, Issa is saying that every tree is giving a self-introduction with its emerging buds.

1789

.象潟もけふは恨まず花の春
kisagata mo kyô wa uramazu hana no haru

even Kisa Lagoon
isn't hateful today...
blossoming spring

Before the earthquake of 1804, Kisa Lagoon (Kisagata) was, in Shinji Ogawa's words, "beautiful ... like a miniature archipelago." Shinji sees in this haiku an allusion to a sentence in Bashô's Oku no hosomichi ("Narrow Road to the Far Provinces"): "Matsushima is smiling, Kisagata grieving." Though Bashô uses the word, uramu, it does not mean "hateful" but rather "melancholy" (the literary meaning of uramu). Shinji paraphrases, "Though Bashô called it 'melancholy,' Kisagata is not melancholy today because of the blossoming spring."

Makoto Ueda notes that this haiku shows the playful humor typical of the Katsushika school that influenced Issa in his early years; Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 14.

1789

.騒がしき世をし祓つて遅桜
sawagashiki yo wo oshi haratte oso-zakura

the cure for
this raucous world...
late cherry blossoms

Literally, the blossoms "exorcize" or "drive away the evil" from the loud, raucous world. Makoto Ueda notes that this haiku shows the playful humor of the Katsushika school, which influenced Issa in his early years. Ueda notes that the poem "humorously makes [the] tree into a god that has pacified all the clamor." Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 14-15.

1789

.酔つてから咄も八重の桜哉
yotte kara hanashi mo yae no sakura kana

after getting drunk
even our talk...
double cherry blossoms

Yae no sakura refers to eightfold or double cherry blossoms. Shinji Ogawa paraphrases the second and third phrases: "the way we talk/ is like the eightfold cherry blossoms." This begs the question: What is the way that eightfold cherry blossoms talk? I think this haiku is meant to evoke the crazy logic and language slurring of drunk people.

1789

.象潟や朝日ながらの秋のくれ
kisagata ya asahi nagara no aki no kure

Kisa Lagoon--
the morning sun rising
autumn dusk

Issa strangely juxtaposes "morning sun" (asahi) with "autumn dusk" (aki no kure). Perhaps his point is that even though the sun is rising, autumn has reached its dusk, i.e., its end?

Kisa Lagoon (Kisagata) would later be ravaged by an earthquake (1804).

1789

.象潟や島がくれ行刈穂舟
kisagata ya shima-gakure yuku kariho-bune

Kisa Lagoon--
from an island's shadow
a rice barge

The boat is carrying harvested rice.

In a prose preface to this haiku, Issa tells that he rowed a boat to the middle of the lagoon, where he watched villagers on shore heading home at dusk. Makoto Ueda notes that the haiku alludes to an anonymous waka about a boat in morning fog disappearing behind an isle at Akashi Bay; Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 15.

Fifteen years after the year of this haiku's composition (1789), Kisa Lagoon (Kisagata) was ravaged by an earthquake: Sixth Month, 1804. The effect, according to Shinji Ogawa, was that the seabed was raised and the "beautiful scenery like a miniature archipelago suddenly became dry land."

1790

.三文が霞見にけり遠眼鏡
san mon ga kasumi mi ni keri tômegane

for three pennies
nothing but mist...
telescope

Issa's tone is wryly ironic. He (or someone) has paid three pennies (three mon) to peer through a telescope to see ... only mist. On one level, he groans at the waste of money to have paid to see, magnified, nothing--the same nothing that the naked eye views for free. On another level--and there's always another level in Issa's best haiku--he smiles at human enterprise and its futility.



According to Makoto Ueda, this haiku refers to a scenic lookout on Yushima Hill in Edo (today's Tokyo); Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 16.

The mon was the basic currency of Issa's time. It took the form of a coin with a hole in its middle so that it could be strung on a string. In Issa's day six mon could pay for a bowl of rice. The three mon telescope view would cost approximately 75 cents today.

1790

.最う一里翌を歩行ん夏の月
mô ichi ri asu wo arikan natsu no tsuki

another two miles
for tomorrow's walk...
summer moon

One ri is 2.44 miles.

1790

.かんこ鳥昼丑満の山路かな
kankodori hiru ushi mitsu no yamaji kana

mountain cuckoo--
early afternoon
on a mountain road


1790

.今迄は踏れて居たに花野かな
ima made wa fumarete ita ni hanano kana

up to now
people tramped there...
field of flowers

Or: "I tramped there." Makoto Ueda, in his translation, uses the first-person "I": in his vision, Issa is the one who has trampled the weeds that have suddenly "burst into flowers"; Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 17.

Now that the autumn field has bloomed, do people respect its beauty and no longer take a shortcut through it?

1790

.山寺や雪の底なる鐘の声
yamadera ya yuki no soko naru kane no koe

mountain temple--
deep under snow
a bell

The image is simple, but it shows that even in his earliest period as a poet Issa is receptive to ordinary moments of life and to the surprises such moments bring to the attentive mind. A Buddhist temple on a mountainside, along with its great iron bell, lies buried in snow. Suddenly, Issa hears the "voice" of the bell, calling out from deep in the snow. The sound is dull and muted. On one level, the haiku is an example of one of Issa's favorite techniques--that of comic exaggeration. There's so much snow, the bell clangs under instead of over it. But, as with his best comic haiku, he embues the scene with spiritual feeling. In a cold, snow-smothered universe, the heartbeat of the temple, its bell, clangs on. By implication, the beautiful faith that the bell proclaims will survive the winter, no matter how high or deep the snow.

1790

.汐浜を反故にして飛ぶ千鳥かな
shiohama wo hogo ni shite tobu chidori kana

messing up
the smooth-raked salt...
plovers

Makoto Ueda believes that shiohama refers to a "neatly raked salt farm"; Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 17. Shinji Ogawa concurs. He explains that hogo ("waste paper") can derivatively mean "damage" or "ruin." The salt farm is being "ruined" by plover droppings.

1791

.陽炎やむつましげなるつかと塚
kagerô ya mutsumashigenaru tsuka to tsuka

heat shimmers--
they look like dear friends
the two graves

The ending, gena (genaru here), is the equivalent of rashii or yôda in modern Japanese; it denotes a presumption or estimation. See Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 567.

This haiku appears in Issa's earliest travel diary, Kansei san nen kikô, following a prose passage that reveals who the owners of the two grave mounds are: Kumagai no Jirô Naozane and Taira no Atsumori. In 1184 Naozane killed fifteen-year old Atsumori in a battle between the Genji and Heike clans. Naozane later became a Buddhist, taking the Buddhist name of Renjô and founding a temple. According to his wishes, he was buried next to the grave of Atsumori, his old enemy. See Issa zenshû (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 5.18; and Jean Cholley, En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 233, note 2.

"Heat shimmers" are the wavy bends in the air that one sometimes sees in the distance on a warm day--a phenomenon associated with springtime in Japan.

1791

.雉鳴て梅に乞食の世也けり
kiji naite ume ni kojiki no yo nari keri

pheasant crying--
it's a plum blossom-filled
beggar's world now!

In Third Month of 1791, at age 29, Issa left Edo on his first walking tour. "Beggar's world" (kojiki no yo) refers to the fact that Issa intended to beg for his meals and lodging along the way. See Issa zenshû (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 5.24, note 19. Shinji Ogawa notes that the prescript for this haiku paraphrases a passage from Bashô's Oku no hosomichi("Narrow Road to the Far Provinces"). Issa, who lost his haiku master [Chikua] the previous year, was determined to set off on a walking tour to claim his destiny as a haiku master. Shinji writes, "the last line, 'it's a world of the beggar with the plum blossoms' may mean, 'It's my world now!'"

1791

.青梅に手をかけて寝る蛙哉
aoume ni te wo kakete neru kawazu kana

resting his hands
on the green plum, asleep...
a frog

This is one of Issa's first frog poems, recorded in his first travel journal, Kansei san nen kikô ("Third Year of Kansei Era Diary")--1791.

1791

.浦々の波よけ椿咲にけり
ura-ura no nami yoke tsubaki saki ni keri

the coastal wall--
camellias
in bloom


1791

.華の友に又逢ふ迄は幾春や
hana no tomo ni mata au made wa ikuharu ya

my blossom comrades
when next we meet...
how many springs from now?

Or: "my blossom comrade." Since the kind of "blossom" (hana) is not specified, Issa means cherry blossoms. Shinji Ogawa explains that the phrase, hana no tomo ("blossoms' friend[s]"), signifies a friend, or friends, from whom Issa is departing during the blooming spring. Jean Cholley agrees with this interpretation in his French translation: ("mes amis sous les fleurs" ("my friends under the blossoms"); En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 31.

1791

.華のもと是非来て除掃勤ばや
hana no moto zehi kite josô tsutomebaya

I will return
to sweep the blossoms
under this tree

"Blossoms" (hana) can denote cherry blossoms in the shorthand of haiku.

An occasional poem. Issa included it in a note of thanks to his haiku master Somaru, who had granted him a month's leave to visit his home village. See Makoto Ueda, Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 19.

1791

.山下て桜見る気に成にけり
yama orite sakura miru ki ni nari ni keri

descending the mountain
a cherry blossom-viewing mood
sets in

Perhaps Issa's implication is that he is seeing more and more blooming trees, as he moves down the mountain slope from a colder elevation, his springtime mood increasing with every step.

Alastair writes, "Perhaps Issa is simultaneously alluding to the Buddhist notion of 'descending from the mountaintop' (i.e., after achieving awakening) and moving back down into the marketplace and the fleeting world of humans, signified by the ephemeral blossoms."

1791

.五月雨や雪はいづこのしなの山
samidare ya yuki wa izuko no shinano yama

Fifth Month rain--
where's your snow now
Shinano mountains?

Issa refers to his mountainous home province of Shinano, present-day Nagano Prefecture. Cold and high, its mountains have held the snow until, finally, the rains of Fifth Month have washed winter away. "Fifth Month rain" (samidare) pertains to the old lunar calendar; it would be June rain in the present calendar. Shinji Ogawa observes, "In the modern Japanese sense, May weather consists of mostly fair days, not cold, not hot, in the best season of the year. Therefore, May rain is very pleasant in modern Japanese sense. On the other hand, samidare (May rain in old Japanese), is the June rain that falls day after day, creating high humidity and helping mold to grow in the corners of the house."

1791

.門の木も先つつがなし夕涼
kado no ki mo mazu tsutsuganashi yûsuzumi

even the tree by the gate
safe and sound...
evening cool

According to the prescript, this haiku was composed when Issa returned home after an absence of fourteen years.

In L. Mabesoone's French translation the tree appears "Toujours fidèle à lui-même" ("Always faithful to himself") Issa to kuhi (Tokyo: Kankohkai 2003) 23.

Another French translator, Jean Cholley, translates more literally: the trees at the gate ("semblent bien aussi" ("also look well"); En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 33.

Tutsuganashi denotes "in good health," "without harm," or "in safety"; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1094.

1791

.時鳥我身ばかりに降雨か
hototogisu waga mi bakari ni furu ame ka

cuckoo--
is this rain falling
only on me?

As Hiroshi Kobori points out, on one level the person complaining about the rain is the cuckoo; on another level, it is Issa. And Mr. Kobori observes another double meaning in this haiku: this "poor me!" gripe is done with a smile.

1791

.閑古鳥必ず我にあやかるな
kankodori kanarazu ware ni ayakaru na

O mountain cuckoo
don't try being
like me!

Shinji Ogawa paraphrases ayakaru na as "Don't follow my steps!" In 1791 Issa (in his late twenties) embarked on his first haiku journey, visiting fellow poets in Shimôsa Province. In this haiku, he humorously implies that the mountain cuckoo (kankodori) would be better off not emulating the hard, often hungry lifestyle of a wandering poet. Issa is complaining but, deep down, we sense his pride as he sets out on an artistic mission that will last the rest of his life.

1791

.蓮の花虱を捨るばかり也
hasu no hana shirami wo suteru bakari nari

lotus blossoms--
just the place for discarded
lice

This haiku has a long, self-ironic prescript in which Issa describes himself as a "sinner" who complains about the cuckoo's song and sleeps through nights of moon and days of blossoms. Makoto Ueda believes that Issa is hinting here that his poetics will be different from cuckoo, moon, and blossom-loving Basho; Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 23.

There might be a Buddhist meaning in this haiku, since the lotus symbolizes rebirth.

1791

.茨の花ここをまたげと咲にけり
bara no hana koko wo matage to saki ni keri

thorny wild roses
"Step over us here!"
as they bloom

Jean Cholley points out that this haiku carries both literal and symbolic meanings. It appears in Issa's travel diary, Kansei san nen kikô, along with an anecdote. While Issa made his trip home to his native village, he witnessed the guards of the Nakagawa Barrier Gate prevent two women from passing by boat. Literally, the thorny bushes in the haiku impede travelers; symbolically, they are the border guards, agents of the Edo government, who impede the travel of women across provinces. Cholley believes that Issa is speaking ironically when he praises "our magnificent regime" for its laws; En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 233, note 4.

Issa's original text can be found in Issa zenshû (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 5.16-17.

1791

.きさがたや浪の上ゆく虫の声
kisagata ya nami no ue yuku mushi no koe

Kisa Lagoon--
riding on the waves
insects singing

Kisa Lagoon (Kisagata) would later be ravaged by an earthquake (1804).

1791

.吹降や家陰たよりて虫の声
fukiburi ya ya kage tayorite mushi no koe

windy rain--
shaded by the house
insects singing


1792

.松竹の行合の間より初日哉
matsu take no yukiai no ma yori hatsu hi kana

from meeting rooms
of pine and bamboo...
year's first dawn

Issa is referring to traditional New Year's pine-and-bamboo decorations.

1792

.行春の町やかさ売すだれ売
yuku haru no machi ya kasa uri sudare uri

spring ends in the town--
umbrella-hat, bamboo blind
vendors

Shinji Ogawa notes that this haiku parodies an earlier one by Ôemaru: yûdachi ya edo wa kasa uri ashida uri, which might be translated, "Cloudburst/ in Edo umbrella-hat vendors/ wooden sandal vendors." See Issa zenshû (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 2.50, note 6; and Maruyama Kazuhiko, Issa haiku shû (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1990; rpt. 1993) 15, note 17. Shinji believes that Issa's haiku, being a parody, is not art. I think that the fact that Issa playfully alludes to a previous poem in a present moment does not, in itself, disqualify the haiku as a work of art.

1792

.春風や尾上の松に音はあれど
haru kaze ya onoe no matsu ni ne wa aredo

spring breeze--
the pine on the ridge
whispers it

The expression wa aredo suggests that something is happening in contrast to an existing situation; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 88. Shinji Ogawa paraphrases, "The spring breeze is so gentle I can hear the sounds created by it only from the pine tree on the ridge."

Sakuo Nakamura believes that onoe is not "ridge" but Onoue: a place name: "The pine tree is in the shrine called Onoue no Matsu that appears in an old Noh song." The editors of Issa zenshû, however, indicate that the pronunciation is onoe, not onoue; (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 1.74.

1792

.いつ逢ん身はしらぬひの遠がすみ
itsu awan mi wa shiranuhi no tôgasumi

when will we meet again?
I'm off to the phosphorescent fires
in the far mist

This haiku has the prescript, "Rain. Before setting off on my journey, saying farewell to the people staying behind." According to Lewis Mackenzie, Issa was on his way to Shimabara Bay, a place known for ignis fatuus: phosphorescent lights (will-o'the-wisps); The Autumn Wind: A Selection from the Poems of Issa (London: John Murray, 1957; rpt. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1984), 27.

Shinji Ogawa notes that shiranuhi literally means "unknown fire" (shiranu = unknown; hi = fire). Since hi (fire) and hi (day) are homonyms, shiranuhi carries a double meaning of "unknown day." Shinji notes that this "punning phrase is very proper for the departure. In most cases, a pun exchanges the haiku's quality for a giggle. But in this case, the pun is nicely done. The word shiranuhi (same as shiranui) is a makura-kotoba (a pillow word or a conventional epithet mostly used in waka poems) for Tsukushi, an old name for Kyûshû, the south island of Japan." Shimbara Bay, Issa's destination, is located on this island.

Makoto Ueda translates shiranuhi as "sea fires," which, he explains "are believed to be caused by the refractions of fires used by fishermen far out at sea." See Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 26.

1792

.白雲のかすみ吹抜く外山哉
shiro-gumo no kasumi fukinuku toyama kana

white clouds of mist
blow away...
the village's mountain

Toyama (often translated as "foothills") refers to any mountain located near a village; see Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1185.

1792

.しら浪に夜はもどるか遠がすみ
shiranami ni yoru wa modoru ka tôgasumi

turning into white waves
at night?
the far mist

Shinji Ogawa explains that yoru wa modoru ka ("the evening returns") can be a shortened form of yoru ni wa modoru ka ("returning in the evening"). On this basis, he paraphrases, "into white billows/ do you return at night/ far mist?"

1792

.畠打が焼石積る夕べかな
hata uchi ga yakeishi tsumeru yûbe kana

the plowman stacks
volcanic rocks...
evening

Shinji Ogawa pictures the scene: "The field may be located close to a volcanic mountain. The farmer piles up the volcanic rocks, which he found during plowing, on the side of the field."

1792

.うたかたや淡の波間の平家蟹
utakata ya awa no namima no heike-gani

sea foam--
in the fleeting wave
a Heike crab

Crabs with special markings resembling faces of samurai are thought to be reincarnated heroes who died in a famous battle, recounted in the medieval Tale of the Heike.

1792

.剃捨て花見の真似やひのき笠
sori-sutete hanami no mane ya hinoki-gasa

cutting off my hair
like a blossom-viewing party!
wicker umbrella-hat

This early haiku has the prescript, "At the time of my departure, cutting off my hair." Before he took to the road, Issa shaved his head like a monk. A hinoki-gasa is a wickerwork umbrella-hat in which thin sheets of cypress wood are woven; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1406.

1792

.父ありて母ありて花に出ぬ日哉
chichi arite haha arite hana ni denu hi kana

having a father and a mother
he stays home...
blossom day

Or: "she stays inside." Shinji Ogawa reads the denu as "not to go out." The child has both parents, and so he (or she) isn't able to go outside and enjoy the blossoms, most likely cherry blossoms--since "blossoms" (hana) can denote cherry blossoms in the shorthand of haiku. Why is he inside? Shinji speculates that he (or she) perhaps needs to take care of his (her) parents or, perhaps, is busy with chores.

1792

.もし降らば天津乙女ぞ花曇
moshi furaba amatsuotome zo hana kumori

have celestial maidens
descended to earth?
blossom clouds

"Blossoms" (hana) can denote cherry blossoms in the shorthand of haiku.

1792

.白雲の桜をくぐる外山哉
shira-gumo no sakura wo kuguru toyama kana

creeping through white
cherry blossom clouds...
the mountain

Although Lewis Mackenzie and Kai Falkman contend that toyama is the name of a particular mountain, the word denotes any mountain located near a village; see Mackenzie, The Autumn Wind: A Selection from the Poems of Issa (London: John Murray, 1957) 25; Falkman, Understanding Haiku: A Pyramid of Meaning (Winchester, VA: Red Moon Press, 2002) 50; and Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1185. Robin D. Gill believes that Issa is painting a picture of "white clouds wafting through cherry blossoms on mountains seen from below. The humour, then, for Issa is never without it, lies in the mixing of two types of clouds."

Shinji Ogawa offers three ways to read this haiku: (1) "At Toyama hill, the white clouds creep through the cherry blossoms" [Robin's theory]; (2) "At Toyama hill, we creep through the cherry blossoms in a white cloud"; or (3) "Toyama hill creeps through the cherry blossoms in a white cloud." Although he dismisses the third possibility as the least likely, I find it a compelling poetic image and have redone my translation in this direction. White blossoms form a "cloud" so thick, the nearby mountain seems to slither its way through it.

Alastair Watson writes, "To me this is deeply imbued with Buddhist Life (at least from a Japanese Zen view): contains several comparisons, dualities in which the Buddhist practitioner struggles to merge - the Absolute and the Relative - the Mountain (spiritual path, sacred Way) and the Market (place)/Village (secular, daily World). Each image seems chosen for the layers of meanings/associations: cherry blossoms epitomizing impermanence, the mountain in contrast is 'more permanent'; white clouds are commonly referred to as 'obstructions' in practice, obscuring the fullness of enlightenment (usually covering the full moon or big blue sky, and here perhaps represented as the mountain through the 'blossom/clouds'); and the "creeping" giving a sense of flow, the endlessly flowing river of Worldly Life, in birth, existence, and death, blossom (clouds) flowing to the ground... ; or when one looks carefully one can see through the clouds/blossoms and see the mountain, the Path to Liberation. And so on ... At least these are some of my novice Zen-student understandings, which I would be surprised if Issa as a Pure Land Buddhist would have been not unaware of."

1792

.日盛りや芦雀に川の音もなき
hizakari ya yoshikiri ni kawa no oto mo naki

high noon--
the reed thrush sings
to a silent river

Or: "the reed thrushes sing."

Makoto Ueda, who translates yoshikiri as "reed sparrows," admires the artless spontaneity of this early haiku; Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 29-30.

1792

.夏の夜に風呂敷かぶる旅寝哉
natsu no yo ni furushiki kaburu tabine kana

in the summer night
I'm covered with a bath towel...
the inn

A cloth, furushiki, is used in bathhouses to cover the clothing of bathers; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1461. In this haiku, as Shinji Ogawa notes, kaburu refers to the action of Issa covering himself with the furoshiki, possibly to protect himself from mosquitoes.

1792

.涼しさや只一夢に十三里
suzushisa ya tada hito yume ni jû san ri

cool air--
in just one dream
seventy miles!

One ri is 2.44 miles. In this dream of travel, Issa covers a distance of thirty ri: over 73 miles.

Shinji Ogawa notes that the final kanji in this haiku should be read as ri (the unit of distance) and not as sato ("village").

1792

.涼しさや見るほどの物清見がた
suzushisa ya miru hodo no mono kiyomigata

coolness!
everything in sight
at Kiyomigata

Kiyomigata Bay is a famous place from which to view Mount Fuji.

Shinji Ogawa notes that miru hodo no mono means "everything you can see." In this context, everything that Issa lays his eyes upon in this place famous for its scenic beauty looks cool.

1792

.しづかさや湖水の底の雲のみね
shizukasa ya kosui no soko no kumo no mine

stillness--
in the depths of the lake
billowing clouds

Even though Issa is known for his comic haiku that have surprising, spiritual resonance; he is just as capable of revealing the sublime. French translator Jean Cholley translates the first word, shizukasa, as "sérénité" ("serenity"); En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 33. Indeed, shizukasa denotes tranquility, quiet, calm. Of English possibilities, I've decided to use "stillness"--but the reader should be aware that Issa establishes a sense of deep peace before showing billowing mountains of clouds reflected "in the depths of the lake." The haiku serves as a substitute for experience--or, perhaps, a clear window into experience--allowing the reader, in contemplation, to see that same lake, those same clouds, and to feel the serenity and stillness of the moment.

1792

.雲の峰の中にかみなり起る哉
kumo no mine no naka ni kaminari okoru kana

from deep in the cloud's
billows
thunder comes


1792

.寝せ付て外へは出たり夏の月
nese-tsukete soto e wa detari natsu no tsuki

tucking her in
out I go...
summer moon

Shinji Ogawa explains that nese-tsukete means "to put a person to sleep."

1792

.打ち解る稀の一夜や不二の雪
uchi-tokuru mare no hito yo ya fuji no yuki

melting in one
amazing night...
Mount Fuji's snow

The night is mare: "rare" or "phenomenal." I translate it here as "amazing."

Shinji Ogawa notes that Issa's language ("melting in one") could imply a sensual night of lovemaking, adding an erotic connotation to the melting snow on Fuji.

1792

.牛車の跡ゆく関の清水哉
ushi-guruma no ato yuku seki no shimizu kana

in the ox cart's tracks
the barrier outpost's
pure water


1792

.みやこ哉東西南北辻が花
miyako kana tôzainamboku tsuji ga hana

in Kyoto
east, west, south, north...
summer kimonos

This haiku has the prescript, "Imperial Capital," i.e., Kyoto. In Issa's day, this is where the emperor and his court lived. Political and military power was centered in the Shogun's city of Edo, today's Tokyo.

The phrase, "crossroads blossoms" (tsuji ga hana), is a euphemism for a light summer garment made of hemp: katabira. In this archive, I translate both katabira and awase as "summer kimono." Hiroshi Kobori explains that tsujiga-hana designs were in fashion from the mid-Muromachi era until the early Edo era; they were mostly dyed purple, red, and deep indigo..."bold and marvelous."

Makoto Ueda writes that the "blossoms" (hana) refer to the colorful kimonos worn by the people of Kyoto; Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 28. Since kimono is a more widely known term than katabira, I use it in my translation, following professor Ueda's example.

1792

.川中に床机三ッ四ッ夕すずみ
kawa naka ni shôgi mitsu yotsu yûsuzumi

mid-river
on three or four stools...
evening cool

In his prescript to this haiku, Issa reveals that he is talking about a dry riverbed. Water flows on both sides of their little island, while three or four people on stools enjoy evening's cool air, literally in the middle of the river.

1792

.狐火の行方見送るすずみ哉
kitsunebi no yukigata miokoru suzumi kana

escorted by
phosphorescent fires...
the cool air

Kitsunebi is a phosphorescent fire (or ignis fatuus) believed to be vomited from the mouth of a fox; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 452.

1792

.月影や赤坂かけて夕すずみ
tsukikage ya akasaka kakete yûsuzumi

moonlight--
evening's cool reaches
Akasaka

Akasaka is one of the fifty-three post towns on the Tôkaidô highway from Edo (today's Tokyo) to Kyoto.

1792

.能い女郎衆岡崎女郎衆夕涼み
yoi joro shu okazaki joro shu yûsuzumi

skillful courtesans!
Okazaki courtesans!
enjoying evening's cool

Jorô can be translated as "geisha" or "courtesan (prostitute)." Okazaki is one of the fifty-three post towns on the Tôkaidô highway from Edo (today's Tokyo) to Kyoto. It had a licensed pleasure district. Issa seems happy to visit there, either in person or in his imagination.

Shinji Ogawa writes, "Judging form the tone of the haiku, my hunch is that it may be related to a popular song of Issa's time."

1792

.馬の屁に目覚て見れば飛ほたる
uma no he ni mezamete mireba tobu hotaru

the horse's fart
wakes me to see...
fireflies flitting

My translation of this haiku was guided by Jean Cholley's French version in En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 33.

1792

.通し給へ蚊蠅の如き僧一人
tôshi tamae ka hae no gotoki sô hitori

let him pass
like a mosquito, a fly...
solitary priest

Jean Cholley notes that Issa is referring to himself in this haiku, since by this time he was already wearing the robe of a Buddhist priest. Cholley adds that he is addressing the guardians of Japan's barrier gates in a sly and, for Issa, typical jab at authority; En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 234, note 7.

Makoto Ueda agrees that Issa is depicting himself, adopting a "pose of self-promotion vieled by self-irony"; Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 31.

1792

.浜松や蝉によるべの浪の声
hamamatsu ya semi ni yorube no nami no koe

Hamamatsu beach--
helping out the cicadas
singing waves

I assume that the steady "voice of the waves" (nami no koe) is helping the cicadas musically, providing rhythmic percussion for their chant in the trees. However, this connection is not obvious to the Japanese reader. Shinji Ogawa paraphrases, "Hamamatsu beach/ for the cicadas/ reliable voice of waves"--and comments, "I have no idea what this haiku wants to say. With a stretch of my imagination, the haiku may say, 'There is the voice of the waves for the cicadas...but there is no one [to comfort] me.' If so, the haiku is asking the readers too much because what the haiku has is so little."

1792

.昼顔やしほるる草を乗越々々
hirugao ya shioruru kusa wo noko-noko

day flowers--
over the withered grass
they creep


1792

.散ぼたん昨日の雨をこぼす哉
chiru botan kinou no ame [wo] kobosu kana

the peony falls
spilling out yesterday's
rain

According to Makoto Ueda, this early haiku represents an attempt at Tenmei style, a school of haiku that valued aestheticism and fictional elegance; Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 30.

1792

.梅の木の心しづかに青葉かな
ume no ki no kokoro shizuka ni aoba kana

the plum tree
with heart at peace...
leafing green

Kai Falkman believes that "peaceful" (shizuka ni) modifies the leaves, not the tree's heart; see Understanding Haiku: A Pyramid of Meaning (Winchester, VA: Red Moon Press, 2002) 102. Shinji Ogawa is even more specific. He writes, "The phrase kokoro shizuka ni (heart peaceful + ni) is an adverb phrase (not 'tree's heart'). The ni functions like '-ly' in English to change an adjective to an adverb. Therefore, the phrase can be translated as 'heart-peacefully'." Shinji concludes: "The haiku can be translated as 'the plum tree is heart-peacefully green-leafing'. Once we reach this translation, it is rather easy to translate it into more 'natural' English. Therefore, the haiku may be translated more or less as 'The plum tree is peacefully leafing'." Plum trees, when they bloom, are one of spring痴 glories. Here, Issa pays attention to a plum tree in its "off-season," in summer--noticing its green leaves. Thousands of poets have written tens of thousands of haiku about plum trees blooming in spring, but Issa writes about the plum tree in summer, no longer surrounded by excited, drunk blossom-viewers, unfurling its green leaves in peace.

1792

.塔ばかり見へて東寺は夏木立
tô bakari miete tôji wa natsu kodachi

Toh Temple--
just its pagoda shows
over the summer trees

The haiku refers to Tôji, a Buddhist temple in Kyoto. Shinji Ogawa comments, "[Issa] skillfully depicts the vigorous green foliage in summer without mentioning anything about the foliage itself."

1792

.船頭よ小便無用浪の月
sendô yo shôben muyô nami no tsuki

hey boatman
no pissing on the moon
in the waves!

In my novel, Haiku Guy (Winchester, VA.: Red Moon Press, 2000, 47), I translate this haiku much more liberally:

the boatman pisses
but misses
the real moon

1792

.松島や三ツ四ツほめて月を又
matsushima ya mitsu yotsu homete tsuki wo mata

Matsushima--
clapping three or four times
then again, the moon

Matsushima is a famously lovely bay of Japan known for its picturesque pine islands, a place that Issa's role model, the poet Bashô, visited but found too beautiful to write a suitable haiku about. Shinji Ogawa translates the last phrase (tsuki wo mata), "then look up at the moon again." Issa applauds the lovely, moon-glazed scene. He looks up, looks down (and claps), then looks up again, capturing in this simple action the rapture that Bashô could not.

1792

.東西南北吹交ぜ交ぜ野分哉
tôzainamboku fuki maze-maze nowaki kana

blowing from the east
west south north...
autumn gale


1792

.雨を分て夕霧のぼる外山哉
ame wo wakete yûgiri noboru toyama kana

parting the rain
the evening mist ascends...
mountain

Toyama (often translated as "foothills") refers to any mountain located near a village; see Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1185.

1792

.おり姫に推参したり夜這星
orihime ni suisan shitari yobaiboshi

paying a visit
to the Weaver Star...
a sneaky Romeo

Tanabata is a festival that takes place on the seventh day of Seventh Month. According to a romantic legend, two celestial lovers--the stars Altair and Vega--are separated by Heaven's River (the Milky Way). One night a year (Tanabata night), they cross the starry river to be together. The female star (Vega) is pictured as a weaver; the male, a herder. In this early haiku, Issa refers to the latter as yobaiboshi ("Night-Crawling Star"). Originally, I ended my translation, blandly, with "Herder Star," but Shinji Ogawa points out that the "night-crawling star" denotes a lover sneaking to meet his beloved: a "sneaky Romeo Star."

1792

.負角力其子の親も見て居るか
make-zumô sono ko no oya mo mite iru ka

defeated sumo wrestler--
is his father
watching too?

Or: "are his parents/ watching too?" In an undated revision, Issa is more assertive: "his father must be watching" (oya mo sadamete mite ibeki).

1792

.鎌倉や今はかがしの屋敷守
kamakura ya ima wa kagashi no yashiki mori

Kamakura--
these days scarecrows
are the gatekeepers

This is Issa's earliest haiku that we have on the subject of scarecrows. The "gatekeepers" (yashiki mori) might also be translated, "keepers of the mansions." Kamakura is one of Japan's ancient capitals, on Sagami Bay southwest of Tokyo.

Sakuo Nakamura notes that Issa left for his journey to Shikoku Island on the 25th day of Third Month, 1792. In a few days, he had reached Kamakura, where he saw the old mansion of Minamoto no Yotitomo, the first shogun. His haiku about scarcrow gatekeepers reflects on the long-past glory of the place.

1792

.人去つて万灯きへて鹿の声
hito satte mandô kiete shika no koe

people depart
ten thousand lanterns dying...
cry of a deer

This haiku refers to a Buddhist lantern festival.

1792

.岩間やあらしの下の虫の声
iwaai ya arashi no shita no mushi no koe

among the crags
under the storm...
insects singing


1792

.山紅葉入日を空へ返す哉
yama momiji irihi wo sora e kaesu kana

mountain's red leaves
the setting sun returns
to the sky

Literally, Issa says that the autumn foliage "returns the setting sun to the sky" (irihi wo sora e kaesu). Is he saying that the leaves on the mountain are so bright and red, the setting sun has returned to the sky?

Shinji Ogawa has also mulled over this haiku. He suggests that perhaps "the red leaves reflect the rays of the evening sun to the sky; that is why the sky glows so red." Based on this theory, he translates:

the mountain's red leaves
return the sunbeam
to the sky

In his more literal French version, Jean Cholley has the mountain maples make the setting sun ("remonter" ("go up again"); En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 35.

Colleen Rain Austin pictures the following: "The red leaves on the mountaintop retain the intensity of sunset and make it look as if the sun is setting, once more."

Susan Delphine Delaney writes, "Most blazing red leaves, like maples, are very translucent. I read this poem as the sun has set below the treetops, and the translucent red maple leaves are set 'aflame' by the sun transillumenating them as it moves from treetops to true setting behind the line of the earth. The ephemerality of this phenomenon (it would only take about a minute for the sun to pass below the treetops to below the earth) is very haiku-y."

1792

.関処より吹戻さるる寒さ哉
sekisho yori fukimodosaruru samusa kana

from the barrier gate
it's blown back...
cold wind

The word "wind" doesn't appear in Issa's original but is implied by the action of being "blown back" (fukimodosaruru). Literally, Issa ends with, simply, "the cold" (samusa). Sekisho refers to the barrier gates or checkpoints of Edo-period Japan.

Shinji Ogawa paraphrases: "From the Barrier Gate it is blown back ... the cold wind." The cold wind cannot go anywhere, because (in Issa's imagination) the Barrier Gate doesn't allow it to pass.

1792

.浮草と見し間に池の氷かな
ukikusa to mishi ma ni ike no kôri kana

while I looked at the duckweed
the pond
froze


1792

.夕風や社の氷柱灯のうつる
yûkaze ya yashiro no tsurara hi no utsuru

night wind--
the shrine's icicles
reflect the lights

A Shinto shrine. The icicles reflect the flickering flames of votive lights.

1792

.外堀の割るる音あり冬の月
sotobori no waruru oto ari fuyu no tsuki

the ice of the moat
cracking...
winter moon

A sotobori is the outer moat of a castle, such as can be found in Tokyo, the city Issa knew as Edo. Toru Kiuchi explains that Issa wrote this haiku in front of the west gate of Himeji Castle, looking down at its frozen surface.

1792

.山寺や木がらしの上に寝るがごと
yamadera ya kogarashi no ue ni neru ga goto

mountain temple--
like it's lying down
on the winter wind

Shinji Ogawa explains that the phrase neru ga goto is "a short form for neru ga gotoku" and means "as if sleeping."

Hiroshi Kobori comments on the word, kogarashi ("winter wind"). In early Japanese poetry, this refers to the wind that blows through trees, breaking branches and turning the leaves brown. By Issa's time it means "a dry windy day during the late autumn-deep winter season." It is classified as a winter season word.

1792

.外は雪内は煤ふる栖かな
soto wa yuki uchi wa susufuru sumika kana

outside, snow
inside, soot-caked...
my home


1792

.遠乗や霰たばしるかさの上
tônori ya arare ta-bashiru kasa no ue

a long ride--
hailstones drumming
umbrella-hats

Or: "my umbrella-hat." There might be one or several people on horseback in the scene--and, if only one, the rider might be Issa. The reader must decide.

Ta-bashiru refers to something flying with violent force; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1016.

1792

.初霜や乞食の竈も一ながめ
hatsu shimo ya kojiki no kudo mo hito nagame

first frost--
the beggar stove's too
a sight for sore eyes

Kudo is an old word for the chimney hole located at the rear of a stove; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 510. In this context, according to Shinji Ogawa, it means, simply, "stove." Shinji paraphrases, "first frost.../even the beggar's stove/ is a sight." I assume that Issa means the sight is a welcome one on this cold morning.

Sakuo Nakamura pictures the following. Early one winter morning, Issa stands in a field outside a village. All around, the ground is covered with the year's first frost. It is cold. He happens to see a narrow strand of smoke rising from the beggar's stove, and he feels its warmth. Sakuo adds, "How scenic!"

1792

.初霜や蕎麦悔る人めづる人
hatsu shimo ya soba kuyuru hito mesuru hito

first frost--
one hates buckwheat noodles
one loves 'em

Buckwheat noodles (soba) is a winter dish. The first frost signals the beginning of the season for this food--whether people like it or not.

1792

.翁さびうしろをあぶるほた火哉
okinasabi ushiro wo aburu hotabi kana

an old man's ways--
my backside warmed
by the wood fire

Or: "warming his backside..."

Okinasabi denotes behavior typical of an old man; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 264. When he wrote this haiku in 1792, Issa was just starting his career as a professional poet, age thirty. If this is a self-portrait, he is making fun of the fact that already at thirty he is practicing "an old man's ways."

Shinji Ogawa explains that, literally, Issa has tucked his kimono up, exposing his back to the wood fire.

1792

.ほたの火や糸取窓の影ぼうし
hota no hi ya ito toru mado no kagebôshi

a wood fire--
her shadow in the window
pulling thread

The figure in the window is pulling thread from cotton--"woman's work," according to Maruyama Kazuhiko. See Issa haiku shû (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1990; rpt. 1993) 19, note 40.

1792

.わらつとの焼飯あたたむるほた火哉
warazuto no yakimeshi atatamuru hotabi kana

warming up
straw-wrapped fried rice...
my wood fire


1792

.冬枯に風除作る山家哉
fuyugare ni kazayoke tsukuru yamaga kana

a windbreak
in the winter withering...
mountain home


1793

.花じやぞよ我もけさから三十九
hana ja zo yo ware mo kesa kara san jû ku

blossoms--
from this morning on
39 springs to go

Issa wrote this haiku during New Year's season of 1793, at age 31. He reckoned that he had 39 more springs to look forward to before reaching the age of 70.

1793

.君が世や旅にしあれど笥の雑煮
kimi ga yo ya tabi ni shi aredo ke no zôni

Great Japan!
even mid-journey a bowl
of zoni

"Great Japan" is my translation of kimi ga yo, a phrase that refers to the emperor's reign and begins the Japanese national anthem. Issa would have known the lyrics, though not the current melody which came after his time. In this instance Issa uses the character yo meaning "world" instead of the usual character used in this phrase, meaning "age"...but the gist is the same. Zôni, glutinous rice cakes with vegetables, is enjoyed in the New Year's season. Shinji Ogawa notes that this haiku refers to a tanka poem written by Arimanomiko (Prince Arima) in Manyôshu (#142), which he paraphrases, "If at home, the rice is served in a (silver) bowl. Now on the journey, it is served on a leaf." Shinji comments, "Because of his involvement in a coup d'etat, the nineteen-year old Prince Arima was captured and sent to be executed in 658. It was a journey to death. Knowing the sad and tragic poem of Prince Arima, Issa turns it 180 degrees to create a light-touched and happy haiku."

1793

.嬌女を日々にかぞへる春日哉
taoyame wo hi-bi ni kazoeru haru hi kana

pretty girls multiply
day by day...
spring days!

Shinji Ogawa helped with this translation.

1793

.陽炎に敷居を越る朝日哉
kagerô ni shiki-i wo koeru asahi kana

heat shimmers--
the morning sun
crosses the threshold

Sakuo Nakamura pictures the scene: the morning sun warms the ground, causing heat shimmers to rise. The higher the sun rises, the farther its light travels, crossing the threshold and entering the room where Issa sits. Sakuo adds, "The movement of the sun shows the dynamic transformation of time and space ... a great, dramatic haiku, isn't it?"

"Heat shimmers" are the wavy bends in the air that one sometimes sees in the distance on a warm day--a phenomenon associated with springtime in Japan.

1793

.里の子が枝川作る雪解哉
sato no ko ga edagawa tsukuru yukige kana

the village child
makes a river branch...
melting snow


1793

.命也焼く野の虫を拾ふ鳥
inochi nari yaku no no mushi wo hirou tori

such is life--
the burning field's bugs
a feast for birds

Shinji Ogawa explains that nari in the first phrase is a kireji (cutting word) "which has many functions. In this case, the wording inochi nari (life...) implies a phrase like 'It is a way of life that...' The scene is of the burning field, the running bugs and the feasting birds all in one."

1793

.畠打が近道教ゆ夕べ哉
hata uchi ga chikamichi oshiyu yûbe kana

the plowman
shows me a shortcut...
evening

A generous gesture. The farmer, often portrayed in Japanese literature as selfish and suspicious, lets Issa cut through his precious field.

1793

.鳥も巣を作るに橋の乞食哉
tori mo su wo tsukuru [ni] hashi no kojiki kana

even birds
make their nests...
beggars under the bridge

Shinji Ogawa helped with this translation. Originally, I felt that hashi no kojiki denoted "bridge's beggars," so I rendered this, "bridge of beggars." Shinji, however, points out that the phrase depicts beggars "around (or on or at...etc.) the bridge." He imagines that the beggars are nesting under it.

1793

.夕されば凧も雲雀もをりの哉
yû sareba tako mo hibari mo ori no kana

evening falls--
the kite and the lark
come down

The "kite" (tako) in this haiku is the paper kind, not a bird.

1793

.雲に鳥人間海にあそぶ日ぞ
kumo ni tori ningen umi ni asobu hi zo

birds in the clouds
people in the sea...
a holiday

French translator Jean Cholley sees this as a scene of people gathering shellfish at low tide. At the end of Third Month seabirds have migrated north ("in the clouds"), leaving good pickings for the humans; En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 234, note 9.

Issa later (1795) revises this to begin with "larks in the sky" (ten ni hibari). Larks are not migratory birds.

Whatever the species of bird, Issa paints a happy picture of natural harmony: birds soar in the clouds; people crouch in the water. He opens himself to an ordinary moment of life, and the result is a one-breath poem that unfolds a breath-taking panorama of life.

1793

.岩が根に蛙の眠る真昼哉
iwa ga ne ni kawazu no nemuru mahiru kana

at the rock's base
the frog's siesta...
high noon


1793

.寝転んで若草摘る日南哉
ne-koronde waka-gusa tsumeru hinata kana

lying down to sleep
plucking the new grass...
sunbather


1793

.花椿落来る竹のしげみ哉
hana tsubaki ochi kuru take no shigemi kana

camellia blossoms
come falling in...
bamboo grove


1793

.寝心に花を算へる雨夜哉
ne-gokoro ni hana wo kazoeru amayo kana

my sleepy mind
counting cherry blossoms...
a rainy night

Shinji Ogawa notes that this haiku alludes a famous Chinese poem, "A Spring Morning," by Meng Haoran (691-740). Shinji translates:

I awake in the late morning of spring
The bird songs are all around me
I might hear the storm in the night
I wonder how many blossoms have fallen

1793

.吹降や花に浴びせるかねの声
fukiburi ya hana ni abiseru kane no koe

windy rain--
pouring over the blossoms
a temple bell

The bell of the Buddhist temple suggests transience. After this rain and wind, the blossoms will have all fallen to the ground.

Shinji Ogawa notes that, grammatically, the sound of the temple bell is pouring on the blossoms--a strong and creative image.

1793

.蛇出て兵者を撰る花見哉
hebi idete tsuwamono wo eru hanami kana

when the snake comes out
there's a brave soldier...
blossom viewers

In my first translation, I read tsuwamono as a literal warrior or samurai. Shinji Ogawa notes that Issa is using the word metaphorically: one of the blossom viewers shows his bravery facing the snake. Others are running away, one presumes, yelling and screaming.

Blossoms" (hana) can denote cherry blossoms in the shorthand of haiku.

1793

.涼しさや欠釜一ッひとりずみ
suzushisa ya kakegama hitotsu hitori-zumi

cool air--
with one cracked pot
my life alone


1793

.夏の月明地にさわぐ人の声
natsu no tsuki akichi ni sawagu hito no koe

summer moon--
in the vacant lot a ruckus
of voices


1793

.山颪家々の幟に起る也
yama oroshi ya-ya no nobori ni okiru nari

mountain wind--
house after house
with summer banners

Shinji Ogawa provides this paraphrase: "The mountain wind shows itself at the summer banner of each house." To preserve a seven syllable count in the middle phrase, ie-ie ("house [after] house") might be read, ya-ya.

1793

.更衣しばししらみを忘れたり
koromogae shibashi shirami wo wasuretari

a new summer robe--
for a little while
no lice

Literally, lice are "forgotten" (wasuretari) for a while. Issa has changed into clean, new summer clothes, ridding himself only temporarily of body lice.

1793

.青すだれ白衣の美人通ふ見ゆ
ao sudare byakue no bijin kayou miyu

through green bamboo blinds
a pretty woman
in white

We could add that the woman in white "attends" (kayou) to someone, as Shinji Ogawa points out.

According to Makoto Ueda, this early haiku represents an attempt at Tenmei style, a school of haiku that valued aestheticism and fictional elegance; Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 30. "Green bamboo blinds" (ao sudare) is a summer season word. The blinds are fresh-made. A year later, they will be yellow.

1793

.夜仕事や子を思ふ身は蚊屋の外
yo shigoto ya ko wo omou mi wa kaya no soto

night work--
outside the mosquito net
she thinks of her child

Or: "he thinks of his child." Issa doesn't specify if the "parent" (oya) is amother or a father.

At first, I pictured a mother doing some night chore, letting her child sleep in mosquito-less comfort. Shinji Ogawa, however, writes that the parent hasn't yielded the mosquito net to the child but is doing night work, thinking about his or her child's welfare.

1793

.子に肩を間摩す人あり門涼み
ko ni kata wo momasu hito ari kado suzumi

his child massages
his shoulders...
cool air at the gate

A tranquil domestic scene. Originally, I misread this haiku to signify a parent massaging a child's shoulders. Shinji Ogawa corrected me.

1793

.蚊を焼くや紙燭にうつる妹が顔
ka wo yaku ya shisoku ni utsuru imo ga kao

burning mosquitoes--
in the paper lamp
my dear one's face

R. H. Blyth explains that the woman's face is being reflected in the oil in which a paper wick is burning; A History of Haiku (Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1964) 1.354.

Imo ("sister") is a literary word for "dear one"--an intimate term that a man uses to refer to his beloved; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 454. Had Issa been married at this point, I would have translated this, "my wife's face."

1793

.只一ッ耳際に蚊の羽かぜ哉
tada hitotsu mimi-giwa ni ka no hakaze kana

only one
fans my ear...
mosquito

In Issa: Cup-of-Tea Poems, I translated this haiku, "one more wing-buzzing mosquito in my ear"; (Berkeley: Asian Humanities, 1991) 43. However, Shinji Ogawa points out that tada hitotsu ("only one") modifies the hakaze (wing-created breeze), not the number of mosquitoes. He offers this translation:

close to my ear
a single breeze
from a mosquito

1793

.出る枝は伐らるる垣のわか葉哉
deru eda wa kiraruru kaki no wakaba kana

proud branches
are trimmed...
fresh leaves of the hedge

Shinji Ogawa explains, "There is a proverb in Japan saying, deru kugi wa utaeru (the nail that sticks out may be hit), i.e., don't be too presumptuous. Issa paraphrases the proverb." Guided by Shinji's insight, I have decided to translate deru eda ("sprouting branches") as "proud branches." This, I think, captures a semantic shade that lies deeper than the literal.

Kaki can mean a fence or a hedge (that may serve as a fence). In this context, "hedge" is clearly the more appropriate term.

1793

.君が世や茂りの下の那蘇仏
kimi ga yo ya shigeri no shita no yaso-botoke

Great Japan--
under thick summer leaves
Jesus-Buddha

"Great Japan" is my translation of kimi ga yo, a phrase that refers to the emperor's reign and begins the Japanese national anthem. Issa would have known the lyrics, though not the current melody which came after his time. Issa wrote this haiku while on a journey to Nagasaki, the site of an old Christian mission. Though this foreign sect was repressed by the local authorities, stone figures of the "Jesus-Buddha" were left behind.

I first assumed that the "Jesus Buddha" appeared in the form of a stone cross; see Pure Land Haiku: The Art of Priest Issa (Reno/Tadoshi: Buddhist Books International, 2004) 20. Jean Cholley believes that Issa is referring to images of Jesus and Mary disguised as Buddhas, used by clandestine Japanese Christians. Cholley notes, however, that at least one Japanese scholar, Katô Shûson, believes that Issa might have written the haiku about a cross on a tomb; En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 234, note 10.

In my first translation, I had the cross "overgrown with weeds." More literally, Issa sees it below thick summer foliage, not necessarily weeds.

1793

.菊月や山里里も供日酒
kiku-zuki ya yama-zato sato mo tomo hi-zake

chrysanthemum month--
for every mountain village
days of sake

The Ninth Month (old lunar calendar) is "chrysanthemum month." Plenty of parties for mum-viewing and mum contests are in store.

1793

.酒呑まぬ吾身一ッの夜寒哉
sake nomanu waga mi hitotsu no yozamu kana

out of sake
such is my life...
a cold night

Issa would love to drink sake on this cold night!

1793

.歯噛みする人に目覚て夜寒哉
hagami suru hito ni mezamete yozamu kana

his grinding teeth
wake me...
a cold night

At first I translated hagami suru as "chattering teeth," but Shinji Ogawa points out that "gnashing" is more accurate.

I picture a scene at an inn.

1793

.秋の夜や旅の男の針仕事
aki no yo ya tabi no otoko no harishigoto

autumn evening--
a traveling man busy
stitching

Originally, I translated the second part of this haiku: "a traveler busy/ stitching," but Robin D. Gill suggests that I should keep the word "man" (hito) in it. This man, Robin writes, "must be poor or deliberately solitary for the meshimori [woman] would sew for him at any inn."

1793

.さらぬだに月に立待惣稼哉
saranu dani tsuki ni tachimatsu sôka kana

not only waiting
for the harvest moon to rise...
streetwalker

The streetwalker (sôka) was the lowest grade of prostitute in Issa's Japan. The expression, sara nu dani has the modern equivalents, sô de nakute sae and tadadesae ("not only"); Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 932, 724. The prostitute isn't only waiting for the moon; she's waiting for her customers. The moon is that of the 17th day of Eighth Month--two days past the full harvest moon. Because Western readers usually aren't aware of the fine distinction between a full moon and a two days past full moon, in my translation I render it, simply, "harvest moon." In his book, Issa to onnatachi ("Issa and Women"), Masafumi Kobayashi cites this poem as an example of a haiku that "strikes the heart" (Tokyo: Sanwa 2004) 41. I agree.

1793

.花の原誰かさ敷る跡に哉
hana nohara taga kasa shikeru ato ni kana

field of flowers--
whose umbrella-hat
marked you?

Shinji Ogawa notes that ato in this haiku refers to a "mark." Someone has laid his or her umbrella-hat on the flowers, leaving a hat-shaped impression.

1793

.手叩て親の教ゆるをどり哉
te tataite oya no oshiyuru odori kana

hands clapping
mother teaches her child
the dance

The "parent" (oya) could also be a father. The "dance" referred to pertains to the autumn Bon Festival. The Bon Festival of the Dead takes place in Eighth Month in the old lunar calendar. At this time, people light lanterns to guide their ancestors' spirits back home.

1793

.湖や鴛の側ゆく夜這星
mizuumi ya oshi no soba yuku yobaiboshi

in the lake
alongside the duck...
the sneaky Romeo Star

The star's reflection appears next to the mandarin duck (oshi). Tanabata is a festival that takes place on the seventh day of Seventh Month. According to a romantic legend, two celestial lovers--the stars Altair and Vega--are separated by Heaven's River (the Milky Way). One night a year (Tanabata night), they cross the starry river to be together. The female star (Vega) is pictured as a weaver; the male, a herder. In this early haiku, Issa refers to the latter as yobaiboshi ("Night-Crawling Star"). Originally, I ended my translation, blandly, with "Herder Star," but Shinji Ogawa points out that the "night-crawling star" denotes a lover sneaking to meet his beloved: a "sneaky Romeo Star." Here, its reflection appears alongside the duck.

1793

.落し水魚も古郷へもどる哉
oto[shi] mizu uo mo kokyô e modoru kana

draining the rice field--
a fish also
heads home

In autumn when the rice is ready for harvest, farmers break the dikes that have kept the fields flooded. In this charming haiku Issa muses that the fish, too, is returning to its "native village" (kokyô)--an excellent example of his portrayal of animal behavior in human terms.

1793

.鞍壷に三ッ四ッ六ッいなご哉
kuratsubo ni mittsu yo[tsu] mutsu inago kana

on the saddle
three, four, six...
locusts

Kuratsubo is an old word that denotes the part of the saddle that is indented for the rider's bottom; see Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 525.

Sakuo Nakamura notes that inago ("locust") can be spelled with the Japanese numbers, 1 (i), 7 (na) and 5 (go). This creates a numerical game in the haiku, where every number from 1 to 7 is mentioned. In addition, Sakuo recognizes that this haiku is a parody of Bashô's poem:

kuratsubo ni ko-bôzu noru ya daiko hiki

in the saddle
a little boy rides...
radish picking

1793

.きりぎりすしばし布団のうへに哉
kirigirisu shibashi futon no ue ni kana

katydid--
for a little while
on my futon

This haiku has the prescript, "A leisurely night." A katydid (kirigirisu) is a green or light brown insect, a cousin of crickets and grasshoppers. The males possess special organs on the wings with which they produce shrill calls. Although katydid is the closest English equivalent, many translators (such as R. H. Blyth) use the more familiar "grasshopper" and "cricket." See Haiku (Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1949-1952; rpt. 1981-1982/reset paperback edition) 4.1068-69.

1793

.遠方や枯野の小家の灯の見ゆる
enpô ya kareno no-goya no hi no miyuru

distant sight--
in withered fields
a little house's lamp

This early haiku is filled with sabi, that sense of existential aloneness that was so essential in the work of Matsuo Bashô. Without doubt, Bashô served as Issa's model, especially at this early stage.

1793

.君が世や寺へも配る伊勢暦
kimi ga yo ya tera e mo kubaru ise-goyomi

Great Japan!
even for a Buddhist temple
Ise Shrine's calendar

Or: "Ise Shrine's almanac." Issa is referring to the great Shinto shrine at Ise. "Great Japan" is my translation of kimi ga yo, a phrase that refers to the emperor's reign and begins the Japanese national anthem. Issa would have known the lyrics, though not the current melody which came after his time. Yo is normally written with the kanji for "age" or "era," but here Issa uses the one for "world." His meaning is the same. In the haiku he celebrates the peculiarly Japanese syncretism of Buddhism and Shinto.

1793

.君が世やから人も来て年ごもり
kimi ga yo ya karabito mo kite toshi-gomori

Great Japan--
a foreigner also attends
the year's end service!

"Great Japan" is my translation of kimi ga yo, a phrase that refers to the emperor's reign and begins the Japanese national anthem. Issa would have known the lyrics, though not the current melody which came after his time. In 1793, Issa visited the port city of Nagasaki, where he encountered, possibly for the first time, a European--most likely a Dutchman.

1793

.冬篭り鳥料理にも念仏哉
fuyugomori tori ryôri ni mo nebutsu kana

winter seclusion--
cooking a chicken
praising Buddha

This haiku refers to the nembutsu ("Namu Amida Butsu"--"All Praise to Amida Buddha"), a prayer of thanksgiving for, and praise of, Amida Buddha's liberating power. Eons ago, Amida promised that all who rely on his liberating power will be reborn in the Pure Land (the Western Paradise). This means that even the sinner who kills the chicken, trusting in Amida, can reach the Pure Land--both a mythic place and a metaphor for enlightenment. The patriarch of Jôdoshinshû, Shinran, insisted that sinners could be rescued by Amida's "Other Power."

1793

.思ふ人の側へ割込む炬燵哉
omou hito no soba e warikomu kotatsu kana

squeezing in next
to my lover...
quilt-covered brazier

Or: "his lover." Issa doesn't specifically say that he is the one squeezing in, but this might be inferred. This haiku has the prescript, "Lovers." A kotatsu is a quilt-covered brazier. Gabi Greve brought this to my attention and helped with its translation. She writes, "To sit near a person you love in a kotatsu is quite a different thing than sitting beside a fireplace. Nobody can see your legs in the dark, and we often call it 'playing footsies.' It is difficult to translate this word without giving a long explanation or show a picture to explain what it is."

1793

.すぎはひやほた一ッ掘に小一日
sugiwai ya hota hitotsu horu ni ko ichi nichi

an all-day job--
digging one small chunk
of firewood

Is the firewood in question perhaps a tree stump?

1793

.糞土より梅へ飛んだりみそさざい
fundo yori ume e tondari misosazai

from crappy ground
to the plum tree
the wren


1793

.冬枯やあらしの中の御神灯
fuyugare ya arashi no naka no go-shintô

winter withering--
amid the storm
a sacred lantern

The lantern might also be translated, "festival lantern." Literally, it is a "lantern of the gods."

1793

.冬枯や桜もわらの掛どころ
fuyugare ya sakura mo wara no kake-dokoro

winter withering--
even the cherry tree
a place for straw


1794

.雑煮いはふ吾も物かは旅の春
zôni iwau ware mo monoka wa tabi no haru

I too celebrate
with zoni...
spring journey

Zôni, glutinous rice cakes with vegetables, is enjoyed in the New Year's season. Monoka, usually written with a different kanji than the one that Issa uses here, can mean nante a negative expression; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1634. I believe that Issa's meaning is: "Why don't I also celebrate with zôni as I set off on my spring journey?" If I'm understanding him, the negative is conveying a positive.

1794

.初夢に古郷を見て涙哉
hatsu yume ni furusato wo mite namida kana

in the year's first dream
my home village...
tears

Shinji Ogawa believes that this haiku is flawed. He writes, "Did you see your home village in your first dream of the year? Come on! Don't stage your haiku!" I agree that Issa's New Year's dream of his native village appears contrived--a poetic invention. Nevertheless, his sentiment seems genuine. Excluding a brief visit three years earlier, at the time of the haiku's composition in 1794 he had been away from home for 17 long years.

According to Makoto Ueda, Issa wrote this homesick haiku while staying at Nagasaki, where he celebrated the new year; Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 28.

1794

.きぬぎぬやかすむ迄見る妹が家
kinu-ginu ya kasumu made miru imo ga ie

lovers parting--
looking back at her house
until only mist

This unusually romantic haiku has the prescript, "Parting lovers." On the morning after a night of passion, lovers put their clothes back on and depart. The last line, imo ga ie, refers to the "dear one's house," (imo) being an intimate term that a man uses to refer to his beloved.

According to Makoto Ueda, this early haiku represents an attempt at Tenmei style, a school of haiku that valued aestheticism and fictional elegance; Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 31.

Shinji Ogawa notes, "it is the man (Issa) who turns to look at her house again and again until it fades into mist."

For definitions of kinu-ginu and imo see Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 167; 454.

1794

.窓明て蝶を見送る野原哉
mado akete chô wo mi-okuru no hara kana

opening the window
I see the butterfly off...
into the field

Issa ends the haiku with, simply, "the field" (no hara), leaving to the reader's imagination the butterfly's relationship to the field. French translator Jean Cholley visualizes the butterfly flitting into the field; En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 37.

Shinji Ogawa agrees. He notes that mi-okuru means to "see it off." Issa has opened the window, releasing the trapped butterfly. He watches it flit off into the field.

1794

.高山や花見序の寺参り
takayama ya hanami tsuide no tera mairi

Mount Taka--
while viewing blossoms
a temple pilgrimage

An example of multi-tasking: while on a pilgrimage to a Buddhist temple, Issa enjoys the spring blossoms. "Blossoms" (hana) can denote cherry blossoms in the shorthand of haiku.

1794

.奈良坂や花の咲く夜も鹿の声
narazaka ya hana no saku yo mo shika no koe

Narazaka--
even as night's blossoms bloom
the cry of a deer

Narazaka is a section of the ancient capital of Japan, Nara. It is the location of the Nara Zuhiko Shrine. "Blossoms" (hana) can denote cherry blossoms in the shorthand of haiku. I wonder is Issa is implying that the deer should be happy to see the blossoms; yet, even on this night, he hears its plaintive call.

1794

.桃咲やおくれ年始のとまり客
momo saku ya okure nenshi no tomari kyaku

peach blossoms--
a belated "Happy New Year!"
for the inn's guests


1794

.茶の煙柳と共にそよぐ也
cha no kemuri yanagi to tomo ni soyogu nari

the tea smoke
and the willow
together trembling

Literally, they tremble together. In my earlier, freer translation, I ended with "dance partners."

1794

.夏の暁や牛に寝てゆく秣刈
ge no ake ya ushi ni nete yuku magusa kari

summer dawn--
riding an ox, asleep
the hay cutter

In this very early haiku, Issa gives us a snapshot of rural life.

1794

.涼しさや半月うごく溜まり水
suzushisa ya hangetsu ugoku tamarimizu

cool air--
the half moon moves
across a puddle

Or: "across puddles." Literally, tamarimizu denotes "standing water" or "stagnant water." In William J. Higginson's translation (assisted by Emiko Sakurai), the half-moon "shifts puddles"; The Haiku Handbook: How to Write, Share, and Teach Haiku (Tokyo: Kodansha International,1985) 19.

1794

.棒突がごもくを流す白雨哉
bô tsuki ga gomoku wo nagasu yudachi kana

my walking stick
sends the trash floating...
cloudburst

Gomoku is an old word for gomi: trash or rubbish; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 654.

The Japanese word for a summer "cloudburst" is normally pronounced with four on (sound units): yûdachi, but here it is shortened to three to fit the 5-7-5 pattern of a haiku: yudachi.

1794

.雲の峰外山は雨に黒む哉
kumo no mine toyama wa ame ni kuromu kana

billowing clouds--
the mountains in the rain
all black

Or: "the mountain..." Toyama (often translated as "foothills") refers to any mountain located near a village; see Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1185. Issa paints a striking vista: billowing white clouds, so dense that the mountains below are black.

1794

.雲のみね見越見越て阿蘇煙
kumo no mine mikoshi mikoshite aso kemuri

peaks of clouds--
looking down, down...
Mount Aso's smoke

Mount Aso is a volcano in Kyûshû. The middle phrase of this haiku, mikoshi mikoshite, might mean "looking, looking down"--according to Shinji Ogawa. He adds, "The word kumonomine means peaks of clouds or billowing clouds...more precisely the cumulonimbus in summer. Therefore, the word kumonomine (cumulonimbus) is a season word for summer."

Lewis Mackenzie believes that the poet is looking through Mount Aso's smoke at the clouds. See The Autumn Wind: A Selection from the Poems of Issa (London: John Murray, 1957; rpt. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1984), 53.

1794

.憎るる稗は穂に出て青田原
nikumaruru hie wa ho ni dete aodabara

the hated barnyard grass
rears its head...
green rice field

The unwanted "barnyard grass" (hie) forms heads of seed in a rice field. In an 1804 rewrite Issa changes this to simply "grass" (kusa).

1794

.雨垂の内外にむるる藪蚊哉
amadare no uchito ni mururu yabu ka kana

in and out of raindrops
falling from the eaves they swarm...
mosquitoes

An amadare is an eavesdrop, where water falls from a roof's overhang.

According to R. H. Blyth, "thicket mosquito" (yabu ka) refers to a species of "striped mosquitoes"; Haiku (Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1949-1952; rpt. 1981-1982/reset paperback edition) 3.805. Robin D. Gill notes that the scientific name for these large striped mosquitoes is Stegomyia fasciata, according to Kenkyûsha's Japanese-English Dictionary.

Sakuo Nakamura writes, "My wife grew up in the same village as mine. We had the same experience that Issa would have had, because my family was in Shizuoka, which is next to the prefecture of Nagano where Issa lived. I and my wife talked about ka and yabuka. We recognized that ka is only 'mosquito', but yabuka is another species: stronger, bigger and stinging more strongly. We call yabuka 'yabukka', a pronunciation that stresses the toughness of this kind of mosquito."

1794

.芥子の花々と見る間にあらし哉
keshi no hana hana to miru ma ni arashi kana

while looking
at poppies, poppies...
a storm

Issa is so absorbed in the beauty of the flowers, he doesn't notice the storm brewing.

1794

.垣津旗よりあの虹は起りけん
kakitsubata yori ano niji wa okoriken

irises--
where that rainbow
starts from

Issa imagines that the rainbow has arisen from blooming irises--the intense, showy colors of the flowers continuing in bold streks upward, into the sky, forming the rainbow. It's interesting that "iris" derives from the Greek word for "rainbow." Issa could not have known this, but he intuits the same connection that exists in many Western languages. The rainbow is a flower in the sky; irises are rainbows on earth.

1794

.露の野にかた袖寒き朝日哉
tsuyu no no ni kata sode samuki asahi kana

in the dewy field
one sleeve cold...
morning sun

Issa feels warm on the sunlit side, cold on the other.

Sakuo Nakamura pictures the following: as the sun begins to rise, one sleeve receives the sunlight; the other remains in shadow. One sleeve is warm; the other cold. This juxtaposition of cold autumn field and bright morning sun, he adds, "makes the haiku's impression strong."

1794

.あぢきなや魂迎へ火を火とり虫
ajikina ya tama mukae hi wo hitorimushi

bad luck!
into the bonfire for the dead
a tiger moth

The insect's name, hitorimushi, literally means, "fire-loving bug." In this case, the moth loves the fire too much.

Issa is referring to tamamukae: a Bon Festival ritual for welcoming the spirits of the dead.

1794

.すくも火やかがしの果も夕煙り
sukumo-bi ya kagashi no hate mo yû keburi

bonfire--
a scarecrow also ends up
in evening's smoke

I orginally translated sukumo-bi as "peat fire," but Shinji Ogawa thinks "bonfire" is better. Sukumo-bi, he writes, is a bonfire of withered weeds.

1794

.せせなぎや氷を走る炊ぎ水
sesenagi ya kôri wo hashiru kashigimizu

a gutter--
racing over ice
the cooking water

Issa ends the haiku with kashigimizu, "cooking water." French translator Jean Cholley is probably correct to assume that this is ("l'eau de caisson du riz": "rice-cooking water"; En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 37. Sesenagi is an old word for a ditch or gutter; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 912.

1794

.冬の月いよいよいよの高根哉
fuyu no tsuki iyo-iyo-iyo no takane kana

winter moon--
more and more and more
tall peaks

This haiku has the prescript, "A distant view."

1794

.初雪に昨夜の松明のほこり哉
hatsu yuki ni kizo no taimatsu no hokori kana

in first snow
last night's pine torch
remnant

Issa uses the word hokori ("dust") in its older sense as "remnant": in the new-fallen snow he sees the charred remains of last night's torch. A nice example of both juxtaposition and seasonal mood in haiku. See Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1483.

1794

.家陰や吹雪吹雪の吹き溜り
ie kage ya fubuki fubuki no fuki damari

shady side of the house--
the blizzard blows
a pile


1794

.灯ちらちら疱瘡小家の吹雪哉
hi chira-chira mogasa ko ie no fubuki kana

lamplight flickers
in the smallpox shack...
a blizzard

The kanji for smallpox can be pronounced two ways in Japanese: mogasa and hôsô; Maruyama Kazuhiko prefers the latter in Issa haiku shû (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1990; rpt. 1993) 24. The editors of Issa zenshû read it as mogasa, which preserves the traditional 5-7-5 syllable structure; 1.646. Maruyama notes that Issa is referring to an infirmary for isolation cases on the outskirts of Nagasaki (24, note 64).

Sakuo Nakamura wonders, "Is there anyone inside sick of smallpox? He has the cruel destiny of death. How is he feeling now?"

1794

.畠打がうてば唸る霰かな
hata uchi ga uteba unaru arare kana

plowing the field--
the clatter
of hailstones


1794

.朝霜に潮を散す宮居哉
asa shimo ni ushio wo chirasu miyai kana

morning frost melts
in the floodtide...
Shinto shrine

The haiku's last image, miyai, can mean imperial palace or shrine compound. Since the action takes place on the seashore, I assume that he means a Shinto shrine compound, the imperial palace in Kyoto being far from the sea.

Shinji Ogawa believes that, Issa may be referring to the Miyajima Shrine (also called as Itsukushima Shrine), built in the sea and located in Hiroshima Prefecture. Indeed, the year of the haiku's composition, 1794, coincides with Issa's journey throughout Kyûshû Island, a short boat ride across the Inland Sea to Hiroshima Prefecture.

1794

.朝霜に野鍛冶が散火走る哉
asa shimo ni no kaji ga chiribi hashiru kana

on the morning frost
the blacksmith's sparks
spurting

As a haiku poet, Issa attends to the wonders of the ordinary. The blacksmith pounds on heated metal, sparks spurting onto the morning frost. Issa doesn't say what this juxtaposition of fire and ice means; he doesn't editorialize or suggest what we should think ... or feel. He simply presents the scene and lets the reader's heart and mind do the rest.

I've revised my translation of this haiku, guided by that of French translator L. Mabesoone in Issa to kuhi (Tokyo: Kankohkai 2003) 39. Not included in either of our translations, however, is Issa's word "field" (no), indicating that the man is a "field blacksmith," i.e. working outdoors.

1794

.暁の霜に風呂屋が門をたたく哉
ake no shimo ni furoya ga kado wo tataku kana

in dawn frost
at the bathhouse door
knocking


1794

.朝な朝な焼大根哉冬ごもり
asana-asana yaki daiko kana fuyugomori

morning after morning
damn roasted radishes!
winter seclusion

I have added "damn" to the translation to convey the feeling that I sense in the original poem: Issa is sick and tired of the limited food supply during his long winter seclusion.

1794

.猪追ふやすすきを走る夜の声
shishi ou ya susuki wo hashiru yoru no koe

boar hunt--
swiftly through the plume grass
evening shouts

Hunting wild boar is a winter activity.

1794

.落葉焚く妹が黒髪つつむ哉
ochiba taku imo ga kuro-gami tsutsumu kana

burning leaves--
sweet potatoes wrapped
in black paper

Shinji Ogawa notes, "It is a popular practice to cook sweet potatoes by inserting them in the pile of leaves, especially popular among children and girls." Since kuro gami or kuro kami are also homonyms (for "black hair" and "black paper"), Shinji believes that Issa is punning.

The scene is winter, since "burning leaves" and "fallen leaves" are winter season words in Japanese haiku. One pictures the happy children gathered around the burning pile of leaves on a cold day, waiting with excitement for their paper-wrapped treats while dark smoke rises into the sky. Issa presents a wonderful slice-of-life image.

1795

.元日やさらに旅宿とおもほへず
ganjitsu ya sara ni ryoshuku to omohoezu

New Year's Day--
that I'm still on this journey
unbelievable

This haiku is the lead poem in Issa's 1795 travel journal, Saigoku kikô ("Western Provinces Travelogue"); Issa zenshû (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 5.35.

Shinji Ogawa explains that ryoshuku ("inn"), in this context, signifies "journey." Shinji notes that Issa started off on the 25th day of Third Month, 1792, and when this haiku was composed on New Year's Day of 1795, he was still on the same journey. Sara ni signifies "once more," or "over again." In this situation, it means, "still." Issa is still on his great journey--a fact that seems, suddenly, incredible to him.

1795

.乞食も護摩酢酌むらん今日の春
konjiki mo gomazu kumuran kyô [no] haru

even beggars toast
with sesame sake...
first of spring

I originally thought that this was a scene at a Shinto shrine. I was misled by the kanji with which Issa writes the word, goma; he uses the characters that signify "holy fire" instead of those that mean "sesame seeds." Shinji Ogawa set me straight. He adds that kumu, in this context, means "drink." The ending -ran changes the verb into a conjecture ("they may or may not be drinking"). In my re-translation, I use the verb "toast" in its simple, present tense, but Issa more exactly is saying, "perhaps even beggars may toast..." In English, the "perhaps" and "may" weaken the poem, so I've left them out.

The word kotsujiki is the old pronunciation of the word "beggar" in this haiku. However, Sakuo Nakamura writes that "Issa usually didn't like to use such a snobby word. He liked to use local accent to form his characteristic haiku style." Sakuo grew up in the same language area as Issa and feels confident that Issa would have pronounced the word, konjiki.

1795

.出て見れば我のみならず初旅寝
dete mireba ware no mi narazu hatsu tabine

off on a journey
I'm not alone...
first inn of the year

Shinji Ogawa translates ware no mi narazu as "I'm not alone." Issa discovers that he is not the only one setting out on a journey on New Year's Day. Dete mireba, literally "when going outside," in this situation means, "while on a journey."

1795

.くつさめは我がうはさか旅の春
kussame wa ware ga uwasa ka tabi no haru

"Ah-choo!"
is someone gossiping about me?
spring journey

Shinji Ogawa explains that there is a belief in Japan that when a person sneezes, this indicates that someone is talking about him or her.

1795

.なべ一つ柳一本も是も春
nabe hitotsu yanagi ippon mo kore mo haru

one kettle
one willow tree...
this too is spring

This haiku celebrates the first day of spring, which was the first day of the year in the old Japanese calendar.

1795

.召仕新しき哉小正月
meshi tsukai atarashiki kana ko shôgatsu

the servants
all are new...
Little New Year's

Little New Year's is celebrated on the 15th and 16th days of First Month. Meshi tsukau is an old expression for a nobleman sending for a person to come and render a service; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1612. Shinji Ogawa notes that in Issa's time, this phrase could signify any one of a wide range of employees, from samurai to maids.

1795

.吾恵方参は正月ざくら哉
waga ehô mairi wa shôgatsu-zakura kana

my New Year's
lucky direction walk...
to cherry blossoms

This haiku refers to the New Year's custom of visiting a shrine or temple located in a lucky direction. It appears in Issa's 1795 travel journal, Saigoku kikô ("Western Provinces Travelogue").

Robin D. Gill (author of Cherry Blossom Epiphany) writes, "Plum blossoms rather than cherry blossoms are normal for the New Year season. Issa was delighted to find he could head in the lucky direction for that year and visit a temple with a specific cherry tree famous for blooming every year on the sixteenth day of the month."

1795

.家飛々凧も三ッ四ッふたつ哉
ie tobi-tobi tako mo mitsu yotsu futatsu kana

houses here and there
fly kites, three...four...
two

This early haiku appears in Issa's 1795 travel journal, Saigoku kikô ("Western Provinces Travelogue"). Shinji Ogawa explains that tobi-tobi ("jump-jump" or "skip-skip") means "here and there" or "sporadic." It modifies the houses. He adds, "By counting the New Year's kites, Issa elevates the still picture to a movie."

1795

.凧青葉を出つ入つ哉
ikanobori aoba wo idetsu iritsu kana

New Year's kite--
out of green leaves
then back in

This early haiku appears in Issa's 1795 travel journal, Saigoku kikô ("Western Provinces Travelogue").

1795

.日でり雨凧にかかると思ふ哉
hideri ame tako ni kakaru to omou kana

sunny day rain
has splashed the kite...
it seems

This early haiku appears in Issa's 1795 travel journal, Saigoku kikô ("Western Provinces Travelogue"). Shinji Ogawa explains that hideri ame ("clear sky rain") means "the rain while the sun is shining."

1795

.七草の音に負じと烏かな
nanakusa no oto ni makeji to karasu kana

pounding the seven herbs
doesn't drown him out...
crow

The seven herbs of health (nanakusa) were eaten at New Year's. In this haiku, a crow's raucous cawing in "not defeated" (makeji) by the sound of the herbs being pounded into a gruel.

1795

.長閑や雨後の縄ばり庭雀
nodokeshi ya ugo no nawabari niwa suzume

spring peace--
after rain, a gang war
garden sparrows

Shinji Ogawa clarifies the meaning of this haiku. He explains, "The word nawabari (to stretch a rope) means the 'turf' for mobsters." He translates the second and third phrases, "a turf war among the garden sparrows."

1795

.長閑しや雨後の畠の朝煙り
nodokeshi ya ugo no hatake no asa kemuri

spring peace--
the rained-on field's
morning smoke


1795

.起て見れば春雨はれず日も暮れず
okite mireba harusame harezu hi mo kurezu

waking up--
the spring rain hasn't cleared
the day hasn't ended

This haiku appears in Issa's 1795 travel journal, Saigoku kikô ("Western Provinces Travelogue").

1795

.春雨や独法談二はいかい
harusame ya hitori hôdan ni haikai

spring rain--
one Buddhist sermon
two haiku

This haiku appears in Issa's 1795 travel journal, Saigoku kikô ("Western Provinces Travelogue").

1795

.春風や順礼共がねり供養
harukaze ya junrei-domo ga nerikuyô

spring breeze--
pilgrims on their way
to rites for the dead

A powerful juxtaposition of life and death. This haiku refers to nerikuyô: a memorial service held at Pure Land Buddhist temples to celebrate the coming of Amida Buddha to welcome spiritis of the dead; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1286.

1795

.朧々ふめば水也まよひ道
oboro-oboro fumeba mizu nari mayoi michi

in hazy night
stepping into water...
losing my way

The season word in this haiku, oboro, refers succinctly to a hazy night of spring. In this uncertain, dreamlike light, Issa steps off a path into water. Hiroshi Kobori notes that the poet's state of mind is like the misty night. He feels insecure and bewildered, aware of the uncertainty of his own future. According to Lewis Mackenzie, this haiku alludes to the death of one of Issa's friends, a Buddhist priest. On a journey, Issa went to visit him only to find that he had been dead for several years. Mackenzie translates the last phrase, "Ways of delusion!" See The Autumn Wind: A Selection from the Poems of Issa (London: John Murray, 1957; rpt. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1984), 30.

In Saigoku kikô ("Western Provinces Travel Diary") there is an explanatory prescript of which Shinji Ogawa offers this paraphrase: After hearing of his priest friend Sarai's death, Issa begged his replacement for a night's stay at the temple but was refused. Counting on Sarai, he had come over 300 ri (732 miles), "without a soul to lean on, going over the fields and the yards..." See Issa zenshû (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 5.36.

Makoto Ueda reports that Issa found a place to stay that night "just one hundred feet away"; Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 33.

Debi Bender likes the repetition and alliteration in the opening phrase (oboro-oboro). To preserve this subtle music, she suggests this translation:

misty, misty moon
stepping into water
losing my way

1795

.朝がすみ天守の雨戸聞へけり
asa-gasumi tenshu no amado kikoe keri

morning mist--
the castle's shutters
bang open

Literally, Issa says that the "shutter(s)" or "storm door(s)" can be heard. At first I imagined someone shutting them, but Sakuo Nakamura points out that in the morning the shutters would be opening.

In his translation, Makoto Ueda imagines the sound is a "creak"; Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 34.

1795

.門前や何万石の遠がすみ
monzen ya nan man-goku no tôgasumi

at the gate
how many thousands of bushels
of far mist?

Issa asks how many "ten-thousands" (man) of koku might there be. 1 koku = 4.96 bushels.

1795

.汲みて知るぬるみに昔なつかしや
kumite shiru nurumi ni mukashi natsukashi ya

drawing water
it's tepid...
nostalgia for olden times

This haiku, written during Issa's journey to Matsuyama on Shikoku Island, was inspired by a stone monument containing a haiku by Bashô that includes the lines, "thrusting in my hands I noticed/ the urn water" (te wo irete shiru/ kame no mizu). Natsukashi, has no exact English equivalent. It usually connotes the feeling of something dear or fondly remembered--a sort of sweet nostalgia.

Shinji Ogawa offers this translation of Issa's haiku:

Drawing water,
I noticed the tepidness
yearning for the olden days

Shinji notes that Issa's use of the word shiru (notice) is a conscious reflection of Bashô's statement.

1795

.魁てうき草浮けり苗代田
sakigakete uki kusa uki keri nawashiroda

duckweed is first
to float...
rice-seedling bed

This haiku refers to the flooded field where rice is planted.

1795

.いつの間に乙鳥は皆巣立けり
itsu no ma ni tsubakura wa mina su-dachi keri

when did they go?
all the swallows' nests
empty


1795

.天に雲雀人間海にあそぶ日ぞ
ten ni hibari ningen umi ni asobu hi zo

larks in the sky
people in the sea...
a holiday

This haiku is similar to one written two years earlier, in 1793:

kumo ni tori ningen umi ni asobu hi zo

birds in the clouds
people in the sea...
a holiday

Jean Cholley believes that the people in the above haiku are gathering shellfish. Perhaps this is what is going on in the present haiku as well; see En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 234, note 9.

Sakuo Nakamura notices the "interesting contrast" between the vertical (birds in the clouds) and the horizontal (the sea). And the poem ends, he adds, with the psychological: it's a holiday, no work!

1795

.蛙鳴き鶏なき東しらみけり
kawazu naki tori naki higashi shirami keri

frogs sing, roosters sing
the east
turns light

According to the prescript, Issa set out before dawn with a Buddhist priest, Hôzen, as his traveling companion. He composed this haiku en route.

1795

.蝶と共に吾も七野を巡る哉
chô to tomo ni ware mo nana no wo meguru kana

a butterfly my companion
through Nana Field
we wander


1795

.寝ころんで蝶泊らせる外湯哉
ne-koronde chô tomaraseru soto yu kana

lying down
with a visiting butterfly...
outer hot spring

This haiku has the prescript, "Close by Dôgo Hot Spring." The hot spring Issa enjoyed that day was an open air pool of overflow water just to the west of Dôgo Spa in Matsuyama. Issa didn't realize that the pool was intended for horses and cows, not people. I thank Takashi Kasegawa, president of the Shiki Museum in Matsuyama, for helping me to grasp this poem. Shinji Ogawa helped translate the prescript.

1795

.白魚のしろきが中に青藻哉
shirouo no shiroki ga naka ni aomo kana

amid the white
of the whitebait
duckweed's green

A starkly visual haiku. Whitebait are little white fish.

1795

.平家蟹昔はここで月見船
heike-gani mukashi wa koko de tsukimi-bune

Heike crabs--
long ago they moon-gazed here
on boats

Crabs with special markings resembling faces of samurai are thought to be reincarnated heroes who died in a famous battle, recounted in the medieval Tale of the Heike. Issa muses that in olden times (mukashi), these crabs were men, enjoying moon parties on boats.

1795

.海のなき国をおもひきる田にし哉
umi no naki kuni wo omoikiru tanishi kana

resigning himself
to this oceanless province...
pond snail

Or: "resigning themselves ... pond snails." And one more possibility: "resigning herself."

1795

.藤咲くや順礼の声鳥の声
fuji saku ya junrei no koe tori no koe

wisteria in bloom--
voices of pilgrims
voices of birds

The presence of "pilgrims" (junrei) suggests that the setting is a Buddhist temple or Shinto shrine.

1795

.梅がかに障子ひらけば月夜哉
ume ga ka ni shôji hirakeba tsuki yo kana

plum blossom scent--
when I open my paper door
a bright moon


1795

.梅の月一枚のこす雨戸哉
ume no tsuki ichi mai no kosu amado kana

for the plum blossom moon
I remove
a rain shutter

Issa wrote this during his journey to Shikoku Island. It was inspired by a walk that he took on the shore of the Inland Sea, as he thought longingly about the olden days of haiku. By setting off on his own haiku-writing journey, he was emulating the great haiku master Matsuo Bashô (1644-94), whose poetic travels were legendary. Issa's devotion to the moon here suggests a fervent devotion to the way of haiku, since the autumn moon and spring's blossoms are the two foremost topics of haiku. Honoring blossoms and moon means honoring and following Bashô, who once wrote that "it is only a barbarous mind that sees other than the flower, merely an animal mind that dreams of other than the moon." In this verse, the rain shutter is removed to allow moonlight to enter a room. Perhaps, on a symbolic level, Issa is speaking of his own heart, wide open to receive the moon and all of Nature痴 gifts. Translation of Bashô from Noboyuki Yuasa, The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Other Travel Sketches (New York: Penguin Books, 1965) 72.

1795

.正風の三尊見たり梅の宿
shôfû no san-zon mitari ume no yado

I view three masters
of the original style...
plum blossom inn

This obscure haiku is clarified by its prose context in Issa's journal. He was visiting Matsuyama on Shikoku Island, where he saw three hanging scrolls containing haiku by Bashô and two other poets of Bashô's school ("original style"): Kikaku and Sodô. I thank Takashi Kasegawa, president of the Shiki Museum in Matsuyama, for providing information on this haiku.

1795

.或時は花の都にも倦にけり
aru toki wa hana no miyako ni mo aki ni keri

there comes a time
even in blossoming Kyoto...
sick of it

In this comic haiku, all the hoopla over the cherry blossoms, after a while, gets tiresome. The "capital" (miyako) was Kyoto in Issa's day. This is where the emperor and his court lived. Political and military power was centered in the Shogun's city of Edo, today's Tokyo.

1795

.拝上頭に花の雫かな
ogami agu kashira ni hana no shizuku kana

to my upturned face
as I pray, blossoms
drip down

Or: "to his upturned face/ as he prays..." This haiku has the prescript, "Second Month, 22nd day [...] after a rain, cherry blossoms dripped down. On a pilgrimage to shrines and temples." It appears in Issa's early travel journal, Saigoku kikô ("Western Provinces Travel Diary"). Though he describes them as cherry blossoms in the prescript, in the haiku he refers to them simply as "blossoms" (hana); this can denote cherry blossoms in the shorthand of haiku.

1795

.塚の花にぬかづけや古郷なつかしや
tsuka no hana ni nukazuke ya kokyô natsukashi ya

amid his grave's
blossoms I bow...
missing him

This haiku has the prescript, "Praying at my dead master's monument." The editors of Issa zenshû explain that Issa was visiting the tombstone of his haiku teacher Chikua (who died five years earlier, in 1790). The whereabouts of Chikua's grave is unknown; (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 5.62, note 96.

1795

.遠山や花と見るより道急ぐ
tôyama ya hana to miru yori michi isogu

distant mountain--
looking at the blossoms
then hurrying on my way

Or: "distant mountains" or "on his way." "Blossoms" (hana) can denote cherry blossoms in the shorthand of haiku. Issa (or someone) stops to admire the blooming trees, like a pale pink cloud covering the distant mountain, then hurries down the road. Life with its destinations and deadlines continues.

1795

.冥加あれや日本の花惣鎮守
myôga are ya nippon no hana sôchinju

divine providence--
throughout Japan gods
guarding blossoms

This early haiku in Saigoku kikô ("Western Provinces Travel Diary") has a prescript in which Issa says, "I prayed at a Shinto shrine named Sanjima." He alludes, in the poem, to the Shinto belief that local gods protect the life around them, in this case, the blossoms. "Blossoms" (hana) can signify "cherry blossoms" in the shorthand of haiku.

1795

.桃柳庇々の花見かな
momo yanagi hisashi hisashi no hanami kana

peach blossoms and willow
decorate the eaves...
blossom viewing

This early haiku appears in Saigoku kikô ("Western Provinces Travel Diary"). In the previous poem in this travel journal, Issa mentions "blossoms in the eaves" (noki no hana) and writes, in a prescript, that "all the houses were decorated. A scene of refinement and elegance"; Issa zenshû (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 5.39.

1795

.軒の雨鉢うつさくら閑しや
noki no ame hachi utsu sakura shizukeshi ya

rain on the eaves--
the potted cherry tree
calm and still

Perhaps the blooming tree is "calm and still" (shizukeshi) because it is shelted from the rain, protected by the house's overhanging eaves.

1795

.落書の一句拙し山ざくら
raku-gaki no hito ku tsutanashi yama-zakura

an off-the-cuff haiku
for a poor crop...
mountain cherry blossoms


1795

.振向ばはや美女過る柳哉
furimukeba haya bijo suguru yanagi kana

turning 'round
just missing a pretty woman...
willow tree

The question that this haiku poses, and that the reader must answer with his or her imagination, is the following: where is the willow (or willows) in relation to the action? I think that Issa has turned around to find that a pretty woman in kimono has passed out of view, a willow tree now blocking his sight of her, spoiling his girl-watching. French translator Jean Cholley has the woman passing ("là-bas sous les saules" ("there, under the willows"); En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 37.

Shinji Ogawa writes, "I agree with your guess that Issa has turned around to find that the woman has passed the willow tree that now blocks his view. The word haya (already, so quickly) implies Issa's turning was too late. The willow tree is the spoiler."

Patrick Van Fessem writes, "What if the 'blocking' is not literal and not directly physical, but that the willow tree still is the reason he missed her? Meaning, he was so captured by this beautiful willow tree that he was too late noticing the woman: willow tree/ marveling at this beauty/ too late to see another pass by."

Syllableº17 notes, "The willow is a symbol of many things of which grace, humility and a certain unfulfilled receptive sadness (as in weeping and rain) are not the least. The willow is certainly feminine in attribute globally. All of these notions would add to the enjoyment of this charming, dare we say archetypal, Issa haiku. Its overall effect psychologically is representative of the presence that remains after the woman in question has disappeared from Issa's sight; around the corner of his eye."

Kikuko J. Hilbun believes that the willow, symbolizing a woman's movements, is a welcome and pleasing substitute in the haiku.

1795

.五月雨や借傘五千五百ばん
samidare ya kashigasa go sen go hyaku ban

Fifth Month rain--
the five thousand five hundredth
rented umbrella

"Fifth Month rain" (samidare) pertains to the old lunar calendar; it would be June rain in the present calendar. Shinji Ogawa observes, "In the modern Japanese sense, May weather consists of mostly fair days, not cold, not hot, in the best season of the year. Therefore, May rain is very pleasant in modern Japanese sense. On the other hand, samidare (May rain in old Japanese), is the June rain that falls day after day, creating high humidity and helping mold to grow in the corners of the house."

1795

.遠かたや青田のうへの三の山
ochikata ya aoda no ue no mitsu no yama

far distance--
above green rice fields
three mountains


1795

.つくづくと鵜ににらまるる鵜飼哉
tsuku-zuku to u ni nirama[ru]ru ukai kana

the cormorants stare
at them hard...
cormorant fishermen

Japanese fishermen use cormorants. Tied to a tether, these sea birds dive for fish that they are forced to disgorge.

Shinji Ogawa paraphrases, "thoroughly stared [at]/ by the cormorants.../ cormorant fishing party," and he comments, "Issa shows in this haiku his compassion for the cormorants and his guilty conscience." Shinji is reminded of Basho's haiku, "delightful/ but ending in sadness/ cormorant fishing party." Shinji comments, "The superior side of Issa's haiku is that it does not contain such adjectives like 'delightful' and 'sad.' The adjective tsuku-zuku to ('thoroughly') personifies the cormorants and, therefore, makes the haiku humorous, not gloomy."

1795

.衣がえ替ても旅のしらみ哉
koromogae kaete mo tabi no shirami kana

also changing
into a summer robe...
my journey's lice

One of Issa's hallmarks as a poet is the way he pays attention to animals, big and small, treating them as equals and comrades in the pilgrimage of life. In this comic haiku, he changes into a summer robe on the first day of summer--the first day of Fourth Month in the old Japanese calendar. HIs body lice have changed clothes too. Issa's tone is accepting and loving of his tiny travel companions.

1795

.更衣ふりかけらるる湯花哉
koromogae furikakeraruru yubana kana

my new summer robe
splashed by hot
purification water

Yubana might be translated, "flowers of sulphur" or "hot spring crystals": incrustations at hot springs. However, in Saigoku kikô ("Western Provinces Travel Diary") this haiku has the prescript, "At [the Buddhist] Saint Kûkai's praying-for-rain well, inside the shrine." The editors of Issa zenshû suggest that in this context yubana means yutama: bubbles of hot spring water; (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 5. 64, note 142. The shrine maiden blesses Issa by dousing his new summer clothes.

1795

.鉢植の竹と我とが涼み哉
hachi ue no take to ware to ga suzumi kana

for the potted bamboo
and me...
cool air

Issa imagines that his companion, the bamboo, enjoys the cool air just as much as he does.

1795

.暁や鶏なき里の時鳥
akatsuki ya tori naki sato no hototogisu

daybreak--
the rooster-less village
has a cuckoo!


1795

.つかれ鵜の見送る空やほととぎす
tsukare u no miokuru sora ya hototogisu

the weary cormorant
sees off the cuckoo
in the sky

Japanese fishermen use cormorants. Tied to a tether, these sea birds dive for fish that they are forced to disgorge. The hard-working cormorant looks up at the passing cuckoo: a striking contrast of drudgery and freedom.

1795

.御旅所を吾もの顔やかたつぶり
o-tabisho wo waga mono-gao ya katatsuburi

temporary shrine--
acting like he owns it
a snail

This haiku has a prescript in which Issa explains: at a place called Mitsu-no-mura a purification ritual takes place each year (Sixth Month) on the grounds of a temple. Tabisho is the temporary resting place for a shrine carried at festivals (mikoshi).

1795

.青梅や餓鬼大将が肌ぬいで
aoume ya gaki-daishô ga hada nuide

green plums--
the baddest of bad boys
bare-chested

Hiroshi Kobori believes that there are two stories in this haiku. Green plums dangle in the trees, and the ring leader of naughty boys passes by bare-chested. The two are related symbolically, as the hidden energy of the plums reflects that of the swaggering boy, who takes off the top of his kimono in a continuing motion (hada nuide).

1795

.天広く地ひろく秋もゆく秋ぞ
ten hiroku chi hiroku aki mo yuku aki zo

vast sky
vast earth
autumn passes too


1795

.笠の露眠むらんとすれば犬の声
kasa no tsuyu nemuran to sureba inu no koe

under dewy umbrella-hat
nodding off...
the dog barks!

Or: "dogs bark." French translator Jean Cholley opts for the plural here; En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 39.

1795

.義仲寺へいそぎ候はつしぐれ
gichûji e isogi sôrô hatsu shigure

to Gichu Temple
we run...
first winter rain

This could also read: "I run" or "he/she runs."

Shinji notes that Gichû Temple is located nearby Lake Biwa and famous for Bashô's grave. Issa is hurrying to a memorial service for Bashô held at Gichû Temple on Tenth Month, 12th day. Shinji adds, "Another name for this memorial service is 'Winter Rain Service,' which is why Issa used the word, 'first winter rain.' I believe that Issa expresses his respect for Bashô with the phrase, 'I'm walking fast'."

1796

.旅笠を小さく見せる霞かな
tabi-gasa wo chiisaku miseru kasumi kana

their traveling hats
looking small...
mist

Or: "his traveling hat." The hat in question is a kasa: umbrella-hat. I picture Issa watching travelers departing in the early morning--perhaps from an inn. As their bodies blend in with the spring mist, all he can see now are the outlines of their umbrella-hats growing smaller and smaller. In this early haiku he shows that he has already mastered the art of using simple observation to suggest depths of meaning and feeling. Like Issa, we shall miss those who go before us, fading into nothing.

1796

.鳥と共に人間くぐる桜哉
tori to tomo ni ningen kuguru sakura kana

birds and people
creeping through...
cherry blossoms


1796

.湖に鳥鳴初めて夜寒かな
mizuumi ni tori naki-somete yozamu kana

birds on the lake
all start honking...
a cold night

Are the waterfowl complaining about the cold, in Issa's imagination?

1796

.人並に畳のうえの月見哉
hito nami ni tatami no ue no tsukimi kana

like the others
on tatami mats...
moon gazing

In a prescript to this haiku, Issa indicates that a crowd gathered at a place called "Snail Hut." The event took place in Matsuyama City in 1796; see Maruyama Kazuhiko, Issa haiku shû (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1990; rpt. 1993) 28, note 83.

Shinji Ogawa comments, ("Hito nami ni means 'like anybody else.' For poor Issa it was a blessing to be able to join in a moon gazing on tatami mats like anybody else."

Makoto Ueda notes the tone of exaggerated modesty in this haiku. Issa implies that he normally would sit on the ground, not on a fine tatami mat "like the others"; Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 36.

1796

.降雪に草履で旅宿出たりけり
furu yuki ni zôri de tabiyado detari keri

in falling snow
in straw sandals
leaving the inn


1797

.正月の子供に成て見たき哉
shôgatsu no kodomo ni natte mitaki kana

becoming a child
on New Year's Day...
I wish!

Although the editors of Issa zenshû Vol 1 do not specify a date for this haiku, other than labeling it mid-Kansei (1790s); Shinji Ogawa notes that Issa wrote it in First Month of 1797 at Matsuyama City in Shikoku. It appears at the beginning of a renku (linked verses written at a poem party) made by Issa and the most prominent poet of the city, Kurita Chodô. See Kaneko Tohta, Kobayashi Issa (Tokyo: Kodansha, 1980) 58. Issa's decision to become a child again isn't completely absurd, for it is his mission as a haiku poet to see the world with open, nonjudgmental, child-like eyes. Too many adults, in their daily rush, hurry past Nature's treasures without paying attention to them, without really seeing them. This year, Issa vows to do otherwise.

1797

.塚の土いただひてふるしぐれかな
tsuka no tsuchi itadaite furu shigure kana

the grave's soil
welcomes its falling...
winter rain


1798

.とそ酌もわらじながらの夜明哉
toso kumu mo waraji nagara no yoake kana

my New Year's toast
with straw sandals on...
dawn

Spiced sake (toso) is a New Year's drink.

Makoto ueda observes the poet's "hurried state of mind" in this haiku. Even while toasting the new year, he has his traveling shoes on, eager to begin his journey; Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 37.

1798

.むく起の鼻の先よりかすみ哉
mukuoki no hana no saki yori kasumi kana

from the nose
of the sudden riser...
mist

This haiku has the prescript, "A head-and-tail song."

Is the sudden riser Issa? Makoto Ueda thinks so; Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 37.

Mukuoki is an old word meaning to get up (from bed) quickly; see Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1589.

1798

.苗代の雨を見て居る戸口哉
nawashiro no ame wo mite iru toguchi kana

watching rain fall
on the rice seedlings...
from the doorway

This haiku has the prescript, "Third Month, third day." The rain is a blessing for the rice-seedling bed.

1798

.夕立に賑はしき野火山火かな
yûdachi ni nigiwashiki nobi yamabi kana

crackling in the rainstorm--
field fires
mountain fires

The spring fires that have been set to clear away dead grass are nigiwashiki: lively, bustling, noisy, happy, prosperous. Originally, I translated nigiwashiki as "happy," but Shinji Ogawa believes that this word doesn't fit the scene. His hunch is that Issa "means 'noisy' or, in an expanded sense, 'confused'."

1798

.なの花に四ッのなる迄朝茶かな
na no hana ni yotsu no naru made asa cha kana

amid mustard flowers
till the ten o'clock bell...
morning tea

Rape (or canola) is a bright yellow flowering oil seed plant.

Shinji Ogawa notes that morning's "fourth bell" (yotsu no naru) corresponds roughly to ten o'clock in the morning. He adds, "The temple bells were utilized to tell the time. In reality, no temple has a clock. The determination of the hour was, I think, at the mercy of the apprentice-monk's judgment."

1798

.梅の月階子を下りて見たりけり
ume no tsuki hashigo wo orite mitari keri

plum blossom moon--
descending the ladder
I see it

Robin D. Gill pictures Issa observing the moon after descending a ladder, "perhaps after cutting some new shoots off to present to someone. Up the ladder he was too intent on his work and holding on to notice." I contemplated making the middle phrase of my translation, "after descending the ladder," but I've decided to leave out the "after," and let readers decide: Is Issa glimpsing the moon on his way down, or taking a good look at it once he reaches terra firma?

1798

.我もけさ清僧の部也梅の花
waga mo kesa seiso no bu nari ume no hana

this morning I'm one
of the pure-minded priests...
plum blossoms

This haiku is the opening verse of one of Issa's earliest books, Saraba-gasa ("Umbrella Hats' Farewell"), 1798. It has the prescript, "Here I greet the spring." "Here" refers to a mountain temple where the poet was staying.

1798

.あの鐘の上野に似たり花の雲
ano kane no ueno ni nitari hana no kumo

that temple bell
sounds like Ueno's...
clouds of blossoms

Ueno is a famous place for blossom viewing.

Shinji Ogawa explains the humor of this haiku: Issa is alluding to Basho's famous haiku, hana no kumo kane ha ueno ka asakusa ka ("clouds of blossoms/ is that the bell of Ueno/ or of Asakusa?" Issa's answer: "The temple bell sounds like Ueno's."

1798

.花雲三輪は真黒のくもりかな
hana kumori miwa wa makuro no kumori kana

the blossom clouds
over Mount Miwa...
pitch black

The editors of Issa zenshû explain that Miwa in this early haiku is a mountain covered with cedars (sugi). Thus, even though it may be time for "clouds" of cherry blossoms on other mountains, this particular one is "pitch black" (makuro) with its shady cedars; (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 6.223, note 42.

Shinji Ogawa has a different theory. If the god of Mount Miwa is the rain god, then Issa may be playing with the idea that the blossom clouds over Mount Miwa must be pitch black--like clouds of rain.

1798

.花さくやあれが大和の小口哉
hana saku ya are ga yamato no koguchi kana

cherry blossoms--
over there an edge
of Old Japan

"Blossoms" (hana) can signify cherry blossoms in the shorthand of haiku. Seeing the cherry blossoms, Issa imagines that he is glimpsing a scene of ancient Japan (yamoto). In the same year (1798) he revises this haiku to begin with "clouds of blossoms" (hana no kumo).

1798

.花の雲あれが大和の小口哉
hana no kumo are ga yamato no koguchi kana

cherry blossom clouds--
over there an edge
of Old Japan

This is a rewrite of a haiku composed earlier that year (1798). The original poem starts with "cherry blossoms" (hana saku ya). In the shorthand of haiku, "blossoms" (hana) can mean "cherry blossoms."

1798

.涼しさや雨をよこぎる稲光り
suzushisa ya ame wo yokogiru inabikari

in cool air
slicing the falling rain...
lightning!


1798

.ツあらしかいだるき雲のかかる也
aoarashi kaidaruki kumo no kakaru nari

wind on the greenery--
a weary cloud
hangs over

Aoarashi denotes "wind blowing over fresh greenery" and is a summer season word in haiku.

Shinji Ogawa notes that, even though Issa wrote the word kaitaruki, it would have been pronounced kaidaruki; I have adjusted the Japanese text accordingly.

This is an early haiku written in the 1790s.

1798

.青あらし我家見に出る旭哉
aoarashi waga ya mi ni deru asahi kana

wind on the greenery--
coming to see my house
the morning sun

Aoarashi denotes "wind blowing over fresh greenery" and is a summer season word in haiku. French translator Jean Cholley translates it as ("vent du printemps" ("spring wind"); En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 39. Though this translation choice entails a seasonal switch, Cholley perfectly captures the feeling of optimism and newness that permeates the haiku.

1798

.植込みにきのふのままのほたる哉
uekomi ni kinou no mama no hotaru kana

in the thick weeds
same as yesterday...
fireflies

Or: "firefly." Uekomi can mean shrubbery or a thick growth of plants.

1798

.ほたるよぶよこ顔過るほたる哉
hotaru yobu yokogao yogiru hotaru kana

while calling fireflies
crossing his profile...
a firefly

The word yokogao denotes a profile, side view or silhouette. The firefly passes this profile. Perhaps it is crawling; perhaps flitting by. The firefly caller might be Issa.

1798

.横町に蚤のござ打月夜哉
yokochô ni nomi no goza utsu tsuki yo kana

in an alley
beating fleas off a mat...
a bright moon


1798

.名月のこころになれば夜の明る
meigetsu no kokoro ni nareba yo no akeru

harvest moon--
when my heart's had its fill
it's dawn


1799

.今さらに別ともなし春がすみ
imasara ni wakare tomonashi harugasumi

leaving now
is especially hard...
spring mist

Makoto Ueda notes that Issa used this haiku in an elegiac haibun on the death of his friend, Ôkawa Ryûsa; Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 40-41.

1799

.姨捨のきらき中より清水かな
obasute no kiraki naka yori shimizu kana

though Mount Obasute
is hateful...
pure water

Obasute (sometimes Ubasute) is a mountain in Issa's home province of Shinano (today's Nagano Prefecture) where old people were, according to legend, "thrown away": left to die. It was also known as Sarashinayama. Today it is called Kamurikiyama.

1799

.夕山やいつまで寒い風の吹
yû yama ya itsu made samui kaze no fuku

evening mountain--
how long will the cold wind
blast?


1799

.炉のはたやよべの笑ひがいとまごひ
ro no hata ya yobe no warai ga itomagoi

by the hearth
last night, his smile
was farewell

On the last day of Eleventh Month, 1799, Issa visited his friend Ôkawa Ryûsa, whom he found lying on his deathbed. Issa attended to him as he died; Jean Cholley, En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 234, note 13.

Yobe is an old word for "last night"; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1717.

1800

.きのふ迄毎日見しを若菜かな
kinou made mainichi mishi wo wakana kana

up to yesterday
I saw you every day...
New Year's herbs

Wakana (young greens or herbs) are picked on the sixth day of First Month--a traditional New Year's observance. In this haiku, the herbs that Issa was used to seeing have all been picked.

1800

.さく花に拙きわれを呼子鳥
saku hana ni tsutanaki ware wo yobu ko tori

in the blossoms
calling to me clumsily...
a little bird

Or: "little birds."

In an earlier translation, I had "a baby bird," but Shinji Ogawa explains that ko tori means "small birds" such as sparrows and nightingales, distinguishing them from large birds such as cranes and chickens.

"Blossoms" (hana) can denote cherry blossoms in the shorthand of haiku.

1800

.夏山に洗ふたやうな日の出哉
natsu yama ni arauta yôna hi no de kana

it seems to wash
the summer mountains...
sunrise

The mountains appear to be scrubbed clean: shiny new in the dawn light.

1800

.かつしかや早乙女がちの渡し舟
katsushika ya saotome-gachi no watashibune

Katsushika--
mostly rice planters
on the ferry

Makoto Ueda notes that this haiku is a sketch "of the countryside east of Edo where there were many streams flowing through rice paddies"; Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 42.

Katsushika is an area of land east of Sumida River--a riverside suburb of Edo (today's Tokyo); see Maruyama Kazuhiko, Issa haiku shû (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1990; rpt. 1993) 33, note 109.

1801

.空錠と人には告よ田打人
karajô to hito ni wa tsuge yo ta uchi hito

his lock is worthless
he's told...
plowing the rice field

A humorous haiku. Some trespasser (Issa?) has entered a field via a gate with a non-functioning lock, boldly reporting the malfunction to the hard-working farmer.

1801

.父ありて明ぼの見たし青田原
chichi arite akebono mitashi aodabara

if my father were here--
dawn colors
over green fields

This haiku appears at the end of Chichi no shûen nikki ("The Journal of My Father's Last Days"), a journal in which Issa narrates the death of his father. Hiroshi Kobori comments: it is before sunrise and the sky is gradually changing to brighter transparence. "Still dark on the surface of the earth, Issa recognizes the rice field to be green. His consciousness focuses on the future of himself faced with his father's death."

1801

.鹿の親笹吹く風にもどりけり
shika no oya sasa fuku kaze ni modori keri

wind shakes the bamboo grass--
mother deer
returns

Or: "father deer." Issa doesn't specify; he writes, literally, "parent deer" (shika no oya). Nobuyuki Yuasa pictures a father deer; The Year of My Life: A Translation of Issa's Oraga Haru (Berkeley: U. of California Press, 1960; 2nd ed. 1972) 101. This haiku has the prescript, "On the subject of a fawn." The sound of wind rustling the grasses causes the concerned parent to return and check on his or her hidden fawn.

1801

.時鳥我も気相のよき日也
hototogisu ware mo kiai no yoki hi nari

cuckoo--
today I'm in good spirits
too

This haiku appears in Chichi no shûen nikki ("The Journal of My Father's Last Days"). On this particular day, Issa's father seemed to be improving; he had regained his appetite enough to drink three bowls of broth. Hopeful that he would recover, the poet felt at ease enough, after days of worry and tension, to notice the song of summer's first cuckoo.

1801

.寝すがたの蠅追ふもけふがかぎり哉
nesugata no hae ou mo kyô ga kagiri kana

shooing flies too
today, as he sleeps
for the last time

This emotion-packed haiku appears in Chichi no shûen nikki ("The Journal of My Father's Last Days"). The "too" (mo) suggests that this office is one of several that the son is performing for his father for the last time. Robert N. Huey ends his translation with, "There's nothing more to do"; "Journal of My Father's Last Days: Issa's Chichi no Shûen Nikki," Monumenta Nipponica 39, 1 (1984): 49.

1801

.夜々にかまけられたる蚤蚊哉
yoru-yoru ni kamakera[re]taru nomi ka kana

night after night
of pestering...
fleas, mosquitoes

On its own, this haiku may seem comic, but in the context of Issa's diary (and life) it is filled with pathos. It appears in Chichi no shûen nikki ("The Journal of My Father's Last Days"), written after the poet woke from a dream about his dead father. In his translation, Robert N. Huey makes it clear that Issa is talking about someone else in the haiku: "How he was plagued"; "Journal of My Father's Last Days: Issa's Chichi no Shûen Nikki," Monumenta Nipponica 39, 1 (1984): 53.

1801

.足元へいつ来りしよかたつぶり
ashi moto e itsu kitarishi yo katatsuburi

at my feet
when did you get here?
snail

Shinji Ogawa comments: "This haiku shows a very common scene of surprise when one finds a slow snail very close to oneself. Adding to that, when we learn that Issa was attending his dying father, our appreciation of this haiku may advance farther. We must learn how many things are left out from the haiku and yet, or therefore, so many things are expressed."

1801

.生残る我にかかるや草の露
ikinokoru ware ni kakaru ya kusa no tsuyu

splashing me
the survivor...
grassy dew

This haiku appears in Chichi no shûen nikki ("The Journal of My Father's Last Days"). It was written on the day that Issa gathered up the ashes of his cremated father. For French translator Jean Cholley it is the dew that "remains in this world" (("Reste en ce monde"); En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 43. For Robert N. Huey, Issa is the one that "remain[s] alive" ;"Journal of My Father's Last Days: Issa's Chichi no Shûen Nikki," Monumenta Nipponica 39, 1 (1984): 53.

1802

.門松やひとりし聞は夜の雨
kadomatsu ya hitorishi kiku wa yoru no ame

New Year's pine--
alone, listening to
the evening rain

Kaneko Tohta attributes the sorrow of this first haiku of the year 1802 to the death of Issa's father the year before. The New Year's pine-and-bamboo decoration on his gate seems a hollow symbol, a reminder of the poet's isolation in the world as he listens to the dreary pitter-patter of the evening rain; Issa kushû (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1983; rpt. 1984) 116-17.

1802

.日の暮の山を見かけて凧
hi no kure no yama wo mikakete ikanobori

eye-catching
over the sunset mountain...
a kite


1802

.文七が下駄の白さよ春の月
bunshichi ga geta no shirosa yo haru no tsuki

the hairdresser's
white wooden clogs...
spring moon

Shinji Ogawa defines bunshichi as a hairdresser or a craftsman who produces hair bands or strings out of white paper.

1802

.茹汁の川にけぶるや春の月
yudejiru no kawa ni keburu ya haru no tsuki

a river of broth
is steaming...
spring moon

Here's what I picture: Issa is looking at a river that resembles "broth" (yudejiru) with steam rising from it.

1802

.昼風呂の寺に立也春がすみ
hiru furo no tera ni tatsu nari harugasumi

from the temple's
noon bath rising...
spring mist


1802

.陽炎や小藪は雪のまじまじと
kagerô ya ko yabu wa yuki no maji-maji to

heat shimmers--
snow in the little thicket
winking

The word maji-maji has three meanings: "blinkingly," "hesitantly" and "brazenly." The first seems to fit this context.

"Heat shimmers" are the wavy bends in the air that one sometimes sees in the distance on a warm day--a phenomenon associated with springtime in Japan.

1802

.凍解や敷居のうちのよひの月
ite-doke ya shiki-i no uchi no yoi no tsuki

ice melting--
in the threshold
early evening's moon


1802

.初午を後に聞くや上野山
hatsu uma wo ushiro ni kiku ya ueno yama

behind me I hear
the Fox Festival...
Ueno Hill

The opening phrase, hatsu uma ("first horse"), refers to a specific date in the old lunar calendar, in spring, at which time celebrations were held in honor of Inari, the fox god.

1802

.初午の聞へぬ山や梅の花
hatsu uma no kikoenu yama ya ume no hana

no Fox Festival ruckus
on this hill...
plum blossoms

The opening phrase, hatsu uma ("first horse"), refers to a specific date in the old lunar calendar, in spring, at which time celebrations were held in honor of Inari, the fox god.

1802

.初午や山の小すみはどこの里
hatsu uma ya yama no kosumi wa doko no sato

Fox Festival--
what village is this
in the mountain's nook?

The opening phrase, hatsu uma ("first horse"), refers to a specific date in the old lunar calendar, in spring, at which time celebrations were held in honor of Inari, the fox god.

1802

.うぐひすのあごの下より淡路島
uguisu no ago no shita yori awaji shima

below the nightingale's
chin...
Awaji Island


1802

.湯の里とよび初る日やむら燕
yu no sato to yobi-somuru hi ya mura tsubame

today they're flying
in the bathhouse town...
swallow swarm

Mura in this haiku is not "village"; it refers to something that is bunched together with other things of the same class, i.e., in this case, a flock; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1602.

1802

.夕暮の松見に来しをかへる雁
yûgure no matsu mi ni koshi wo kaeru kari

stopping to watch
the evening pines...
geese flying north

Or: "evening pine." Issa fancies that the geese have poetic souls, like him.

This is a spring haiku; the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands).

1802

.よひ闇の一本榎なくかはづ
yoiyami no ippon enoki naku kawazu

darkening dusk--
in one nettle tree
croaking frogs


1802

.草の蝶大雨だれのかかる也
kusa no chô ôamadare no kakaru nari

a meadow butterfly
bombarded by big raindrops
from the eaves

An amadare is an eavesdrop, where water falls from a roof's overhang. Shinji Ogawa assisted with the translation of this haiku.

1802

.辻風の砂にまぶれし小てふ哉
tsujikaze no suna ni mabureshi ko chô kana

flecked with sand
from the whirlwind...
little butterfly

Tsujikaze is another word for tsumuji kaze, "whirlwind"; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1090.

1802

.むら雨やきのふ時分の草のてふ
murasame ya kinou jubun no kusa no chô

rain shower--
yesterday at this time
meadow butterflies

Or: "a meadow butterfly."

1802

.一人はつつじにかかるわらび哉
ichi nin wa tsutsuji ni kakaru warabi kana

someone's draped them
over the azaleas...
bracken

Bracken is a fern with tough stems that sprouts in springtime. Shinji Ogawa explains, "The plant, tsutsuji, is normally translated as 'azalea.' In a park, azaleas are maintained as three-foot-high bushes."

In this haiku, it seems that some collector of bracken has left his load on a bush of blooming azaleas: a contrast of toughness and delicateness.


1802

.片枝は都の空よむめの花
kata eda wa miyako no sora yo mume no hana

one branch makes
Kyoto's sky...
plum blossoms

Mume is ume ("plum tree"). Just one blooming branch against the blue is enough to create a sky befitting the capital. The "capital" (miyako) was Kyoto in Issa's day. This is where the emperor and his court lived. Political and military power was centered in the Shogun's city of Edo, today's Tokyo.

1802

.なつかしや梅あちこちにゆふ木魚
natsukashi ya ume achi kochi ni yû mokugyo

like old times--
plum blossoms here and there
evening's wooden drum

Natsukashi, has no exact English equivalent. It usually connotes the feeling of something dear or fondly remembered--a sort of sweet nostalgia. Mokugyo is a wooden drum used in Buddhist temples.

1802

.ちる花やほつとして居る太郎冠者
chiru hana ya hotto shite iru tarôkaja

cherry blossoms scatter--
the servant Taro
is relieved

"Blossoms" (hana) can signify cherry blossoms in the shorthand of haiku.

Issa is alluding to Hana-arasoi, a quarrel farce of the Muromachi Period in which "Young Servant Tarô" quarrels with his master over what to call the cherry blossoms. Tarô claims that they should be called sakura, but his master insists that hana is the correct term. Issa masterfully evokes this absurd quarrel in his poem about cherry blossoms scattering. Tarô feels relief at the sight, Issa writes, and then allows his readers to conclude for themselves the reason for the servant's relief: the object of contention, the blossoms, are now falling from their branches, no longer a thing to argue about.

1802

.薄月の礎しめる柳哉
usu-zuki no ishizue shimeru yanagi kana

holding up
the hazy moon...
willow tree

Literally, the willow tree serves as the "cornerstone" for the thin moon.

1802

.水切の本道り也土用なり
mizugire no hondôri nari doyô nari

the main road
dry from drought...
midsummer


1802

.雨はらはら荒鵜の親よ枝に鳴
ame hara-hara ara u no oya yo eda ni naku

pitter-patter rain--
a wild cormorant mother
cries on a branch

Japanese fishermen use cormorants. Tied to a tether, these sea birds dive for fish that they are forced to disgorge. The bird in this scene is free from a life of fish-catching servitude, but, as Shinji Ogawa suggests, her children are not. She cries pitifully for her children who cannot come to her.

1802

.枕から外見てをるやころもがへ
makura kara soto mite oru ya koromogae

from my bed
I peek outside...
new summer robes

More literally, Issa watches from his "pillow" (makura). He prefaces this haiku with the note, "Morning, still dark."

1802

.ひとりなは我星ならん天の川
hitori na wa waga hoshi naran ama [no] kawa

that one by itself
is my star...
Milky Way

This haiku refers to a popular belief that each person upon birth is assigned a corresponding star in the heavens. Issa's phrase, "Heaven's River" (ama no gawa) refers to the Milky Way.

1802

.むら竹に夜の更過し砧哉
mura take ni yo no fuke-sugoshi kinuta kana

in the bamboo grove
too late at night!
pounding cloth

In Japan and Korea, fulling-blocks were used to pound fabric and bedding. The fabric was laid over a flat stone, covered with paper, and pounded, making a distinctive sound. In this haiku, the cloth-pounder is keeping Issa awake.

1802

.鴫どもも立尽したり木なし山
shigi-domo mo tachi tsukushitari kinashi yama

the snipes too
tired of standing...
treeless hill

The ending -domo indicates that there is a large number of the same thing in the scene, in this case, snipes; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1183.

Makoto Ueda believes that Issa is comparing himself to birds that "have no tree to rest on"; Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 46.

1802

.段々に雁なくなるや小田の月
dan-dan ni kari nakunaru ya oda no tsuki

gradually the geese
pass on...
rice field moon


1802

.浦の雨ほたをふまへて見たりけり
ura no ame hota wo fumaete mitari keri

rain on the beach
stamping out
the wood fire


1803

.頭巾とる門はどれどれ花の春
zukin toru kado wa dore-dore hana no haru

removing my skullcap--
at everywhich gate
spring blossoms

Or: "removing his skullcap"--a gesture of respect and deep appreciation for the blossoms.

1803

.身じろぎのならぬ家さへ花の春
mijirogi no naranu ie sae hana no haru

even at my penned-in
house...
spring blossoms

Or: "a penned-in house." Issa doesn't state that it is his, though this can be inferred. Shinji Ogawa translates mijirogi mo naranu as "cannot-move-around" or "narrow spot." When he wrote this haiku, he lived in Edo, today's Tokyo. His tenement house was "penned in" by other buildings.

1803

.春立といふばかりでも草木哉
haru tatsu to iu bakari demo kusaki kana

"Spring begins"
just saying it...
green everywhere

Literally, the haiku ends, "trees and grass!" (kusaki kana).

1803

.首上て亀も待たる初日哉
kubi agete kame mo machitaru hatsu hi kana

stretching his neck
the turtle waits too...
the year's first day


1803

.我々が顔も初日や御代の松
ware-ware ga kao mo hatsu hi ya miyo no matsu

even in our faces
the year's first dawn...
the emperor's pine

This haiku has the prescript, "Idea borrowed from a Chinese poem." Literally, it ends with the phrase, "reign's pine" (miyo no matsu). Issa is referring to a pine decoration in honor of the new imperial year. His face and those of his companions reflect the dawn colors.

1803

.薮入のわざと暮れしや草の月
yabuiri no waza to kureshi ya kusa no tsuki

ending the Servants' Holiday
on purpose...
sliver moon

After New Year's (First Month, 16th Day), servants in the cities were given time off to return to their native villages and families. The moon is full on the 15th day of First Month; by the time it wanes down to just a sliver, the holiday is over and servants must return to their jobs. Here, Issa blames the moon for ending the holiday "on purpose" (waza to).

1803

.一ぱいにはれきる山の弓始
ippai ni harekiru yama no yumi hajime

under a clear sky
on a mountain...
year's first archery

Shinji Ogawa translates the phrase, ippai ni harekiru as "fully cleared" in the sense of ideal weather, or a clear sky.

1803

.明ぼのの春早々に借着哉
akebono no haru haya-baya ni karigi kana

at dawn
I start the spring...
borrowed clothes

This haiku has the prescript, "Without clothes." The first day of spring was New Year's Day in the old Japanese calendar. Wendy S. King notes that on New Year's Day people traditionally put on new clothes; if they were too poor to buy clothes, they would borrow. Issa makes light of his own poverty.

1803

.万歳よも一ッはやせ春の雪
manzai yo mo hitotsu hayase haru no yuki

begging actors
play one more song!
spring snow

This haiku refers to begging actors who make their rounds during the New Year's season performing a traditional style of stand-up comedy. Shinji Ogawa translates hitotsu hayase: "play one more round of music!"

1803

.釜粥を洗ふて待や野はわか菜
kama-gayu wo araute matsu ya no wa wakana

the gruel cauldron
all clean and ready...
herbs in the field

Wakana (young greens or herbs) are picked on the sixth day of First Month--a traditional New Year's observance.

1803

.切株は御顔の際やわかな摘
kirikabu wa o-kao no kiwa ya wakana tsumi

a tree stump at the edge
of his holy face...
picking herbs

Issa uses the honorofic o-kao ("honorable face") when referring to Buddha or to bodhisattvas (Buddhist saints). Is a holy man picking herbs, his face bending low to the ground? Wakana (young greens or herbs) are picked on the sixth day of First Month--a traditional New Year's observance.

1803

.竹かごにすこしあるこそわかな哉
take kago ni sukoshi aru koso wakana kana

in the bamboo basket
only a bit, of course...
New Year's herbs

Wakana (young greens or herbs) are picked on the sixth day of First Month--a traditional New Year's observance.

1803

.わか菜摘袂の下や角田川
wakana tsumu tamoto no shita ya sumida-gawa

into my sleeve
fresh-picked New Year's herbs...
Sumida River

Or: "his sleeve/ as he picks..." or "her sleeve/ as she picks..." Wakana (young greens or herbs) are picked on the sixth day of First Month--a traditional New Year's observance.

Literally, Issa writes, "under my sleeve" (tamoto no shita), but this seems to have the same meaning as "in my sleeve"--based on the way that he uses this expression in other haiku. He seems to be stowing the herbs in his sleeve.

1803

.君が代を鶏も諷ふや餅の臼
kimi ga yo wo tori mo utau ya mochi no usu

the rooster also sings
to Great Japan...
on the rice cake mill

"Great Japan" is my translation of kimi ga yo, a phrase that refers to the emperor's reign and begins the Japanese national anthem. Issa would have known the lyrics, though not the current melody which came after his time. This is a haiku of the New Year's season, the seasonal reference being "the year's first rooster's song" (hatsu tori).

1803

.紫の袖にちりけり春の雪
murasaki no sode ni chiri keri haru no yuki

scattering onto
my purple sleeves...
spring snow

Or: "his" or "her purple sleeves."

1803

.北さがや春の雨夜のむかし杵
kita saga ya haru no amayo no mukashi-gine

Kitasaga--
in evening rain
a pestle from olden times

Issa hears the nostalgic sound of a wooden pestle pounding, its music adding to the pattering of the rain. Kitasaga, "North Saga," is an area in the western part of Kyoto, facing Mount Arashi.

1803

.膳先に雀なく也春の雨
zen saki ni suzume naku nari haru no ame

at my dinner tray
a sparrow chirps...
spring rain

Or: "sparrows." Shinji Ogawa explains that a zen (dining tray) is about one foot by one foot with five-inch legs.

1803

.春の雨よ所の社もめづらしき
haru no ame yoso no yashiro mo mezurashiki

spring rain--
elsewhere the shrines
are wonderful

Evidently written during a visit to a Shinto shrine.

1803

.焼餅に烏の羽や春の雨
yakimochi ni karasu no hane ya haru no ame

a crow's feather
on the toasted rice cake...
spring rain


1803

.春の風草深くても古郷也
haru no kaze kusa fukakute mo kokyô nari

spring breeze--
though deep in the grasses
my home village

Shinji Ogawa explains, "The phrase, kusa fukakute mo kokyô nari means 'even though it痴 in thick grass, it is my native village'." Issa's sentiment, he adds, is similar to that of the English verse, "Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home."

1803

.京見えてすねをもむ也春がすみ
kyô miete sune wo momu nari harugasumi

seeing Kyoto
I massage my shins...
spring mist

The "capital" (miyako) was Kyoto in Issa's day. This is where the emperor and his court lived. Political and military power was centered in the Shogun's city of Edo, today's Tokyo.

1803

.馬上から黙礼するや薄霞
bajô kara mokurei suru ya usu-gasumi

on horseback
making a silent bow...
thin mist

This haiku has the prescript, "Return." The rider (Issa?) has returned from a journey. Perhaps he is thanking the god or gods that have protected him along the way.

Shinji Ogawa points out that bajô kara means "from the horse's back," not, as I first assumed, "dismounting."

1803

.陽炎や子をなくされし鳥の顔
kagerô ya ko wo nakusareshi tori no kao

heat shimmers--
having lost a child
the bird's face

Issa later revises this image in human terms:

kagerô ya ko wo kakusareshi oya no kao

heat shimmers--
missing a child
the parent's face

"Heat shimmers" are the wavy bends in the air that one sometimes sees in the distance on a warm day--a phenomenon associated with springtime in Japan.

1803

.雪どけや麓の里の山祭
yuki-doke ya fumoto no sato no yama matsuri

melting snow--
at the foot of the mountain
a festival!


1803

.焚残る巣をくわへ行烏哉
taki nokoru su wo kuwae yuku karasu kana

saved from the fire
a nest in its beak...
the crow moves on

This haiku has the prescript, "Dead grass burning on a journey." Issa is referring to the burning of dead grass--a spring event. Shinji Ogawa notes that takinokoru means "smoldering." The crow is hurrying along with a smoldering nest in its beak.

1803

.鶯や松にとまれば松の声
uguisu ya matsu ni tomareba matsu no koe

when the nightingale
moves into the pine...
voice of the pine


1803

.鶯や南は鴻の嘴たたく
uguisu ya minami wa kô no hashi tataku

nightingale singing--
to the south a goose
clacking

A is a large wild goose. Literally, it is clacking its beak, an interesting sound contrast to the mellifluous song of the Japanese nightingale (uguisu).

1803

.松島はどれが寝よいぞ夕雲雀
matsushima wa dore ga ne yoi zo yû hibari

pine islands--
which one's good for sleeping
evening lark?

Issa is referring to Matsushima, the famous sightseeing resort consisting of many tiny pine islands. While the Japanese reader will instantly get a mental picture from the proper name, Matsushima, the English reader may or may not. For this reason I have translated the name literally as "pine island."

1803

.夕雲雀どの松島が寝所ぞ
yû hibari dono matsushima ga ne-dokoro [zo]

evening lark--
which pine island's
your sleeping place?

Issa is referring to Matsushima, the famous sightseeing resort consisting of many tiny pine islands. While the Japanese reader will instantly get a mental picture from the proper name, Matsushima, the English reader may or may not. For this reason I have translated the name literally as "pine island."

1803

.雨だれの有明月やかへる雁
amadare no ariake tsuki ya kaeru kari

the dawn moon in raindrops
from the eaves...
the geese depart

An amadare is an eavesdrop, where water falls from a roof's overhang. Shinji Ogawa notes that kaeru in this context can be translated as "return" or "leave." Since this is a spring haiku, the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands).

1803

.行灯で飯くふ人やかへる雁
andon de meshi kuu hito ya kaeru kari

eating my rice
by lamplight...
the geese depart

Or: "eating his rice."

This is a spring haiku; the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands).

1803

.一度見度さらしな山や帰る雁
ichi do mitaki sarashina yama ya kaeru kari

all eager to see
Mount Sarashina...
departing geese

This is a spring haiku; the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands). Mount Sarashina is another name for Ubasute or Obasute: a mountain in Issa's home province of Shinano (today's Nagano Prefecture) where old people were, according to legend, "thrown away": left to die. Today it is called Kamurikiyama.

1803

.小田の雁一つとなりて春いく日
oda [no] kari hito[tsu] to narite haru iku hi

the rice field geese
all head north...
a lucky spring day

Iku hi is an old expression for a lucky day upon which Shinto festivals were held; see Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 107. As Shinji Ogawa notes, Issa is punning with it, since it also means "a going day" or "day of departure," which is connected to the geese. He paraphrases, "the geese in the rice field/ are going to the northern country as a flock/ a lucky spring day!"

1803

.かへる雁駅の行灯かすむ也
kaeru kari umaya no ando kasumu nari

geese flying north--
the stage barn's lamplight
in mist

Umaya refers to a barn or stable for horses at a stage station. The geese will not stop at the station for a rest.

This is a spring haiku; the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands).

According to the editors of Issa's collected works, the word, andon ("lamp"), should be read, ando, thus preserving a middle phrase of seven on ("sound units"): u-ma-ya-no-a-n-do; Issa zenshû (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 1.150.

1803

.帰る雁何を咄して行やらん
kaeru kari nani wo hanashite yukuyaran

departing geese
what are you
gabbing about?

This is a spring haiku; the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands).

1803

.帰る雁北陸道へかへる也
kaeru kari hokurokudô e kaeru nari

departing geese
over Hokuroku Road
departing

Hokurokudô was one of the seven great roads of Old Japan, running north from the capital, Kyoto. Here, the geese seem to be following it like everyone else. See Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1483.

This is a spring haiku; the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands).

1803

.帰る日も一番先や寡雁
kaeru hi mo ichiban saki ya yamome kari

on the day of departure, too
she leads...
the widow goose

This touching haiku has the prescript, kôgan: a species of large wild geese (also called ôtori).

This is a spring haiku; the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands).

1803

.門口の行灯かすみてかへる雁
kado-guchi no andon kasumite kaeru kari

the gateway's lamp
in mist...
the geese depart

I assume that kasumite is the gerund form of kasumu (to mist); in modern Japanese it would be kasunde. Issa uses both forms in his poetry.

This is a spring haiku; the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands).

1803

.草の雨松の月よやかへる雁
kusa no ame matsu no tsuki yo ya kaeru kari

rain-drenched grass
moon in the pine...
the geese depart

This is a spring haiku; the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands).

1803

.かりそめの娶入月よやなく蛙
karisome no yomeri tsuki yo ya naku kawazu

a fleeting moonlit
wedding night...
frogs singing

This haiku has the prescript, cho (in Chinese, pronounced zhu) a word that literally means a "literary work." It is the title of Song 98 from the most ancient collection of Chinese poetry, Shi Jing of the Zhou Dynasty. It is written from the point of view of a young woman, and begins with the line, "He was waiting for me between the door and the screen." In Eighth and Ninth Month of 1803 Issa wrote a series of over thirty haiku inspired by poems from Shi Jung (Issa zenshû (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 2.117-31. This one alludes to a brief but romantic night of love but comically replaces the human lovers with frogs.

1803

.つるべにも一夜過ぎけりなく蛙
tsurube ni mo hito yo sugi keri naku kawazu

even in the well bucket
croaking all night...
a frog

This haiku has the prescript, "Heaven, Wind, Coupling": a reference to Chinese divination, specifically to Hexagram 44 of the I Ching. When Heaven (Qian) is the upper trigram and Wind (Xun) is the lower, the resulting hexagram is Gou (Japanese = ), the sign for copulation or "coming to meet." Issa's geomantic joke is on the frog, singing his mating song all night, eager to copulate, yet without much chance of success inside the well bucket.

1803

.鳴ながら蛙とぶ也草の雨
naki nagara kawazu tobu nari kusa no ame

while croaking he jumps--
frog in the rainy
grass

An example of Issa's emerging mature style: writing from life and from the heart. This haiku is an exuberant description of the here-and-now, compelling in its simplicity

1803

.桑つむや負れし柿も手を出して
kuwa tsumu ya owareshi kaki mo te wo dashite

picking mulberry leaves--
the baby on her back
stretches a hand

The mulberry leaves are being picked to feed silkworms.

This haiku, written on the 21st day of Ninth Month, 1803, has the prescript, "Seventh Month," which is odd, since picking mulberry leaves to feed the silkworms is a spring activity.

There is still more mystery in this haiku. Shinji Ogawa notes that its literal meaning, "picking mulberry leaves.../ a carried persimmon too/ stretches its hand," makes no sense. He theorizes that the "persimmon" (kaki) might be a misspelling for "baby" (akago). I have followed Shinji's hunch in my translation. See Issa zenshû (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 2.133.

1803

.細腕に桑の葉しごく雨夜哉
hoso ude ni kuwa no ha shigoku amayo kana

with thin arms
stripping mulberry leaves...
night rain

The leaves are being stripped off branches to feed silkworms.

1803

.夕暮を待つ人いくら藤の花
yûgure wo matsu hito ikura fuji no hana

how many people
waiting for evening?
wisteria in bloom


1803

.あながちに留主とも見へず梅の花
anagachi ni rusu to mo miezu ume [no] tuski

it seems likely
someone's at home...
plum blossoms

Shinji Ogawa notes that anagach ni means "likely" but is always followed by a negative word, in this case the suffix zu or "not." The expression, rusu to mo miezu, thus means, "it doesn't look like he (or she) is absent."

I wonder if Issa is contemplating stealing some plum blossoms but hesitates because the owner seems to be at home.

1803

.梅さけど鶯なけどひとり哉
ume sakedo uguisu nakedo hitori kana

plum trees bloom
nightingales sing...
all alone

Lewis Mackenzie relates this haiku to the death of Issa's father two years earlier. See The Autumn Wind: A Selection from the Poems of Issa (London: John Murray, 1957; rpt. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1984), 33.

Makoto Ueda notes that Issa's prescript, "Arrowroot Vines Grow," alludes to a poem in the Chinese Book of Songs. A woman's grief over the death of her husband has been transformed into a verse of "existential loneliness"; Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 47.

1803

.梅の月花の表は下水也
ume no tsuki hana no omote wa gesui nari

plum moon--
facing the blossoms
sewer water


1803

.梅一枝とる人を待ゆふべ哉
ume hito e toru hito wo matsu yûbe kana

a branch of blooming plum
awaits the thief...
evening

Shinji Ogawa translates: "a branch of blossoming plum/ waiting in the dusk/ for a stealer." He asks, "Is the branch Juliet waiting for Romeo?"

Perhaps the blossom thief will be Issa.

1803

.梅守に舌切らるるなむら雀
ume mori ni shita kiraruru na mura suzume

don't let the plum blossom guard
cut your tongues...
sparrows!

Issa alludes to an old Japanese fairy tale in which a mean old woman cut a sparrow's tongue with scissors because the sparrow pecked at her starch. Here, Issa warns the chirping sparrows that their tongues might be in similar jeopardy, hinting that the guard is a mean old grouch.

Mura in this haiku is not "village"; it refers to something that is bunched together with other things of the same class, i.e., in this case, a flock. See Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1602.

1803

.片枝の待遠しさよ梅の花
kata eda no machi-dôshisa yo ume [no] hana

waiting so long
for just one branch...
plum blossoms


1803

.かつしかに知人いくら梅の花
katsushika ni shiru hito ikura ume no hana

in Katsushika
how many connoisseurs!
plum blossoms

Now a ward in Tokyo, Katsushika in Issa's day was an area in Musashi Province.

1803

.草分の貧乏家や梅の花
kusawake no bimbô ie ya ume [no] hana

at his house
though he's dirt-poor...
plum blossoms

Or: "at my house/ though I'm..." Kusawake can mean "going through deep grass" or "village founder." In my first translation, I thought that the second meaning applied. Shinji Ogawa agrees that kusawake no literally denotes, in this context, "the founder's," but he feels that Issa means by this "genuine" or "authentic." I decided to use the expression "dirt-poor" to express the idea of someone who is "genuinely poor." Though poor, he (perhaps Issa?) is rich with blossoms.

1803

.手をかけて人の顔見て梅の花
te wo kakete hito no kao mite ume no hana

laying my hands on them
suddenly, a face...
plum blossoms

Shinji Ogawa explains that this is a comical scene. Issa is caught red-handed, attempting to steal a branch of plum blossoms. As soon as he puts his hand on the branch, he sees a person's face--perhaps the owner of the tree, perhaps just a witness to his "crime."

1803

.火種なき家を守るや梅の花
hidane naki ie wo mamoru ya ume [no] hana

guarding a house
with no live coals...
plum blossoms

The house without "live coals" (hidane) is vacant, but the blooming plum tree guards it.

1803

.梟がさきがけしたり梅の花
fukurô ga sakigake shitari ume no hana

the owl
sees them first...
plum blossoms

The owl is literally "first in line" (sakigake), ahead of the human blossom-viewers.

1803

.松間にひとりすまして梅の花
matsu ai ni hitori sumashite ume no hana

among the pines
all alone
a plum tree blooms


1803

.娶貰ふ時分となるや梅の花
yome morau jibun to naru ya ume no hana

tis the season
for taking a wife...
plum blossoms

Issa was 41 when he wrote this poem. His own marrying season was still eleven years away.

1803

.あたら雨の昼ふりにけり花の山
atara ame no hiru furi ni keri hana no yama

a harsh rain
falls at noon...
blossoming mountain

Or: "blossoming mountains." Atara is an old word that has the same meaning as the modern atarashi: wasteful, profane, unthankful, regrettable; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 39.

1803

.方脇に息をころして花見哉
kata waki ni iki wo koroshite hanami kana

off to one side
they're breath-taking...
blossom viewing


1803

.としよりの追従わらひや花の陰
toshiyori no tsuisho warai ya hana no kage

an old man's
flattering laughter...
blossom shade

Shinji Ogawa notes that Japanese blossom viewing is a social event. People go in groups--neighbors, relatives, colleagues. "The old man is trying to be sociable in the party."

Why does Issa single him out? Is he trying too hard? Is he a sycophant?

Shinji responds: "It's a good question. In Japan, especially in Issa's day, it is a common view that an old man, keeping his dignity, doesn't laugh so easily. Therefore, it is noteworthy that even an old man laughs a flattering laugh on such an occasion as a blossom-viewing party."

"Blossoms" (hana) can signify cherry blossoms in the shorthand of haiku.

1803

.花の雲あれが大和の臣下哉
hana no kumo are ga yamato no shinka kana

blossom clouds--
the loyal retainers
of Old Japan

"Blossoms" (hana) can signify cherry blossoms in the shorthand of haiku. Issa fancies that the "clouds" of blooming cherry trees are the "retainers" (shinka) of ancient Japan.

1803

.夕暮や鳥とる鳥の花に来る
yûgure ya tori toru tori no hana ni kuru

evening--
a bird of prey flies home
into blossoms

The musical phrase tori toru tori is short for tori wo toru tori (literally, a bird-seizing bird, or "bird of prey"). "Blossoms" (hana) can signify cherry blossoms in the shorthand of haiku.

1803

.翌の分に一山残す桜哉
asu no bu ni hito yama nokosu sakura kana

by tomorrow
one mountain left...
cherry blossoms

In other words, only one mountain will still have blooming cherry trees.

1803

.安元の比の桜哉夕の鐘
angen no koro no sakura ya yû no kane

an ancient cherry tree
in bloom...
evening bell

The tree dates back to the Angen Era (1175-77), seven centuries before Issa's time. Since Issa is referring to the bell of a Buddhist temple, the tree is most likely growing on the grounds of a temple.

The editors of Issa zenshû suggest a reading of ya for the particle kana to preserve the 5-7-5 sound structure (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 1.222. I have followed this suggestion in my rômaji transcription.

1803

.暖国の麦も見えけり山桜
dangoku no mugi no mie keri yama-zakura

in a warm province
you see barley...
mountain cherry blossoms

Mugi is a generic term that refers to several grains: wheat, barley, oats, and rye. Cherry trees bloom in spring; barley normally grows in summer. However, in this particular warm province Issa notes an exception.

1803

.一足も踏せぬ山の桜哉
hito ashi mo fumasenu yama no sakura kana

a mountain where
no foot has stepped...
cherry blossoms

Pristine beauty without the usual blossom-viewing crowds.

1803

.人に喰れし桜咲也みよしの山
hito ni kuwareshi sakura saku nari mi-yoshino yama

these cherry blossoms
people eat...
Yoshino Hill

Yoshino is a famous place for viewing the cherry blossoms. In this case, Issa refers to blossoms that "people eat" (hito ni kuwareshi). They literally devour the beauty.

This haiku has an unusual 7-7-6 sound structure.

1803

.山桜きのふちりけり江戸の客
yama-zakura kinou chiri keri edo no kyaku

the mountain cherry blossoms
fell yesterday...
visitors from Edo

Or: "a visitor from Edo." Edo is the old name for Tokyo.

Shinji Ogawa comments: "Though there is no hard rule to determine, edo no kyaku ('visitor of Edo') may mean 'the visitors from Edo' or 'the visitors to Edo.' " He finds the former more likely in this case. The visitor or visitors arrived a day too late to see the blossoms.

1803

.夕桜家ある人はとくかへる
yûzakura ie aru hito wa toku kaeru

evening cherry blossoms--
people with homes
hurry home

According to Makoto Ueda, this haiku alludes to the Chinese poem, "A Solitary Pear Tree," in which a man misses a brother from whom he has been separated; Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 47-48. In Issa's haiku, families who have picnicked under the blossoms start for home--something that Issa didn't really have at this point in his life.

1803

.祈りしはしらぬ里也桃の花
ino[rishi] wa shiranu sato nari momo no hana

for the strange village
a prayer...
peach blossoms

At first I read inorishi wa shiranu sato as "a village where prayer is unknown," but Shinji Ogawa interpets it to mean that Issa is saying a prayer for an unfamiliar village. Why does the village inspire Issa's prayer? Is he thanking them for planting the lovely, blooming peach trees?

1803

.青柳の先見ゆるぞや角田川
ao yagi no mazu miyu[ru] zo ya sumida-gawa

green willows
are the first thing seen...
Sumida River

Originally, I translated mazu miyuru as, "the first thing seen," and then decided that mazu might be converying the idea of "about" or "nearly." Shinji Ogawa tells me that my original assumption was correct. He writes, "It is natural to see the willows on the banks before seeing the river at its low level."

1803

.是からは大日本と柳哉
kore kara wa dainippon to yanagi kana

from here on
it's Great Japan!
willow trees

Shinji Ogawa notes the nationalistic tone of this haiku.

1803

.六月の空さへ二十九日哉
rokugatsu no sora sae ni jû kyû hi kana

it's still
a Sixth Month sky...
summer's last day

In the old Japanese calendar autumn began with the first day of Seventh Month. Issa notes that summer will be officially over tomorrow, but the sky still looks the same.

1803

.短夜の門にうれしき榎哉
mijika yo no kado ni ureshiki enoki kana

short summer night--
at the gate a happy
nettle tree


1803

.短夜の鹿の顔出す垣ね哉
mijika yo no shika no kao dasu kakine kana

short summer night--
a deer pokes his face
through the fence

Or: "her face."

Kaki can be translated as "fence" or "hedge."

1803

.涼しさは黒節だけの小川哉
suzushisa wa kuro-bushi dake no ko-gawa kana

such cool air!
just ankle-deep
the little river

Shinji Ogawa notes that kuro-bushi signifies an "ankle." The little river is only ankle-deep.

1803

.木末から土用に入し月よ哉
kozue kara doyô ni irishi tsuki yo kana

from the treetop
gliding into midsummer...
bright moon


1803

.寝心や膝の上なる土用雲
negokoro ya hiza no ue naru doyôgumo

tucking me in
they cover my lap...
midsummer clouds

Literally, the clouds are a "sleeping comforter" (negokoro).

1803

.家一つ蔦と成りけり五月雨
ie hitotsu tsuta to nari keri satsuki ame

the house has become
one heap of ivy...
Fifth Month rain

"Fifth Month rain" (samidare) pertains to the old lunar calendar; it would be June rain in the present calendar. Shinji Ogawa observes, "In the modern Japanese sense, May weather consists of mostly fair days, not cold, not hot, in the best season of the year. Therefore, May rain is very pleasant in modern Japanese sense. On the other hand, samidare (May rain in old Japanese), is the June rain that falls day after day, creating high humidity and helping mold to grow in the corners of the house."

1803

.五月雨の竹に隠るる在所哉
samidare no take ni kakururu zaisho kana

in Fifth Month rain
hidden by bamboo...
farmhouse

"Fifth Month rain" (samidare) pertains to the old lunar calendar; it would be June rain in the present calendar. Shinji Ogawa observes, "In the modern Japanese sense, May weather consists of mostly fair days, not cold, not hot, in the best season of the year. Therefore, May rain is very pleasant in modern Japanese sense. On the other hand, samidare (May rain in old Japanese), is the June rain that falls day after day, creating high humidity and helping mold to grow in the corners of the house."

1803

.五月雨や二階住居の草の花
samidare ya ni kai sumai no kusa no hana

Fifth Month rain--
the second floor room
has wildflowers!

Growing lavishly in the rain, a vine has crept all the way up to a second floor dwelling--and blooms. "Fifth Month rain" (samidare) pertains to the old lunar calendar; it would be June rain in the present calendar. Shinji Ogawa observes, "In the modern Japanese sense, May weather consists of mostly fair days, not cold, not hot, in the best season of the year. Therefore, May rain is very pleasant in modern Japanese sense. On the other hand, samidare (May rain in old Japanese), is the June rain that falls day after day, creating high humidity and helping mold to grow in the corners of the house."

1803

.二階から見る木末迄五月雨
ni kai kara miru kozue made satsuki ame

even the branches
viewed from the second floor...
Fifth Month rain

Even the upper branches of the tree sag under the heavy rain. "Fifth Month rain" (samidare) pertains to the old lunar calendar; it would be June rain in the present calendar. Shinji Ogawa observes, "In the modern Japanese sense, May weather consists of mostly fair days, not cold, not hot, in the best season of the year. Therefore, May rain is very pleasant in modern Japanese sense. On the other hand, samidare (May rain in old Japanese), is the June rain that falls day after day, creating high humidity and helping mold to grow in the corners of the house."

About this haiku, Shinji writes, "I think that Issa wanted to show his sense of humor" in depicting "the satsuki ame or samidare that falls day after day.... as the result of which everything, including the upper branches of the tree, is wet."

1803

.川縁ははや月夜也雲の峰
kawa-beri [wa] haya tsuki yo nari kumo no mine

on the river's bank
already it's a moonlit night...
billowing clouds

I picture a moon rising over the river, shining in the space under the "peaks of clouds" (kumo no mine).

1803

.雲の峰いささか松が退くか
kumo no mine isasaka matsu ga shirizoku ka

billowing clouds--
have the pine trees
shrunk a bit?

Literally, Issa wonders if the pines have "retreated" (shirizoku): they look smaller below the massive "peaks of clouds" (kumo no mine).

1803

.雲の峰の下から出たる小舟哉
kumo no mine no shita kara detaru kobune kana

emerging under
the peaks of clouds...
a little boat


1803

.しばらくは枕の上や雲の峰
shibaruku wa makura no ue ya kumo no mine

for the moment
straight above my pillow...
billowing clouds


1803

.あれ程の中洲跡なし夏の月
arehodo no nakasu ato nashi natsu no tsuki

a vast river island
gone without a trace...
summer moon

Shinji Ogawa explains that are hodo no indicates that the now-vanished island once was of "such a size."

1803

.夏の月と申すも一夜二夜哉
natsu no tsuki to môsu mo hito yo futa yo kana

a so-called "summer moon"
one night
two nights...

The moon is full for only one or two nights.

1803

.なりどしの隣の梨や夏の月
naridoshi no tonari no nashi ya natsu no tsuki

a big crop
for my neighbor's pear tree...
summer moon

Shinji Ogawa notes that naridoshi denotes a year of a large crop.

1803

.痩松も奢がましや夏の月
yase matsu mo ogori ga mashi ya natsu no tsuki

the scrawny pine, too
looks extravagant...
summer moon


1803

.たまたまに晴れば闇よ夏の山
tama-tama ni hareba yami yo natsu no yama

finally a clear sky
yet no moon...
summer mountain

Shinji Ogawa notes that yami ("gloom" or "darkness") indicates the absense of the moon, even though Issa doesn't literally mention the latter.

1803

.夏山や一足づつに海見ゆる
natsu yama ya hito ashi zutsu ni umi miyuru

summer mountain--
with each step more
of the sea

Originally, I translated the second and third phrases, "with each step watching/ the sea." Shinji Ogawa clarified Issa's meaning: "summer mountain.../ with each step appearing/ the sea." With each step the viewer sees more and more of the sea.

1803

.空腹に雷ひびく夏野哉
sukibara ni kaminari hibiku natsu no kana

a rumble of thunder
in my empty stomach...
summer field

This haiku is a great example of Issa's multilayered humor. On the surface it describes a sudden clap of "thunder" in a stomach. Deeper, it leads one to speculate on what might have caused this. Is Issa implying that it hasn't been raining lately--which could result in poor or destroyed crops, hence hunger, and hence the growling of empty stomachs? This interpretation would make the thunder inside a result of the lack of thunder outside--underscoring the intimate connection between human beings and the universe.

1803

.あさら井の今めかぬ也夏花つみ
asara i no ima mekanu nari gebana tsumi

the shallow well
loses its finery...
picking summer flowers

Asara is an old word for asai: "shallow"; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 118. People pluck away the flowers that surround and decorate it.

1803

.えた町に見おとされたる幟哉
eta machi ni miotosaretaru nobori kana

in the outcastes' village
easily overlooked...
summer banners

This haiku refers to the outcastes (eta). In Issa's time, they performed "unclean" jobs such as disposing of dead animals, working with leather, and executing criminals.

1803

.川狩のうしろ明りの木立哉
kawagari no ushiro akari no kodachi kana

behind the night fishing
light
in a grove

R. H. Blyth describes the scene: men are fishing by the light of torches and using a large square net. The light that Issa mentions, according to Blyth, comes from "the faintly pale sky"; A History of Haiku (Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1964) 1.356. I wonder if the light might be that of the torches, revealing a background of trees?

1803

.むら雨の北と東に夜川哉
murusame no kita to higashi ni yo kawa kana

rain showers
to the north and east...
fishing the night river

In the original the word "fishing" is implied, not stated.

1803

.大名のなでてやりけり馬の汗
daimyô no nadete yari keri uma no ase

the great lord
does the brushing...
horse's sweat

Instead of relying on servants, the feudal lord himself brushes his horse: a moment of tenderness that has nothing to do with human hierarchies or political power.

1803

.飴ン棒横に加へて初袷
amenbô yoko ni kuwaete hatsu awase

chewing the side
of her candy stick...
summer kimono

Or: "his candy stick." I picture a child. This haiku refers to the year's first day of putting on summer clothes.

1803

.常体の笠は似合ぬ袷哉
tsunetei no kasa wa niawanu awase kana

my everyday umbrella-hat
doesn't match it...
summer kimono

Issa reflects, tongue in cheek, on a fashion faux pas.

1803

.青山を始て見たる日傘哉
aoyama wo hajimete mitaru higasa kana

seeing the green mountain
for the first time...
ladies with parasols

Issa doesn't directly mention "ladies" in his original text, but Shinji Ogawa suggests that the closing image, higasa ("parasol"), is meant to evoke "ladies with parasols."

1803

.木母寺が見ゆる見ゆると日傘哉
mokuboji ga miyuru miyuru to higasa kana

I see Mokubo Temple
I see ladies
with parasols

Issa doesn't directly mention "ladies" in his original text, but Shinji Ogawa suggests that the closing image, higasa ("parasol"), is meant to evoke "ladies with parasols."

1803

.門々も雨ははれけり青すだれ
kado kado mo ame wa hare keri ao sudare

gate after gate
the rain has cleared...
green bamboo blinds

"Green bamboo blinds" (ao sudare) is a summer season word. The blinds are fresh-made. A year later, they will be yellow.

1803

.風吹や穴だらけでも我蚊帳
kaze fuku ya ana darake demo waga kachô

wind blows--
lots of rips, my so-called
mosquito net

Shinji Ogawa explains that Issa is saying, literally, despite its rips, it is nevertheless a mosquito net. Its effectiveness is, of course, doubtful.

1803

.糊こはき帷子かぶる昼寝哉
nori kowaki katabira kaburu hirune kana

his starched summer
robe his blanket...
siesta

Katabira refers to a light summer garment made of hemp. The napper is either wearing the garment or using it as a cover. For my translation, I picked the latter. An alternate version:

wearing his starched
summer robe...
siesta

1803

.青い柳に任せて出たる扇哉
aoyagi ni makasete detaru ôgi [kana]

entrusting it
to the green willow...
my paper fan

Or: "the paper fan."

1803

.あさ陰に関も越えたる扇哉
asa kage ni kan mo koetaru ôgi kana

in morning shadows
he passes through the barrier gate...
with paper fan

The "with" isn't stated by Issa but implied.

1803

.雨三粒はらつて過し扇哉
ame mi tsubu haratte sugishi ôgi kana

sweeping off three drops
of rain in passing...
paper fan

Shinji Ogawa notes that sugishi means, in this context, "to pass [by]"—not "to surpass" or "to be too much."

1803

.海の月扇かぶつて寝たりけり
umi no tsuki ôgi kabutte netari keri

moon on the sea--
he's under his fan
sleeping

Or: "I'm under my fan."

1803

.朝顔に老づら居て団扇哉
asagao ni oi-zura suete uchiwa kana

my old face rests
in morning-glories...
fanning my paper fan

Shinji Ogawa offers this as a possible reading: "laying my old face beside the morning-glories ... paper fan" or "... fanning myself." I think in this situation, the action of fanning is important, so I've translated it in this way.

1803

.うつくしき団扇持けり未亡人
utsukushiki uchiwa mochi keri mibôjin

holding
such a pretty fan...
the widow

Shinji Ogawa traslates mibôjin as "widow." In my first translation, I was way off, reading this to mean "the deceased."

1803

.風下の蘭に月さす蚊やり哉
kaza shimo no ran ni tsuki sasu ka yari kana

downwind, an orchid
in moonlight...
smudge pot smoke

This haiku refers to the custom of smoking out mosquitoes using the dense smoke of a smudge pot. The perfect, "poetic" scene of an orchid in moonlight is wrecked by the drifting smoke.

1803

.富士おろし又吹け吹けと蚊やり哉
fuji oroshi mata fuke fuke to kayari kana

descending Mount Fuji
blow! blow!
smudge pot smoke

This haiku refers to the custom of smoking out mosquitoes using the dense smoke of a smudge pot.

1803

.餅音の西に東に蚊やり哉
mochi oto no nishi ni higashi ni kayari kana

pounding rice cakes
to the west, to the east
smudge pots

This haiku refers to the custom of smoking out mosquitoes using the dense smoke of a smudge pot.

1803

.行灯を持つてかたづく涼み哉
andon wo motte katazuku suzumi kana

holding a lantern
tidying up...
evening cool

Ending the translation with "evening cool" is one of Shinji Ogawa's suggestions. Issa doesn't literally use this phrase--he ends the haiku simply with "cool air" (suzumi kana)--but the presence of the lantern indicates the time fo day.

1803

.一尺の竹に毎晩涼み哉
isshaku no take ni maiban suzumi kana

in the foot-tall bamboo
night after night...
cool air

Shinji Ogawa comments, "The foot-tall bamboo serves as an air conditioner for Issa."

1803

.噂すれば鴫の立けり夕涼み
uwasa sureba shigi no tachi keri yûsuzumi

speak of the devil!
a snipe takes flight...
evening cool

There is an expression in Japanese, uwasa wo sureba kage ga sasu, literally, "If you talk about him (or her), his (her) shadow will appear." The closest English equivalent expression is, "Speak of the devil and he shall appear." Evidently, Issa or someone was talking about the snipe right before it shot into the sky.

1803

.木一本畠一枚夕涼み
ki ippon hatake ichi mai yûsuzumi

one tree
one farmer's field...
evening cool


1803

.さわつてもとがむる木也夕涼み
sawatte mo togamuru ki nari yûsuzumi

even if I touch her
this tree rejects me...
evening cool

The prescript to this haiku indicates that it alludes to the Chinese classic, Shi Jing (Shi King in an earlier romanization system), an anthology of ancient songs and poems. In Book 1 of that text, the song, "The Unapproachable Maidens," appears. Issa refers to its first verse:

In the South are stately poplars,
Vainly there we rest for shade;
By the Han maids wander freely,
Vainly there love's quest is made [...]

Tran. by William Jennings, The Shi King: The Old 'Poetry Classic' of the Chinese (London: George Routledge, 1891) 41.

Issa imagines that the tree is one of the chaste and unapproachable maidens of the song.

Makoto Ueda refers to the Chinese poem by a different title: "The River Han is Wide"; Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 47-48.

1803

.死跡の松をも植てゆふ涼み
shini ato no matsu wo mo uete yûsuzumi

planting a pine too
for after I die...
evening cool

This haiku has a prescript with the title of one of the volumes of the Chinese classic Book of Songs (Shi Jing), an anthology of ancient songs and poems.

1803

.近よれば祟る榎ぞゆふ涼み
chika yoreba tataru enoki zo yûsuzumi

if you get too close
the nettle tree will curse you!
evening cool

Shinji Ogawa explains Issa's idea: "It may true in all religions in the world that on the one hand it may be believed that you will be blessed if you approach close to a holy thing; on the other hand, you will be cursed because of being too close to the holy thing." In this case, the nettle tree is believed to be a holy tree.

1803

.松苗ややがて他人のゆふ涼み
matsu nae ya yagate tanin no yûsuzumi

pine sapling--
before long, strangers enjoy
evening's cool

Someone (Issa?) plants a pine sapling and imagines the day when it will be a big tree, and people unknown to him or her will sit in its shade, enjoying the cool air of a summer evening.

1803

.行過て茨の中よゆふ涼み
yukisugite ibara no naka yo yûsuzumi

going too far
into the thick of thorns...
evening cool

Issa has gone outside to enjoy the cool air of the summer evening only to stray into a thorn patch.

1803

.夜涼のやくそくありし門の月
yo suzumi no yakusoku arishi kado no tsuki

keeping her appointment
to enjoy evening's cool air...
moon at the gate


1803

.住来の人にすれたる鹿の子哉
waurai no hito ni suretaru ka [no] ko kana

brazen with people
who come and go...
fawn

The phrase, hito ni suretaru, means "brazen with people." Shinji Ogawa explains, "In Nara where many temples were built, deer are protected and sometimes become a nuisance to the people."

1803

.傘の下にしばらくかのこ哉
karakasa no shita ni shibaraku kanoko kana

lingering
under the paper umbrella...
a fawn

A scene in a temple's precincts. One of the tame deer, a fawn, enjoys the protection of someone's (Issa's?) umbrella.

1803

.暁のむぎの先よりほととぎす
akatsuki no mugi no saki yori hototogisu

dawn--
from atop the wheat
"cuckoo!"

Mugi is a generic term that refers to several grains: wheat, barley, oats, and rye. Shinji Ogawa explains that the word saki in this context, means the "edge" or the "end," ergo, the bird is singing from "the top of the wheat."

1803

.下枝に子も口真ねや閑古鳥
shita eda ni ko mo kuchi [ma]ne ya kankodori

on a low branch
a child's imitation...
mountain cuckoo


1803

.はいかいの地獄のそこか閑古鳥
haikai no jigoku no soko ka kankodori

so is haiku hell
over that-a-way...
mountain cuckoo?

The prescript reads, "At Tate-yama." Tate-yama is a mountain located in the northwestern Japanese Alps. A dormant volcano, its ancient crater is called, "Hell's Valley" (jigoku tani). The bird warbles its "haiku" in "Hell."

Shinji Ogawa notes a biographical dimension to this poem. Issa had lost his father two years earlier, his inheritance dispute with his stepmother and half brother was unresolved, and his own haiku career in Edo at the time seemed "not so promising." Issa sees the mountain cuckoo (kankodori) very much as a kindred spirit.

Makoto Ueda adds that there is a popular belief in Japan, according to which a cuckoo leads the dead to hell; Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 49.

1803

.樅からも二つなきけりかんこ鳥
momi kara mo futatsu naki keri kankodori

from the fir tree too
two are singing...
mountain cuckoos


1803

.行々し尋ねる牛は吼へもせず
gyôgyôshi tazune[ru] ushi wa hoe mo sezu

reed thrush--
the cow doesn't answer
his question

Or: "her question." This haiku has the prescript, "An argument." Issa imagines a quarrel between the cow and the bird.

1803

.蚊を殺す紙燭にうつる白髪哉
ka wo korosu shishoku ni utsuru shiraga kana

lit by the mosquito-murdering
taper...
my white hair

Or: "his white hair," or "her white hair." R. H. Blyth notes "a contrasted harmony" between the mosquito's death and the old age of the human in the scene; A History of Haiku (Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1964) 1.357.

Shishoku is a variant of shisoku: a type of taper; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 764.

1803

.蚊一ッの一日さはぐ枕哉
ka hitotsu no ichi nichi sawagu makura kana

a mosquito
all day it whines...
by my pillow

Or: "by the pillow." Issa doesn't identify the pillow as his, but this might be inferred.

1803

.宵越しのとうふ明りや蚊のさわぐ
yoigoshi no tôfu akari ya ka no sawagu

left out all night
the tofu gleams...
mosquitoes whisper

Shinji Ogawa believes that some sort of mold or bacteria is making the tofu gleam.

1803

.蝿一つ打ては山を見たりけり
hae hitotsu utte wa yama wo mitari keri

swatting a fly
looking at
a mountain

Issa usually shows respect for life, even small insects, in his haiku. Insects are his companions, his peers. In this poem, surprisingly, someone swats at a pesky fly while gazing at a mountain. The comic juxtaposition of tiny and vast is obvious: someone (perhaps Issa?) wants to contemplate the great universe, but a common fly intervenes. There are other levels of meaning ... and comedy. Buddhists are forbidden to kill, but Issa belonged to the True Teaching Pure Land sect of Shinran: Jôdoshinshû. Shinran argued that following Buddha's precepts will not lead to rebirth in the Pure Land. Instead, one needs to trust in the liberating power of Amida Buddha. Everyone is a sinner. Considering it in this religious context, the haiku is Issa's nod to Shinran's doctrine: it's OK to sin; just trust in Amida. And yet ... we sense that he's smiling as he says the poem. Is he smiling sadly? Happily? Ironically? It's up to the reader to decide.

1803

.草の蚤はらはらもどる火かげ哉
kusa no nomi hara-hara modoru hokage kana

the grasses' fleas
pitter-patter move...
lamplight's shade


1803

.浮島やうごきながらの蝉時雨
uki-jima ya ugoki nagara no semi shigure

while the floating island
moves along...
cicada chorus

Issa is referring to the concept of semi shigure ("cicada rain"): in Sakuo Nakamura's words, "cicadas sing like heavy rain falling."

1803

.夕顔の長者になるぞ星見たら
yûgao no chôja ni naru zo hoshi mitara

the moonflowers
strike it rich!
the stars


1803

.夕顔やひとつひとつに風さわぐ
yûgao ya hitotsu hitotsu ni kaze sawagu

moonflowers--
one by one the wind
rustles them

According to Shinji Ogawa, this haiku literally says: "moonflowers.../ at each one/ wind rustles." He notes that Issa is focusing his attention on the wind, perceived through the movement of the moonflowers.

1803

.陽炎のおびただしさやけしの花
kagerô no obitadashisa ya keshi no hana

heat shimmers
on top of heat shimmers...
poppies

"Heat shimmers" are the wavy bends in the air that one sometimes sees in the distance on a warm day--a phenomenon associated with springtime in Japan.

Issa views the flowers through an "abundance" (obitadashisa) of heat shimmers. The visual effect of the colorful distant flowers, bending and waving, is intense.

1803

.けつくして松の日まけや芥子の花
kekku shite matsu no hi make ya keshi [no] hana

the tall pines
end up sunburned
O poppies!

Or: "the tall pine." Issa doesn't mention that the pines are "tall," but a size comparison between them and the poppies is implied, so I felt that "tall" is necessary, for clarity, in my translation. The pines, high in the sun, aren't so well off--at least according to Issa in this poem. It's better to be a humble little poppy in the shade than something "great." In the long run (kekku shite) the pine ends up sunburned. Could Issa be speaking obliquely about the human world as well (pines = lords; poppies = commoners)?

Nancy from Telluride speculates that Issa is "stating the essence of the 'tall poppy syndrome' whereby the tall poppy is the one which gets cut down."

1803

.咲く日より雨に逢けりけしの花
saku hi yori ame ni ai keri keshi no hana

from the day they bloomed
drenched by rain...
poppies

Is Issa reflecting on how hard life can be--for flowers and people? His own life could be described almost perfectly with this haiku.

1803

.兵が足の跡ありけしの花
tsuwamono ga ashi no ato ari keshi no hana

in the footprints
of the warriors...
poppies

An anti-war poem? Certainly, Issa feels compassion for the fragile flowers trampled by the soldiers. The symbolism is heavy. This haiku has the prescript, "North Wind" (haifû), which the editors of Issa zenshû describe as an allusion to an old poem; Issa zenshû (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 2.141, note 6.

Shinji Ogawa believes (and I agree) that Issa is echoing Bashô's haiku in Oku no hosomichi ("Narrow Road to the Interior"): "summer grasses.../ all that remains/ of warriors' dreams."

1803

.門番がほまちなるべしけしの花
monban ga homachi naru-beshi keshi no hana

the gatekeeper's
side-field...
let the poppies bloom!

"Side-field" (homachi) refers to a plot of newly cultivated land that, in that period, was farmed in secret, evidently to avoid the daimyo's taxation; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1495. In this haiku, the guard at a barrier gate has such a field, but it's filled with poppies instead of barley or rice.

1803

.暁に人気も見へぬはらす哉
akatsuki ni hitoke mo mienu harasu kana

at dawn
not a soul in sight...
lotus blossoms

Shinji Ogawa assisted with this translation.

1803

.白蓮に二筋三すじ柳哉
shiro hasu ni ni suji san suji yanagi kana

in the white lotuses
two or three strands
of willow

This haiku reminds Shinji Ogawa of Bashô's haiku: "white chrysanthemum/ not a piece of dust/ can be seen."

1803

.せせなぎの樋の口迄蓮の花
sesenagi no toi no kuchi made hasu no hana

even in the mouth
of the gutter pipe...
lotuses

Sesenagi is an old word for a ditch or gutter; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 912.

1803

.蓮の香をうしろにしたり岡の家
hasu no ka wo ushiro ni shitari oka no ie

the scent of lotuses
in the back
house on a hill


1803

.山松に吹つけられし百合の花
yama matsu ni fukitsukerareshi yuri [no] hana

against the mountain pine
they're blown...
lilies


1803

.我見ても久しき蟾や百合の花
ware mite mo hisashiki hiki ya yuri [no] hana

staring at me
on and on...
toad in the lilies


1803

.浮草の花より低き通りかな
ukikusa no hana yori hikuki tôri kana

duckweed blooms--
and below that
a street

Makoto Ueda believes that this is a sketch of Issa's neighborhood in 1803: an area next to the Tate River in Edo (today's Tokyo) where the streets were lower than the water level; Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 49.

1803

.浮草や黒い小蝶のひらひらと
ukikusa ya kuroi ko chô no hira-hira to

duckweed--
a little black butterfly
flitting

Or: "little black butterflies." I prefer to picture one butterfly flapping (hira-hira) its delicate black wings over the marsh.

According to the editors of Issa zenshû, Issa would have pronounced duckweed, ukikusa. Modern pronunciation = ukigusa; (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 1.403.

1803

.麦刈の不二見所の榎哉
mugi kari no fuji mi-dokoro no enoki kana

a Mount Fuji viewing spot
for barley harvesters...
nettle tree

The harvesters are most likely sitting in the shade of the tree.

Mugi is a generic term that refers to several grains: wheat, barley, oats, and rye.

1803

.山水の溝にあまるや田麦刈
yama mizu no mizo ni amaru ya ta mugi kari

leftovers in the mountain
spring's ditch...
barley harvest

Mugi is a generic term that refers to several grains: wheat, barley, oats, and rye.

1803

.麦刈の用捨もなしやことし竹
mugi kari no yôsha mo nashi ya kotoshi take

the barley harvesters
show no mercy...
young bamboo

Kotoshi take ("this year's bamboo") refers to the year's new bamboo. Unfortunately, some of this bamboo is getting cut along with the ripened grain. Mugi is a generic term that refers to several grains: wheat, barley, oats, and rye.

1803

.わか竹の起きんとすれば電り
waka take no okin to sureba inabikari

just when the young bamboo
starts to straighten...
lightning

This haiku has the prescript, "Reverberating thunder" (inkirai). Shinji Ogawa notes that "The young bamboo is trying to recover in the stormy weather. All of sudden, lightning." Shinji's comment helps me picture the scene: young bamboo shoots have been flattened by an earlier rain. Now, just as they start to straighten up again, lighting flashes. More rain is on its way.

1803

.おくればせに我が畠も茄子哉
okurebase ni ware ga hatake mo nasubi kana

also running late--
my garden's
eggplants


1803

.苗売の通る跡より初なすび
naeuri no tôru ato yori hatsu nasubi

growing where
the seedling seller passed...
first eggplant


1803

.も一日葉陰に見たき茄子哉
mo ichi nichi ha kage ni mitaki nasubi kana

one more day
of leafy shade for you...
eggplant

After one more day the eggplant will be picked.

1803

.駒つなぐ門の杭にわか葉哉
koma tsunagu kado no kuize ni wakaba kana

on the gate's post
where the pony is tied...
fresh green leaves

I picture a vine wrapped around the post, its new green leaves a sign of summer.

1803

.大蛇の二日目につく茂り哉
ôhebi no futsukame ni tsuku shigeri kana

for the second day
the same big snake...
thick summer grasses

In his prescript to his haiku, Issa says that he spotted a snake 3.3 yards long (1 jo) while on a journey. Shinji Ogawa translates futsukame ni tsuku as "has been seen for two days."

1803

.日々に四五本ちるや合歓の花
nichi-nichi ni shi go hon chiru ya nemu no hana

every day
four or five fall...
Sleeping Tree's blossoms

Unlike the cherry blossoms of spring that fall like a blizzard, the soft pink blossoms of the nemunoki ("Sleeping Tree") linger on the branches, falling one by one. The tree derives its name from the fact that its small leaves close at night, as if sleeping; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1284.

1803

.青梅に蟻の思ひも通じけん
aoume ni ari no omoi mo tsûjiken

the green plum
also accepts the feeling
of the ant

Shinji Ogawa, who helped with this translation, writes, "I do not understand the meaning of the haiku. Is the ant Issa and the green plum a young lady? Or is Issa's sympathy with the sweet-toothed ants [encountering] the sour green plum?"

1803

.探る梅枝の蛙のをしげ也
saguru ume eda no kawazu no oshige nari

groping for plums--
the frog on the branch
is magnanimous


1803

.秋寒や行く先々は人の家
akisamu ya yuku saki-zaki wa hito no ie

autumn cold--
wherever I go people
have homes

According to Makoto Ueda, this haiku alludes to the Chinese poem, "A Magpie's Nest": a congratulatory verse written on the occasion of a princess marrying into another house. Issa transforms it into a poem about lonely travels; Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 47-48.

1803

.朝寒にとんじやくもなき稲葉哉
asa-zamu ni tonjaku mo naki inaba kana

paying no heed
to morning's cold...
shoots of rice


1803

.念入て竹を見る人朝寒き
nen irete take wo miru hito asa samuki

he checks the bamboo
with concern...
morning cold


1803

.殻俵たたいて見たる夜寒哉
kara tawara tataite mitaru yozamu kana

beating the empty
straw bag--nothing!
a cold night

I assume that Issa is out of charcoal ... and starting to shiver.

1803

.よりかかる度に冷つく柱哉
yorikakaru tabi ni hiyatsuku hashira kana

while leaning on it
it's turned chilly...
the post

This haiku has a prescript that, according to Jean Cholley, is a parody of a passage in Confucius's Book of Poems (Bei Feng). The passage concerns a lover waiting for a woman who doesn't show up; he asks himself the age-old question, "Should I stay or should I go?" Issa is lingering at the beginning of one of his journeys. See En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 235, note 21.

1803

.一つなくは親なし鳥よ秋の暮
hitotsu naku wa oya nashi tori yo aki no kure

alone he cries
the motherless bird...
autumn dusk

Or: "she cries." An orphan himself, Issa feels a deep connection with the motherless bird.

1803

.我植し松も老けり秋の暮
waga ueshi matsu mo oi keri aki no kure

even the pine tree
I planted grows old!
autumn dusk

The third phrase of this haiku, aki no kure, means both "autumn night" and "autumn's end."

R. H. Blyth reads the first kanji as ware; A History of Haiku (Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1964) 1.356. The editors of Issa zenshû read it as waga; Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79, 1.441.

1803

.ばか長き夜と申したる夜永哉
baka nagaki yo to môshitaru yonaga kana

"It's a foolishly long
night!" I say
in the long night


1803

.耳際に松風の噴く夜永哉
mimi-giwa ni matsu kaze no fuku yonaga kana

the pine wind
blows in my ear...
a long night


1803

.天の川都のうつけ泣やらん
ama [no] kawa miyako no utsuke naku yaran

Milky Way--
maybe the fools of Kyoto
are crying

Issa's phrase, "Heaven's River" (ama no gawa) refers to the Milky Way. The word utsuke can mean emptiness in general but also, more particularly, empty-headed people. Why is Issa poking fun at the people of the capital? Is it raining this night? The "capital" (miyako) was Kyoto in Issa's day. This is where the emperor and his court lived. Political and military power was centered in the Shogun's city of Edo, today's Tokyo. Issa might be contrasting the boundlessness of the starry heavens with the cramped emptiness of small minds.

Shinji Ogawa notes that yaran makes the verb ("cry") conjectural ("may be weeping"). He is also puzzled by this haiku.

Jean Cholley believes that Issa is alluding to the fact that refined poets of the court followed a tradition of composing repetitive and cliché poems about the Milky Way; En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 235, note 19.

1803

.雲形に寝て見たりけり天の川
kumogata ni nete mitari keri ama [no] kawa

a cloud zigzags
above where I lie...
Milky Way

Issa's phrase, "Heaven's River" (ama no gawa) refers to the Milky Way.

Shinji Ogawa notes that kumogata ("cloud formation") can specifically denote "a letter Z-shape with rounded corners. It is a typical cloud form used in traditional Japanese painting."

1803

.汁なべもながめられけり天の川
shiru nabe mo nagamerare keri ama [no] kawa

a clear view
in the soup kettle...
Milky Way

Issa's phrase, "Heaven's River" (ama no gawa) refers to the Milky Way--reflected here in his soup.

1803

.深さうな所もありけり天の川
fuka sôna toko mo ari keri ama no gawa

some places up there
look deep...
Milky Way

Issa's phrase, "Heaven's River" (ama no gawa) refers to the Milky Way. Issa humorously perceives deep spots in the celestial river.

Shinji Ogawa writes, "I believe that the humor of this haiku is of the first class."

1803

.我星はどこに旅寝や天の川
waga hoshi wa doko ni tabine ya ama no gawa

where will my star
stop for the night?
Milky Way

This haiku refers to a popular belief that each person upon birth is assigned a corresponding star in the heavens. Issa's phrase, "Heaven's River" (ama no gawa) refers to the Milky Way.

Richard Damrow writes, "For me, as rolling-stone persona, while I collect no moss, I am left with the mystery of just where I will reside. While I recognize that "home" is illusionary and temporary at best; nonetheless, at times I do wonder where my star will will stop. Thus, I identify with Issa, using travel as a form of pilgrimage--home being where the heart is."

1803

.投られし角力も交じる月よ哉
nagarareshi sumô mo majiru tsuki yo kana

the defeated wrestler, too
joins the crowd...
bright moon

The sumo wrestler, literally, has been "thrown" (nagarareshi), i.e., from the ring. However, his defeat does not keep him from joining the party of moon-gazers.

1803

.西向て小便もせぬ月よ哉
nishi muite shôben mo senu tsuki yo kana

no westward facing
pissing tonight...
bright moon

This haiku has a prescript that cites a sign in the Book of Divinations, denoting the unlucky direction northeast; Issa zenshû (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 2.143, note 1. Instead of relieving one's self while facing Amida's Western Paradise and the full moon, Issa suggests that it would be better to take aim in the unlucky direction.

1803

.名月は翌と成けり夜の雨
meigetsu wa asu to nari keri yoru no ame

the harvest moon
comes tomorrow...
evening rain

The weather doesn't look good for tomorrow night's moon-gazing.

1803

.草の雨松の月夜や十五日
kusa no ame matsu no tsuki yo ya jû go nichi

rain in the grass
moon in the pine...
night of the 15th

In the old calendar, there were two harvest moons: the 15th day of Eighth Month (this is the more important meigetsu) and the 13th day of Ninth Month. In this haiku, "day of the 15th" (jû go nichi) refers to the former. Though literally Issa says, "day of the 15th," I translate it as "night of the 15th" because the term tsuki yo, earlier in the haiku, denotes, "moonlit night."

1803

.白石のしろき心の月見哉
shira ishi no shiroki kokoro no tsukimi kana

on the white rock's
white heart...
moon gazing

This haiku of 1803 has the prescript, (Yang zhi shui), the name of a classical Chinese poem that appears in the anonymous Book of Odes (Shi Jing) and begins with the lines, "Into turbulent waters,/ the white rock drills." Here, Issa sits on a similar white rock, moon-gazing and remembering the famous rock (or, perhaps, rocks) of the Chinese poem. The allusion gives his haiku an ancient resonance, and suggests that there might be a body of water in the scene--river, ocean, or lake.

1803

.名月もそなたの空ぞ毛唐人
meigetsu mo sonata no sora zo ketôjin

harvest moon
up in that sky...
for foreigners, too!

Originally, ketôjin refered to Chinese people. Later, it came to refer to all foreigners; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 563. Issa feels a connection, perhaps camaraderie, with the people in distant lands who are seeing the same moon at that moment.

Shinji Ogawa writes, "The moon has moved into the western sky," causing Issa to surmise that it must be at its zenith in the Chinese sky "and Chinese people must be enjoying it."

1803

.刈株のうしろの水や秋日和
karikabu no ushiro no mizu ya akibiyori

there's water
beyond the stubble...
clear fall weather


1803

.秋雨やともしびうつる膝頭
akisame ya tomoshibi utsuru hizagashira

autumn rain--
the lamplight lights
my knees

Hizagashira literally means "kneecap" or "bend of the knee."

Issa wrote this haiku on the 13th day of Eighth Month, 1803. On the same day he revised it:

hizabushi ni hi no chirameku ya aki [no] ame

lamplight glimmers
on my knees...
autumn rain

1803

.秋の雨つい夜に入し榎哉
aki no ame tsui yo ni irishi enoki kana

autumn rain--
night begins now
for the nettle tree


1803

.馬の子の故郷はなるる秋の雨
uma no ko no kokyô hanaruru aki no ame

the pony leaves
his home village...
autumn rain

The connection to Issa's biography is plain. The sold pony leaves his home village, just as Issa did at age 15 (he was 13 in the Western way of counting age).

1803

.片袖の風冷つくや秋の雨
kata sode no kaze hiya tsuku ya aki no ame

the wind chills
one sleeve...
autumn rain

The wind is blowing toward Issa's side, chilling one "sleeve" (sode) but not the other.

1803

.喰捨の瓜のわか葉や秋の雨
kui sute no uri no wakaba ya aki no ame

the half-eaten melon's
young green leaf...
autumn rain

A poignant image. Someone has eaten part of a melon, then thrown it away--the sort of everyday occurence that most people overlook but Issa, the poet, notices.

1803

.口明て親待つ鳥や秋の雨
kuchi akete oya matsu tori ya aki no ame

its mouth open
waiting for mother...
baby bird in the autumn rain


1803

.田の雁の古郷いかに秋の雨
ta no kari no furusato ika ni aki no ame

what's your home village like
rice field goose?
autumn rain

From one traveler to another, Issa questions the wild goose (or geese).

1803

.膝節に灯のちらめくや秋の雨
hizabushi ni hi no chirameku ya aki [no] ame

lamplight glimmers
on my knees...
autumn rain

Hizagashira literally means "kneecap" or "bend of the knee."

Issa wrote this haiku on the 13th day of Eighth Month, 1803. It immediately follows a similar haiku:

akisame ya tomoshibi utsuru hizagashira

autumn rain--
the lamplight lights
my knees

1803

.ひよろ長き草四五本に秋の雨
hyoronaga[ki] kusa shi go [hon] ni aki no ame

on four or five
slender blades of grass
autumn rain


1803

.松の木も在所めきけり秋の雨
matsu no ki mo zaisho-meki keri aki no ame

even the pine tree
looks rustic...
autumn rain

Added to a noun, -meku is equivalent to the modern endings -rashii and no yô ni naru (-like); Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1609. Here, Issa uses the past tense -meki keri. Added to zaisho ("farmhouse") it denotes "farmhouse-like" or, as I've translated it, "rustic."

1803

.秋の風親なきに我を吹そぶり
aki no kaze oyanaki ni ware wo fuku soburi

the autumn wind
blows as if it knows
I'm an orphan

Issa was indeed "parentless" (oyanaki) at the time. His mother died in his childhood, and his father died two years before the composition of this haiku. The cold autumn wind seems to be picking on him.

1803

.大根の二葉うれしや秋の風
daikon no futaba ureshi [ya] aki no kaze

two leaves of radish
rejoice!
autumn wind


1803

.一人づつ皆去にけり秋の風
hitori-zutsu mina sari ni keri aki no kaze

one by one
everyone has left...
autumn wind

A haiku of keen existential aloneness, what Bashô called sabi. In fact, Issa's poem echoes one by Bashô: "This road/ with no one on it.../ autumn dusk."

1803

.夕月のけばけばしさを秋の風
yûzuki no kebakebashisa wo aki no kaze

shining up
the evening moon...
autumn wind

This haiku has the prescript, "Behind [the house]" (ushiro ni).

1803

.露けさや石の下より草の花
tsuyukesa ya ishi no shita yori kusa no hana

humidity--
from beneath a stone
wildflowers

This haiku has the prescript, "A burnt mountain's dead grass burned off." The wildflowers under the stone are a welcome sign of life. Tsuyukesa is an old word for the kind of damp air that produces autumn dew; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1107.

1803

.露けしや草一本も秋の体
tsuyukeshi ya kusa ippon mo aki no tei

humidity--
even one blade of grass
is autumn

Dewdrops are forming on the blade of grass, making, all by itself, an autumn scene (aki no tei = "autumnal"). Tsuyukeshi is a variant of tsuyukesa, an old word for the kind of damp air that produces autumn dew; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1107.

1803

.大名の笠にもかかる夜露哉
daimyô no kasa ni mo kakaru yo tsuyu kana

clinging to the lord's
umbrella-hat too...
evening dew


1803

.同じ年の顔の皺見ゆる灯籠哉
onaji toshi no kao no shiwa miyuru tôro kana

a wrinkled face
he's my age...
lanterns for the dead

The Bon Festival of the Dead takes place in Eighth Month in the old lunar calendar. At this time, people light lanterns to guide their ancestors' spirits back home.

1803

.灯籠やきのふの瓦けふ葎
tôrô ya kinou no kawara kyô mugura

Bon lanterns--
yesterday's tiles
today are weeds

The Bon Festival of the Dead takes place in Eighth Month in the old lunar calendar. At this time, people light lanterns to guide their ancestors' spirits back home. The plant is mugura, which some translators render as "goose-grass." Maruyama Kazuhiko defines it simply as zassô, "weeds"; see Issa haiku shû (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1990; rpt. 1993) 288, note 1537.

1803

.盆灯籠三ッ二ッ見てやめにけり
bon tôro mitsu futatsu mite yame ni keri

stopping to watch
three, two...
lanterns for the dead

The Bon Festival of the Dead takes place in Eighth Month in the old lunar calendar. At this time, people light lanterns to guide their ancestors' spirits back home.

1803

.松陰におどらぬ人の白さ哉
matsu kage ni odoranu hito no shirosa kana

in pine-tree shade
the one who doesn't dance
ivory white

The "dance" referred to pertains to the autumn Bon Festival. The Bon Festival of the Dead takes place in Eighth Month in the old lunar calendar. At this time, people light lanterns to guide their ancestors' spirits back home. Dancing is also part of the festivities, but one pale "wall flower" doesn't join in. Hiroshi Kobori imagines that this hesitant person is a young lady. "As the festival dance comes to full swing," he writes, "she is a little hesitant to come into the circle, but not aloof."

1803

.かぢのをとは耳を離れず星今よい
kaji no oto wa mimi wo hanarezu hoshi ko yoi

the sound of oars
lingers...
good stars tonight

The expression, "good stars tonight" (hoshi ko yoi), refers to Tanabata, a festival that takes place on the seventh day of Seventh Month. According to a romantic legend, two celestial lovers--the stars Altair and Vega--are separated by Heaven's River (the Milky Way). One night a year (Tanabata night), they cross the starry river to be together.

1803

.かはがりの煙もとどけ星今よひ
kawagari no kemuri mo todoke hoshi ko yoi

for the fisherman's
rising smoke too...
good stars tonight

The expression, "good stars tonight" (hoshi ko yoi), refers to Tanabata, a festival that takes place on the seventh day of Seventh Month. According to a romantic legend, two celestial lovers--the stars Altair and Vega--are separated by Heaven's River (the Milky Way). One night a year (Tanabata night), they cross the starry river to be together. In this haiku, the smoke against the clear heavens signals a good night for star-gazing.

1803

.七夕や大和は男三分一
tanabata ya yamato wa otoko san bun ichi

Tanabata in Great Japan--
one out of three
are male

Issa is referring to people who are out celebrating Tanabata, a festival that takes place on the seventh day of Seventh Month. According to a romantic legend, two celestial lovers--the stars Altair and Vega--are separated by Heaven's River (the Milky Way). One night a year (Tanabata night), they cross the starry river to be together. The female-male ratio suggests that women have more romantic imaginations.

Yamato is the ancient name for Japan. Because of its patriotic overtones, I have translated it "Great Japan."

1803

.けふぎりの入日さしけり勝角力
kyôgiri no irihi sashi keri kachi sumô

the sun sets
on the tournament...
sumo champion


1803

.正面は親の顔也まけ角力
shômen wa oya no kao nari make-zumô

sitting in front
his father's face...
defeated wrestler


1803

.案山子にもうしろ向かれし栖哉
kagashi ni mo ushiro mukareshi sumika kana

even the scarecrow
turns his back to it...
my home

A bit of self-deprecating humor: Issa alludes, once more, to his trashy house.

1803

.川音や鳴子の音や明近き
kawa oto ya naruko no oto ya ake chikaki

sound of river
sound of bird clapper...
daybreak is near

The "bird clapper" (naruko) is a wood and bamboo contraption that hangs from a rope over a field. The wind causes its dangling parts to clack loudly together, a sound that the farmer hopes will scare off birds that might otherwise raid his crop.

Shinji Ogawa points out that the kanji in Issa's last phrase should be construed, ake chikaki: "daybreak is near."

1803

.赤兀の山の贔屓や遠ぎぬた
akahage no yama no hiiki ya tô-ginuta

favoring
Mount Akahage...
distant cloth-pounding

In Japan and Korea, fulling-blocks were used to pound fabric and bedding. The fabric was laid over a flat stone, covered with paper, and pounded, making a distinctive sound.

1803

.片耳は尾上の鐘や小夜砧
kata mimi wa onoe no kane ya sayo-ginuta

in one ear a bell
on the ridge, someone pounding cloth
in the night

In Japan and Korea, fulling-blocks were used to pound fabric and bedding. The fabric was laid over a flat stone, covered with paper, and pounded, making a distinctive sound. In my earlier translation, I use the phrase, "fulling-block," an arcane term that means nothing to most English readers. "Pounding cloth" is a translation solution provided by Makoto Ueda, whose example I gratefully follow; Matsuo Bashô (Tokyo: Kodansha, 1982) 53.

1803

.砧打夜より雨ふる榎哉
kinuta utsu yo yori ame furu enoki kana

pounding cloth
in the night...
rain on the nettle tree

The word, yori, indicates that the rain starts to fall after the sound of the fulling-block is heard. In Japan and Korea, fulling-blocks were used to pound fabric and bedding. The fabric was laid over a flat stone, covered with paper, and pounded, making a distinctive sound. In my earlier translation, I use the phrase, "fulling-block," an arcane term that means nothing to most English readers. "Pounding cloth" is a translation solution provided by Makoto Ueda, whose example I gratefully follow; Matsuo Bashô (Tokyo: Kodansha, 1982) 53.

1803

.口も手も人並でなし小夜砧
kuchi mo te mo hitonami de nashi sayo-ginuta

her mouth and hands
not like everyone's...
pounding cloth at night

In Japan and Korea, fulling-blocks were used to pound fabric and bedding. The fabric was laid over a flat stone, covered with paper, and pounded, making a distinctive sound. In this haiku, the cloth-pounder's mouth and hands are not "average" (hitonami). He leaves it to the reader to decide what this might mean.

1803

.洪水は去年のけふ也小夜砧
kôzui wa kozo no kyô nari sayo-ginuta

the flood was exactly
a year ago...
pounding cloth at night

In Japan and Korea, fulling-blocks were used to pound fabric and bedding. The fabric was laid over a flat stone, covered with paper, and pounded, making a distinctive sound. In this haiku, Issa literally says that "the flood is last year's misfortune" (kôzui wa kozo no kyô nari). Shinji Ogawa writes,"It is a traditional treatment of the fulling-blocks in haiku to depict the hard reality of the struggle for living." Their clonking sound evokes, he adds, a feeling of "elegy or blues."

1803

.更しなの蕎麦の主や小夜砧
sarashina no soba no aruji ya sayo-ginuta

the lord of Sarashina's
buckwheat fields...
pounding cloth at night

In Japan and Korea, fulling-blocks were used to pound fabric and bedding. The fabric was laid over a flat stone, covered with paper, and pounded, making a distinctive sound.

Sarashina is one of the districts of Issa's home province of Shinano (today's Nagano Prefecture). Bashô visited Sarashina Village in 1688, writing in his Visit to Sarashina Village (Sarashina kikô).

Though he lords over fields of "buckwheat" (soba), the landowner, too, must dry his clothes. Shinji Ogawa assisted with this translation.

1803

.更しなや闇き方には小夜砧
sarashina ya kuraki hô ni wa sayo-ginuta

Sarashina--
in a dark direction
night cloth-pounding

In Japan and Korea, fulling-blocks were used to pound fabric and bedding. The fabric was laid over a flat stone, covered with paper, and pounded, making a distinctive sound.

Sarashina is one of the districts of Issa's home province of Shinano (today's Nagano Prefecture). Bashô visited Sarashina Village in 1688, writing in his Visit to Sarashina Village (Sarashina kikô).

1803

.昼中の須磨の秋也遠砧
hiruchû no suma no aki nari tôginuta

this afternoon in Suma
autumn begins...
distant cloth-pounding

In Japan and Korea, fulling-blocks were used to pound fabric and bedding. The fabric was laid over a flat stone, covered with paper, and pounded, making a distinctive sound. In a haiku, cloth-pounding is an autumn season word. As Issa hears the distant sound, he declares that autumn has officially begun.

Suma is a famous moon-gazing location that Issa's great predecessor, Basho, visited.

1803

.小男鹿の角引つかけし葎哉
saoshika no tsuno hikkakeshi mugura kana

dangling from
the young buck's antler
weeds

The plant is mugura, which some translators render as "goose-grass." Maruyama Kazuhiko defines it simply as zassô, "weeds"; see Issa haiku shû (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1990; rpt. 1993) 288, note 1537.

1803

.小烏にあなどられたり小田の雁
ko karasu ni anadoraretari oda no kari

the little crow
is snubbed...
rice field geese

This haiku has the prescript, ("Teito," a chapter of the Chinese classic, Shi Jing, an anthology of ancient songs and poems. See Issa zenshû (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79), 2.124, note 2.

1803

.殺されにことしも来たよ小田の雁
korosare ni kotoshi mo kita yo oda no kari

another year
they're back for the massacre...
rice field geese

Jean Cholley notes that the daimyo and other high personages held great hunts for the migrating geese, often decimating them; En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 235, note 18.

1803

.殺されに南へ行か天つ雁
korosare ni minami e yuku ka amatsu kari

flying south
for the slaughter?
celestial geese

Amatsu kari ("celestial geese") is a season word for geese migrating in autumn. Jean Cholley notes that the daimyo and other high personages held great hunts for the migrating geese, often decimating them; En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 235, note 18.

1803

.一群は今来た顔や小田の雁
hito mure wa ima kita kao ya oda [no] kari

a new face
in the flock...
rice field geese


1803

.又来たら我家忘れな行燕
mata kitara waga ya wasure na yuku tsubame

when you return
don't forget my house!
departing swallows

Or: "swallow," though I agree with French translator Jean Cholley, who prefers to visualize a flock of hirondelles ("swallows"), not a single bird; En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 49.

1803

.人の世も我もよし也とぶいなご
hito no yo mo waga mo yoshi nari tobu inago

"The world of man
and me are good!"
locusts fly

Or: "the locust flies." I believe that the first part of the haiku expresses the words of the locust(s), not a human perspective, and so I have placed it in quotes. This editorial choice was influenced by the fact that, in a later, similar haiku, Issa directly states that the locusts are speaking. The insects are elated with the "world of man" (hito no yo), eager to devour people's crops.

1803

.捨られし夜より雨ふるきりぎりす
suterareshi yo yori ame furu kirigirisu

after a wasted night
the rain falls...
katydid

A katydid (kirigirisu) is a green or light brown insect, a cousin of crickets and grasshoppers. The males possess special organs on the wings with which they produce shrill calls. Although katydid is the closest English equivalent, many translators (such as R. H. Blyth) use the more familiar "grasshopper" and "cricket." See Haiku (Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1949-1952; rpt. 1981-1982/reset paperback edition) 4.1068-69.

1803

.けふも死に近き入りて草の花
kyô mo shinu ni chikaki irite kusa no hana

today again
death draws nearer...
the wildflowers


1803

.染総のつつぱりとれて菊の花
somefusa no tsuppari torete kiku no hana

their many colors
fade so soon...
chrysanthemums

My translation of this haiku was guided by Kenneth Yasuda's example in The Japanese Haiku: Its Essential Nature, History, and Possibilities in English (Tokyo/Rutland, Vermont: Tuttle, 1957; rpt. 1987) 194.

Shinji Ogawa notes that tsuppari torete means, "the inner tension is gone (or withered)."

1803

.朝顔のこく咲にけりよ所の家
asagao no koku saki ni keri yoso no ie

morning-glories
blooming thick...
someone else's house


1803

.朝顔やしたたかぬれし通り雨
asagao ya shitataka nureshi tôri ame

morning-glories
utterly drenched...
a passing rain


1803

.松の蔦紅葉してから伐られけり
matsu no tsuta momiji shite kara kirare keri

pine's ivy--
after leaves turn red
cut down


1803

.御馬の屁ながれけり萩の花
on-uma no he nagare keri hagi no hana

Sir Horse's fart
wafting over...
blooming bush clover


1803

.神風のはや吹給ふ稲葉哉
kamikaze no haya fuki tamau inaba kana

the divine wind
blows a blessing...
spears of rice

Literally, kamikaze refers to a "providential wind," the "wind of the gods." Long after Issa's time, the word was used to describe suicide planes packed with explosives that pilots flew into enemy ships.

1803

.大豚の顔出しけり芦の花
ôbuta no kao idashi keri ashi no hana

a big pig
sticks out his face...
blooming rushes

One of Issa's delightful haiku surprises.

1803

.川下は知識の門よ夕紅葉
kawa shimo wa chishiki no kado yo yûmomiji

downstream, the gate
to knowledge...
evening's red leaves

This haiku is lovely but enigmatic. Perhaps Issa is saying that autumn leaves have fallen into a river and now float downstream to the sea, where they will learn the Buddhist truth of mujô, transience: all things must pass.

1803

.ふまぬ地をふむ心也夕紅葉
fumanu chi wo fumu kokoro nari yûmomiji

treading untrodden
earth to see...
evening's red leaves

Literally, Issa is walking on an untrodden place to view the evening's autumn foliage. Shinji Ogawa believes that his underlying meaning is: "The scenery with evening's red leaves is of another world."

1803

.人去つて行灯きえて桐一葉
hito satte andon kiete kiri hito ha

people have gone
lanterns have died...
one leaf remains

The leaf in question is a paulownia leaf.

1803

.手の前に蝶の息つく茸哉
te no mae ni chô no ikitsuku kinoko kana

it's all yours
butterfly, take a rest
on the mushroom


1803

.けろけろと師走月よの榎哉
kero-kero to shiwasu-zuki yo no enoki kana

keeping his cool
under a Twelfth Month moon...
nettle tree

The opening phrase, kero-kero means "appearing to show no concern or interest"; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 574.

1803

.旅の空師走も二十九日哉
tabi no sora shiwasu mo ni jû ku nichi kana

a traveler's sky--
Twelfth Month
29th day

In one more day it will be New Year's and the beginning of spring in the old Japanese calendar. Issa is eager to leave his winter confinement. The season word for this haiku is simply "Twelfth Month," a winter season word. The reason I don't call it "December" is because I want the reader to sense that, indeed, the Japanese traditional calendar is different from the Western one. The 29th day of Twelfth Month could correspond to a much later date in the modern calendar. For example, Issa died on the 19th day of Eleventh Month in the dynastic year that corresponds to 1827. But, because the old Japanese New Year's Day comes later than the Western one, Issa's actual death date is January 5th, 1828. This means, in that particular year, the 29th Day of Twelfth Month would have occurred somewhere in the third week of February, Western calendar.

1803

.降雨の中に寒の入にけり
furu ame no naka ni mo kan no iri ni keri

even from falling rain
stabbing
cold


1803

.掌に酒飯けぶる寒さ哉
tenohira ni sakameshi keburu samu[sa] kana

palms
in the cooking smoke
winter cold

Issa simply shows the scene: the palms, the cooking smoke, the winter cold. Like many of his haiku, it's a slice-of-life image and yet it's more. We feel the coldness of the universe surrounding us, but we also feel the warmth of our little cooking fire as we extend our open hands to it. For at least a little while, life is winning in its struggle with death.

According to Sakuo Nakamura, sakameshi is rice boiled with tea and sake--a poor man's dinner.

1803

.流れ木のアチコチとしてとし暮ぬ
nagare-gi no achi-kochi to shite toshi kurenu

driftwood floating
this way, that way...
ends the year

Is the "driftwood" that restless traveler, Issa? He once referred to himself as unsui: a "Cloud-Water Wanderer" in the Buddhist sense.

1803

.片壁に海手の風や冬の月
kata kabe ni umite no kaze ya fuyu no tsuki

over one wall
the sea wind blows...
winter moon

Umite means "near the sea."

1803

.冬の月さしかかりけりうしろ窓
fuyu no tsuki sashikakari keri ushiro mado

the winter moon
hanging over...
back window


1803

.冬の月膝元に出る山家哉
fuyu no tsuki hizamoto ni deru yamaga kana

the winter moon
on my lap...
mountain home


1803

.古郷に高い杉ありはつしぐれ
furusato ni takai sugi ari hatsu shigure

cedars are tall
in my hometown...
first winter rain


1803

.初時雨馬も御紋をきたりけり
hatsu shigure uma mo o-mon wo kitari keri

first winter rain--
even the warlord's horse
wears his crest

Issa doesn't directly mention a daimyo or "lord" in the poem, but such a person is implied by the honorific o-mon ("crest"). Despite his worldly power, the winter rain falls on him (and his horse) as it does on everyone else.

1803

.一時に二ッ時雨し山家哉
ittoki ni futatsu shigureshi yamaga kana

right away
a second winter rainfall...
mountain home


1803

.北時雨火をたく顔のきなくさき
kita shigure hi wo taku kao no kinakusaki

cold northern rain--
the fire-starter's face
smells burnt

A wonderful slice-of-life haiku.

1803

.けぶり立隣の家を時雨哉
keburi tatsu tonari no ie wo shigure kana

on the neighbor's house
where smoke rises...
winter rain


1803

.しぐるるや牛に引かれて善光寺
shigururu ya ushi ni hikarete zenkôji

winter rain--
led by a cow
to Zenko Temple

This haiku refers to a popular folktale in Issa's home province of Shinano. A sinful woman left a piece of cloth to dry in the garden behind her house, but a passing cow snagged it with a horn and trotted off. The woman followed the beast all the way to Zenkôji, where it disappeared and she found herself standing before the image of Amida Buddha. From that point on, she became pious.

Eight years later (1811) Issa revises this haiku, beginning with "spring breeze" (haru kaze). Either way, the poem is a tribute to Pure Land Buddhism. According to the patriarch of Issa's Jôdoshinshoû sect, Shinran, salvation is a gift that comes from beyond the ego's calculations. The woman in the story arrives at salvation without thinking about it--simply by following a cow. Issa, too, follows a cow to Zenko Temple (and salvation) in this haiku. And, perceptive readers will follow it there too.

1803

.吹かれ吹かれ時雨来にけり痩男
fukare fukare shigure ki ni keri yase otoko

windblown here they come--
the winter rain
the thin man

It is likely that the "thin man" is Issa.

1803

.山の家たがひ違ひに時雨哉
yama no ie tagai chigai ni shigure kana

mountain house--
it's off, it's on
the winter rain

Literally, winter rainstorms are "taking turns" (tagai chigai), one after the other.

1803

.夕時雨馬も古郷へ向てなく
yû shigure uma mo furusato e muite naku

rainy winter night--
the horse neighs too
toward his home village

Written on the 10th day of Third Month, 1803, this haiku alludes to Issa's own exile from his native village of Kashiwabara. According to the poet, two years previously his dying father asked him to promise to return to the family home, but Issa's stepmother later refused to allow this vow to be carried out. It would take nine more years of haggling before Issa would be allowed to return in 1812.

1803

.夕時雨すつくり立や田鶴
yûshigure sukkuri tatsu ya ta tsuru

evening of winter rain--
a rice field crane
stands tall

Issa ends this haiku with an atypical ending phrase of three sound units: ta tsuru ("ricefield crane"). Perhaps he meant to add the particle kana at the end but neglected to do so.

Sukkuri means to stand completely straight; see Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 884.

1803

.夜時雨の顔を見せけり親の門
yo shigure no kao wo mise keri oya no kado

in night's winter rain
a face...
his parents' gate

Or: "her parents' gate." I read this haiku autobiographically: a scene of Issa returning home after years of exile. His mother died when he was a child, and his father died two years before the composition of this haiku. If Issa is writing about himself, the poem is quite melancholy: the son soaked in the winter rain, returning to his parental home where no parents are living. However, if we read the poem without reference to Issa's life, it seems more hopeful: a son returns to a warming hearth and loving parents.

1803

.我上にふりし時雨や上総山
waga ue ni furishi shiture ya kazusa yama

winter rain
pouring down on me...
Kazusa mountains

Kazusa was an ancient province in the Kantô area.

1803

.時雨雲毎日かかる榎哉
shigure-gumo mainichi kakaru enoki kana

winter raincloud
every day snagged
in the nettle tree


1803

.三度くふ旅もつたいな時雨雲
san do kuu tabi mottaina shigure-gumo

three meals a day
this trip, too much!
winter storm clouds

A deeper meaning of this haiku derives from its context. Issa wrote it during a trip to Shimôsa Province on the 12th day of Tenth Month: Bashô's death anniversary. Jean Cholley notes that Issa's poetic role model, Bashô, often experienced hunger on his journeys, which is why Issa pretends to feel ashamed of his own relatively cushy travels; En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 235 note 22.

The ending phrase, "winter storm clouds" (shigure-gumo) is an allusion to Bashô, since another name for that poet's death anniversary is "Winter Rain Anniversary" (shigure ki).

1803

.風寒し寒し寒しと瓦灯哉
kaze samushi samushi samushi to gwatô kana

"The wind
is cold! cold! cold!"
ceramic lamp

Issa imagines that his "ceramic lamp" is speaking ... and complaining. A gwatô is a ceramic lamp (tôsei no tôka gu); Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 540.

1803

.木がらしの夜に入かかる榎哉
kogarashi no yo ni irikakaru enoki kana

settling into a night
of winter wind...
nettle tree

Hiroshi Kobori comments on the word, kogarashi ("winter wind"). In early Japanese poetry, this refers to the wind that blows through trees, breaking branches and turning the leaves brown. By Issa's time it means "a dry windy day during the late autumn-deep winter season." It is classified as a winter season word.

1803

.木がらしや鋸屑けぶる辻の家
kogarashi ya ogakuzu keburu tsuji no ie

winter wind--
smoke from a sawdust fire
house at the crossroads

Hiroshi Kobori comments on the word, kogarashi ("winter wind"). In early Japanese poetry, this refers to the wind that blows through trees, breaking branches and turning the leaves brown. By Issa's time it means "a dry windy day during the late autumn-deep winter season." It is classified as a winter season word.

1803

.木がらしや門に見えたる小行灯
kogarashi ya kado ni mietaru ko andon

winter wind--
looking in the gate
with a little lantern

Hiroshi Kobori comments on the word, kogarashi ("winter wind"). In early Japanese poetry, this refers to the wind that blows through trees, breaking branches and turning the leaves brown. By Issa's time it means "a dry windy day during the late autumn-deep winter season." It is classified as a winter season word.

1803

.木がらしや壁の際なる馬の桶
kogarashi ya kabe no kiwa naru ume no oke

winter wind--
on the wall's ledge
the horse's bucket

Hiroshi Kobori comments on the word, kogarashi ("winter wind"). In early Japanese poetry, this refers to the wind that blows through trees, breaking branches and turning the leaves brown. By Issa's time it means "a dry windy day during the late autumn-deep winter season." It is classified as a winter season word.

1803

.初雪に聞おじしたる翁哉
hatsu yuki ni kiku ojishitaru okina kana

hearing of first snow
a dreadful thing...
old man

An ironic haiku. Poets look forward eagerly to the year's first snowfall, but the old man dreads it, wondering if he will make it through another hard winter.

1803

.初雪のふはふはかかる小鬢哉
hatsu yuki no fuwa-fuwa kakaru kobin kana

the first snow
softly, softly clings...
side lock of hair

This haiku has the prescript, Mushinshojaku, an obscure word from poetic tradition that appears in Manyôshu ("Collection of 10,000 Leaves"), the first major anthology of Japanese poetry compiled in the 8th century. It means a song without meaning. See Maruyama Kazuhiko, Issa haiku shû (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1990; rpt. 1993) 57, note 233; and Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1595. Issa presents his haiku about snow on a side lock of hair as a mere trifle--nothing deep here.

1803

.海音は塀の北也夜の雪
umi oto wa hei no kita nari yoru no yuki

sound of the ocean
north of the fence...
night snow


1803

.真昼の草にふる也たびら雪
mappiru no kusa ni furu nari tabira yuki

onto high noon's grasses
flitting down...
snowflakes

Tabira yuki is an old expression that connotes a light, flitting snow; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1019.

1803

.衛士の火のますますもゆる霰哉
eji no hi no masu-masu moyuru arare kana

the imperial guard's fire
blazes still more...
hailstones


1803

.けしからぬ月夜となりしみぞれ哉
keshikaranu tsuki yo to narishi mizore kana

strange--
the moon shining
while sleet falls

Just as the sun can shine while it rains, so can the moon when it sleets--but this sort of phenomenon, as Issa puts it, is "strange" (keshikaranu).

1803

.酒菰の戸口明りやみぞれふる
sakagomo no toguchi akari ya mizore furu

my sake keg
open for business...
sleet pours down

Sakagomo is a reed mat used to wrap or cover sake kegs; Issa zenshû (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 2.162, note 2. Issa writes, literally, that the "doorway" (toguchi) of his sakagomo is open while sleet falls--implying that it's a good day to stay indoors and drink.

1803

.酒飯の掌にかかるみぞれ哉
sakameshi no tenohira ni kakaru mizore kana

my tea-boiled rice
in the palm of my hand...
falling sleet

According to Sakuo Nakamura, sakameshi is rice boiled with tea and sake--a poor man's dinner.

1803

.みぞれはく小尻の先の月よ哉
mizore haku kojiri no saki no tsuki yo kana

sweeping sleet--
at the rafter's metal tip
a bright moon

A kojiri is the ornamental metal fixture at the end of a rafter; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 617.

1803

.夕みぞれ竹一本もむつかしき
yû mizore take ippon mo mutsukashiki

night sleet--
even my bamboo plant
in a rotten mood

Or: "the bamboo plant." Issa doesn't say that it's his plant, but this can be inferred.

Mutsukashiki is an old word that can signify having a bad or unpleasant feeling; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1597.

1803

.ゆで汁のけぶる垣根也みぞれふる
yudejiru no keburu kakine nari mizore furu

steam from boiling soup
a fence...
falling sleet

Is Issa implying that the steam from his soup will protect him from the cold world outside--the falling sleet?

Kaki can be translated as "fence" or "hedge."

1803

.一人前菜も青けりけさの霜
ichininmae na mo aomi keri kesa no shimo

my full serving of vegetables
all greens...
morning frost

This haiku has the prescript, ("Sanrai divination sign." One of the sixty-four divination signs, sanrai refers to the chin and is associated with eating and nutrition to promote health and good fortune; Issa zenshû (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 2.127, note 1. Perhaps Issa's point is that, now that cold weather has arrived, he is eating healthy greens.

Ichininmae ("in front of one person") denotes one plate, one helping.

1803

.起々にくさめの音や草の霜
oki-oki ni kusame no oto ya kusa no shimo

waking up
with a sneeze...
frost on the grass


1803

.掌に酒飯けぶる今朝の霜
tenohira ni sakameshi keburu kesa no shimo

warming my palms
in the cooking smoke...
morning frost

According to Sakuo Nakamura, sakameshi is rice boiled with tea and sake--a poor man's dinner.

1803

.としよりの高股立や今朝の霜
toshiyori no takamomodachi ya kesa no shimo

the old man's skirt
hiked up his thighs...
morning frost

This haiku has the prescript, Kôyô, a section of the Chinese poetry classic, Shi Jing. I haven't yet traced the connection between this haiku and the Chinese book; see Issa zenshû (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 2.147, note 3.

Takamomodachi means that a formal skirt (hakama) has been raised on both sides, making physical activity possible, a vigorous posture; Issa zenshû 2.148, note 1; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 986.

1803

.かくれ家に日のほかほかとかれの哉
kakurega ni hi no hoka-hoka to kareno kana

on a secluded house
the warm sun...
withered fields

Shinji Ogawa notes, "The word hoka-hoka means (1) rapid, sudden (2) thoughtless (3) warm. In the context, I think Issa meant the third one 'warm'." The sun is shining warmly on the house.

1803

.片袖に風吹通すかれの哉
kata sode ni kaze fuki-tôsu kareno kana

through one sleeve
the wind passes...
withered fields


1803

.子七人さはぐかれのの小家哉
ko shichi nin sawagu kareno no ko ie kana

a seven-child ruckus
in withered fields...
little house

The season is winter, but the scene is full of life, as seven children raise a happy ruckus in the little house amid the withered fields. Issa's love for children is palpable in the poem; the more, the merrier.

1803

.ざぶりざぶりざぶり雨ふるかれの哉
zaburi-zaburi-zaburi ame furu kareno kana

splish-splash
splash-splish the rain...
withered fields


1803

.近道はきらひな人や枯野原
chikamichi wa kiraina hito ya kareno hara

he hates taking
the shortcut...
withered fields

Or: "I hate." Shinji Ogawa notes that chikamichi wa kiraina hito ya means "a person who dislikes (to take) a short cut."

1803

.鳥をとる鳥も枯野のけぶり哉
tori wo toru tori mo kareno no keburi kana

a bird of prey
and smoke...
over withered fields

Issa plays with sound pattern in this haiku: tori wo toru tori (literally, a bird-seizing bird).

1803

.虫除の札のひよりひよりかれの哉
mushiyoke no fuda no hyoro-hyoro kareno kana

the anti-insect charm
flutters, flutters...
withered fields

This haiku refers to the popular custom of hanging a magic charm in a field to protect it from insects. Now the fields are barren, harvest is long over, and the charm flutters forlornly in the winter wind.

1803

.影ぼうしの翁に似たり初時雨
kagebôshi no okina ni nitari hatsu shigure

my shadow looks
like the Old Man's!
first winter rain

The "Old Man" (okina) is the great haiku poet, Bashô.

1803

.君が代を鶏も諷ふや餅の臼
kimi ga yo wo tori mo utau ya mochi no usu

even a rooster singing
Great Japan!
rice cake tub

"Great Japan" is my translation of kimi ga yo, a phrase that refers to the emperor's reign and begins the Japanese national anthem. Issa would have known the lyrics, though not the current melody which came after his time.

There are two types of usu or mill: (1) shiki usu (grinding hand-mill) and (2) a large wooden tub used for rice or herb cake making. The cake maker pounds the ingredients with a wooden mallet. The second definition fits here. Issa imagines that the rooster is singing praises to the emperor's reign, prompted by the sound of rice cake pounding.

1803

.もちつきはうしろになりぬ角田川
mochi tsuki wa ushiro ni narinu sumida-gawa

the rice cake pounding
is now behind me...
Sumida River

Shinji Ogawa comments: "Issa was walking along with Sumida River. Describing the switch of the sound source from front to behind, he skillfully shows his own movement along with the river."

1803

.としとりに鶴も下たる畠哉
toshitori ni tsuru mo oritaru hatake kana

also a year older
the crane flies down...
a field

The season word in this haiku, toshitori, ("growing old") relates to the year's ending; in the traditional Japanese system for counting age, everyone gains a year on New Year's Day. The crane, a symbol of longevity, has gained another year--as has Issa.

1803

.狩小屋の夜明也けり犬の鈴
kari goya no yoake nari keri inu no suzu

daybreak
at the hunting shack...
the dog's bell

Or: "the dogs' bells."

1803

.不二颪真ともにかかる頭巾哉
fuji oroshi matamo ni kakaru zukin kana

in the teeth
of Mount Fuji's wind...
winter skullcap

Or: "winter skullcaps."

1803

.昼比にもどりてたたむふとん哉
hiru-goro ni modorite tatamu futon kana

around noon
I come back to fold it up...
futon

Issa has procrastinated about making his bed.

1803

.三つ五つ星見てたたむふとん哉
mitsu itsutsu hoshi mite tatamu futon kana

three or five stars
by the time I fold it...
futon

Issa has really procrastinated about making his bed today!

1803

.御迎ひの鐘の鳴也冬篭
o-mukai no kane no naru nari fuyugomori

the death bell
tolls at the temple...
winter seclusion

Shinji Ogawa notes that the phrase o-mukae no kane (Issa's variant: mukai no kane) means "welcome-bell" in the sense of welcoming the faithful to the next world, Amida Buddha's Pure Land. I first translated it, "the welcome bell," but Gabi Greve feels that this loses the sense of "someone waiting for his death." She suggests: "funeral bells/ starting to toll" or "coming to get me/ the bell is tolling." I have decided to go with "death bell," and to include the word "temple" (not in Issa's original text but certainly implied).

1803

.親も斯見られし山や冬篭
oya mo kô mirareshi yama ya fuyugomori

my father saw
this same damn mountain...
winter seclusion

I translate "parent" (oya) as "my father" based on the assumption that Issa is alluding to his father, who passed away just two years earlier. The "damn" has been added to convey a sense of boredom that I feel in Issa's original.

1803

.清水を江戸のはづれや冬篭
kiyo mizu wo edo no hazure ya fuyugomori

for pure water
go to Edo's outskirts...
winter seclusion

During the long winter seclusion, the city water of Edo (today's Tokyo) is dirty. One must venture all the way to the outskirts to find the pure stuff...Issa groans.

1803

.ぼんのくぼ夕日にむけて火鉢哉
bon no kubo yûhi ni mukete hibachi kana

on the nape
of my neck, setting sun
and hibachi


1803

.起てから烏聞く也おこり炭
okite kara karasu kiku [nari] okori-zumi

after getting up
I hear a crow...
starting my charcoal fire

In my first translation, I had the crow listening. However, Shinji Ogawa believes that, while this is a possible interpretation, it's more likely that Issa is the listener in the haiku: hearing the cawing of the crow.

However, an ambiguity still remains. The expression, okite kara can refer to Issa getting out of bed ("after rising"), and it can signify a fire being kindled ("after making the fire"). So, Issa is either saying: "after rising, I heard a crow ... morning's charcoal fire" or "after kindling morning's charcoal fire, I heard a crow."

Either way, what's the connection between the crow and the fire? Shinji explains: "The connection is the early morning hour. Crows are heard more often at sunrise and sunset. Therefore, the crows are regular members of the early morning scene. A Japanese old song says, 'Killing all the crows in the whole world, I wish to sleep late in the morning with my darling'."

The phrase, okori-zumi, signifies "beginning [a] charcoal [fire]." In Issa's Japanese okoru could mean hajimaru ("begin"); Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 260.

1803

.炭の火のふくぶくしさよ藪隣
sumi no hi no fukubukushisa yo yabu tonari

a charcoal fire
happy and well...
the thicket next door

Is Issa envious of his neighbor's fire? This is a reordering of another haiku: "through the thicket/ happy and well.../ little charcoal fire." He wrote both of these haiku, back to back, on the 28th day of Tenth Month, 1803.

1803

.鳴鶏のはらはら時の炭火哉
naku tori no hara-hara toki no sumibi kana

the rooster flaps and crows
"It's time!"
morning's charcoal fire

Shinji Ogawa believes that "the scene is of an early winter morning where a rooster crows and Issa is preparing a charcoal fire. In Japan, the rooster's crow in the early morning is called an announcement of the hour."

In this case, the rooster tells Issa it's time to light the fire.

1803

.ぱちぱちと椿咲けり炭けぶる
pachi-pachi to tsubaki saki keri sumi keburi

snap and crackle
the camellia blooms
the coal fire smokes


1803

.藪ごしに福々しさよおこり炭
yabu-goshi ni fukubukushisa yo okori-zumi

through the thicket
happy and well...
morning's charcoal fire

Issa rearranges the main elements of this haiku in another one: "a charcoal fire/ happy and well.../ the thicket next door." He wrote both of these haiku, back to back, on the 28th day of Tenth Month, 1803.

The phrase, okori-zumi, signifies "beginning charcoal [fire]." In Issa's Japanese okoru could mean hajimaru ("begin"); Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 260. The implication is that it's morning's first fire on a cold winter's day.

1803

.けふけふと命もへるや炭俵
kyôkyô to inochi mo heru ya sumidawara

in careful bits
your life slips away too...
charcoal bag

Kyôkyô can mean fear and caution. Charcoal is being removed from the bag cautiously, to make it last through the cold season. Issa sees a comparison between his own life and the charcoal bag that slowly empties as winter drags on.

1803

.炭もはや俵の底ぞ三ケの月
sumi mo haya tawara no soko zo mika no tsuki

my charcoal goes quickly--
bag's bottom
lit by a sickle moon

The moon is a "three-day moon"...just a sliver. Shinji Ogawa clears up a mystery concerning the rômaji spelling of mikazuki ("three-day moon"). He notes, ("Mikezuki is the old way of spelling in kana letters, but the pronunciation has always been mikazuki."

1803

.忽に淋しくなりぬ炭俵
tachimachi ni sabishiku narinu sumidawara

in just a twinkling
you've gotten low...
charcoal bag

Shinji Ogawa explains that sabishiku naru literally means "getting lonesome" but, in this context, denotes "getting scarce" or "getting low."

Issa bemoans the fact that he's running out of charcoal on a cold winter's day (or night). His phraseology suggests a humanized view of the bag. It, like Issa, has grown old, it seems, too fast.

1803

.場ふさげと思ふ間もなし炭俵
bafusage to omou ma mo nashi sumidawara

no sooner than I thought
it an obstacle...
charcoal bag

Bafusagi, according to Shinji Ogawa, means originally "an encumbrance" and derivatively "useless" or "good-for-nothing." Shinji believes that the original meaning applies here.

Before the cold weather arrived, did the charcoal bag seem like an annoying encumbrance, just taking up space in the house? Now, does Issa imply that he appreciates the bag and its contents?

1803

.雨の日やほたを踏へて夕ながめ
ame no hi ya hota wo fumaete yû nagame

rainy day--
tramping over firewood
to my evening's gazing

The firewood is too soaked to be of any use, at least not tonight.

1803

.うれしさは暁方のほた火哉
ureshisa wa akatsuki kata no hotabi kana

happiness
just before dawn
is a wood fire

Since the wood fire is used to warm the house on a cold winter's day, it means happiness to Issa.

1803

.二軒前干菜かけたり草の雨
ni ken mae hoshi na kaketari kusa no ame

vegetables hung to dry
at two houses...
thatch dripping rain

In the same year Issa writes another version of this haiku, ending with "little houses" (ko ie kana).

Literally, the vegetables are hung "in front of two houses" (ni ken mae).

In this haiku I assume that kusa no ame ("grass's rain") refers to rain dripping from the thatched roofs, as it seems to in a later poem (1814):

sasa no ya ya hiina no kao e kusa no ame

thatched house--
on the doll's face dripping
rain

1803

.二軒前干菜もかけし小家哉
ni ken mae hoshi na mo kakeshi ko ie kana

vegetables hung to dry
in front...
two little houses

In the same year Issa writes another version of this haiku, ending with "thatch dripping rain" (kusa no ame).

1803

.御仏の真向ふ先がかけ菜哉
mi-hotoke no ma-muka[u] saki ga kake na kana

smack in front
of Buddha, vegetables
hung to dry

Issa is referring to a statue of wood or stone.

1803

.浅ましと鰒や見らん人の顔
asamashi to fugu ya miruran hito no kao

looking shameful
to the pufferfish...
people's faces

A humorous role-reversal. People may think that the fish has an ugly face, but, Issa imagines, this negative perception could go both ways. Issa uses the kanji for "abalone" but, according to the editors of Issa zenshû, it is to be pronounced, fugu: pufferfish; (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 1.711. Pufferfish soup is a winter season word.

1803

.親分と家向あふて鰒と汁
oyabun to ie mukiaute fukuto-jiru

for the headman
in the house facing mine...
pufferfish soup

Issa seems to envy the "headman" or "boss" (oyabun). In other haiku he makes it clear that pufferfish soup, a winter season word, is a luxury dish.

Carole MacRury notes that pufferfish are highly poisonous and must be prepared carefully. She writes, "I'm grinning as I think just maybe Issa's thinking this might be a luxury a lowly poet would happily avoid!"

1803

.京も京京の真中や鰒と汁
kyô mo kyô kyô no manaka ya fukuto-jiru

Kyoto, Kyoto
in the heart of Kyoto!
pufferfish soup

Pufferfish soup (fukuto-jiru) is a winter season word.

1803

.汝等が親分いくら鰒と汁
nanjira ga oyabun ikura fukuto-jiru

how much are you bringing
to the headman?
pufferfish soup

Pufferfish soup (fukuto-jiru) is a winter season word. Here, he refers to the servant(s) of the "headman" or "boss" (oyabun). In a related haiku of the same year (1803) the headman is eating pufferfish soup in the house facing Issa's.

1803

.はらはらと紅葉ちりけり鰒と汁
hara-hara to momiji chiri keri fukuto-jiru

red leaves
flitting down...
pufferfish soup

Pufferfish soup (fukuto-jiru) is a winter season word.

1803

.鰒汁や大宮人の顔をして
fugu shiru ya ômiyabito no kao wo shite

pufferfish soup--
putting on airs
like a great courtier

Literally, the person eating the soup is "making a face [like] a great courtier." Pufferfish soup, a winter season word, was a luxury dish.

1803

.鰒好と窓むきあふて借家哉
fugu-zuki to mado mukiaute kariya kana

a pufferfish soup-lover
in the facing window...
rented house

In a related haiku of the same year (1803) the soup eater in the facing house is a "headman" or "boss" (oyabun). Whoever he is, Issa seems to have soup envy. Pufferfish soup, a winter season word, was a luxury dish.

1803

.鰒と汁くひさくもなるつぶり哉
fukuto-jiru kui[ta]ku mo naru tsuburi kana

pufferfish soup--
not wanting to eat
the head

Pufferfish soup (fukuto-jiru) is a winter season word.

1803

.京にも子分ありとや鰒と汁
miyako ni mo kobun ari to ya fukuto-jiru

in Kyoto
even for apprentices!
pufferfish soup

Pufferfish soup, a winter season word, was a luxury dish.

The "capital" (miyako) was Kyoto in Issa's day. This is where the emperor and his court lived. Political and military power was centered in the Shogun's city of Edo, today's Tokyo.

1803

.ももしきの大宮人や鰒と汁
momoshiki no ômiyabito ya fukuto-jiru

for a great courtier
of the imperial palace...
pufferfish soup

It's not clear whether Issa is depicting an actual courtier or speaking metaphorically: suggesting that eating the winter delicacy makes one feel like a courtier. In the same year (1803) he writes:

fugu shiru ya ômiyabito no kao wo shite

pufferfish soup--
putting on airs
like a great courtier

1803

.山紅葉吹おろしけり鰒と汁
yama momiji fuki-oroshi keri fukuto-jiru

the mountain's red leaves
blowing down...
pufferfish soup

Pufferfish soup (fukuto-jiru) is a winter season word.

1803

.片袖は山手の風や鳴千鳥
kata sode wa yamate no kaze ya naku chidori

from one side
wind from the hills...
plovers singing

Literally, the wind from the hills is felt on "one sleeve." Perhaps, by implication, Issa hears the plovers singing in the direction of his other sleeve, i.e., in the other direction.

1803

.夕やけの鍋の上より千鳥哉
yûyake [no] nabe no ue yori chidori kana

from atop a kettle
in evening's glow...
a plover's song

Issa's "from" (yori) implies that something is passing from the location of the kettle to where Issa is; this something must be the song of the plover. Therefore, though Issa ends his poem simply with "plover" (chidori) plus the emphatic particle kana, I've added this implied "song" to my translation.

1803

.水鳥のあなた任せの雨夜哉
mizudori no anata makase no amayo kana

trust in the Buddha
waterfowl!
a rainy night

In Issa's Pure Land Buddhist belief, even waterfowl must trust in the "beyond": Amida Buddha.

1803

.どこを風が吹かとひとり鰒哉
doko wo kaze ga fuka to hitori fukuto kana

to wherever
the wind may blow it...
a pufferfish

Issa spells fukuto ("tetrodon" or "pufferfish") using the Japanese character for awabi ("abalone").

In this haiku, he puns with fuka to ("blows") and fukuto ("pufferfish"). He seems to be referring to a fish that has been caught and now will be sent to who-knows-where.

1803

.かれ萩に裾引つかける日暮哉
kare hagi ni suso hikkakeru higure kana

hanging by a cuff
on withered bush clover...
sunset

What is hanging from the bush-clover: an actual garment or, more poetically, the setting sun? Issa leaves this determination to the reader. Suso ("cuff") is the bottom border of a garment; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 882.

1803

.冬枯の萩も長閑けく売家哉
fuyu kare no hagi mo nodokeku uriya kana

winter's withered bush clover
peaceful too...
house for sale


1803

.赤い実の毒々しさよかれすすき
akai mi no dokudokushisa yo kare suzuki

those red seeds
are poisonous!
withered plume grass


1803

.かれすすき人に売れし一つ家
kare susuki hito ni urareshi hitotsu ie

withered plume grass--
a solitary house
for sale

The lone house amid the withered winter field, vacant and for sale, makes a desolate image.

1803

.一本は翌の夕飯大根哉
ippon wa asu no yûmeshi daikon kana

that one is
tomorrow night's dinner...
radish


1803

.時雨よと一本残す大根哉
shigure yo to ippon nokosu daikon kana

even if winter rain falls
I'll save this one
radish

Sakuo Nakamura paraphrases: "Even if cold winter rain falls, I will keep this radish."

1803

.大根引一本づつに雲を見る
daikon hiku ippon-zutsu ni kumo wo miru

yanking radishes
one by one...
watching the clouds

Shinji Ogawa comments, "Issa comically depicts the guy pulling radishes out by bending himself backward as if he is looking up to watch the clouds each time."

Why is the farmer watching the clouds? Is bad weather threatening? His multi-tasking is funny but also troubling. Radishes below, clouds above--Issa paints another memorable scene where a human being stands (and stoops) in between.

1803

.むら雨にすつくり立や大根引
murasame ni sukkuri tatsu ya daikon hiki

in the rain shower
standing straight...
the radish puller

Sukkuri means to stand completely straight; see Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 884.

1803

.我庵の冬は来りけり痩大根
waga io no fuyu wa kitari keri yase daikon

winter arrives
at my hut...
a scrawny radish

The radish is appropriately emaciated (yase), reflecting Issa's typical self-portraiture.

Maxene Alexander writes, "What I like about this one is ... it shows how haiku may include mankind as part of nature - an obvious reflection of Issa's current situation, reflected by a scrawny radish."

1803

.畠人の思ひの外や帰り花
hata-bito no omoi no hoka ya kaeri-bana

surprising
the gardener...
out-of-season blooms

"Out-of-season blossom" (kaeri-bana) is a winter seasonal expression.

1803

.山川のうしろ冷し帰り花
yama-gawa no ushiro tsumetashi kaeri-bana

by a mountain stream
catching a chill...
out-of-season blooms

"Out-of-season blossom" (kaeri-bana) is a winter seasonal expression.

1803

.剰海へ向つて冬椿
amatsusae umi e mukatte fuyu tsubaki

also facing
the sea...
winter camellias

Who or what else is facing the sea? I assume that Issa means himself.

1803

.日の目見ぬ冬の椿の咲にけり
hi no me minu fuyu no tsubaki no saki ni keri

without seeing sunlight
the winter camellia
blooms


1803

.晴天の真昼にひとり出る哉
seiten no mahiru ni hitori izuru kana

a clear sky
at high noon...
walking out alone

Hiroshi Kobori believes that this haiku symbolically expresses "the poet's state of mind, blank and transparent. Quite a forerunner of the contemporary haiku." He adds that Issa felt no need for a season word, focusing instead on expressing "his spiritual landscape."

1804

.元日の寝聳る程は曇る也
ganjitsu no nesoberu hodo wa kumoru nari

on New Year's Day
tall as a sleeping man...
the clouds

Shinji Ogawa explains that the phrase, nesoberu hodo wa, means "as much as a lying down person."

1804

.正月やよ所に咲ても梅の花
shôgatsu ya yoso ni saite mo ume no hana

First Month--
the plum trees blooming
elsewhere


1804

.又土になりそこなうて花の春
mata tsuchi ni narisokonaute hana no haru

once again
I've managed not to die...
blossoming spring

Shinji Ogawa explains that tsuchi ni narisokonaute ("I failed to become mud") is a way of saying, "I didn't die." Issa has lived through another winter. My alternate translation: "one more year/ above the ground.../ blossoming spring."

1804

.わが春は竹一本に柳哉
waga haru wa take ippon ni yanagi kana

my spring--
a bit of bamboo
and a willow sprig

Issa refers to the traditional pine-and-bamboo decoration (kadomatsu) on New Year's Day, the first day of spring in the old Japanese calendar. His own decoration is characteristically without frills: just a single stick of bamboo and a sprig of willow leaves.

1804

.春立や四十三年人の飯
haru tatsu ya shi jû san nen hito no meshi

spring begins--
forty three years
fed by strangers

Literally, the food is "rice" (meshi). In traditional Japan the first day of the year was also the first day of spring. On that day--not the birthday--a year was added to a person's age. Shinji Ogawa helped me to grasp Issa's meaning in this haiku. Literally, the poem ends, "people's rice" (hito no meshi), which I formerly translated, "human food." Shinji explained that hito in this context means "unrelated persons," and so the haiku alludes to the poet's long, bitter exile from his native village.

1804

.春立やよしのはおろか人の顔
haru tatsu ya yoshino wa oroka hito no kao

spring begins--
in Yoshino the faces
of fools

Yoshino is a famous place for viewing the cherry blossoms.

1804

.中々にかざらぬ松の初日哉
naka-naka ni kazaranu matsu no hatsu hi kana

without a shred
of pine decoration...
the year's first dawn

Issa is perversely proud of the fact that he hasn't put up, at his house, the traditional New Year's pine-and-bamboo decoration.

1804

.上段の代の初日哉旅の家
jôdan no yo no hatsu hi kana tabi no ie

I greet the year's first dawn
in the top bunk...
inn

Jôdan can mean a dais, the raised part of a floor, or an upper berth. Issa means the latter in this haiku.

1804

.上段の代の先あふ初日哉
jôdan no yo no mazu au hatsu hi kana

in the top bunk
I'm first to greet it...
year's first dawn

Jôdan can mean a dais, the raised part of a floor, or an upper berth. Issa means the latter in this haiku.

1804

.粥杖に撰らるる枝か小しほ山
kayuzue ni eraruru eda ga oshio yama

choosing a branch
for her "pregnancy stick"...
Mount Oshio

On the 15th day of First Month, wood was whittled into a special cane that was used to strike childless women. It was believed that this ritual would result in the birth of a male child that year; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 410.

1804

.やぶ入の先に立けりしきみ桶
yabuiri no saki ni tachi keri shikimi oke

the homecoming servant
stands in front
visiting graves

Literally, Issa ends this haiku with the phrase, shikimi oke: a bucket filled with sacred shikimi wood. The branches of the shikimi ("star-aniseed") tree are placed on Buddhist graves. After New Year's (First Month, 16th Day), servants in the cities were given time off to return to their native villages and families. In this haiku, I picture a servant returning home to find that one or both of his parents have died while he was away. Shinji Ogawa, however, believes that there isn't sufficient evidence in the haiku to assume a parent's death.

1804

.やぶ入やきのふ過たる山神楽
yabuiri ya kinou sugitaru yama kagura

homecoming servant--
Shinto dances on the mountain
ended yesterday

After New Year's (First Month, 16th Day), servants in the cities were given time off to return to their native villages and families. The dances in question are sacred Shinto dances (kagura). The servant in this haiku arrives home a day late.

1804

.やぶ入や先つつかなき墓の松
yabuiri ya mazu tsutsuganaki haka no matsu

homecoming servant--
the graveyard's pine
safe and sound

Or: "graveyard's pines." I prefer to picture one particular pine tree that is shading a particular grave a servant is visiting. After New Year's (First Month, 16th Day), servants in the cities were given time off to return to their native villages and families. In this haiku, the servant's parent(s) may be dead, but there is something comforting and reassuring about the same pine tree, another year alive and well.

1804

.薮入よ君が代歌へ麦の雨
yabuiri yo kimi ga yo utae mugi no ame

Servants' Holiday!
sing "Great Japan"
rain on the wheat field

"Great Japan" is my translation of kimi ga yo, a phrase that refers to the emperor's reign and begins the Japanese national anthem. Issa would have known the lyrics, though not the current melody which came after his time. After New Year's (First Month, 16th Day), servants in the cities were given time off to return to their native villages and families. Mugi is a generic term that refers to several grains: wheat, barley, oats, and rye.

1804

.榎迄引抜れたる子の日哉
enoki made hiki-nukeretaru ne [no] hi kana

even a nettle tree
is uprooted...
first day of Rat

Pulling up a young pine tree on the first day of the Year of the Rat is a custom that originated in China. This haiku was written in Second Month of 1804, which indeed was a Year of the Rat. Shinji Ogawa explains that its purpose was to bring good luck or longevity. Here, instead of a pine, someone indiscriminantly uproots a young nettle tree.

1804

.月見よと引残されし小松哉
tsukimi yo to hiki-nokosareshi ko matsu kana

yanking up trees
he saves one for moon gazing...
little pine

Pulling up a young pine tree on the first day of the Year of the Rat is a custom that originated in China. Shinji Ogawa explains that its purpose was to bring good luck or longevity. Here, as Shinji explains, one tree is spared. One day, it will grow tall and become part of an ideal moon-gazing scene.

1804

.門の松おろしや夷の魂消べし
kado no matsu oroshi ya ebisu no tamage-beshi

down comes my New Year's pine--
let the God of Wealth
be shocked!

The traditional pine-and-bamboo decoration ensures prosperity for the new year. Issa takes it down, imagining how shocking this must be to the god of wealth (ebisu).

1804

.住の江ものべつけにして門の松
sumi no e mo nobetsuke ni shite kado no matsu

a Sumiyoshi shrine charm
attached too...
gate's pine decoration

Shinji Ogawa translates sumi no e as "a charm of Sumiyoshi Shrine."

1804

.ちる雪に立合せけり門の松
chiru yuki ni tachiawase keri kado no matsu

keeping the falling
snow company...
New Year's pine

This haiku refers to the traditional New Year's pine-and-bamboo decoration on the gate.

1804

.万歳のまかり出たよ親子連
manzai no makari ideta yo oyako-zure

the begging actors
pay a visit...
parents and children

This haiku refers to begging actors who make their rounds during the New Year's season performing a traditional style of stand-up comedy.

1804

.七草を敲き直すや昼時分
nanakusa wo tataki naosu ya hiru jibun

the pounding
of the seven herbs resumes...
noontime

The seven herbs of health (nanakusa) were eaten at New Year's. This haiku refers to the sound of the herbs being pounded into a gruel.

1804

.あらためて鶴もおりるか初わかな
aratamete tsuru mo oriru ka hatsu wakana

are you coming down
crane, to see?
picking herbs

Wakana (young greens or herbs) are picked on the sixth day of First Month--a traditional New Year's observance.

1804

.こてこてと鍋かけし若菜哉
kote-kote to nabe kakeshi wakana kana

the kettle's lid
rattle, rattle...
New Year's herbs

This haiku has an unusual structure of 5-5-5 on ("sound units"). Wakana (young greens or herbs) are picked on the sixth day of First Month--a traditional New Year's observance. Shinji Ogawa assisted with this translation by pointing out that kote-kote may mean koto-koto: an onomatopoetic expression for the "rattling sounds made by a wooden lid when a kettle is on the boil."

1804

.あの藪に人の住めばぞ薺打
ano yabu ni hito no sumeba zo nazuna utsu

in every thicket
where people live...
pounding New Year's herbs

Nazuna (shepherd's purse) is one of the seven herbs of health that are eaten in a gruel on the seventh day of First Month, Mankind's Day.

1804

.親里へ水は流るる春辺哉
oya-zato e mizu wa nagaruru harube kana

to my home village
the water flows...
springtime

This is a homesick haiku written while Issa was living in Edo (today's Tokyo), far from his "parental village" (oya-zato).

Makoto Ueda speculates that Issa came upon a stream that was flowing in a northwesterly direction: toward his native village in the mountains. Of course, since water can't flow uphill, there's a bit of humor in the haiku to balance the nostalgia; Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 56.

1804

.長閑さや去年の枕はどの木の根
nodokasa ya kozo no makura wa dono ki [no] ne

spring peace--
last year which tree root
was my pillow?

Now that spring has returned, Issa is ready for a delicious nap.

1804

.春の日や水さへあれば暮残り
haru no hi ya mizu sae areba kure nokori

the spring day's
remnants...
only in the water

According to Jean Cholley, Issa wrote this haiku in Katsushikano, a neighborhood of today's Tokyo known as Katsushika. It was one of the poet's favorite walking places, with plenty of ponds and streams. At dusk, even though the sky was already dark, glimmers of twilight lingered on the surfaces of water; En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 235, n. 25.

1804

.春の夜や瓢なでても人の来る
haru no yo ya fukube nadete mo hito no kuru

spring evening--
he comes out to pet
the gourd

Is the proud gardener Issa?

1804

.川見ゆる木の間の窓や春の雨
kawa miyuru ko no ma no mado ya haru no ame

watching the river
through a window of trees...
spring rain falls

Sakuo Nakamura assisted with this translation.

1804

.酒ありと壁に張りけり春の雨
sake ari to kabe ni hari keri haru no ame

"Sake for sale"
a sign on a wall...
spring rain

A slice-of-life image. Shinji Ogawa explains that sake ari ("sake is here") is a statement on a sign that has been pasted (hari keri) on a wall.

1804

.春雨で恋しがらるる榎哉
harusame de koishigararuru enoki kana

because of spring rain
the dear nettle tree
is missed

According to Shinji Ogawa, harusame de signifies "due to the spring rain," and koishigararuru enoki denotes a "nostalgically beloved nettle tree," in other words, a nettle tree that is no longer here. Is Issa implying that he cut down the tree but regrets it, now that he needs a rain shelter?

1804

.春雨になれて灯とぼる薮の家
harusame ni narete hi toboru yabu no ie

becoming inured
to spring's rain...
lamp-lit house in the trees

Shinji Ogawa offers this translation:

Getting used to
the spring rain,
The house in the woods is lighted.

1804

.春雨の中に立たる榎哉
harusame no naka ni tachitaru enoki kana

standing tall
in the spring rain...
nettle tree


1804

.春雨やけぶりの脇は妹が門
harusame ya keburi no waki wa imo ga kado

spring rain--
at the edge of the spray
my dear one's gate

In my first translation, I rendered keburi literally as "smoke," but this word can also signify a type of mist or spray. I think the latter word captures Issa's image. Imo ("sister") is a literary word for "dear one"--an intimate term that a man uses to refer to his beloved; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 454.

1804

.春雨や雀口明く膳の先
harusame ya suzume kuchi aku zen no saki

spring rain--
a sparrow begs
by my dinner tray

The sparrow opens its mouth; one assumes it is begging for a handout. Shinji Ogawa explains that a zen (dining tray) is about one foot by one foot with five-inch legs.

1804

.春雨や火もおもしろきなべの尻
harusame ya hi mo omoshiroki nabe no shiri

spring rain--
a delightful fire
under the kettle


1804

.昼過の浦のけぶりや春の雨
hiru sugi no ura no keburi ya haru no ame

steam on the bay
past midday...
spring rain


1804

.ほうろくをかぶつて行や春の雨
hôroku wo kabutte yuku ya haru [no] ame

walking along
a baking pan on his head...
spring rain

Or: "her head." One of the most important aspects of haiku is that much is left ambiguous, unspoken, undefined. Ludmila Balabanova writes, "Haiku isn't a perception shared by the author, but an invitation to the reader to achieve his own enlightenment" (World Haiku Association speech, Tenri Japan, October 2003). Is the person walking along a child? An adult? Issa? I prefer to picture a child, but this choice is left to each reader to decide. Whoever we imagine, the makeshift umbrella-hat raises a smile. The delight of seeing a baking pan in this unexpected place, worn as a hat, is justification enough for the poem--a sketch from life that isn't straining to reveal deeper meaning. The image is simple, but the feeling it evokes, one of springtime joy, resonates in our hearts. Raindrops patter on the pan; the person under it--child, man, woman or Issa--strides forward unabashed.

1804

.山の鐘も一ッひびけ春の雨
yama no kane mo hitotsu hibike haru no ame

clang once more
mountain temple bell!
spring rain

Literally, it is a "mountain bell" (yama kane), but Issa's readers Japanese readers understand that this refers to the bell of a Buddhist temple. Originally, I had the bell "ring," but Shinji Ogawa advises, "A Japanese mountain bell (or temple bell) is so huge that it rather peals than rings." I then changed it to "clang"--a stronger, louder sound, though the temple bells that I heard in Japan sounded more like BONGGGGGGGgggggg!

1804

.我松もかたじけなさや春の雨
waga matsu mo katajikenasa ya haru no ame

my pine tree too
is grateful...
spring rain


1804

.小盥の貫すは青し春の風
ko-darai no nukisu wa aoshi haru no kaze

the little tub's
braided bamboo is green...
spring breeze

Nukisu is a mat of woven bamboo used in hand-washing. Shinji Ogawa explains that the greenness of the bamboo means it is a newly-made screen. "When the bamboo is fresh, it carries a green color, and the color changes to yellow after a month or so."

1804

.春風の吹かぬ草なし田舎飴
haru kaze no fukanu kusa nashi inaka ame

not a blade of grass
untouched by the spring breeze...
country jelly

An odd juxtaposition.

1804

.春風や黄金花咲むつの山
harukaze ya kogane hana saku mutsu no yama

spring breeze--
golden flowers in bloom
on Mount Mutsu


1804

.松苗も肩過にけり春の風
matsu nae mo kata sugi ni keri haru no kaze

the pine saplings
over shoulder-high...
spring breeze


1804

.霞み行や二親持し小すげ笠
kasumi yuku ya futa oya mochishi ko suge-gasa

walking in mist
in a little sedge hat
with both parents

Or: "with her parents." The child is wearing a little sedge umbrella-hat (ko suge-gasa).

Shinji Ogawa notes that the phrase, "walking into the mist" (kasumi yuku) shows "the time progression during which Issa was watching them enviously."

Perhaps. Or, perhaps, Issa is simply happy for the lucky little child who, unlike himself, is no orphan?

1804

.陽炎によしある人の素足哉
kagerô ni yoshi aru hito no suashi kana

in heat shimmers
the holy man's
bare feet

The subject of the haiku is a "good person" (yoshi aru hito); I think that by this Issa might mean a Buddhist arhat.

"Heat shimmers" are the wavy bends in the air that one sometimes sees in the distance on a warm day--a phenomenon associated with springtime in Japan.

1804

.雪汁のかかる地びたに和尚顔
yuki-jiru no kakaru jibita ni oshôgao

splashed with slush
close to the ground...
a monk's face

In a prose passage of his journal preceding this haiku, Issa declares that he felt pity to see a monk chained to a pillory near Nihonbashi bridge in Edo. Passersby, walking through the slush, splashed his face. Jean Cholley notes that the monk was being punished for seducing a member of the congregation: chained in a kneeling position, hands behind his back, head nearly touching the ground; En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 236, n. 29.

1804

.かくれ家も人に酔けり春の山
kakurega mo hito ni yoi keri haru no yama

secluded house--
even here, crowd-sick
spring mountain

Originally, I thought that someone was getting drunk in this haiku, but Shinji Ogawa set me straight. The phrase hito ni yoi keri, he explains, means "felt sick from the jostling of a crowd" or "got sick from overcrowding." Is Issa suggesting, then, that he has too many house guests--perhaps fellow poets who have come to enjoy his spring mountain?

1804

.老僧のけばけばしさよ春の山
rôsô no kebakebashisa yo haru no yama

the old priest
in his fancy clothes...
spring mountain


1804

.髪虱ひねる戸口も春野哉
kami-jirami hineru toguchi mo haru no kana

pinching head lice
in a doorway...
spring fields


1804

.苔桃も節句に逢ふや赤い花
kokemomo mo sekku ni au ya akai hana

kokemomo berries too
at the festival...
red flowers

At first I read the first two characters as two words: koke ("mushrooms") and momo ("peaches"). Shinji Ogawa explains that this is actually one word, signifying a type of plant that produces red berries.

1804

.かつしかや昔のままの雛哉
katsushika ya mukashi no mama no hiina kana

in Katsushika
like olden times, unchanged...
Doll Festival

The Doll Festival takes place on the third day of Third Month. Katsushika is an area of land east of Sumida River--a riverside suburb of Edo (today's Tokyo); see Maruyama Kazuhiko, Issa haiku shû (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1990; rpt. 1993) 33, note 109.

1804

.女から先へかすむぞ汐干がた
onna kara saki e kasumu zo shiohigata

the mist covers up
the women first...
shell gathering

Or: "woman." Shinji Ogawa interpets the poem to be saying that the mist is moving in, covering the women who are gathering shells. There's a hint of annoyance in the poem, since the mist is depriving Issa of a fine view of the women's legs. Shinji writes, "In Issa's day, it was a very special occasion to see a woman's legs."

William J. Higginson (assisted by Emiko Sakurai) interprets the haiku differently: a woman "leads into the mist"; The Haiku Handbook: How to Write, Share, and Teach Haiku (Tokyo: Kodansha International,1985) 18. In Higginson's vision, the woman is moving; in Ogawa's vision, the mist is moving.

1804

.淋しさや汐の干る日も角田河
sabishisa ya shio no hiru hi mo sumida-gawa

solitude--
even on a low tide day
Sumida River

Sumida River flows through Edo (today's Tokyo) and into Tokyo Bay. Its level is affected by the tides.

1804

.汐干潟雨しとしとと暮かかる
shiohi-gata ame shito-shito to kure kakaru

low tide
in a soft, soft rain...
darkness coming

The season word ("tideland at low tide": shiohi-gata) suggests that there are people in the scene, hunched over, searching for shellfish. The day is growing dark, and rain is falling. Issa evokes a slice of life, with a world of feeling and implications, with a few deft strokes of his writing brush.

1804

.汐干潟女のざいに遠走り
shiohi-gata onna no zai ni toppashiri

low tide--
to my woman's house
a long way to go

In modern Japanese, toppashiri means "long-distance flight."

Shinji Ogawa explains that zai in this haiku means "a place." He paraphrases: "low tide.../ to my lover's house/ long run."

1804

.汐干潟しかも霞むは女也
shiohi-gata shikamo kasumu wa onna nari

low tide--
the mist wrecks my view
of the women

Or: "the woman." The women (or woman) are gathering shellfish at low tide. As Shinji Ogawa explains, shikamo in this context means, "why on earth" or "oh well." Issa doesn't like the spring mist that obscures his view, interfering with his girl-watching.

1804

.汐干潟松がなくても淋しいぞ
shiohi-gata matsu ga nakute mo sabishii zo

low tide
without pine trees...
lonelier still


1804

.住吉や汐干過ても松の月
sumiyoshi ya shiohi sugite mo matsu no tsuki

at Sumiyoshi
all through the low tide...
moon in the pine

Sumiyoshi is a Shinto shrine in Osaka. Shinji Ogawa notes that sugiru has two meanings: "to pass through a space" and "to pass through time." He believes that the latter applies better in this case: that the moon is still above the pine after the low tide.

1804

.折角の汐の干潟をざんざ雨
sekkaku no shio no hi-gata wo zanza ame

waited so long
for the low tide...
a driving rain

Zanza is an old word that describes an energetic and swift action; see Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 735. And Shinji Ogawa notes that sekkaku no can mean "special" or "long-awaited." The latter makes better sense in this case. People have waited patiently and long for the low tide and the opportunity to collect shellfish, but now a hard rain is falling.

1804

.鶏のなく家も見へたる汐干哉
tori no naku ie mo mietaru shioi kana

a house
with a rooster crowing...
low tide


1804

.降雨や汐干も終に暮の鐘
furu ame ya shiohi mo tsui ni kure no kane

rain falling--
for the low tide gatherers at last
the sunset bell

Originally, I suspected that tsui meant "carelessly" or "thoughtlessly"; see Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1074. However, Shinji Ogawa notes that in this context tsui ni means "at last." And though Issa only mentions the low tide, he implies a group of sea shell hunters who have been working hard all day, gathering shells. The sunset bell is a relief and a blessing.

1804

.御寺から直に行るる汐干哉
mi-tera kara sugu ni yukaruru shioi kana

from the temple
easy access...
shell gathering

Shinji Ogawa corrected my translation of this haiku. Here's his paraphrase of Issa's original: "From the temple, we can in a short period reach (the sea) for shell gathering at low tide."

1804

.鳥の巣を見し辺りぞや山を焼
tori no su wo mishi atari zo ya yama wo yaku

where I've seen
birds nesting...
they burn the mountain

Fires are set in the mountains to clear away dead brush and prepare the fields for tilling.

1804

.巣の鳥の口明く方や暮の鐘
su no tori no kuchi aku hô ya kure no kane

toward the open mouth
of the nesting bird...
the sunset bell tolls

Issa is referring to the bell of a Buddhist temple.

1804

.つつがなき鳥の巣祝へあみだ坊
tsutsuganaki tori no su iwae amida-bô

pray good health
for the nesting bird!
Amida's priest

Amida Buddha is the Buddha most revered in the Pure Land Buddhism that Issa followed. "Amida's priest" (amida-bô) might be "Priest Issa."

1804

.鳥の巣のありありみゆる榎哉
tori no su no ariari miyuru enoki kana

the bird nest
in plain sight for all to see...
nettle tree


1804

.鳥の巣や翌は切らるる門の松
tori no su ya asu wa kiraruru kado no matsu

bird's nest--
tomorrow the pine by the gate
will be cut down

The bird builds its nest without Issa's knowledge of tomorrow. An image of Buddhist mujô: impermanence.

1804

.子雀は千代千代千代と鳴にけり
ko suzume wa chiyo chiyo [chiyo] to naki ni keri

the baby sparrow
cheep! cheep! cheep!
he cries

Or: "baby sparrows...they cry." Literally, the sparrow(s) chirps, "A thousand years!"--a phrase with patriotic connotations in reference to the Emperor's reign. Issa imagines that he hears this phrase in the cheeping (chiyo chiyo). Such a chant would normally be heard on New Year's Day. So, even though he wrote it on the last day of Third Month, Issa presents the haiku as a New Year's scene. As further proof of this, he prefaces it with the head note, "Congratulations."

1804

.雀子も梅に口明く念仏哉
suzumego mo ume ni kuchi aku nebutsu kana

sparrow babies
in plum blossoms
praise Buddha!

This haiku refers to the nembutsu ("Namu Amida Butsu"--"All Praise to Amida Buddha"), a prayer of thanksgiving for, and praise of, Amida Buddha's liberating power. Eons ago, Amida promised that all who rely on his liberating power will be reborn in the Pure Land (the Western Paradise).

1804

.鶯ももどりがけかよおれが窓
uguisu mo modori-gake ka yo ore ga mado

nightingale
are you also returning?
my window


1804

.鶯よこちむけやらん赤の飯
uguisu yo kochi muke yaran aka no meshi

hey nightingale
turn this way!
red beans and rice


1804

.窓あれば下手鶯も来たりけり
mado areba heta uguisu mo kitari keri

to every window
an off-key nightingale
comes too

Issa doesn't specify that they are his windows, though this might be inferred. Literally, he says "where there's a window" or "if there's a window" (mado areba) a poor-singing nightingale (i.e, its song) also comes.

1804

.痩藪の下手鶯もはつ音哉
yase yabu no heta uguisu mo hatsu ne kana

in a sparse thicket
an off-key nightingale too...
first song


1804

.片山は雨のふりけり鳴雲雀
kata yama wa ame no furi keri naku hibari

on the mountain
rain falling
lark singing


1804

.住吉に灯のとぼりけり鳴雲雀
sumiyoshi ni hi no tobori keri naku hibari

at Sumiyoshi
lamps are burning
larks are singing

Or: "a lark is singing." Sumiyoshi is a Shinto shrine in Osaka.

1804

.鳴雲雀人の顔から日の暮るる
naku hibari hito no kao kara hi no kururu

a skylark sings--
a man facing
sunset

Or: "a woman."

1804

.鳴雲雀貧乏村のどこが果
naku hibari bimbô mura no doko ga hate

singing skylark
where is this poor village's
border?

Issa seems to be requesting aerial reconnaissance.

1804

.野大根も花咲にけり鳴雲雀
no daiko mo hana saki ni keri naku hibari

even the field's
radishes are blooming...
the lark singing!


1804

.雲雀鳴通りに見ゆる大和哉
hibari naku tôri ni miyuru yamato kana

the lark sings
as it flies along...
Great Japan!

Yamato is the ancient name for Japan. Because of its patriotic overtones, I have translated it "Great Japan!"

1804

.故郷の見へなくなりて鳴雲雀
furusato no mienaku narite naku hibari

my home village
no longer in sight...
singing lark

The village is out of sight, but to whom? In his translation, Lewis Mackenzie implies that the village is out of sight to Issa, but he can still hear the lark there; The Autumn Wind: A Selection from the Poems of Issa (London: John Murray, 1957; rpt. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1984) 55.

Shinji Ogawa lists four ways to picture this haiku: (1) Issa's home village is out of sight to Issa. Issa hears the skylarks that are plentiful in his village, reminding him of it. (2) After his home village is out of sight, Issa notices the singing lark. (3) The singing lark flies high, trying but no longer able to see its home village. (4) Issa's home village is no longer in sight to Issa. But from the vantage point of the singing lark, Issa's village may be visible. Shinji comments, "Due to the short form, ambiguity is one of haiku's properties. In my opinion, haiku poets should minimize ambiguity. Implication and ambiguity are two different things."

R. J. writes, "Perhaps Issa sees his new situation in its enormity at once with its perils, yet with its obverse coming into focus he can't help but sing."

The same year (1804) Issa writes:

oya no ie mienaku narinu natsu [no] yama

my parents' house
no longer in sight...
summer mountain

1804

.夕急ぐ干潟の人や鳴雲雀
yû isogu higata no hito ya naku hibari

evening rushes in--
someone on the tideland
a lark singing

The person in the scene is most likely gathering shellfish at low tide.

1804

.夕雲雀野辺のけぶりに倦るるな
yû hibari nobe no keburi ni akaruru na

evening lark
don't let the field's smoke
annoy you

More literally, Issa is asking the lark not to let the smoke from the brushfires to "bore" or "tire" the bird.

1804

.雷に鳴あはせたる雉哉
kaminari ni naki awasetaru kigisu kana

mingling
with the thunder--
a pheasant's cry


1804

.雉なくや千島のおくも仏世界
kiji naku ya chishima no oku mo butsu sekai

a pigeon cries--
even deep in the Thousand Islands
it's Buddha's world

Literally the "Thousand Islands," Chishima refers to the Kurile Islands.

1804

.朝雨を祝ふてかへれ小田の雁
asa ame wo iwaute kaere oda no kari

celebrate the morning rain
then off you go!
rice field geese

Shinji Ogawa points out that kaere in this context can be translated as "return" or "leave" (command). Since this is a spring haiku, the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands). However, before they depart, Issa recommends that they celebrate the morning rain--as he does, in the haiku.

1804

.跡立は雨に逢ひけりかへる雁
atodachi wa ame ni ai keri kaeru kari

the last in line
hits the rain...
departing geese

Atodachi is an old word referring to the last one in a procession, parade, or queue; see Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 47.

This is a spring haiku; the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands).

1804

.かへる雁翌はいづくの月や見る
kaeru kari asu wa izuku no tsuki ya miru

departing geese
where will you moon-gaze
tomorrow?

This is a spring haiku; the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands).

1804

.立雁のぢろぢろみるや人の顔
tachi kari no jiro-jiro miru ya hito no kao

the departing goose
stares the man
in the face

Shinji Ogawa comments, "It may be 'geese' instead of 'goose' because it is unrealistic to establish a one-to-one relationship with a wild goose in most circumstances."

The expression jiro-jiro miru connotes the idea of sizing up someone or something. This comic haiku shows a goose (geese?) staring boldly at a person (most likely Issa), appraising him coldly.

The editors of Issa's collected works suggest a reading of tachi kari for the first two kanji of this haiku; Issa zenshû (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 1.151. Shinji Ogawa asserts that tatsu kari is "more natural in Japanese pronunciation."

1804

.田の雁のかへるつもりか帰らぬか
ta no kari no kaeru tsumori ka kaeranu ka

are the rice field's geese
planning to fly north?
planning not to?

This is a spring haiku; the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands).

1804

.田の人の笠に糞してかへる雁
ta no hito no kasa ni hako shite kaeru kari

pooping on the farmer's
umbrella-hat
the goose departs

This is a spring haiku; the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands).

1804

.はげ山も見知ておけよかへる雁
hage yama mo mishirite oke yo kaeru kari

the bald mountain, too
memorize by sight!
geese flying north

Hageyama literally means, "bald mountain." French translator Jean Cholley chooses to visualize several bald mountains in the scene; En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 53.

1804

.一ッでも鳴て行也かへる雁
hitotsu demo naite yuku nari kaeru kari

just one
but he goes honking...
departing goose

This is a spring haiku; the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands).

1804

.行雁に呑せてやらん京の水
yuku kari ni nomasete yaran kyô no mizu

geese taking off
have a drink on me...
Kyoto's water

Kyoto was Japan's capital in Issa's time. Shinji Ogawa paraphrases: "I'll give the flying-north geese a drink of Kyoto's water."

1804

.行雁やきのふは見へぬ小田の水
yuku kari ya kinou wa mienu oda no mizu

traveling geese--
those rice fields weren't flooded
yesterday

Shinji Ogawa paraphrases: "Geese are flying north. I didn't see the water in rice fields yesterday." Japanese rice fields are dry until planting time. Issa is suggesting that today the fields are being flooded so that rice can be planted. Though Shinji sees the seeing as Issa's action ("I didn't see the water"), I think it might be possible that the poet is imagining the aerial perspective of the geese, as they look down at the land and comment on its changes.

1804

.行な雁廿日も居れば是古郷
yuku na kari hatsuka [mo] ireba kore kokyô

don't go geese!
after twenty days
this is your home

Shinji Ogawa corrected my way-off-the-mark translation of this haiku by providing this paraphrase: "don't leave geese!/ having stayed for more than twenty days/ it's your hometown now."

1804

.我恋はさらしな山ぞかへる雁
waga koi wa sarashina yama zo kaeru kari

"My love
is at Mount Sarashina!"
the goose departs

Or: "geese fly north."

I assume that this statement is being made by the goose (or geese), not Issa, hence the quotation marks. Issa wrote this haiku the previous year (1803):

ichi do mitaki sarashina yama ya kaeru kari

all eager to see
Mount Sarashina...
departing geese

This is a spring haiku; the wild geese are leaving Japan (i.e., returning to northern lands). Mount Sarashina is another name for Ubasute or Obasute: a mountain in Issa's home province of Shinano (today's Nagano Prefecture) where old people were, according to legend, "thrown away": left to die. Today it is called Kamurikiyama.

1804

.油火のうつくしき夜やなく蛙
aburabi no utsukushiki yo ya naku kawazu

a lovely night lit
with oil lamps...
croaking frogs


1804

.蛙なくや始て寝たる人の家
kawazu naku ya hajimete netaru hito no ie

croaking frogs--
my first night
visiting this house

Shinji Ogawa explains that this is Issa's "first sleep" at a house he is visiting. Perhaps the raucous frogs are keeping him up?

1804

.鍋ずみを目口に入てなく蛙
nabe-zumi wo meguchi ni irete naku kawazu

the kettle's soot
in his mouth and eyes...
croaking frog

Is the frog annoyed by this human-made pollution?

1804

.初蛙梢の雫又おちよ
hatsu kawazu kozue no shizuku mata ochi yo

spring's first frog--
another drop falls
from the twig

I believe that the water drops are falling onto the frog's head. Is he perturbed? Astonished? Accepting the drops with Buddhist equanimity? The reader must decide.

1804

.あたふたに蝶の出る日や金の番
atafuta ni chô no deru hi ya kane no ban

on a hurry-scurry
butterfly day
guarding the money

A study in contrasts: butterflies bustling here and there while a person watches over his (or more likely, his master's or employer's) money.

1804

.今上げし小溝の泥やとぶ小蝶
ima ageshi ko mizo no doro ya tobu ko chô

fresh-scooped mud
from the little ditch...
a little flitting butterfly

The connection between the mud and the butterfly is obscure to me. Shinji Ogawa explains that ima ageshi signifies, "newly scooped up."

Gil Rognstad writes, "It seems to me that a child might scoop mud from a little ditch, and flit about playing as well. Perhaps Issa is watching the child at play. It seems less likely to me that the poet or another adult scooped mud out of a little ditch (for what reason?) and then noticed a literal butterfly fluttering by. But who knows...?"

Gil's comment makes me wonder if Issa might not be the mud-scooping person in the scene--playing like a child. Or, as Gil suggests, the scooper could be a real child. Issa leaves a lot to the reader's imagination here, to connect the dots.

In 1819 Issa writes:

mugura kara an[na] ko chô ga umare keri

from the weeds
that little butterfly
is born!

I wonder if, in the present haiku, Issa might be suggesting that the mud has given birth to the butterfly? The butterfly is depicted in other haiku as a creature made of dust.

1804

.うそうそと雨降中を春のてふ
uso-uso to ame furu naka wo haru no chô

nervously
through the raindrops...
spring butterfly

Uso-uso can mean "uneasily" or "full of anxiety"; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 196.
Michael Hebert writes, "Unease or anxiety is an 'unskillful' mental state in Buddhist thought. In the past scholars translated dhukka as suffering, as in the Four Noble Truths: 1. Life is suffering. I have read modern scholars who note that the word dhukka is based on a root word that means a wheel out of balance, and infer that instead of suffering, something more akin to unease, unsatisfactoriness is a better understanding of the meaing of the word. Perhaps Issa is empathizing with the anxious butterfly, knowing that he too, is anxious?"

1804

.川縁や蝶を寝さする鍋の尻
kawaberi ya chô wo nesasuru nabe no shiri

riverbank--
the butterfly's bed
a kettle's bottom

The kettle has been washed and left upside-down to dry.

1804

.手のとどく山の入日や春の蝶
te no todoku yama no irihi ya haru no chô

the mountain sunset
within my grasp...
spring butterfly

Or: "spring butterflies." French translator Jean Cholley chooses the plural here; En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 55.

1804

.通り抜ゆるす寺也春のてふ
tôrinuke yurusu tera nari haru no chô

a shortcut through
the temple with permission...
spring butterfly


1804

.とぶ蝶や溜り水さへ春のもの
tobu chô ya tamari mizu sae haru no mono

flitting butterfly
even stagnant water
a spring thing


1804

.初蝶のいきおひ猛に見ゆる哉
hatsu chô no ikioi mou ni miyuru kana

the year's first
butterfly
full of swagger

Hiroshi Kobori offers this translation:

a butterfly
this year's first--
straight, bold

In his translation Lucien Stryk renders the key phrase, "Moment of/ fierceness"; The Dumpling Field: Haiku of Issa (Athens Ohio: Swallow Press, 1991) 17.

1804

.吹やられ吹やられたる小てふ哉
fuki yarare fuki yararetaru ko chô kana

blowing along
blowing along...
a little butterfly


1804

.又窓へ吹もどさるる小てふ哉
mata mado e fuki-modosaruru ko chô kana

blown to the window
again
little butterfly


1804

.湖の駕から見へて春の蝶
mizuumi no kago kara miete haru no chô

from a palanquin
at the lake, watching
spring butterflies

Some noble personage sits in the palanquin, enjoying the spring scene.

1804

.目の砂をこする握に小てふ哉
me no suna wo kosuru kobushi ni ko chô kana

rubbing sand from his eyes
in my hand...
little butterfly

Literally, the butterfly is in his "fist" (kobushi), but since Issa can see the butterfly in it rubbing its eyes, his fist isn't closed. I picture his hand cupped open.

1804

.行人のうしろ見よとや風のてふ
yuku hito no ushiro mi yo to ya kaze no chô

to the man walking
"Look behind you!"
windblown butterfly

I imagine that the butterfly is calling to the man, hence the quotation marks.

1804

.よしずあむ槌にもなれし小てふ哉
yoshizu amu tsuchi ni mo nareshi ko chô kana

getting used to
the screen weaver's hammer...
little butterfly

The weaver is braiding reed screens.

1804

.女衆に追ぬかれけり菫原
onna shu ni oinukare keri sumire-bara

a group of women
overtake me...
field of violets

Do the women pass Issa because he has slowed down to look at the violets? Or, are they rushing past him to pick the violets? The reader must decide.

1804

.菫咲門や夜さへなつかしき
sumire saku kado ya yoru sae natsukashiki

violets on the gate--
even at night
sweet nostalgia

Natsukashiki has no exact English equivalent. It usually connotes the feeling of something dear or fondly remembered--a sort of sweet nostalgia.

1804

.花菫便ない草もほじらるる
hana sumire bin nai kusa mo hojiraruru

blooming violets--
some worthless grass
dug up too


1804

.我前に誰々住し菫ぞも
waga mae ni dare dare sumishi sumire zo mo

before me
who also lived here
with these violets?

Issa composed this haiku on the 17th day of First Month, 1804, a rainy day, according to his journal. He was living at the time in Edo, today's Tokyo. The violets endure while human generations come and go. Issa wonders about the previous tenants of his rented house; did they, too, gaze out the window on rainy days, looking at the violets? He doesn't know who they were, and they can never know him, but they share a warm connection: the flowers.

1804

.雨だれの毎日たたく椿哉
amadare no mainichi tataku tsubaki kana

clobbered every day
by raindrops from the eaves...
camellias

An amadare is an eavesdrop, where water falls from a roof's overhang.

1804

.片浦の汐よけ椿咲にけり
kata ura no shio yoke tsubaki saki ni keri

a tide wall
for the coast, camellias
blooming


1804

.赤貝を我もはかるよ梅の花
akagai wo ware mo hakaru yo ume no hana

surveying also
bloody clams...
plum blossoms

Or: "a bloody clam." Akagai, literally "red shell" or "red shellfish," refers to a "bloody clam" or "ark shell."

1804

.あれ梅といふ間に曲る小舟哉
are ume to iu ma ni magaru kobune kana

"Look! Plum blossoms!"
the little boat
turns around


1804

.家一ッあればはたして梅の花
ie hitotsu areba hatashite ume [no] hana

if there's a house
standing alone, sure enough...
plum blossoms


1804

.いたいけに梅の咲けり本道
itai-ke ni ume no saki keri hondôri

precious little plum trees
in bloom...
the main road

Itai-ke denotes something small, precious, dear (kawairashii); Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 118.

1804

.一日も我家ほしさよ梅の花
ichi-nichi mo waga ya hoshisa yo ume [no] hana

if only for a day
to have my own house!
plum blossoms

Shinji Ogawa notes that Issa at age 42 (when he wrote this haiku) was poor and could not afford to buy a house. Perhaps he is looking longingly at a house with blooming plum trees in the yard.

1804

.うしろからぼろを笑ふよ梅の花
ushiro kara boro wo warau yo ume no hana

behind me
laughter at my rags...
plum blossoms

The "me" in this haiku is implied, not stated, in Issa's original.

1804

.梅がかやどなたが来ても欠茶碗
ume ga ka ya donate ga kite mo kake chawan

plum blossom scent--
for whoever shows up
a cracked teacup

Lucien Stryk's translation is more interpretive: "guest won't mind..."; The Dumpling Field: Haiku of Issa (Athens Ohio: Swallow Press, 1991) 25.

Makoto Ueda describes this haiku as a "deprecating self-portrayal"; Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 55.

1804

.梅さくに鍋ずみとれぬ皴手哉
ume saku ni nabe-zumi torenu shiwade kana

in plum blossoms
kettle soot won't come off...
my wrinkled hands

Is Issa "ashamed" of his dirty hands amid the pure blossoms?

Cynthia writes, "The blossoms are a sign of spring, new life, rebirth. The plum blossoms, like the lilies in the Gospel, 'neither toil nor spin.' They just are. Both the wrinkled hands and the soot embedded in the wrinkles are signs of things long in use, careworn, shopworn, showing their age. A kettle with soot is no longer new, and neither is Issa."

1804

.梅咲くや木を割さへも朝げしき
ume saku ya ki wo waru sae mo asa-geshiki

plum in bloom--
even wood chopping
a morning scene

Shinji Ogawa notes the ki wo waru means "wood chopping" and not, as I first thought, a "chopped-down tree."

1804

.梅咲や去年は越後のあぶれ人
ume saku ya kozo wa echigo no abure-bito

plum blossoms--
last year's unemployed worker
from Echigo

Or: "workers." Echigo is one of the old provinces of Japan, today's Niigata Prefecture.

Shinji Ogawa notes that abure-bito signifies an unemployed person. Many farmers from Echigo Province were working in Edo, but, according to the haiku, some were unemployed.

Shinji comments: "Plum blossoms bloom much earlier than cherry blossoms so that their beauty and faint fragrance are highly appreciated as messengers of spring. In olden times, such as the seventh or eighth centuries, when a poet said "flowers" (hana), this meant mean plum blossoms, not (as in later centuries) cherry blossoms. There are many good poems and haiku regarding plum blossoms, but in Issa's days Edo haiku had become so hackneyed that we must give credit to Issa for juxtaposing an unemployed farmer to plum blossoms. I prefer to interpret the phrase 'last year's unemployed' in the sense of 'that was last year [he was unemployed], but now he is working and it's a joyful spring.'"

1804

.梅の木は咲ほこりけりかけ硯
ume no ki wa saki-hokori keri kake suzuri

plum trees bloom
in full glory...
my broken inkstone

The "my" could be omitted, since Issa doesn't specify that it's his inkstone. However, this might be inferred. What's the connection between the inkstone and the blossoms? Perhaps Issa is bemoaing the fact that the plum trees are in full bloom, the perfect topic for a haiku, but his inkstone is broken--making writing impossible. Of course, somehow, he wrote this poem!

1804

.梅の月牛の尻迄見ゆる也
ume no tsuki ushi no shiri made miyuru nari

plum blossoms, moon
and the rump
of a cow

A wonderful juxtaposition: the moon and the cow's rump. The moon in the heavens is divine; the earthly cow is mortal and smelly. One is ethereal and distant, the other palpable and near. But there's also similarity and connection: the moon and the cow's rump are both round and full; both appear alongside the plum blossoms. The scene is deliciously complex, inviting long contemplation.

Robin D. Gill wonders if perhaps the moon's reflection off the blossoms might add to its brightness, helping to illuminate even the cow's rump.

1804

.梅見ても青空見ても田舎哉
ume mite mo ao-zora mite mo inaka kana

viewing plum blossoms
viewing blue sky...
but I'm in the sticks


1804

.大原やぶらりと出ても梅の月
ôhara ya burari to dete mo ume no tsuki

also rambling
over the big field...
plum blossom moon


1804

.来るも来るも下手鶯よ窓の梅
kuru mo kuru mo heta uguisu yo mado no ume

one by one they come
off-key nightingales
to the plum blossom window

Shinji Ogawa explains that kuru mo kuru mo signifies a repeated action. One after another, the nightingales come, though Issa isn't impressed by their singing.

1804

.此当り洛陽なるか梅の月
kono atari rakuyô naru ka ume no tsuki

has this place become
old Lo-yang?
plum blossom moon

Lo-Yang was a capital of the eastern Han Dynasty in China. On the southern bank of one of the tributaries of the Yellow River, Lo-Yang was described by Tang Dynasty poets, including Li Po and Han Yu, as an ideal site for drinking, writing poetry, and enjoying the flowering landscape. Its association with poetry goes back to Zuo Si, a poet of Lo-yang whose work was so widely copied, there is an old Chinese expression, "Paper is expensive in Lo-yang" (Lo-yang zhi gui)--implying that the demand for paper on which to copy Zuo Si's poetry had driven up its price in that city. In his haiku, Issa admires the scene of plum blossoms and moon so much, he wonders if old Lo-yang has magically appeared in the here and now.

1804

.咲日から梅にさわるや馬の首
saku hi kara ume ni sawaru ya uma no kubi

after blooming
the plum tree a scratching post...
horse's head

Or: "horse's neck." Kubi signifies both neck and head. Shinji Ogawa comments, "The humor of this haiku is that no one noticed the horse scratch with the plum branch until the blooming."

1804

.袖すれば祟る杉ぞよ梅の花
sode sureba tataru sugi zo yo ume [no] hana

the damn cedars
ripping sleeves!
plum trees in bloom

Shinji Ogawa explains that sode sureba means "if the sleeve rubs" or "if the sleeve touches."

If one's sleeve rubs against the rough bark of a cedar tree, the tree will "bite it off." Issa presents a tale of two trees: sleeve-ripping cedars alongside gentle, blooming plum trees.

1804

.ちる梅のかかる賎しき身柱哉
chiru ume no kakaru iyashiki chirike kana

a plum blossom falls
to a low place...
scar from burning wormwood

Chirike is the name of a specific point on the body where sharp sticks of wormwood would be stuck, and burned, for healing purposes or simply to ensure good health.

1804

.膝の児の指始梅の花
hiza no ko no yubisashi hajime ume no hana

the lap-baby's
first pointing...
plum blossoms

Or: "the lap-baby/ points first..."? Either way, Issa expresses a natural and spontaneous connection between the baby and Nature's wonders. The love of beauty, love of Nature, is not taught or learned, in Issa's vision. It is simply part of being human. The baby's heart responds to the lovely blossoms without prompting. Plum blossoms, an early sign of spring, reflect the freshness and newness of the baby's own life. His or her gesture of pointing suggests the start of a lifelong love affair with Nature. One day, the child will grow up, perhaps become a haiku poet like Issa, and still, spring after spring, feel just as moved by the blossoms, just as excited.

1804

.ひたすらに咲うでもなし門の梅
hitasura ni sakô demo nashi kado [no] ume

not very devoted
to blooming...
plum tree at my gate


1804

.むづかしやだまつて居ても梅は咲
muzukashi ya damatte ite mo ume wa saku

quite a feat--
in utter silence
the plum tree blooms

Shinji Ogawa writes, "I can see the haiku in another perspective. In Japan, the speculation on the date of plum blooming as well as that of cherry blooming is always the favorite subject of daily conversation in spring. Let's suppose the following conversation among Issa and his friends.

Friend A: 'The plum by the gate would bloom in ten days or so, I figure.'
Friend B: 'I think it within seven or eight days at most.'
Friend C: 'No, It takes only six days. You can count on me. What do you think, Issa?'
Issa: 'Well...to make the matter harder to figure out, the plum would bloom even if we don't utter a word.'

esoteric
even if we kept quiet
still the plum would have bloomed."

1804

.我庵の貧乏梅の咲にけり
waga io no bimbô ume no saki ni keri

my hut's
down-and-out plum tree
has bloomed!


1804

.狙どのも赤いべえきて梅の花
saru dono mo akai bee kite ume no hana

Mister Monkey too
wears a funny face...
plum blossoms

I assume that by akaibee Issa means akambe (or akanbe or akanbee), which literally means to turn one's eyelids inside out. It denotes making a face at someone: sticking out one's tongue. The monkey seems to be answering Issa's own funny face.

1804

.白妙の僧白妙の梅の花
shirotae no sô shirotae no ume no hana

white as a monk's
whitest robe...
plum blossoms


1804

.雀らも身祝するか梅の花
suzumera mo mi-awai suru ka ume no hana

are the sparrows too
having a private party?
plum blossoms

Or: "are you sparrows too..." According to the editors of Issa zenshû, mi-awai refers to a personal celebration (isshinjô no shûgi); (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 3.511, note 3. People are scattered among the blooming plum trees, having private parties. Issa asks if the sparrows are doing the same.

1804

.咲くからに雨に逢けり花の山
saku kara ni ame ni ai keri hana no yama

soon after blooming
pelted by rain...
mountain cherry trees

"Blossoms" (hana) can denote cherry blossoms in the shorthand of haiku.

1804

.どこからの花のなぐれぞ角田川
doko kara no hana no nagure zo sumida-gawa

from where
did those blossoms float?
Sumida River

"Blossoms" (hana) can signify cherry blossoms in the shorthand of haiku. In this haiku, Issa sees cherry blossoms petals drifting down Sumida River past Edo (today's Tokyo). He wonders out loud where they might have come from.

1804

.奈良漬を丸でかじりて花の陰
narazuke wo maru de kajirite hana no kage

eating my pickle
rind and all...
blossom shade

Or: "his pickle" or "her pickle." Narazuke is a pickle seasoned in sake lees (the sediment that settles during fermentation). "Blossoms" (hana) can signify cherry blossoms in the shorthand of haiku.

Shinji Ogawa writes that maru de kajirite means "to eat something whole without slicing."

1804

.初花や山の粟飯なつかしき
hatsu hana ya yama no awameshi natsukashiki

first flowers--
boiled mountain millet
sweet nostalgia

The taste of the millet reminds Issa of his own faraway home in the mountains.

1804

.花びらの埃流にふる雨か
hanabira no hokori nagashi ni furu ame ka

are you falling
to wash dust off blossoms
rain?

"Blossoms" (hana) can signify cherry blossoms in the shorthand of haiku.

1804

.ふる雨に一人残りし花の陰
furu ame ni hitori nokorishi hana no kage

in falling rain
one man remains...
blossom shade


1804

.見かぎりし古郷の山の桜哉
mikagirishi kokyô no yama no sakura kana

the home village
I abandoned...
mountain cherry blossoms

Kashiwabara was Issa's home village that he "abandoned" until his homecoming in 1813. According to volume 1 of Issa zenshû, this haiku was written in 1803, but in volume 2 a date of 1804 is given (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79, 1.222; 2.199).

1804

.江戸衆に見枯らされたる桜哉
edo shû ni mi karasaretaru sakura kana

made to wither
by the people of Edo's eyes...
cherry blossoms

The blossoms are so sensitive and delicate, Issa imagines that the gazes of the crowd have made them dry and wither.

1804

.大川へ吹なぐられし桜哉
ôkawa e fuki nagurareshi sakura kana

blown to the big river
floating away...
cherry blossoms

"Big River" (ôkawa) commonly refers to the Sumida River in Edo (today's Tokyo) and to the Yodo River in Osaka. Issa most likely is referring to Sumida River.

1804

.大降りや桜の陰に居過して
ôburi ya sakura no kage ni i-sugoshite

heavy rain--
in cherry blossom shade
I stayed too long

Shinji Ogawa notes that i-sugosu means "stay too long." Issa's long stay in the cherry blossom's shade is the cause of his getting caught in the rain.

1804

.京人にせつちうされし桜哉
kyôbito ni setchû sareshi sakura kana

blended in
with people of Kyoto...
cherry blossoms


1804

.咲からに縄を張れし桜哉
saku kara ni nawa wo harareshi sakura kana

after blooming
they're roped off...
cherry blossoms


1804

.四五九年見ても初花ざくら哉
shi go ku nen mite mo hatsu hana-zakura kana

four, five, nine years
always the first to bloom...
cherry tree

Shinji Ogawa translates more literally: "in my four, five, or nine years observation/ the cherry tree is/ always the first bloomer."

1804

.聖人に見放されたる桜哉
seijin ni mi-hanasaretaru sakura kana

the holy man
leaves them behind...
cherry blossoms

This haiku appears with an anecdote about a Pure Land Buddhist high priest named Tokuon. This saintly man, according to Issa, endured cold and heat, rain and snow, every day preaching Amida Buddha's way to the wild creatures on his mountain, including wild boars and monkeys. Now, Tokuon has deigned to come down to the human world to preach at Ryôzen Temple, leaving his beloved mountain cherry blossoms behind. See Issa zenshû (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 2.200.

1804

.袖たけのはつ花桜咲にけり
sodetake no hatsu hana-zakura saki ni keri

the first cherry tree
long as my sleeve...
in bloom

I assume that Issa is referring to a miniature bonsai tree.

1804

.初桜はやちりかかる人の顔
hatsu sakura haya chiri kakaru hito no kao

the first cherry blossoms
soon scatter and stick...
people's faces


1804

.花桜一本一本のいさほしや
hana sakura ippon ippon no isaoshi ya

cherry blossoms--
tree after tree
of good karma

Literally, each tree embodies a "meritorious deed" or "exploit" (isaoshi).

1804

.本降のゆふべとなりし桜哉
homburi no yûbe to narishi sakura kana

an evening
of steady rainfall...
cherry blossoms


1804

.又人の立ふさがるや初桜
mata hito wo tachi-fusagaru ya hatsu sakura

again someone stands
blocking my view!
first cherry blossoms

Issa loves the blooming cherry trees but not the crowds.

1804

.むら雨に半かくれし桜哉
murasame ni nakaba kakureshi sakura kana

half-hidden
in the rain shower...
cherry blossoms


1804

.夕暮や池なき方もさくらちる
yûgure ya ike naki kata mo sakura chiru

evening--
in the area with no pond, too
cherry blossoms scatter

I originally transled the second and third lines: "where there is no pond/cherry blossoms scatter." Robin D. Gill advised me that such a rendering loses the meaning of the particle, mo: "the blossoms 'also' fall/scatter/blow on the side where there is no pond, though they may not be noticed so easily there, because it is darker."

1804

.桜花どつちへ寝ても手のとどく
sakura hana dotchi e nete mo te [no] todoku

cherry blossoms--
whichever side I sleep on
within hand's reach

An outdoor nap?

1804

.福蟾ものさばり出たり桃の花
fuku-biki mo nosabari detari momo [no] hana

Lucky the Toad, too
swaggers out...
peach blossoms

"Lucky" (Fuku) is a common pet name for toads.

Nosabaru is an old word that means to behave selfishly or in an arrogant manner; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1292.

1804

.青柳や蛍よぶ夜の思はるる
ao yagi ya hotaru yobu [yo] no omowaruru

green willow--
thinking of a night
of calling fireflies


1804

.青柳ややがて蛍をよぶところ
ao yagi ya yagate hotaru wo yobu tokoro

green willow--
soon we'll be calling
fireflies here

Or: "they'll be calling." "Green willow" is a spring seasonal expression, while fireflies are associated with summer. Issa is looking ahead.

1804

.しるよしの郷の鐘なる柳哉
shiruyoshi no sato no kane naru yanagi kana

Shiruyoshi's bell
is clanging...
willow tree

Or: "willow trees." I picture Issa sitting in the shade of the willow tree, listening to the bell: a tranquil scene.

1804

.鳥どもに糞かけられし柳哉
tori domo ni kuso kakerareshi yanagi kana

all spattered
with bird poop...
the willow tree


1804

.独寝るつもりの家か柳陰
hitori neru tsumori no ie ka yanagi kage

no one at home
to sleep with?
willow shade

Issa (rhetorically) asks the man under the tree if he would be sleeping alone in his house, should he sleep there. Instead, lying in the shade of the willow, he isn't alone.

1804

.蛍よぶ夜のれうとやさし柳
hotaru yobu yoru no ryô to ya sashi yanagi

an evening spot
for calling fireflies...
planting a willow

Issa is visualizing the future. When the willow is large and shady, people will sit under it in the summertime, calling fireflies.

1804

.身じろぎもならぬ塀より柳哉
mijirogi mo naranu hei yori yanagi kana

from where a fence
pens it in...
a willow

Shinji Ogawa translates mijirogi mo naranu as "cannot-move-around" or "narrow spot." He explains that Issa's humor derives from the fact that he uses this idiom, since "we all know that the willow doesn't move around."

1804

.三筋程松にかくれし柳哉
mi suji hodo matsu kakureshi yanagi kana

three strands or so
hide in the pine...
willow tree


1804

.柳見へ東寺も見へて昔也
yanagi mie tôji mo miete mukashi nari

looking at willows
and Toh Temple...
olden times return

Tôji is a temple in Kyoto.

1804

.段々に夏の夜明や人の顔
dan-dan ni natsu no yoake ya hito no kao

little by little
the summer night turns dawn...
people's faces

The features of Issa's companions slowly materialize as night turns to day.

1804

.けふも暮けふも暮けり五月雨
kyô mo kure kyô mo kure keri satsuki ame

all day, all day
day after day...
Fifth Month rain

"Fifth Month rain" (samidare) pertains to the old lunar calendar; it would be June rain in the present calendar. Shinji Ogawa observes, "In the modern Japanese sense, May weather consists of mostly fair days, not cold, not hot, in the best season of the year. Therefore, May rain is very pleasant in modern Japanese sense. On the other hand, samidare (May rain in old Japanese), is the June rain that falls day after day, creating high humidity and helping mold to grow in the corners of the house."

1804

.五月雨の里やいつ迄笛法度
samidare no sato ya itsu made fue hatto

Fifth Month rain--
in the town how long
this flute ban?

According to the editors of Issa zenshû, this haiku refers to a law prohibiting the playing of flutes. Issa, perhaps bored by the constant rain, seems to long for a distraction. See Issa zenshû (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 2.211, note 6. "Fifth Month rain" (samidare) pertains to the old lunar calendar; it would be June rain in the present calendar. Shinji Ogawa observes, "In the modern Japanese sense, May weather consists of mostly fair days, not cold, not hot, in the best season of the year. Therefore, May rain is very pleasant in modern Japanese sense. On the other hand, samidare (May rain in old Japanese), is the June rain that falls day after day, creating high humidity and helping mold to grow in the corners of the house."

Sakuo Nakamura pictures the following: "Gloomy rain keeps falling for a long time. We are very much disgusted. To play the flute in the town has been banned for a long period. This adds to our boredom."

1804

.五月雨や弥陀の日延もきのふ迄
samidare ya mida no hinobe mo kinou made

Fifth Month rain--
postponed by Amida
till yesterday

"Fifth Month rain" (samidare) pertains to the old lunar calendar; it would be June rain in the present calendar. Shinji Ogawa observes, "In the modern Japanese sense, May weather consists of mostly fair days, not cold, not hot, in the best season of the year. Therefore, May rain is very pleasant in modern Japanese sense. On the other hand, samidare (May rain in old Japanese), is the June rain that falls day after day, creating high humidity and helping mold to grow in the corners of the house."

1804

.鳴烏けふ五月雨の降りあくか
naku karasu kyô samidare no furiaku ka

cawing crow
today will the Fifth Month rains
peter out?

"Fifth Month rain" (samidare) pertains to the old lunar calendar; it would be June rain in the present calendar. Shinji Ogawa observes, "In the modern Japanese sense, May weather consists of mostly fair days, not cold, not hot, in the best season of the year. Therefore, May rain is very pleasant in modern Japanese sense. On the other hand, samidare (May rain in old Japanese), is the June rain that falls day after day, creating high humidity and helping mold to grow in the corners of the house."

1804

.二人とは行かれぬ厨子や五月雨
futari towa ikarenu zushi ya satsuki ame

two won't fit
in the little shrine...
Fifth Month rain

"Fifth Month rain" (samidare) pertains to the old lunar calendar; it would be June rain in the present calendar. Shinji Ogawa observes, "In the modern Japanese sense, May weather consists of mostly fair days, not cold, not hot, in the best season of the year. Therefore, May rain is very pleasant in modern Japanese sense. On the other hand, samidare (May rain in old Japanese), is the June rain that falls day after day, creating high humidity and helping mold to grow in the corners of the house."

1804

.うつくしき寝蓙も見へて夕立哉
utsukushiki negoza mo miete yûdachi kana

a pretty sleeping mat
also in view...
cloudburst

A negoza is a sleeping mat that one spreads on top of a futon in summertime to lessen the heat; see Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1279.

1804

.夕立や竹一本の小菜畠
yûdachi ya take ippon [no] ko na-batake

rainstorm--
a one-bamboo
little farm field


1804

.夕立や舟から見たる京の山
yûdachi ya fune kara mitaru kyô no yama

rainstorm--
watching from a boat
Kyoto's mountain


1804

.雲の峰立や野中の握飯
kumo no mine tatsu ya no naka no nigirimeshi

billowing clouds
rise over the field...
eating rice balls

Issa doesn't write the word, "eating," but this is what I picture: a picnic of rice balls in the field. In shape and color the rice balls mirror the billowing clouds.

1804

.どの人も空腹顔也雲の峰
dono hito mo hidaru kao nari kumo no mine

on every man's face
a hungry look...
billowing clouds

Issa suggests that rain will fall and cause crops to grow, thus making food. For now, they watch the clouds with hungry anticipation.

1804

.湖に手をさし入て雲の峰
mizuumi ni te wo sashi irete kumo no mine

plunging my hand
into the lake...
billowing clouds

Or: "his hand" or "her hand." Perhaps Issa (or someone else) is trying to touch the clouds reflected in the lake.

1804

.虫のなる腹をさぐれば雲の峰
mushi no naru hara wo sagureba kumo no mine

patting my belly
full of worms...
billowing clouds

Or: "his belly" or "her belly." Issa suggests that rain will fall from the clouds and cause crops to grow, thus making food. For now, he pats his hungry (and worm-filled) belly and waits.

1804

.汁なべも厠も夏の月よ哉
shiru nabe mo kawaya mo natsu no tsuki yo kana

in soup kettle
and outhouse
the summer moon


1804

.夏の月柱なでても夜の明る
natsu no tsuki hashira nadete mo yo no akuru

summer moon--
in one pet of the post
it's dawn

Shinji Ogawa explains, "The point of this haiku is to emphasize the shortness of summer night." Issa suggests in his hyperbole that the night is short as the time it takes him to pet the post.

1804

.水切の騒ぎいつ迄夏の月
mizugire no sawagi itsu made natsu no tsuki

how much longer
this damn drought?
summer moon

Issa asks the moon how much longer this "uproar" or "agitation" (sawagi) caused by the drought will last.

1804

.親の家見へなくなりぬ夏の山
oya no ie mienaku narinu natsu [no] yama

my parents' house
no longer in sight...
summer mountain

The same year (1804) Issa writes:

furusato no mienaku narite naku hibari

my home village
no longer in sight...
singing lark

1804

.夏山や京を見る時雨かかる
natsu yama ya kyô wo miru toki ame kakaru

summer mountain--
just when I sight Kyoto
rain!


1804

.夏山やつやつやしたる小順礼
natsu yama ya tsuya-tsuyashitaru ko junrei

summer mountain--
a glowing
little pilgrim


1804

.柱拭く人も見へけり夏の山
hashira fuku hito mo mie keri natsu no yama

a man wiping
a post...
the summer mountain


1804

.浅ぢふも月さへさせば清水哉
asajiu mo tsuki sae saseba shimizu kana

even in the rushes
if the moon is shining...
pure water

Asajiu means a place where asaji, a sort of miscanthus reed, is growing; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 25.

1804

.かくれ家や月ささずとも湧清水
kakurega ya tsuki sasazu to mo waku shimizu

secluded house--
no moonlight
but gushing pure water


1804

.清水湧く翌の山見て寝たりけり
shimizu waku asu no yama mite netari keri

pure water gushes--
looking at tomorrow's mountain
lying down

Will Issa climb the mountain tomorrow? For now, he enjoys a lazy moment, listeing to the sound of the gushing spring.

1804

.松迄は月もさしけり湧く清水
matsu made wa tsuki mo sashi keri waku shimizu

the moon shines
up to the pine...
pure water gushes

Shinji Ogawa comments: "Issa might want to say, 'The moon illuminates the pine. But the spring under the pine is in the dark. Therefore, only the gushing sounds of the spring can be heard'."

1804

.湧く清水浅間のけぶり又見ゆる
waku shimizu asama no keburi mata miyuru

gushing pure water--
Mount Asama's smoke
appears again

Mount Asama is a volcano in Issa's home province of Shinano, active during the poet's lifetime. The eruption of 1783, when Issa was twenty-one years old and living in Edo (today's Tokyo), killed 1,151 people.

Shinji Ogawa helped with my translation by providing this paraphrase: "In gushing pure water, I see again Mount Asama's smoke." The "again" (mata) is the key. The volcanic smoke is so all-pervasive, it shows up everywhere, even at the gushing spring. Dirty smoke and pure water create an interesting juxtaposition.

1804

.悪まれし草は穂に出し青田哉
nikumareshi kusa wa ho ni deshi aoda kana

the hated grasses
rear their heads...
green rice field

A rewrite of a 1794 haiku, in which the unwanted plant is identified as hie ("barnyard grass").

1804

.木がくれに母のほまちの青田哉
kogakure ni haha no homachi no aoda kana

hidden by trees
mother's side-field...
rice so green

The mother's "side-field" (homachi) refers to a plot of newly cultivated land that, in that period, was farmed in secret, evidently to avoid the daimyo's taxation; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1495.

1804

.更衣そもそも藪の長者也
koromogae somo-somo yabu no chôja nari

new summer robes--
the thicket's become
opulent

Somo-somo is an expression used when one is beginning to explain something. English equivalents include, "well," "to begin," and "in the first place..."; see Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 953. In this light, the middle phrase could be translated, "well, the thicket's become..." I've left out the "well" because it seems unnecessary in the English version.

1804

.更衣松の木ほしくなりにけり
koromogae matsu no ki hoshiku nari ni keri

new summer robes--
now I want
a pine tree!

Shinji Ogawa suspects that "there may be a some literary relationship between the change of clothes and a pine tree."

1804

.高砂は榎も友ぞころもがへ
takasago wa enoki mo tomo zo koromogae

on Takasago
even for the nettle tree...
a new summer robe

Takasago is famous for pine tree-covered islands. Issa's twist is to focus instead on the lowly nettle tree. Literally, the nettle tree is a "friend" (tomo); I take this to mean that it is Issa's companion in the act of changing to summer clothes. I suspect that he is referring to its thick summer foliage.

1804

.痩藪も窓も月さすころもがへ
yase yabu mo mado mo tsuki sasu koromogae

in a sparse thicket, in my window
the bright moon...
new summer robes


1804

.袷きて見ても淋しや東山
awase kite mite mo sabishi ya higashi yama

even trying on my summer kimono
lonely...
Higashi Mountains

According to Sakuo Nakamura, Higashiyama ("Eastern Mountains") is the collective name for a number of mountains located between Kyoto and Lake Biwa: a total of 36 peaks, one of which is the temple mountain, Hieizan.

1804

.あばら家に入ると見へしよ日傘
abaraya ni iru to mieshi yo higarakasa

entering my ramshackle
hut you see...
a parasol

Or: "the ramshackle hut." Issa doesn't say that it's his but this can be inferred. The humor of this haiku arises from the juxtaposition the broken-down house and the delicate, colorful parasol.

1804

.僧正が野糞遊ばす日傘哉
sôjô ga no-guso asobasu higasa kana

the high priest
poops in the field...
parasol

Issa is often bold and iconoclastic--poetically and politically. He doesn't hesitate to poke fun at authority, in this case, portraying the high priest of a Buddhist temple in a moment that isn't exactly flattering. Issa shocks those readers who expect only pretty sights in haiku: moon and blossoms. In addition to such conventional images, he gladly presents bodily functions that many would not expect to be the stuff of poetry. However, by showing a priest pooping under a parasol (with a giggle), he reminds us of life's plenitude: there are sublime moments under moon and blossoms, but there is also the universal need to poop. His comic portrait humanizes the high priest.

The priest does his business outside, shaded by a parasol. Is he alone in the scene or is a young monk dutifully holding the parasol for him? The reader must decide.

Jean Cholley believes this haiku reveals Issa's disdain for arrogant and corrupt Buddhist officials. Despite his magnificent parasol (a symbol of his status), the high priest is just flesh and blood; En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 235-36, n. 26.

The verb asobasu is an honorific verb meaning "to do"--according to Shinji Ogawa.

1804

.窓だけに月のさし入る紙帳哉
mado dake ni tsuki no sashi iru shichô kana

moonlight enters
only through the window...
paper mosquito net

Shinji Ogawa explains that shichô means a paper enclosure, used as a substitute for a mosquito net. A window is made by cutting the paper and attaching a piece of thin see-through cloth. Issa, being inside the paper enclosure, can see the moon only through the window in the paper.

1804

.二番火の酒試るうちは哉
ni ban hi [no] sake kokoromiru uchiwa kana

after trying out
the twice-fired sake...
paper fan

Literally, Issa ends simply with the image of the "round fan" (uchiwa kana), but this noun strongly implies the action of fanning.

1804

.一人では手張畠や渋団扇
hitori de wa tebaru hatake ya shibu uchiwa

the field's too much
for one man alone...
rustic fan

Literally, Issa ends simply with the image of the "rustic fan" (shibu uchiwa), but this noun implies the action of fanning. The hard-working farmer takes a break, attempting to cool his sweaty face with the fan. Shibu can mean "unrefined"; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 792.

1804

.松の露ぽちりぽちりと蚊やり立つ
matsu no tsuyu pochiri-pochiri to kayari kana

the pine tree dew
dripping, dripping...
smudge pot smoke


1804

.木に打つてば竹にたらざる流哉
ki ni utteba take ni tarazaru nagare kana

when the tree is watered
the bamboo makes do...
run-off


1804

.朝顔の折角咲ぬ門涼み
asagao no sekkaku sakinu kado suzumi

morning-glories blooming
just for me...
cool air at the gate

Or: "just for us."

Shinji Ogawa notes, "The nu in sakinu functions as the word 'have' in English to make the perfect tense (have bloomed). The word sekkaku (with much trouble) may carry important meaning in the haiku to show Issa's gratitude for the morning-glories."

Sakuo Nakamura pictures the following scene. Issa has risen on a summer morning. Last night was so hot, he couldn't sleep well. He steps out and finds the morning-glories blooming, looking as if they have bloomed especially for him. He feels the cool air of the morning at the gate.

This haiku is his "thank-you" to Nature

1804

.翌は剃る仏が顔や夕涼み
asu wa soru hotoke ga kao ya yûsuzumi

tomorrow
Buddha will be shaved...
evening cool

I originally believed that Issa was the "Buddha" in the haiku, reflecting on shaving his own head. However, Shinji Ogawa warns that "Buddha" can also mean a dead person. He writes, "It is possible that Issa was to shave some dead person's face the next day. In the context, the evening cool is not a pleasant pastime but a soul-searching time."

1804

.門涼み余所は朝顔咲にけり
kado suzumi yoso wa asagao saki ni keri

cooling at the gate--
morning-glories have bloomed
elsewhere


1804

.涼にもはりあひあらじ門の月
suzumu ni mo hariai araji kado no tsuki

even cool air basking
not worth the effort...
moon at the gate

Late in life, in 1826, Issa revises this haiku slightly, using the middle phrase, hariai no nashi. The meaning is the same.

1804

.竹笛は鎌倉ぶりよ田植がさ
take fue wa kamakura-buri yo taue-gasa

a bamboo flute
Kamakura-style, rice planters
in umbrella-hats

Kamakura is one of Japan's ancient capitals, on Sagami Bay southwest of Tokyo.

1804

.松よりも古き顔して心太
matsu yori mo furuki kao shite tokoroten

his face older
than the pine...
sweet jelly

Or: "her face." Issa's poem is cryptic. I picture an old man enjoying his jelly.

Shinji Ogawa explains, "Tokoroten is still a popular summer dessert in Japan. It is a jelly made from seaweed called Gelidium Amansii. Tokoroten is pushed through a coarse mesh to form long threads like Japanese noodles." Gelidium is a genus of red algae.

1804

.かつしかやどこに住でも時鳥
katsushika ya doko ni sunde mo hototogisu

even living
in Katsushika...
"cuckoo!"

Katsushika is an area of land east of Sumida River--a riverside suburb of Edo (today's Tokyo); see Maruyama Kazuhiko, Issa haiku shû (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1990; rpt. 1993) 33, note 109. Shinji Ogawa notes that this haiku can be translated in two ways: "Katsushika/ wherever one lives/ (one can hear) the cuckoo," or "If one lives/ even in Katsushika/ (one can hear) the cuckoo."

Shinji prefers the second because in Issa's time Katsushika was known as a "mosquito-infested marshland." Yet even in this unpleasant place, the cuckoo sings.

1804

.角田川もつと古びよ時鳥
sumida-gawa motto furubi yo hototogisu

Sumida River
even more old-timey...
"cuckoo!"

The verb furubu means to become old-style; see Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1460.

1804

.雷のごろつく中を行々し
kaminari no gorotsuku naka wo gyôgyôshi

amid the thunder's
rumble...
a reed thrush singing

Issa literally ends this haiku, simply, with "reed thrush" (gyôgyôshi), but he implies that he is hearing the bird's song.

1804

.行々しどこが葛西の行留り
gyôgyôshi doko ga kasai no yukidomari

O reed thrush
which road is the dead end
of Kasai?

A subway stop in Greater Tokyo today, in Issa's time Kasai was a farming village east of Edo. In another haiku of the same year, Issa again asks a reed thrush for directions, this time to Naniwa, the old name for Osaka.

1804

.行々しどこが昔の難波なる
gyôgyôshi doko ga mukashi [no] naniwa naru

hey reed thrush
which way to ancient
Naniwa?

Naniwa is an old name for Osaka and its vicinity; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1227. In another haiku of the same year, Issa again asks a reed thrush for directions, this time to Kasai, a farming village east of Edo.

1804

.はつはつに松島見へて行々し
hatsu-hatsu ni matsushima miete gyôgyôshi

Matsushima
barely in sight...
warble of a reed thrush

Matsushima is a famously lovely bay of Japan known for its picturesque pine islands, a place that Issa's role model, the poet Bashô, visited but found too beautiful to write a suitable haiku about. In this haiku, Issa sees the reed thrush as a fellow traveler and, perhaps, a poet. Shinji Ogawa notes that hatsu-hatsu ni means "barely" in this context: "Matsushima barely came into sight..."

1804

.風道を塞ぐ枝より蛍哉
kazamichi wo fusagu eda yori hotaru kana

from branches that block
the wind...
fireflies

Or: "from the branch that blocks." Shinji Ogawa asks, "Is Issa saying that the branch becomes a nuisance because it blocks winds but that one merit of it is the production of fireflies?"

1804

.けしからぬ夕晴人やとぶ蛍
keshikaranu yûbare hito ya tobu hotaru

disgraceful!
'round the red-faced drunkard
fireflies flit

Shinji Ogawa speculates that yûbare (the clear weather or sky at sunset; sunset glow) joined with hito (person) might denote "a red-faced (drunken) person." If so, the fireflies are the ones who are commenting, "disgraceful!"

1804

.小竹さへよそのもの也とぶ蛍
ko take sae yoso no mono nari tobu hotaru

even the little bamboo
isn't mine...
flitting fireflies

Originally, I believed that yoso no mono denotes "strange" in this context, but Shinji Ogawa reads it as "things belonging to other persons." The young bamboo belongs to someone else, not to Issa. The haiku comically alludes to his poverty: he has nothing to offer the fireflies.

1804

.とぶ蛍家のうるさき夜也けり
tobu hotaru ie no urusaki yo nari keri

flitting fireflies--
another annoying night
in the house

Humorously, Issa regards these flickering, "poetic" insects as a nuisance. He's trying to sleep!

1804

.大雨や大ナ月や松の蝉
ôame ya ôkina tsuki ya matsu no semi

big rain
big moon
cicada in the pine


1804

.かくれ家は浴過けり松の蝉
kakurega wa yuami sugi keri matsu no semi

secluded house--
a hot bath
and cicadas in the pines

Or: "and a cicada in the pine." A sensual haiku, with the poet soaking in an outdoor hot tub serenaded by cicadas.

1804

.聞倦て人は去也枝の蝉
kiki aite hito wa saru nari eda no semi

tired of listening
the man walks away...
cicada on a branch


1804

.蝉なくや柳ある家の朝の月
semi naku ya yanagi aru ya no asa no tsuki

cicadas chirr--
house in the willows
morning moon

Or: "a cicada chirrs."

Sakuo Nakamura asks: Whose house is it? Based on the year of composition, he speculates that it might be Issa's house near the river in Edo (today's Tokyo). In this period, Issa wanted to make a name for himself in the big city. He surrounded himself with guests and friends.

1804

.宵越の茶水明りやかたつぶり
yoigoshi no cha mizu akari ya katatsuburi

glimmer of tea water
left out overnight...
a snail

The word "glimmer" (akari) suggests an almost magical beauty to the ordinary tea water that has attracted the snail. Shinji Ogawa assited with this translation.

1804

.初松魚序ながらも富士の山
hatsu-gatsuo tsuide nagara mo fuji [no] yama

viewed in passing
after summer's first bonito...
Mount Fuji

Shinji Ogawa explains that the haiku shows the fever for the first bonito in Edo. The first bonito takes first place and Mount Fuji is a distant second.

Shinji adds, "Bonitos swim, along the Black Current (or Japan Current), from the Philippine Sea to the northern sea around Hokkaido. They pass near Tokyo (Edo) in spring [old calendar = summer] on their way to the north. They return to pass Tokyo in the fall on their way back to the south." In haiku, bonito is a summer season word.

1804

.初松魚山の際迄江戸気也
hatsu-gatsuo yama no kiwa made edoki nari

summer's first bonito--
even at the mountain's edge
a taste of Edo

Issa later revises this haiku in 1816:

yama kage mo edoki ni shitari hatsu-gatsuo

even in mountain shade
a taste of Edo...
first bonito

Shinji Ogawa explains, "Bonitos swim, along the Black Current (or Japan Current), from the Philippine Sea to the northern sea around Hokkaido. They pass near Tokyo (Edo) in spring [old calendar = summer] on their way to the north. They return to pass Tokyo in the fall on their way back to the south." In haiku, bonito is a summer season word.

In this haiku, the fish so popular in Edo (today's Tokyo) is enjoyed even at the edge of a mountain some distance from the city.

1804

.草の葉に半分見ゆる牡丹哉
kusa no ha ni hambun miyuru botan kana

half of it showing
in the deep grass...
peony


1804

.青柳ははや夜に入て蓮の花
ao yagi wa haya yo ni irite hasu [no] hana

for the green willow
night rushes in...
lotus blossoms


1804

.大沼や一つ咲ても蓮の花
ônuma ya hitotsu saite mo hasu no hana

in a big swamp
just one bloom...
but it's a lotus!

Shinji Ogawa believes that is is trying to show "the high status of the lotus among other flowers. After all, the lotus is the flower associated with Buddha."

1804

.雀等が浴なくしたり蓮の水
suzumera ga abi nakushi tari hasu no mizu

sparrows bathing
have scattered it...
lotus water

Shinji Ogawa explains that the phrase, abi nakushi tari signifies, "bathed and lost." The sparrows took a bath in the pool of water inside a blossom but flapped around so much, they drained their tub.

1804

.百合の花朝から暮るるけしき也
yuri [no] hana asa kara kururu keshiki nari

lilies in bloom--
from morning on
sunset colors

More literally, Issa says that "from morning on, it's a sunset scene." The colors of the lilies are the same as those in the sky at sunset.

1804

.冷し瓜二日立てども誰も来ぬ
hiyashi uri futsuka tatedo mo dare mo konu

the melon cooling
two days now...
no one has come

Or: "the melons cooling." No one has come to eat the melon (or melons) with Issa.

1804

.待もせぬ月のさしけり冷し瓜
machi mo senu tsuki no sashi keri hiyashi uri

unexpected moonlight
shines down...
cooling melon

Shinji Ogawa believes that "Issa is not welcoming the moonlight for security reasons." The moon might light the way for a melon thief.

1804

.とぶ蝶や青葉桜も縄の中
tobu shô yo aoba sakura mo nawa no naka

a flitting butterfly
and green-leafed cherry tree
roped off

Evidently, some sort of barrier rope surrounds the tree and butterfly. Issa makes a wry comment on the human mania to make Nature the object of private ownership.

1804

.灰汁桶の蝶のきげんや木下闇
aku oke no chô no kigen ya ko shita yami

round the lye bucket
a happy butterfly...
deep tree shade

Japanese lye is made from an astringent sap. In my first translation, I had the butterfly stuck in the lye. Shinji Ogawa doubts this. He writes, "Judging from the tone of the haiku, the butterfly is not yet in the lye bucket but flying about it. The phrase, chô no kigen, means 'the happy mood of the butterfly'."

For now, the butterfly is happy, flirting with the danger below.

1804

.卯の花に蛙葬る法師哉
u no hana ni kawazu hômuru hôshi kana

in deutzia blossoms
the priest buries
the frog

A tender, sorrowful scene. One might expect a child to put on a funeral for a frog, but in this haiku an adult, an actual priest, performs the ritual, suggesting that it is no game. For the Buddhist priest who subscribes to a belief in reincarnation, a frog is a peer and a cousin. The living blossoms contrast powerfully with the dead frog, revealing a cosmic balance that perhaps the priest--standing in between these images of life and death--understands.

1804

.卯の花や葬の真似する子ども達
u [no] hana ya sô no mane suru kodomotachi

deutzia blossoms--
the children play
funeral

As it becomes clear in other versions of this haiku, they are burying a frog or a toad.

1804

.卯の花や水の明りになく蛙
u no hana ya mizu no akari ni naku kawazu

deutzia blossoms--
in the water's gleam
a croaking frog

The frog's appearance in the scene (and the haiku) is comically anticlimactic. The deutzia shrub's delicate, white, pure blossoms, one imagines, reflect in the tranquil water below. The frog barges into this picture of peace and beauty, croaking raucously, as if to say, "I belong here, too!"

1804

.淋しさに蠣殻ふみぬ花卯木
sabishisa ni kakigara fuminu hana u [no] ki

in solitude
walking on oyster shells...
deutzia in bloom

Issa might be referring to Fukagawa, a neighborhood in Edo (today's Tokyo) on Sumida River's east bank. The great haiku poet Bashô lived there in his Bashô-an ("Banana-leaf hermitage"). Makoto Ueda explains that many residents of Fukagawa shucked shellfish, creating hills of shells; Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 138. In a later haiku (1821), Issa writes:

fukugawa ya kakigara yama no aki no tsuki

Fukagawa--
an oyster shell mountain
and autumn's moon

1804

.立秋や旅止まくと思ふ間に
tatsu aki ya tabi yamemaku to omou ma ni

autumn begins--
I thought by now this journey
would've ended


1804

.雨だれや三粒おちてもけさの秋
amadare ya san tsubu ochite mo kesa no aki

from the roof's overhang
three drops...
first autumn morning

An amadare is an eavesdrop, where water falls from a roof's overhang.Though only three drops fall, they presage the hard weather to come.

1804

.朝寒や松は去年の松なれど
asa-zamu ya matsu wa kyonen no matsu naredo

a cold morning--
but the same pine tree
as last year


1804

.兄分の門とむきあふ夜寒哉
anibun no kado to mukiau yozamu kana

facing the gate
of elder brother...
a cold night

Issa didn't have an elder brother. The word, anibun, can refer to a person that one regards as one's elder brother. Though the identity of this "brother" is unknown, the haiku is quietly powerful--hinting of a greater story.

1804

.すりこ木もけしきに並ぶ夜寒哉
surikogi mo keshiki ni narabu yozamu kana

a pounding pestle
completes the scene...
a cold night


1804

.野のけぶり袖にぞ這る夜寒哉
no no keburi sode ni zo hairu yozamu kana

the field's smoke
crawls into my sleeves...
a cold night

A field (no) is burning. Is Issa letting the smoke enter his sleeves as a way for him to stay warm? Or, more comically, does he imagine that the smoke is crawling into his garment so that it can stay warm? Both possibilities exist.

1804

.秋の夜やよ所から来ても馬のなく
aki no yo ya yoso kara kite mo uma no naku

autumn evening--
from elsewhere another horse
neighs in reply

A key word in this haiku is mo ("also"). It indicates that the horse from "elsewhere" (yoso) isn't the only horse neighing in the autumn evening.

1804

.すりこ木もけしきにならぶ夜永哉
surikogi mo keshiki ni narabu yonaga kana

even the pestle
becomes part of the scene...
a long night

The pounding of the pestle, which most likely is keeping Issa up, is simply part of the "scenery" (keshiki) this long autumn night.

1804

.出る度に馬の嘶く夜永哉
deru tabi ni uma no inanaku yonaga kana

every time I go out
the horse neighs...
a long night

Issa is (most likely) referring to his frequent, nocturnal trips to the outhouse.

1804

.利根川の秋もなごりの月よ哉
tone-gawa no aki mo nagori no tsuki yo kana

Tone River's
farewell to autumn...
bright moon


1804

.木に鳴はやもめ烏か天の川
ki ni naku wa yamome karasu ka ama [no] kawa

cawing in the tree
are you a widow, crow?
Milky Way above

Issa's phrase, "Heaven's River" (ama no gawa) refers to the Milky Way.

1804

.やぶ陰も月さへさせば我家哉
yabu kage mo tsuki sae saseba waga ya kana

shaded by thicket--
the moon breaks through...
my house

Symbolically might this poem be describing Buddhist enlightenment?

1804

.名月や雨なく見ゆるよ所の空
meigetsu ya ame naku miyuru yoso no sora

harvest moon
on a clear, rainless night
elsewhere!


1804

.名月や石のあはひの人の顔
meigetsu ya ishi no awai no hito no kao

harvest moon--
people on the stone
with pale faces

The verb, "sitting," doesn't appear in Issa's text, but this action is implied. People have gathered on some sort of rock to view the moon.

1804

.名月や都に居てもとしのよる
meigetsu ya miyako ni ite mo toshi no yoru

harvest moon--
even in Kyoto
growing old

The "capital" (miyako) was Kyoto in Issa's day. This is where the emperor and his court lived.

Sakuo Nakamura notes that the full moon in decline over Kyoto might have a political dimension: "authority in ancient time all has gone away," as the center of power in Japan has moved from imperial Kyoto to the Shogun's city, Edo (Tokyo).

1804

.橋見へて暮かかる也秋の空
hashi miete kure kakaru nari aki no sora

watching the bridge
as evening falls...
autumn sky

This haiku has the prescript, "At a Ryôgoku Bridge tea shop." Ryôgoku Bridge is the oldest of the major bridges crossing the Sumida River in Edo (today's Tokyo). It links the provinces of Shimosa and Musashi, hence its name, which means, "Both Provinces."

According to Maruyama Kazuhiko, Ryôgoku was a famous east-west bridge where people would gather to enjoy the cool of evening; Issa haiku shû (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1990; rpt. 1993) 132, note 637.

1804

.秋雨や人げも見へぬうらの門
akesame ya hitoge mo mienu ura no kado

autumn rain--
not a soul in sight
the back gate

I am assuming that Issa's hitoge is a variant of hitoke ("a soul"), as in this haiku of the previous year (1803):

akatsuki ni hitoke mo mienu harasu kana

at dawn
not a soul in sight...
lotus blossoms

1804

.秋雨や我にひとしきかたつぶり
akisame ya ware ni hitoshiki katatsuburi

autumn rain--
he's just like me
the snail

The snail in its shell is like Issa in his house--but this is just the obvious level of meaning in this haiku. There are more.

1804

.秋の雨松一本に日の暮るる
aki no ame matsu ippon ni hi no kururu

autumn rain--
for a lonely pine
day's end


1804

.売馬の親かへり見る秋の雨
uri uma no oya kaeri miru aki no ame

the sold pony
looks back at mother...
autumn rain


1804

.かつしかや遠く降つても秋の雨
katsushika ya tôku futte mo aki no ame

in Katsushika
falling in the distance...
autumn rain

Katsushika is an area of land east of Sumida River--a riverside suburb of Edo (today's Tokyo); see Maruyama Kazuhiko, Issa haiku shû (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1990; rpt. 1993) 33, note 109.

1804

.手の皺の一夜に見ゆる秋の雨
te no shiwa no hito yo ni miyuru aki no ame

all night looking
at my wrinkled hands...
autumn rain


1804

.山里や秋の雨夜の遠歩き
yamazato ya aki no ame yo no tô aruki

mountain village--
a rainy autumn evening's
long walk


1804

.秋の風乞食は我を見くらぶる
aki no kaze kojiki wa ware wo mikuraburu

autumn wind--
a beggar looking
sizes me up

Issa isn't a dispassionate, objective observer. He writes himself into his poetry; he interacts with others--people, animals, plants--so much so that some readers mistake his haiku for mere autobiography. In fact, he is consciously creating a literary persona, presenting himself to the world as "Shinano Province's Chief Beggar": a poor, hungry wanderer. Though this depiction has some factual basis, he exaggerates it for the sake of poetry so that the Issa inside his haiku functions as a sort of Everyman. As such, his experiences have universal resonance.

Is the scene comic or tragic? A beggar appraises Issa with a critical eye, noting the poet's ragged clothes and evident poverty. We might laugh and conclude that the beggar won't bother to ask him for alms. But the scene is complex: the cold autumn wind reminds us that there's nothing funny about homelessness with winter approaching. As readers, we must decide for ourselves what expressions to put on the faces of the two men. I picture disappointment in the face of the beggar; a sad, knowing smile on the face of Issa.

1804

.秋の風蝉もぶつぶつおしと鳴く
aki no kaze semi mo butsu-butsu oshi to naku

autumn wind--
the cicadas' grumbling
is louder


1804

.秋の風剣の山を来る風か
aki no kaze tsurugi no yama wo kuru kaze ka

does this autumn wind
come from the Mountain
of Swords?

This haiku was written after a visit to Daijô Temple, where Issa viewed a didactic painting of Hell. According to the scholar-monk Genshin (the Japanese Dante), one level of Hell contained a forest of razor-sharp swords. The painting that Issa viewed could have been a depiction of this.

Shinji Ogawa notes, "Issa felt that the chilly autumn wind might be coming from the Mountain of Swords."

1804

.秋の風我が参るはどの地獄
aki no kaze waga [ga] mairu wa dono jigoku

autumn wind--
on my pilgrimage
to which hell?

Shinji Ogawa notes, "It is said that there are many sorts of hells. We will go to one of them according to the sins we committed." He paraphrases the haiku, "autumn wind--/ to which hell/ am I going?"

1804

.松苗のけばけばしさよ秋の風
matsu nae no kebakebashisa yo aki [no] kaze

the little pine tree
puts on a show...
autumn wind

Or: "the little pine trees/ put on a show..."

1804

.垣際の足洗盥野分哉
kaki-giwa no ashi arai-darai nowaki kana

next to the fence
a foot-washing tub...
autumn gale

Or: "next to the hedge." Kaki can be translated as "fence" or "hedge."

1804

.ぽつぽつと馬の爪切る野分哉
potsu-potsu to uma no tsume kiru nowaki kana

bit by bit
trimming the horse's hooves...
autumn gale


1804

.山本の祭の釜に野分哉
yamamoto no matsuri no kama ni nowaki kana

festival at the mountain's foot--
in the cauldron
an autumn gale


1804

.人は旅日は朝朗けさの露
hito wa tabi hi wa asaborake kesa no tsuyu

travelers set out
the sun rises...
a world of morning dew

Or: "a traveler sets out." I have added the expression, "a world of," in an attempt to capture Issa's feeling in English. He ends the haiku, simply, with "this morning's dew" (kesa no tsuyu).

1804

.秋霧や河原なでしこ見ゆる迄
aki-giri ya kawara nadeshiko miyuru made

autumn mist--
the river beach's pinks
barely visible

Shinji Ogawa paraphrases: "The autumn mist is as thin as to make the pinks of the riverbed barely visible." This haiku is related to an undated poem:

aki-giri ya kawara nadeshiko patto saku

autumn mist--
the river beach's pinks
have bloomed in a flash

1804

.仰山に霧のはれけり付木突
gyôsan ni kiri no hare keri tsukegi-tsuki

when the mist clears
a mountain...
of fire chips

The expression gyôsan ni refers to a large quantity of something, in this case, the tsukegi-tsuki: chips of cypress wood coated with sulphur. Shinji Ogawa explains: "Only after the mist cleared off, Issa noticed the large quantity of chips that had been made." In my first translation I called these chips "matches," but Shinji corrected me: "It was 1827 when matches were invented in England. In Japan, we had to wait till 1875 for the fist production. The word tsukegi means not exactly a match but a piece of thin wood coated with sulphur on the edge. It does not generate fire like a match does, but is used to transfer fire. Therefore, the tsukegi is useless without a source of fire. To create a fire, Issa had to use a flint."

1804

.しきみ桶手からも霧は立にけり
shikimi oke te kara mo kiri wa tachi ni keri

from a hand that holds
a bucket of sacred branches...
mist rises

The branches of the shikimi ("star-aniseed") tree are placed on Buddhist graves. Issa immediately revises this haiku in his journal. The haiku that follows it is identical, except that it begins with the phrase shikimi sasu ("pricked by sacred shikimi").

1804

.しきみさす手からも霧は立にけり
shikimi sasu te kara mo kiri wa tachi ni keri

from a hand
pricked by sacred shikimi...
mist rises

The branches of the shikimi ("star-aniseed") tree are placed on Buddhist graves. This is an immediate rewrite in Issa's journal. The haiku that precedes it is identical, except that it begins with the phrase shikimi oke ("sacred shikimi bucket").

1804

.山霧のかかる家さへ祭哉
yama-giri no kakaru ie sae matsuri kana

even at a house
shrouded in mist...
a festival

A haiku written on the 25th day of Seventh Month, 1804. In the old Japanese calendar, Seventh Month signaled the beginning of autumn (it roughly corresponds to late August or early September in the Western calendar). In Japan, this is a time of festivals. According to Issa痴 diary, Bunka ku chô ("Bunka Era Haiku Collection"), he entered Edo (today's Tokyo) on that day, so this is the likely setting for the haiku: perhaps Issa's house or that of one of his friends, covered in autumn mist, where a festival is being celebrated with song, dance, and wine.

1804

.妹が家は跡になりけり花の原
imo ga ie wa ato ni nari keri hana no hara

my dear one's house
behind it a field
of flowers

The first phrase, imo ga ie, refers to the "dear one's house," (imo) being an intimate term that a man uses to refer to his beloved.

1804

.赤紙のちさい草履を玉迎
aka-gami no chisai zôri wo tama mukae

tiny sandals
made of red paper...
for the ancestor

This haiku refers to a Bon Festival memorial service for one's ancestors.

1804

.迎鐘ならぬ前から露のちる
mukae-gane naranu mae kara tsuyu no chiru

when the bell tolls
for the ancestors...
dewdrops scatter

This haiku refers to a Bon Festival memorial service for one's ancestors.

1804

.うかうかと盆も過たる灯ろ哉
uka-uka to bon mo sugitaru tôrô kana

the Bon Festival
flickers out too...
lanterns for the dead

Uka-uka to is an old expression meaning (1) not at peace or (2) thoughtless or absentminded; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 182. In this case I am assuming that Issa is using the first meaning: the lamplights flicker restlessly as the festival ends. The Bon Festival of the Dead takes place in Eighth Month in the old lunar calendar. At this time, people light lanterns to guide their ancestors' spirits back home.

1804

.夕風や木のない門の高灯籠
yûkaze ya ki no nai kado no takadôro

evening wind--
for the tree-less gate
a tall Bon lantern

The Bon Festival of the Dead takes place in Eighth Month in the old lunar calendar. At this time, people light lanterns to guide their ancestors' spirits back home.

1804

.よ所事と思へ思へど灯ろ哉
yoso-goto to omoe omoedo tôro kana

someone else's affair
you think...
lanterns for the dead

Is this Issa's version of "Ask not for whom the bell tolls;/ It tolls for thee"? The Bon Festival of the Dead takes place in Eighth Month in the old lunar calendar. At this time, people light lanterns to guide their ancestors' spirits back home.

1804

.山かげの一軒家さへおどり哉
yama kage no ikken-ya sae odori kana

an isolated house
in mountain shade
but a festival dance!


1804

.山里やおどりもしらで年のよる
yama-zato ya odori mo shirade toshi no yoru

mountain village--
the old man doesn't know
the dance

The "dance" referred to pertains to the autumn Bon Festival. The Bon Festival of the Dead takes place in Eighth Month in the old lunar calendar. At this time, people light lanterns to guide their ancestors' spirits back home.

1804

.七夕や都もおなじ秋の山
tanabata ya miyako mo onaji aki no yama

Tanabata Night
in Kyoto, the same
autumn mountain

This haiku refers to Tanabata, a festival that takes place on the seventh day of Seventh Month. According to a romantic legend, two celestial lovers--the stars Altair and Vega--are separated by Heaven's River (the Milky Way). One night a year (Tanabata night), they cross the starry river to be together. The "capital" (miyako) was Kyoto in Issa's day. This is where the emperor and his court lived. Political and military power was centered in the Shogun's city of Edo, today's Tokyo.

1804

.人の世や山の小すみもほし迎
hito no yo ya yama no kosumi mo hoshi mukae

world of man--
in a mountain nook too
Tanabata stars

Tanabata Festival takes place on the seventh day of Seventh Month. According to a romantic legend, two celestial lovers--the stars Altair and Vega--are separated by Heaven's River (the Milky Way). One night a year (Tanabata night), they cross the starry river to be together.

Shinji Ogawa translates the phrase, hoshi mukae, "welcome to Tanabata stars."

1804

.我星は上総の空をうろつくか
waga hoshi wa kazusa no sora wo urotsuku ka

sky over Kazusa--
is my star up there
prowling?

This haiku refers to a popular belief that each person upon birth is assigned a corresponding star in the heavens.

1804

.無縁時の鐘も聞へて大花火
muen-ji no kane mo kikoete ôhanabi

Muen Temple's bell
clangs too...
great fireworks


1804

.秋角力初まる日から山の雲
aki sumô hajimaru hi kara yama no kumo

autumn sumo tournament--
from day one
mountain clouds


1804

.咲かかる草の辺りに角力哉
saki kakaru kusa no atari ni sumô kana

heading straight
to the wildflowers...
sumo wrestler

Is the moment comic or tender? Comic: the whale-bellied wrestler, not noticing the flowers, threatens to crush them. Tender: the wrestler, though huge, goes straight to the flowers, perhaps to pick some.

1804

.淋さを鶴に及ぼすかがし哉
sabishisa wo tsuru ni oyo[bo]su kagashi kana

making the crane
feel lonely...
the scarecrow

Colleen Rain Austin notes: "As cranes are a significant symbol of joy and marital bliss in Japan, the scene is even more desolate; the crane and the scarecrow are a mismatched pair."

1804

.最う古いかがしはないか角田川
mô furui kagashi wa nai ka sumida-gawa

was there ever
an older looking scarecrow?
Sumida River


1804

.えた町も夜はうつくしき砧哉
eta mura mo yo wa utsukushiki kinuta kana

in the outcastes' village too
a lovely night...
pounding cloth

Sakuo Nakamura writes, "In my native town there is an eta village; mothers tell their children not to enter there. Issa has a very peaceful mind. He know well the sadness of living. When he saw the Eta village in the night, not only darkness covered, but racial discrimination as well. And he heard the sound of the kinuta as if it came from Buddha."

In Japan and Korea, fulling-blocks were used to pound fabric and bedding. The fabric was laid over a flat stone, covered with paper, and pounded, making a distinctive sound. This haiku refers to the outcastes (eta). In Issa's time, they performed "unclean" jobs such as disposing of dead animals, working with leather, and executing criminals. In my earlier translation, I use the phrase, "fulling-block," an arcane term that means nothing to most English readers. "Pounding cloth" is a translation solution provided by Makoto Ueda, whose example I gratefully follow; Matsuo Bashô (Tokyo: Kodansha, 1982) 53.

1804

.小夜砧菰きて蘇鉄立にけり
sayo-ginuta komo kite sotetsu tachi ni keri

cloth-pounding at night--
a cycad tree wrapped
in a reed mat

In Japan and Korea, fulling-blocks were used to pound fabric and bedding. The fabric was laid over a flat stone, covered with paper, and pounded, making a distinctive sound. In this haiku, a cycad (a palm-like evergreen plant) "stands" (tachi ni keri). Shinji Ogawa pictures a typical autumn scene; one hears the sounds of fulling-blocks at night and sees a tree "dressed" in a reed mat. Cloth-pounding required little light, which is why cloth-pounding was a night job. People dressed trees in reed or straw mats in autumn. The bugs in the trees would come down in late autumn to go underground to pass the winter. The mat's purpose was to trap the bugs. At a proper time the mat would be removed and burned. "This method is still in use today," Shinji adds.

1804

.兀山も見棄られぬぞ小夜砧
hage yama mo misuterarenu zo sayo-ginuta

even the bald mountain
isn't left out...
night cloth-pounding

In Japan and Korea, fulling-blocks were used to pound fabric and bedding. The fabric was laid over a flat stone, covered with paper, and pounded, making a distinctive sound.

Originally, I translated hage yama as "Mount Hage," but Shinji Ogawa believes that Issa is referring to a "bald mountain," not a proper noun. He explains, "I think that the haiku says that the bald mountain cannot be abandoned because someone is clinging to it, judging from the sounds of the fulling-block. A bald mountain and the sounds of fulling-block make a song of the blues. Yet, Issa also sees the vitality of people."

1804

.身祝の榊もうへて砧哉
mi-iwai no sakaki mo uete kinuta kana

a sakaki tree planted
for good luck...
cloth-pounding

In Japan and Korea, fulling-blocks were used to pound fabric and bedding. The fabric was laid over a flat stone, covered with paper, and pounded, making a distinctive sound. In this haiku, the pounding never seems to stop. Issa (or someone) plants a sacred sakaki tree for good fortune. Shinji Ogawa comments, "Though it is a hard life, people maintain a positive attitude."

1804

.さをしかや恋初めてより山の雨
saoshika ya koi somete yori yama no ame

young buck--
when he starts to make love
mountain rain

Sakuo Nakamura notes that the image of a buck crying on a rainy mountain is a poetic scene found often in early tanka.

1804

.死所もかなりに葺て鹿の鳴
shinidoko mo kanari ni fuite shika no naku

his dying place
fairly well thatched...
crying deer

Or: ""my dying place.""

1804

.なけ鶉邪魔なら庵もたたむべき
nake uzura jama nara io mo tatamubeki

sing, quail!
if my hut bothers you
I'll close it

It is unclear why Issa makes such a magnanimous offer to the quail.

1804

.人は年とるべきものぞ鴫の立
hito wa toshitorubeki mono zo shigi no tatsu

all people must
grow old...
the snipe rises

This is an enigmatic haiku. Since the snipe is an autumn bird, perhaps Issa sees it as a sign of his own growing old. Lewis Mackenzie's translation of the first two phrases is no help: "Men must take the years that come/ Know they are thus!" See The Autumn Wind: A Selection from the Poems of Issa (London: John Murray, 1957; rpt. Tokyo: Kodansha International, 1984), 59.

1804

.あのやうに我も老しか秋のてふ
ano yô ni ware mo oishi ka aki no chô

will I grow old
like you?
autumn butterfly


1804

.うろたへな寒くなるとて赤蜻蛉
urotae na samuku naru tote aka tombo

don't be bewildered
by the cold weather!
dragonfly


1804

.蜻蛉や二尺飛では又二尺
tombô ya ni shaku tonde wa mata ni shaku

dragonfly--
flying two feet
then two feet more


1804

.きりぎりす隣に居ても聞へけり
kirigirisu tonari ni itte mo kikoe keri

the katydid next door
clear
as a bell

In his original Japanese, Issa does not use an idiom like "clear as a bell," but his meaning is similar: the katydid, though next door, is clearly heard--attesting to the vigor of his love calls.

A katydid (kirigirisu) is a green or light brown insect, a cousin of crickets and grasshoppers. The males possess special organs on the wings with which they produce shrill calls. Although katydid is the closest English equivalent, many translators (such as R. H. Blyth) use the more familiar "grasshopper" and "cricket." See Haiku (Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1949-1952; rpt. 1981-1982/reset paperback edition) 4.1068-69.

1804

.その草はむしり残すぞきりぎりす
sono kusa wa mushiri nokosu zo kirigirisu

that grass over there
won't be cut...
katydid

Issa is "inviting" the katydid to land on the long, uncut grass, perhaps after the fact. Is he referring (proudly) to his own yard?

Shinji Ogawa assisted with this translation.

A katydid (kirigirisu) is a green or light brown insect, a cousin of crickets and grasshoppers. The males possess special organs on the wings with which they produce shrill calls. Although katydid is the closest English equivalent, many translators (such as R. H. Blyth) use the more familiar "grasshopper" and "cricket." See Haiku (Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1949-1952; rpt. 1981-1982/reset paperback edition) 4.1068-69.

1804

.焼原やはやくも鳴やきりぎりす
yake hara ya hyaku mo naku [ya] kirigirisu

a burned field
but soon he's singing...
katydid

Shinji Ogawa explains that hyaku has two meanings: "fast" and "soon." In this context, he believes that "soon" applies: "Everything runs away from the burning field. After the short silence, Issa heard the katydid singing."

A katydid (kirigirisu) is a green or light brown insect, a cousin of crickets and grasshoppers. The males possess special organs on the wings with which they produce shrill calls. Although katydid is the closest English equivalent, many translators (such as R. H. Blyth) use the more familiar "grasshopper" and "cricket." See Haiku (Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1949-1952; rpt. 1981-1982/reset paperback edition) 4.1068-69.

1804

.夕月や流残りのきりぎりす
yûzuki ya nagare nokori no kirigirisu

evening moon--
surviving the flood
a katydid

Or: "katydids." French translator Jean Cholley pictures "some grasshoppers" (quelques sauterelles); En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 59.

This is the second of two haiku in a row written about a flood at Nagareyama village in Shimosa Province. The first one is as follows:

uodomo no asobi ariku ya kiku no hana

fish frolic about
on foot...
chrysanthemums

Issa entered Nagareyama on the 27th day of Eighth Month, 1804, amid rainy weather. He wrote both of the haiku on the 2nd day of Ninth Month.

A katydid (kirigirisu) is a green or light brown insect, a cousin of crickets and grasshoppers. The males possess special organs on the wings with which they produce shrill calls. Although katydid is the closest English equivalent, many translators (such as R. H. Blyth) use the more familiar "grasshopper" and "cricket." See Haiku (Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1949-1952; rpt. 1981-1982/reset paperback edition) 4.1068-69.

1804

.雨落に生へ合せたり草の花
amaochi ni hae awasetari kusa [no] hana

in the rain gutter too
wildflowers
have sprouted


1804

.五六日居過す門や草の花
go roku nichi I sugosu kado ya kusa no hana

lasting five, six days
at the gate...
wildflower

The flower is trampled in this high-traffic area. Hanging onto life for five or six days shows its toughness.

1804

.魚どもの遊びありくや菊の花
uodomo no asobi ariku ya kiku no hana

fish frolicking
on foot...
chrysanthemums

Ariku, I assume, is a variant of aruku, "to walk." Issa presents the strange image of fish, left over from a flood, wriggling among the chrysanthemums.

This is the first of two haiku in a row written about a flood at Nagareyama village in Shimosa Province. The second one is as follows:

yûzuki ya nagare nokori no kirigirisu

evening moon--
surviving the flood
a katydid

Issa entered Nagareyama on the 27th day of Eighth Month, 1804, amid rainy weather. He wrote both of the haiku on the 2nd day of Ninth Month.

1804

.菊園につつと出たる葎哉
kiku-zono ni tsutto idetaru mugura kana

in the mum garden
sprouting all at once...
weeds

In an earlier version I rendered mugura as "goose-grass," but I now believe that its sense is more correctly conveyed as "weeds." See Maruyama Kazuhiko, Issa haiku shû (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1990; rpt. 1993) 288, note 1537.

1804

.柴門の薮の中迄小菊哉
shiba kado no yabu no naka made ko-giku kana

even in the thicket
beyond the bramble gate
a little chrysanthemum


1804

.白菊に拙き手水かかる也
shira-giku ni tsutanaki chôzu kakaru nari

a splash for the white
chrysanthemum...
hand-wash water


1804

.たやすくも菊の咲けり川の縁
tayasuku mo kiku no saki keri kawa no fuchi

chrysanthemums bloom
with ease...
river's edge


1804

.痩土にぼつぼつ菊の咲にけり
yase tsuchi ni botsu-botsu kiku no saki ni keri

in poor soil
little by little it blooms...
chrysanthemum

Botsu-botsu (also hotsu-hotsu) can mean "little by little"; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1489.

Whether intentional or not, this haiku portrays Issa: a poor man from a poor province who, despite all odds, bloomed as a poet.

1804

.僧も立鶴も立たる野菊哉
sô mo tachi tsuru mo tachitaru nogiku kana

a standing priest
a standing crane...
field chrysanthemums

"Field chrysanthemums" (nogiku) are wildflowers that bloom in autumn.

1804

.朝顔や藪蚊の中にりんとして
asagao ya yabu ka no naka ni rin to shite

morning-glories--
amid the mosquitoes
standing tall

Admiring the beauty of the flowers, under the circumstances, is an act of courage.

The phrase rin to means "majestically, imposingly, gallantly," writes Maruyama Kazuhiko; see Issa haiku shû (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1990; rpt. 1993) 207, note 1080. Shinji Ogawa explains further that rin to shite is short for rinzen to shite: "commandingly."

According to R. H. Blyth, "thicket mosquito" (yabu ka) refers to a species of "striped mosquitoes"; Haiku (Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1949-1952; rpt. 1981-1982/reset paperback edition) 3.805. Robin D. Gill notes that the scientific name for these large striped, bloodthirsty mosquitoes is Stegomyia fasciata, according to Kenkyûsha's Japanese-English Dictionary.

1804

.蔦紅葉口紅つけし庇也
tsuta momiji kuchibeni tsukeshi hisashi nari

red-leaf ivy--
lipstick is applied
to the roof

The ivy is growing on the eaves (hisashi). In his original text, Issa wrote, kuchi ima ("mouth now"); the editors of Issa zenshû believe that he meant to write, kuchibeni ("lipstick"); Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79, 1.571.

1804

.しなのぢはそば咲けりと小幅綿
shinano ji wa soba saki keri to kohabawata

the Shinano road
through blooming buckwheat...
a swath of cloth

The editors of Issa zenshû comment on the ending of this haiku: "In traditional Japan kohabawata was a set size of kimono cloth, approximately 36 centimeters width of cotton" (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 2.233, note 1. Shinano, present-day Nagano Prefecture, was Issa's home province, known as buckwheat country. The road running through the blooming autumn fields appears like a long narrow strip of unrolled kimono cloth.

1804

.そばの花咲くや仏と二人前
soba no hana saku ya hotoke to futarimae

buckwheat blossoms
enough for the Buddha
and me

Issa seems to be referring to a statue of the Buddha made of stone or wood.

1804

.痩山にぽつと咲けりそばの花
yase yama ni patto saki keri soba no hana

on a barren mountain
it bloomed in a flash
buckwheat


1804

.啄木も日の暮かかる紅葉哉
kitsutsuki mo hi no kure kakaru momiji kana

the woodpecker too
engulfed in sunset...
red leaves


1804

.松切に鳥も去けり夕紅葉
matsu kiru ni tori mo sari keri yûmomiji

the birds have left
the chopped down pine...
evening's red leaves


1804

.箕をかつぐ人と連立紅葉哉
mi wo katsugu hito to tsuredatsu momiji kana

following the man
who shoulders a winnow...
red leaves

A winnow or winnowing fan is a farm implement used to separate chaff from grain. By saying that the red leaves are "going along with" the farmer, Issa implies that they are blowing in a wind in the same direction that the farmer is walking.

1804

.うかうかと出水に逢し木槿哉
uka-uka to demizu ni aishi mukuge kana

acting fidgety
in the flood...
roses of Sharon

Uka-uka to is an old expression meaning (1) not at peace or (2) thoughtless or absent-minded; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 182. Here, the first definition seems to fit. An overflowing stream or river flows through the blooming shrubs, agitating them. This haiku is an example of Issa's bait-and-switch humor: after the first two phrases the reader might expect that some human is acting fidgety, but instead, in the third phrase (the punch line), we see roses.

Shinji Ogawa, however, notes that even in Issa's time the second meaning ("absent-minded") was dominant. Knowing both meanings, Shinji prefers to apply the second one, the illogicality being the whole point:

acting absent-mindedly
they encountered the flood...
roses of Sharon

1804

.寝る外に分別はなし花木槿
neru hoka ni funbetsu wa nashi hana mukuge

outside of sleeping
lacking good sense...
rose of Sharon

In his translation, Lucien Stryk believes that Issa is addressing the flower, asking for forgiveness ("forgive me..."); The Dumpling Field: Haiku of Issa (Athens Ohio: Swallow Press, 1991) 39. I think that the poet is simply describing the lazy life of the flower.

1804

.不平な垣もむくげは咲にけり
futairana kaki mo mukuge wa saki ni keri

an unlevel hedge, too
in bloom...
roses of Sharon

Kaki can be translated as "fence" or "hedge." Since Issa is referring to blooming shrubs, the latter translation fits here.

1804

.雨三粒おちてもぬれし瓢哉
ame san tsube ochite mo nureshi fukube kana

three drops of rain
and it's drenched...
the gourd

Though the kanji for "gourd" is today read as hisago, Issa read it as fukube.

1804

.うきうきと草の咲そふ瓢哉
uki-uki to kusa no sakisô fukube kana

with light hearts
the grasses bloom...
gourds

Though the kanji for "gourd" is today read as hisago, Issa read it as fukube.

1804

.見覚して鳥の立らん大瓢
mioboe shite tori no tachiran ô fukube

the bird flies off
making a mental note...
the big gourd

Issa imagines that the bird is thinking of returning to eat it when it isn't being guarded.

Though the kanji for "gourd" is today read as hisago, Issa read it as fukube.

1804

.闇の夜に段々なるぞ種瓢
yami [no] yo ni dan-dan naru zo tane fukube

in the gloom of night
bit by bit it grows...
the gourd

Or, more literally, "the seed gourd" (tane fukube). Though the kanji for "gourd" is today read as hisago, Issa read it as fukube.

1804

.前の人も春を待しか古畳
mae no hito mo haru wo machishi ka furu-datami

did others sit here too
waiting for spring?
old tatami mat


1804

.大年のよい夢見るかぬり枕
ôtoshi no yoi yume miru ka nuri makura

a good dream
for the year's end?
lacquered pillow

The "lacquered pillow" (nuri makura) was mainly used in the pleasure quarter--what today is known as the red-light district...a pillow not for sleeping. See Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1276.

1804

.寝所はきのふ葺けり初時雨
ne-dokoro wa kinou fuki keri hatsu shigure

my sleeping place
just thatched yesterday...
first winter rain

Or: "the sleeping place." Issa doesn't specify whose.

1804

.寝始る其夜を竹の時雨哉
ne hajimaru sono yo wo take no shigure kana

my very first night
sleeping here...
winter rain on bamboo

On the 21st day of Tenth Month of 1804 Issa moved to a new residence near Sumida River just east of Edo, in Bashô's old neighborhood. The reader must decide if Issa is annoyed by the noisy rain interrupting his first night's sleep in the new place, or if he might have perceived the winter rain, a season word particularly associated with Bashô's death day, as a lucky omen, a sort of welome to the neighborhood.

1804

.木がらしに口淋しいとゆふべ哉
kogarashi ni kuchi sabishii to yûbe kana

in winter wind
no one to talk to...
evening

Literally, the middle phrase is "lonely mouth" (kuchi sabishii to).

Hiroshi Kobori comments on the word, kogarashi ("winter wind"). In early Japanese poetry, this refers to the wind that blows through trees, breaking branches and turning the leaves brown. By Issa's time it means "a dry windy day during the late autumn-deep winter season." It is classified as a winter season word.

1804

.木がらしに三尺店も我夜也
kogarashi ni sanjakudana mo waga yo nari

in winter wind
in three-foot wide lodgings...
my night

According to Makoto Ueda, Issa rented a small house in Edo (today's Tokyo), near the Sumida River. He wrote this haiku after fixing it up to move in; Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 49.

Hiroshi Kobori comments on the word, kogarashi ("winter wind"). In early Japanese poetry, this refers to the wind that blows through trees, breaking branches and turning the leaves brown. By Issa's time it means "a dry windy day during the late autumn-deep winter season." It is classified as a winter season word.

1804

.木がらしや小溝にけぶる竹火箸
kogarashi ya ko dobu ni keburu take hibashi

winter wind--
in a little ditch smoke
and bamboo tongs

Someone (Issa?) is cooking a meal, using bamboo tongs and a little, perhaps makeshift grill.

Hiroshi Kobori comments on the word, kogarashi ("winter wind"). In early Japanese poetry, this refers to the wind that blows through trees, breaking branches and turning the leaves brown. By Issa's time it means "a dry windy day during the late autumn-deep winter season." It is classified as a winter season word.

1804

.木がらしや地びたに暮るる辻うたひ
kogarashi ya jibita ni kururu tsuji-utai

winter wind--
a street singer at dusk
hunkers to the ground

This haiku has the prescript, "Living in the world is made hard (kewashii) by mountains and rivers." According to the editors of Issa zenshû, the street singer is a type of beggar who sings little songs by the wayside (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 2.248, note 4.

Maruyama Kazuhiko adds that the singer's face is probably hidden under a fan or umbrella-hat; see Issa haiku shû (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1990; rpt. 1993) 76, note 329.

French translator Jean Cholley visualizes several street singers in the scene; En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 59.

Makoto Ueda adds that the singer performed "passages from famous Noh plays"; Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 54.

Hiroshi Kobori comments on the word, kogarashi ("winter wind"). In early Japanese poetry, this refers to the wind that blows through trees, breaking branches and turning the leaves brown. By Issa's time it means "a dry windy day during the late autumn--deep winter season." It is classified as a winter season word.

1804

.はつ雪に白湯すすりても我家哉
hatsu yuki ni sayu susurite mo waga ya kana

in first snowfall
though slurping only hot water...
my home

Shinji Ogawa comments, "The meaning of mo (even though) in susurite mo is important. In essence, Issa is saying, 'Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home'."

Shinji adds, "The word 'humble' in Payne's poem is conceptual whereas Issa's 'slurping mere hot water' is concrete; 'there's no place like home' is reasoning or explanatory whereas Issa states 'my home' without explanation. I'm not saying which is better but to show one of the important characteristics of haiku. Haiku avoids to state conceptual words but states instead concrete matters or actions, preferably plain everyday matters or actions, in plain language. Therefore, any explanatory remark may be regarded as a flaw or a weakness of the haiku."

1804

.はつ雪や翌のけぶりのわら一把
hatsu yuki ya asu no keburi no wara ichi wa

first snowfall--
tomorrow's smoke one
bundle of straw


1804

.はつ雪や竹の夕を独寝て
hatsu yuki ya take no yûbe wo hitori nete

first snowfall--
in the bamboo evening
sleeping alone


1804

.初雪や古郷見ゆる壁の穴
hatsu yuki ya furusato miyuru kabe no ana

first snowfall--
my home village in a hole
in the wall

A haiku of perspective: Issa peers through the hole in the wall, indicative of his own poverty and suggesting that a cold, hard winter is about to begin, both outside and in. At the time, three years after her father's death, Issa's desire to return home as his father wanted him to was being thwarted by his stepmother with the support of many in the village. Therefore, the haiku is most likely an imagined scene, the coldness of which suggests, on a symbolic level, the cold hearts of the people in his home town who didn't want him there.

1804

.藪菊や霰ちる日に咲合
yabu-giku ya arare chiru hi ni saki-awase

thicket's chrysanthemum
on a day of hailstorm...
blooms


1804

.大霜の古家も人の地内也
ôshimo no furuya mo hito no chinai nari

heavy frost
on the old house, its owner
in the ground

A heavy poem for light-hearted Issa.

1804

.淋しさは得心しても窓の霜
sabishisa wa tokushin shite mo mado no shimo

adding to
my solitude...
frost on the window


1804

.枯原の雨のひびきし枕哉
kare-bara no ame no hibikishi makura kana

rain on withered fields
resounds...
my pillow

The relentless pounding of the winter rain on the barren fields resonates in Issa's pillow.

1804

.野はかれて何ぞ喰たき庵哉
no wa karete nani zo kuitaki iori kana

withering fields--
oh for a bite to eat
in my hut!


1804

.芭蕉忌に先つつがなし菊の花
bashôki ni mazu tsutsuganashi kiku [no] hana

safe and sound
on Basho's Death-Day...
chrysanthemum

The death anniversary of the great poet, Bashô, falls on the 12th day of Tenth Month. This anniversary is also called "Winter Rain Anniversary" (shigure ki) and "The Old Man's Anniversary" (okina ki).

Shinji Ogawa notes, "A haiku composed for death anniversary often contains something to remind one of the deceased. In this case, Issa put the word "mazu" to reflect Bashô's haiku:

mazu tanomu shiinoki mo ari natsukodachi

This haiku appears at the very end of Bashô's haibun, Genju Hut. The meaning of the haiku: 'in case of need, there is a pasania (oak) among the summer trees.' Bashô expresses his dilemma between his determination to die on the road and the human nature to seek some comforts."

1804

.西山はもう鶯かはち敲
nishi yama wa mô uguisu ka hachi tataki

in western mountains
a nightingale already?
a monk beats his bowl

Beginning with the 13th day of Eleventh Month and continuing for 48 days thereafter, certain Buddhist priests went on pilgrimage each night, reciting the nembutsu and singing religious songs. Since they had to beg for food along the way, they announced their presence and need by banging on their bowls. The nembutsu prayer is "Namu Amida Butsu"--"All praise to Amida Buddha!" Amida's Pure Land is located in the mythic West, making the "western mountains" (nishi yama) religiously significant in the poem.

1804

.鉢敲今のが山の凹み哉
hachi tataki ima no ga yama no kubomi kana

a monk beats his bowl--
by now a dent
in the mountain!

Beginning with the 13th day of Eleventh Month and continuing for 48 days thereafter, certain Buddhist priests went on pilgrimage each night, reciting the nembutsu and singing religious songs. Since they had to beg for food along the way, they announced their presence and need by banging on their bowls. The nembutsu prayer is "Namu Amida Butsu"--"All praise to Amida Buddha!"

This haiku is a fun example of poetic exaggeration.

1804

.月さすや年の市日の待乳山
tsuki sasu ya toshi no ichibi no matsuchi yama

shining moon--
the year's end fair
on Mount Matsuchi

Matsuchi-yama is a hill on Sumida River's west bank--in Edo (today's Tokyo).

1804

.年の市何しに出たと人のいふ
toshi no ichi nani shi ni deta to hito no iu

year's end fair
"What's he doing here?"
they ask

Jean Cholley describes the scene: Issa is alone in the city, ignorant of where his next bowl of rice will come from, walking through the crowd at the year's end fair just for the pleasure of seeing the world. His ragged appearance attracts attention and people's looks that seem to say: "What could he possibly want here, having no money?" En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 236, n. 30.

1804

.我宿は蠅もとしとる浦辺哉
waga yado wa hae mo toshitoru urabe kana

at my home
the flies too, a year older...
seacoast

Or: "the fly." The season word in this haiku, toshitori, ("growing old") relates to the year's ending; in the traditional Japanese system for counting age, everyone gains a year on New Year's Day.

1804

.冬篭其夜に聞くや山の雨
fuyugomori sono yo ni kiku ya yama no ame

winter seclusion--
all night the sound
of mountain rain


1804

.炭俵はやぬかるみに踏れけり
sumidawara haya nukarumi ni fumare keri

empty charcoal bag--
in the mud so quickly
trampled

The word "empty" doesn't appear in Issa's original text, but this seems to be implied. As Makoto Ueda pictures it, someone has used an empty sack to cover a muddy spot in a street after a rainfall; Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 54.

1804

.ほたの火や目出度き御代の顔と顔
hota no hi ya medetaki miyo no kao to kao

wood fire--
oh happy age!
on every face

Though the seasonal expression, hota no hi, suggests winter, R. H. Blyth reads this as a haiku of New Year's Day (correctly, I think, due to its celebratory tone); A History of Haiku (Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1964) 1.357.

1804

.久木おふ片山かげや鰒汁
hisagi-fû kata yama kage ya fukuto-jiru

under tall oaks
in the mountain's shade
pufferfish soup

Hisagi are tall, shady deciduous trees such as the red budded oak (akame kashiwa); Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1385.

Pufferfish soup (fukuto-jiru) is a winter season word.

1804

.山風を踏こたへたりみそさざい
yama kaze wo fumi kotaetari misosazai

fighting the mountain wind
on foot...
a wren


1804

.みそさざいちつといふても日の暮る
misosazai chitto iute mo hi no kururu

little wren
despite your cheeping
the day ends

This haiku appears in R. H. Blyth's Haiku with a major typo: "it grows duck" should read, "it grows dark" (Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1949-1952; rpt. 1981-1982/reset paperback edition) 4.1264.

1804

.夕雨を鳴出したりみそさざい
yû ame wo naki-ideshitari misosazai

breaking out in song
at the evening rain...
wren


1804

.片壁は千鳥に住す夜也けり
kara kabe wa chidori ni sumisu yo nari keri

a plover lives
in one of my walls...
evening


1804

.麦の葉の夜はうつくしや千鳥鳴
mugi no ha no yo wa utsukushi ya chidori naku

"This evening in the barley field
so pretty!"
sings the plover

Issa leaves to the reader's imagination the identity of the speaker of the first two phrases: Issa or the plover. I like to think that the plover is the speaker, hence the quotation marks. The other way to read the haiku seems less interesting, less "Issa":

this evening in the barley field
so pretty...
a plover is singing

Mugi is a generic term that refers to several grains: wheat, barley, oats, and rye.

1804

.麦の葉は春のさま也なく千鳥
mugi no ha wa haru no sama nari naku chidori

"The field of barley
so spring-like!"
sings the plover

As in a similar haiku of the same year (referring to evening in the barley field), Issa leaves to the reader's imagination the identity of the speaker of the first two phrases: Issa or the plover. In both cases, I like to think that the plover is the speaker, hence the quotation marks.

Mugi is a generic term that refers to several grains: wheat, barley, oats, and rye.

1804

.楢の葉の朝からちるやとうふぶね
nara [no] ha no asa kara chiru ya tôfu-bune

an oak leaf this morning
fallen
in the tofu tank

In undated revisions, Issa ends this haiku with the phrase, "tofu tub" (tôfu oke).

1804

.有明や窓の名残をちる紅葉
ariake ya mado no nagori wo chiru momiji

at dawn a keepsake
left on the window
red leaves


1805

.年立や日の出を前の舟の松
toshi tatsu ya hi no de wo mae no fune no matsu

a new year begins--
before sunrise
a pine-decorated boat

Arrangements of pine and bamboo are traditional New Year's decorations.

1805

.元日のけしきになるや泥に雪
ganjitsu no keshiki ni naru ya doro ni yuki

it's become
a First Month scene...
snow on the mud


1805

.鳥なくや野老畳もお正月
tori naku ya norôtatami mo o-shôgatsu

birds singing--
on a tatami mat in a field, too
happy New Year

I assume that norô is the same as noro, an old word for nora, field; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1302.

1805

.わが春やたどん一つに小菜一把
waga haru ya tadon hitotsu ni ona ichi wa

my spring--
one charcoal ball
and a bundle of greens


1805

.欠鍋も旭さす也是も春
kake nabe mo asahi sasu nari kore mo haru

a cracked kettle
and the rising sun...
this too is spring

This haiku celebrates the first day of spring, which was the first day of the year in the old Japanese calendar.

1805

.はつ春も月夜となるや顔の皺
hatsu haru mo tsuki yo to naru ya kao no shiwa

the new spring
turns moonlit night...
my wrinkled face

Or: "his" or "her."

1805

.初春も月夜もよ所に伏家哉
hatsu haru mo tsuki yo mo yoso ni fuseya kana

spring's beginning
and bright moon are elsewhere...
my hut

Or: "the hut." Issa doesn't specify that it is his, but this is strongly suggested. Elsewhere, spring and moon are being celebrated, but not in Issa's humble hut under a cloudy sky.

1805

.ちぐはぐの下駄から春は立にけり
chiguhagu no geta kara haru wa tachi ni keri

the offbeat clomping
of clogs...
must be spring!


1805

.春立や草さへ持つたぬ門に迄
haru tatsu ya kusa sae mottanu kado ni made

spring begins--
even for a gate
without grass

Perhaps the gate is Issa's. Other yards are blessed with fresh green grass on this first day of spring, not the poet's.

1805

.葎家も春になりけり夜の雨
mugura ya mo haru ni nari keri yoru [no] ame

spring comes too
to the weed-thatched house...
evening rain

The thatch in question is mugura, which some translators render as "goose-grass." Maruyama Kazuhiko defines it simply as zassô, "weeds"; see Issa haiku shû (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1990; rpt. 1993) 288, note 1537.

1805

.家二ッ三ッ四ッ凧の夕哉
ie futatsu mitsu yotsu tako no yûbe kana

two houses, three, four...
an evening
of kites

Shinji Ogawa notes that the numbers grammatically modify the houses, yet "the numbers influence the 'kites' also." He adds that the normal Japanese expression is to give just two numbers, "two, three," or "three, four," but here, "Issa uses three numbers to create special effects--to make the image more clear, the image of a tranquil and peaceful village." Sakuo Nakamura also provided help with this translation.

1805

.凧今木母寺は夜に入るぞ
ikanobori ima mokuboji wa yo ni iru zo

a kite--
Mokubo Temple settles
into evening


1805

.山かげや薮のうしろや凧
yama kage ya yabu no ushiro ya ikanobori

mountain shade--
deep in a thicket
a kite


1805

.霞む日も寝正月かよ山の家
kasumu hi mo neshôgatsu ka yo yama no ie

on this misty day
sleeping through New Year's?
mountain home

The seasonal reference in this haiku is to neshôgatsu (formerly pronounced, neshôgwatsu), which refers to staying in bed for leisurely sleeping during the New Year's holiday. This can be due to a sickness or simply for relaxation's sake; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1280.

1805

.一桶は如来のためよ朝わかな
hito oke wa nyorai no tame yo asa wakana

one bucketful
for Buddha...
morning herbs

Someone (Issa?) leaves an offering of herbs for a statue of Buddha. Wakana (young greens or herbs) are picked on the sixth day of First Month--a traditional New Year's observance.

1805

.わかな摘鷺も淋しく思ふやと
wakana tsumi sagi mo sabishiku omou ya to

picking herbs
the heron also
seems lonely

Wakana (young greens or herbs) are picked on the sixth day of First Month--a traditional New Year's observance.

1805

.わかなのや一葉摘んでは人をよぶ
wakana no ya hito ha tsunde wa hito wo yobu

herb garden--
picking one, he shouts
"Over here!"

Or: "she shouts" or "I shout." This is a very free translation. Literally, "a person picking one leaf of young greens calls a person." Wakana (young greens or herbs) are picked on the sixth day of First Month--a traditional New Year's observance.

1805

.揚土のいかにも春の日也けり
agetsuchi no ikanimo haru no hi nari keri

the earth mound's
part of it indeed...
a fine spring day

I have a hunch that Issa could be referring to a grave mound with the term, agetsuchi ("earth mound"), but Shinji Ogawa notes that "some gardens have earth mounds to make the view interesting."

1805

.破風からも青空見ゆる春日哉
hafu kara mo ao-zora miyuru haru hi kana

even from the gable
clear blue sky...
a spring day


1805

.春の日を背筋にあてることし哉
haru no hi [wo] sesuji ni ateru kotoshi kana

exposing my spine
to the spring sun...
this year


1805

.春の日を降りくらしたる都哉
haru no hi wo furikurashitaru miyako kana

on the spring day
all day, rain...
Kyoto

The "capital" (miyako) was Kyoto in Issa's day. This is where the emperor and his court lived. Political and military power was centered in the Shogun's city of Edo, today's Tokyo.

1805

.春の日や暮ても見ゆる東山
haru no hi ya kurete mo miyuru higashi yama

spring day--
visible even after sunset
Higashi Mountains

According to Sakuo Nakamura, Higashiyama ("Eastern Mountains") is the collective name for a number of mountains located between Kyoto and Lake Biwa: a total of 36 peaks, one of which is the temple mountain, Hieizan.

Shinji Ogawa assisted with this translation.

1805

.砂をする大淀舟や暮遅き
suna wo suru ôyodobune ya kure osoki

grating on sand
the big ferryboat...
late sunset

The seasonal phrase "late sunset" (kure osoki) indicates a long day of spring.

1805

.雨がちに都の春も暮る也
amegachi ni miyako no haru mo kururu nari

in falling rain
in Kyoto too
dusk of spring

The "capital" (miyako) was Kyoto in Issa's day. This is where the emperor and his court lived. Political and military power was centered in the Shogun's city of Edo, today's Tokyo.

1805

.顔染し乙女も春の暮る哉
kao someshi otome mo haru no kururu kana

for the painted faced
maiden too...
spring dusk

Cynthia writes, "The clock is ticking for the young woman, who is in the dusk of her season of youthful beauty."

1805

.下京の窓かぞへけり春の暮
shimogyô no mado kazoe keri haru no kure

counting the windows
of Shimogyo Town...
spring dusk

Shimogyô in Issa's time was a place near Kyoto. Today, it is one of Kyoto's 11 wards.

1805

.松に藤春も暮れぬと夕哉
matsu ni fuji haru mo kurenu to yûbe kana

for the wisteria in the pine, too
spring's dusk
this evening


1805

.木兎の面魂よ春の暮
mimizuku no tsuradamashii haru no kure

the little owl
makes a face...
spring dusk

The owl in question is a feather-toed scops-owl (mimizuku).

1805

.舞々や翌なき春を顔を染て
mai-mai ya asu naki haru wo kao wo somete

water spider
on spring's last day
blushing

In one manuscript, Issa prefaces this haiku with the comment, "Third Month's end." In the old lunar calendar, summer began on the first day of Fourth Month. The mai-mai is also called a "water spinner."

1805

.大和路や翌なき春をなく烏
yamato-ji ya asu naki haru wo naku karasu

road to Nara--
a crow caws
at spring's last day

The phrase yamato-ji means "road to Nara," not "road of Japan," as I originally translated it. I thank Shinji Ogawa for this correction. Nara was Japan's capital before Kyoto.

1805

.小田の鶴又おりよかし春の雨
oda no tsuru mata oriyokashi haru no ame

rice field crane
again, come on down!
spring rain

Shinji Ogawa explains that oriyokashi means, "come down, please!"

1805

.黒門の半分見へて春の雨
kurumon no hambun miete haru no ame

the Black Gate
just half visible...
spring rain

The "Black Gate" (kuromon) is the main temple gate of Kan-eiji in the Ueno district of Edo (today's Tokyo).

1805

.春雨や家鴨よちよち門歩き
harusame ya ahiru yochi-yochi kado aruki

spring rain--
ducks waddle-waddle
to the gate

Why are the ducks congregating at the gate to a house? Is it Issa's house and gate, and do the ducks expect to be fed there? Or are they just waddling about happily under the spring rain? Issa presents the essential image; it's up to the reader to contemplate and enjoy it.

1805

.春雨や膳の際迄茶の木原
harusame ya zen no kiwa made cha no kibara

spring rain--
to the dinner tray's edge
the tea grove

Shinji Ogawa explains that a zen (dining tray) is about one foot by one foot with five-inch legs.

1805

.春雨や蛤殻の朝の月
harusame ya hamaguri-gara no asa no tsuki

spring rain--
the morning moon
is a clam shell

Issa wrote this haiku on the first day of Third Month,1805. Interestingly, in his journal Bunka ku chô ("Bunka Era Haiku Collection"), he notes that it was a sunny day. Perhaps this rainy scene is imagined. See Issa zenshû (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 2.276.

1805

.春風の闇にも吹くや浦の家
haru kaze no yami ni mo fuku ya ura no ie

the spring breeze
blows in the dark...
house on the shore

In my first translation, I imagined that the spring breeze was reaching into the darkness within the house. Shinji Ogawa believes that Issa is painting with a "slightly wider brush": the breeze blows in the dark of night.

1805

.春風や土人形をゑどる也
haru kaze ya tsuchi ningyô wo wedoru nari

spring breeze--
the clay doll
gets some color

Someone is painting a clay doll, the freshness of the color accentuating the feeling of springtime.

1805

.棒先の茶笊かわくや春の風
bô saki no chazaru kawaku ya haru no kaze

on the tip of the pole
the tea strainer dries...
spring breeze

As Makoto Ueda points out, A tea strainer (chazaru) is made of bamboo. It needs to be dried in the sun to prevent it from becoming moldy; Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 138.

1805

.浅川や鍋すすぐ手も春の月
asa kawa ya nabe susugu te mo haru no tsuki

shallow river--
on hands rinsing a kettle
spring moon


1805

.春の月さはらば雫たりぬべし
haru no tsuki sawaraba shizuku tarinubeshi

spring moon--
if I touched it
it would drip

The suffix -beshi indicates that the action of the verb is probable: a guess on the poet's part; see Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1469. Lucien Stryk's translation is a bit more hyperbolic than Issa's original: "raise a finger/ and it drips"; The Dumpling Field: Haiku of Issa (Athens Ohio: Swallow Press, 1991) 11. Issa wrote this on the 23rd day of Second Month. According to his journal, it rained that day, so perhaps the poem was inspired by the damp weather. Literally, he is saying, "If I touched the spring moon, water would drip from it, I bet."The wetness of the moon and the fanciful idea of touching it and making it drip combine in one of Issa's most imaginative and unforgettable images.

1805

.春の月軒の雫の又おちよ
haru no tsuki noki no shizuku no mata ochi yo

the spring moon
in a raindrop from the eaves...
falls again


1805

.夜明ても朧也けり角田川
yoakete mo oboro nari keri sumida-gawa

even at dawn
spring haze hovers...
Sumida River

The word "even" (mo) suggests that the haze has lasted all night.

1805

.青苔や膝の上迄春の虹
ao-goke ya hiza no ue made haru no niji

green moss--
all the way to my lap
spring's rainbow


1805

.鰯焼片山畠や薄がすみ
iwashi yaku kata yama hata ya usu-gasumi

grilling sardines
in a mountain field...
thin mist


1805

.薄霞む夕々の菜汁哉
usu-gasumu yûbe-yûbe no na-zuyu kana

thin mist--
night after night
vegetable soup


1805

.うら窓にいつもの人が霞む也
ura mado ni itsumo [no] hito ga kasumu nari

at the back window
the same person...
mist


1805

.かすむ日もうしろ見せたる伏家哉
kasumu hi mo ushiro misetaru fuseya kana

the misty day, too
viewed out back...
my humble hut

Or: "the humble hut." Issa doesn't specify that it is his, but this might be inferred.

1805

.かすむ日や夕山かげの飴の笛
kasumu hi ya yûyama kage no ame no fue

misty day--
in evening mountain's shadow
candyman's flute

Makoto Ueda notes that ame no fue ("candy flute") signifies "a candyman's flute": the flute that a candy peddler is playing to catch children's attention (similar to the ice cream truck jingles of a later time); 56.

A year later (1806) Issa rewrites this haiku, changing the ending to fue no ame ("flute's candy").

Shinji Ogawa comments, "Issa tries to wrap the sound of the flute with mist to fuse the visual and acoustic senses into one."

1805

.かりそめに出て霞むやつくば山
karisome ni idete kasumu ya tsukuba yama

peeking in, peeking out
of the mist...
Mount Tsukuba

Mount Tsukuba is located near the city of Mito in Ibaraki Prefecture.

Karisome can mean "transient," "provisional," or "in sport." Shinji Ogawa chooses the third connotation when he paraphrases this haiku: "hide-and-seek/ with the spring mist/ Mount Tsukuba." He adds that this is a typical example of personification in Issa.

1805

.盗する烏よそれも春がすみ
nusumi suru karasu yo sore mo harugasumi

thieving crow!
under a cloak
of spring mist

Or: "crows."

Shinji Ogawa notes that yo in this context means, "indeed." The expression sore mo means, "adding to that." Thus, he paraphrases, "thieving crow/ adding to that/ spring mist," or, "thieving crow/ the accomplice/ spring mist."

1805

.柱をも拭じまひけり春霞
hashira wo mo fuki-jimai keri harugasumi

the post is wiped
all clean...
spring mist


1805

.我袖も一ッに霞むゆふべ哉
waga sode mo hitotsu ni kasumu yûbe kana

even my sleeve
is one with the mist...
evening


1805

.陽炎の内からも立葎哉
kagerô no nai kara mo tatsu mugura kana

standing deep inside
the heat shimmers...
weeds

The plant in question is mugura, which some translators render as "goose-grass." Maruyama Kazuhiko defines it simply as zassô, "weeds"; see Issa haiku shû (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1990; rpt. 1993) 288, note 1537.

"Heat shimmers" are the wavy bends in the air that one sometimes sees in the distance on a warm day--a phenomenon associated with springtime in Japan.

1805

.陽炎やいとしき人の杖の跡
kagerô ya itoshiki hito no tsue no ato

heat shimmers--
traces of a dear friend's
walking stick

"Heat shimmers" are the wavy bends in the air that one sometimes sees in the distance on a warm day--a phenomenon associated with springtime in Japan.

1805

.陽炎や笠の手垢も春のさま
kagerô ya kasa no teaka mo haru no sama

heat shimmers--
umbrella-hat's handprints too
a sign of spring

Sakuo Nakamura believes that the finger-smudged umbrella-hat might be Issa's own; it makes the poet think of starting his spring travels.

1805

.家形に月のさしけり春の水
ie nari ni tsuki [no] sashi keri haru no mizu

moonlight halos
the house...
spring water

The seasonal reference of this haiku is to the warm waters of springtime. Issa is looking at a reflection of the moonlit house in the water. Even though "spring water" is ambiguous in English, I think it works better in the translation than "springtime water" or "water of spring."

1805

.草の葉や彼岸団子にむしらるる
kusa no ha ya higan dango ni mushiraruru

blades of grass
are plucked for their sake...
equinox dumplings

Higan is the spring equinox, celebrated at Buddhist temples.

1805

.山陰も桃の日あるか砂糖売
yama kage mo momo no hi aru ka satô uri

even in mountain shade
is it Peach Day?
sugar vendor

This haiku refers to the annual Peach Festival.

1805

.猿も来よ桃太郎来よ草の餅
saru mo koyo momotarô koyo kusa no mochi

come, monkey!
come, Peach Boy!
herb cakes

According to R. H. Blyth in Haiku, a woman was washing clothes by a stream one day, "when a huge peach (momo) came floating down. She took it home, and when she and her husband cut it open, they found a little boy, Momotarô, inside" (Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1949-1952; rpt. 1981-1982/reset paperback edition), 2.418.

Issa playfully invites the monkey(s) and the famous Peach Boy to have some herb cake.

1805

.我宿の餅さへ青き夜也けり
waga yado no mochi sae aoki yo nari keri

even at my home
herbs for cake turn green...
evening


1805

.草つみのこぶしの前の入日哉
kusa tsumi no kobushi no mae no irihi kana

the herb picker
reaches...
for the setting sun

Shinji Ogawa helped me understand the perspective in this haiku. From where Issa watches, the setting sun is "in front of" (mae ni) the fist of the herb picker. The picker seems to be "about to pick the setting sun."

1805

.うつくしい鳥見し当よ山をやく
utsukushii tori mishi ate yo yama wo yaku

where I saw
a pretty bird...
they burn the mountain

Fires are set in the mountains to clear away dead brush and prepare the fields for tilling. Shinji Ogawa believes that the haiku should be read as utsukushii tori mishi atari yo yama wo yaku, but the editors of Issa zenshû read the fourth kanji as ate (not atari), making possible a 5-7-5 pattern: u-tsu-ku-shi-i / to-ri mi-shi a-te yo / ya-ma wo ya-ku (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 1.114; 2.270.

1805

.又一つ山をやく也おぼろ也
mata hitotsu yama wo yaku nari oboro nari

another mountain
set on fire...
the haze thickens

This haiku refers to the springtime burning of dead grass.

1805

.山やくや眉にはらはら夜の雨
yama yaku ya mayu ni hara-hara yoru no ame

dead grass burning--
on my eyebrows pattering
evening rain

Burning dead grass is a spring event. I thank Hiroshi Kobori for helping to translate this.

1805

.草蒔や肴焼香も小昼過
kusa maku ya sakana yaku ka mo ko-biru sugi

sowing herbs--
the smell of fish cooking
a little past noon

Someone is preparing lunch for the farmer(s).

1805

.妻乞や一角とれしのらの猫
tsuma-goi ya hito kado toreshi nora no neko

his looking for a wife
makes him sociable...
stray cat

Shinji Ogawa notes that hito kado toreshi, literally, "round off the angle," is an idiom which means to "become sociable."

1805

.のら猫も妻かせぎする夜也けり
nora neko mo tsuma kasegi suru yo nari keri

the stray cat too
goes wife-hunting...
nightfall

Issa suggests that he, like the tomcat, is in search of female companionship this night.

1805

.山猫も恋は致すや門のぞき
yama neko mo koi wa itasu yo kado nozoki

even the wild cat
looks for sex...
peeking in the gate

Literally, the would-be lover is a "mountain cat" (yama neko).

1805

.山猫や恋から直に里馴るる
yama neko ya koi kara sugu ni sato naruru

wild cat--
after making love
he's the town pet

Literally, a "mountain cat" (yama neko).

1805

.鳥の巣の乾く間もなし山の雨
tori no su no kawaku ma mo nashi yama no ame

no break for the bird's nest
to dry...
mountain rain


1805

.其夜から雨に逢けり巣立鳥
sono yo kara ame ni ai keri su-dachi tori

from night onward
rain...
birds who've left the nest

Or: "a bird that has left the nest." Shinji Ogawa explains that sono yo kara means "from the night on." He suggests "fledglings" as a translation for su-dachi tori, but this might give the reader the impression that the birds are still safe in the nest. I read su-dachi tori literally as "birds who've left the nest." No longer protected from the hardships of the world, they learn their first lesson of life--in drenching rain.

1805

.人鬼が野山に住ぞ巣立鳥
hito oni ga no yama ni sumu zo su-dachi tori

"There's human goblins
in the fields and mountains!"
bird leaving the nest

Shinji Ogawa explains that the phrase, hito oni means, in this context, "the goblins called men." To a young bird, a human being is a dangerous monster.

Syllableº17 notes that the nesting swallow on his porch raises "an alarm call when someone, upon leaving the house, flushes it from the nest. A regular occurrence this is - even when we tiptoe. I'd say that Issa is paraphrasing the bird's warning cry, rather than advising the bird directly."

1805

.浅草や乙鳥とぶ日の借木履
asakusa ya tsubame tobu hi no kari bokuri

Asakusa--
on the day the swallows fly
rented clogs

There is a Buddhist temple, Sensôji, at Asakusa in Edo, today's Tokyo. Bokuri are geta: wooden clogs.

1805

.草の葉のひたひた汐やとぶ乙鳥
kusa no ha no hita-hita shio ya tobu tsubame

blades of grass
swish in the tide...
a swallow flies

Hita-hita denotes "quickly," "speedily," "in a hurry"; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1391. I have translated this, "swish," to describe the movement of the grasses in the tide.

1805

.草の葉や燕来初てうつくしき
kusa no ha ya tsubame kisomete utsukushiki

blades of grass--
swallows start arriving
so pretty


1805

.さし汐も朝はうれしやとぶ乙鳥
sashishio mo asa wa ureshi ya tobu tsubame

high tide
and a happy morning...
swallows flying

Or: "a swallow flies."

1805

.乙鳥のけぶたい顔はせざりけり
tsubakura no kebutai kao wa sezari keri

a swallow--
not at all bothered
by my smoke

Or: "swallows" or "the smoke." I add "my" in the translation for the following reason. Shinji Ogawa translates the phrase, kebutai kao as "to frown at the smoke." Kebutai or kebutashi is an old word meaning to suffocate on smoke; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 570. The swallow's face doesn't seem bothered by the smoke at all--a statement which implies that somebody is bothered. I assume that this somebody is Issa. The smoke could therefore be from his own cooking fire or smudge pot. It's blowing in his face, making him suffocate and scowl. The swallow, however, seems unperturbed.

1805

.乙鳥もことし嫌ひし葎哉
tsubakura mo kotoshi kiraishi mugura kana

the swallows, too
avoid it this year...
patch of weeds

Is the weed patch Issa's yard? The plant is mugura, which some translators render as "goose-grass." Maruyama Kazuhiko defines it simply as zassô, "weeds"; see Issa haiku shû (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1990; rpt. 1993) 288, note 1537.

1805

.あさぢふは夜もうれしや雉なく
asajiu wa yoru mo ureshi ya kigisu naku

a happy night
even among the rushes...
a pheasant cries

Asajiu means a place where asaji, a sort of miscanthus reed, is growing; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 25.

1805

.雉なくやきのふは見へぬ山畠
kiji naku ya kinou wa mienu yama hatake

a pheasant cries--
yesterday it wasn't there
mountain field

Perhaps the field is freshly plowed, startling the pheasant (in Issa's imagination) with a sight that wasn't here yesterday.

1805

.雉なくや立草伏し馬の顔
kiji naku ya tachi kusa fuseshi uma no kao

a pheasant cries--
bedded down in tall grass
a horse's face!


1805

.草山に顔おし入て雉のなく
kusa yama ni kao oshi-irete kiki no naku

poking his face
into the haystack...
a pheasant cries

Or: "her face." "Haystack" is my translation for kusa yama ("grass mountain").

1805

.菜の花がはなれにくいか小田の雁
na no hana ga hanare nikui ka oda [no] kari

is it hard leaving behind
the rape flowers?
rice field geese

Shinji Ogawa paraphrases, "Geese in the rice field, it's time for you to leave Japan. Are you hesitating? Is it hard for you to leave rape-blossoming Japan behind?"

1805

.あさぢふや目出度雨になく蛙
asajiu ya medetai ame ni naku kawazu

celebrating the rain
in the reeds
croaking frogs

The rain is "auspicious" (medetai). Asajiu means a place where asaji, a sort of miscanthus reed, is growing; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 25.

1805

.入相は蛙の目にも涙哉
iriai wa kawazu no me ni mo namida kana

sunset--
tears shine in a frog's eyes
too

The most important word in this haiku is "too" (mo). The frog's eyes look shiny, as if filled with tears. The "too" suggests someone else in the scene, and that someone else has to be Issa. Why are there tears in the poet's eyes? He doesn't say. Instead, he shows us, simply, a sunset and a frog. The day is over. Is the frog sad about this? Regretful? And what if the whole scene is symbolic, sunset suggesting death and the day that is almost gone, a lifetime? Then, the frog's and Issa's tears become even more significant and poignant. Together they weep for what has been and will never be again.

1805

.片ひざは月夜也けり夕蛙
katahiza wa tsuki yo nari keri yû kawazu

on one knee
the moonlight...
frog in the evening


1805

.蛙とぶ程はふる也草の雨
kawazu tobu hodo wa furu nari kusa no ame

looks almost
like frogs hopping!
rain on the grass

A striking image. The raindrops hit the grass and rebound...like hopping frogs.

1805

.草陰にぶつくさぬかす蛙哉
kusa kage ni butsukusa nukasu kawazu kana

in grassy shade
such rude grumbling...
a frog


1805

.草かげや何をぶつくさゆふ蛙
kusa kage ya nani wo butsukusa yû kawazu

in grassy shade
what's that grumbling?
evening frog


1805

.なく蛙此夜葎も伸ぬべし
naku kawazu kono yo mugura mo nobinu-beshi

frogs singing--
"Tonight let the weeds
grow taller!"

The plant in question is mugura, which some translators render as "goose-grass." Maruyama Kazuhiko defines it simply as zassô, "weeds"; see Issa haiku shû (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1990; rpt. 1993) 288, note 1537.

1805

.葉がくれに鳴ぬつもりの蛙哉
ha-gakure ni nakanu tsumori no kawazu kana

in leafy shade
deciding not to croak...
a frog

Shinji Ogawa assisted with this translation.

1805

.痩藪も己が夜也なく蛙
yase yabu mo ono ga yoru nari naku kawazu

even in a sparse thicket
"This is our night!"
croak the frogs

The thicket isn't very thick, but it will do. Shinji Ogawa notes that, even though it's a humble thicket, the frogs in it are celebrating their lives: "This is our world, this is our night!"

1805

.糸屑にきのふの露や春のてふ
itokuzu ni kinou no tsuya ya haru no chô

in the waste threads
yesterday's dewdrops...
spring butterfly


1805

.すのへりにひたとひつつく小てふ哉
su no heri ni hitato hittsuku ko chô kana

clinging to the edge
of the reed mat...
little butterfly


1805

.すりこ木の舟にひつつく小てふ哉
surikogi no fune ni hittsuku ko chô kana

clinging to
the pestle's trough...
little butterfly

The word fune, literally a "boat," can also signify a trough.

1805

.蝶とぶや二軒もやひの痩畠
chô tobu ya ni ken mo yahi no yase hatake

a butterfly flits--
two houses with piss-poor
gardens

Or: "butterflies flit."

The gardens are "sparse" (yase) and "vulgar, low-class" (yahi). I have a hunch that one of them is Issa's.

1805

.蝶とぶや夕飯過の寺参り
chô tobu ya yûmeshi sugi no tera mairi

flitting butterfly--
after dinner, a temple
pilgrimage


1805

.とぶ蝶に追抜れけり紙草履
tobu chô ni oi-nukure keri kami zôri

a flitting butterfly
outstrips me...
paper sandals

Walking along in his paper sandals (kami zôri), Issa is passed by a butterfly. Might the poem be a comment on the aging process, juxtaposing a slowing-down, older poet with a butterfly, a symbol of spring and youth? Issa was 44 when he wrote this haiku.

1805

.鳥もなき蝶も飛けり古畳
tori mo naki chô mo tobi keri furu tatami

birds singing
butterflies flitting...
old tatami mat

Or: "a butterfly flitting." Shinji Ogawa points out that naki means "sang" in this haiku, not, as I originally thought, "devoid of." With his correction, the haiku now makes perfect sense. Issa sits on his old tatami mat, enjoying the spring day along with the birds and butterflies.

1805

.二三本茄子植ても小てふ哉
ni sanbon nasubi uete mo ko chô kana

even when planting
two or three eggplants...
little butterflies

Or: "a little butterfly."

1805

.文七とたがひ違ひに小てふ哉
bunshichi to tagai chigai ni ko chô kana

now on, now off
the hairdresser...
little butterfly

Shinji Ogawa defines bunshichi as a hairdresser or a craftsman who produces hair bands or strings out of white paper.

1805

.町口ははや夜に入し小てふ哉
machiguchi wa haya yo ni irishi ko chô kana

at Machiguchi
night falls so fast...
little butterfly


1805

.豆程の人顕れし小てふ哉
mame hodo no hito arawareshi ko chô kana

a little person
enters the scene...
a little butterfly

Or: "little butterflies." The person is "bean-like" (mame hodo), which I take to mean "tiny," hence, a child.

1805

.我庵は蝶の寝所とゆふべ哉
waga io wa chô no nedoko to yûbe kana

my hut
the butterfly's sleeping place
tonight


1805

.二三日はなぐさみといふ蚕哉
ni san hi wa nagusami to iu kaiko kana

for two or three days
its pure fun...
for silkworms

Bridget Dole, a raiser of silkworms, speculates that the fun involves eating mulberry leaves: "I assume the silkworms enjoy themselves more during the eating stage, and of course, they are more fun to watch. Before molting, they are still and, when I first started raising them, I worried that they were dead. Also, you are not supposed to touch them during that inactive time; it can prevent them from molting. So you can't play with them, and they are no longer enjoying themselves (as far as I know) but starting the hard work of pulling themselves out of their old skins."

Shinji Ogawa believes that the fun lies in cocoon spinning. He paraphrases the haiku: "The two or three days are our fun time/ So silkworms say" and comments, "It takes two days for a silkworm to complete the cocoon. I think Issa refers to the spinning period. A cocoon consists of 600 to 1,200 meters (2,000-4,000 feet) of silk. The cocoon making for two days may look very laborious. Issa made the silkworms say it's fun."

1805

.三ケ月や田螺をさぐる腕の先
mikazuki ya tanishi wo saguru ude no saki

a sickle moon--
hands groping
for pond snails

The moon is a "three-day moon"...just a sliver.

1805

.蜆さへ昔男のゆかりにて
shijimi sae mukashi otoko no yukari nite

even the clams
are related to the great
men of old

Is Issa contemplating reincarnation, the interconnectedness of all life?

1805

.田芹摘み鶴に拙く思れな
ta seri tsumi tsuru ni tsutanaku omoware na

parsley pickers--
don't let the crane
think you're clumsy!

This haiku sounds quite musical in Japanese, with its alliteration (...tsumi tsuru ni tsutanaku...). Shinji Ogawa helped me understand Issa's grammar and, therefore, his point. Issa fancies that the crane is watching the parsley pickers with a critical eye, and so the poet addresses the pickers, cajoling them to do their job with more grace.

1805

.菜の花も一ッ夜明やよしの山
na no hana mo hitotsu yoake ya yoshino yama

one more dawn
for the flowering mustard...
Yoshino Hill

Yoshino is a famous place for viewing the cherry blossoms. Rape (or canola) is a bright yellow flowering oil seed plant.

1805

.今晴れし雨とも見へてわらび哉
ima hareshi ame tomo miete warabi kana

the rain cleared
recently, I see...
dripping bracken

Bracken is a fern with tough stems that sprouts in springtime. R. H. Blyth notes that this is a haiku of "logical deduction": Issa sees drops of rain on the bracken and decides that it must have rained recently. However, Blyth points out that the meaning of the haiku is "that of recognition"; History of Haiku (Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1964) 1.360.

1805

.誰が手につみ切れしよ痩蕨
tare ga te ni tsumikirareshi yo yase warabi

I wonder who picked
all this?
skinny bracken

Bracken is a fern with tough stems that sprouts in springtime. Shinji Ogawa assisted with this translation.

1805

.金のなる木のめはりけりえたが家
kane no naru ki no me hari keri eta ga ie

turning gold
budding branches overspread...
outcaste's home

This haiku refers to the outcastes (eta). In Issa's time, they performed "unclean" jobs such as disposing of dead animals, working with leather, and executing criminals.

1805

.びんづるを一なでなでて木の芽哉
binzuru wo hito nade-nadete ki no me kana

giving Holy Binzuru
a rub...
the budding tree

According to Kazuhiko Maruyama, Binzuru is a Buddhist saint, one of the 16 Enlightened Ones. Folk custom dictates that if one prayerfully rubs his image, he or she will recover from illness; see Issa haiku shû (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1990; rpt. 1993) 223, note 1169. Here, a tree's budding branch (ki no me) is doing the lucky rubbing.

1805

.庵椿見すぼらしくはなかりけり
io tsubaki misuborashiku wa nakari keri

my hut's camellias--
not a shoddy one
among them

Or: "the hut's camellias." Issa doesn't specify that it's his hut, but this can be inferred.

1805

.牛の子の顔をつん出す椿哉
ushi no ko no kao wo tsundasu tsubaki kana

a calf's face
stretches forward...
camellias

Issa loves to discover incongruent juxtapositions that, upon reflection, are actually congruent. The calf's face is unexpected in a scene of (and poem about) camellias. The human mind feasts on the beauty of flowers; the calf stretches its neck for a different kind of feast. At first, the haiku seems just a joke. Poets praise the delicate, colorful flowers; the calf strives to eat them. But appreciation is, after all, appreciation. In its way, the calf is a poet too.

1805

.馬貝を我もはかうよ里の梅
umagai wo waga mo hakau yo sato no ume

I'll put on shell-sandals
too!
village plum blossoms

At first I translated umagai as a "trumpet-shell," but Shinji Ogawa writes that it actually denotes a "trough-shell" or "round clam." Children wear these shells as play sandals.

1805

.梅咲くや三文笛も音を出して
ume saku ya san mon fue mo ne wo dashite

plum blossoms--
the sound of a three-penny
flute

The mon was the basic currency of Issa's time. It took the form of a coin with a hole in its middle so that it could be strung on a string. In Issa's day six mon could pay for a bowl of rice. In this haiku, the flute costs three mon, which would have a modern equivalent of approximately 75 cents (U.S.) I prefer the translation "three-penny" to "seventy-five cents," since the latter sounds too American.

1805

.梅咲くや山の小すみは誰が家
ume saku ya yama no kosumi wa tare ga ie

plum blossoms--
in a mountain nook
somebody's house


1805

.梅のちる空は巳午の間哉
ume no chiru sora wa mi uma no aida kana

plum blossoms scatter
in the sky, nine a.m.
to one p.m.

Issa uses traditional Japanese time measure: the time of Snake (mi), 9-11 a.m., and the time of Horse (uma), 11 a.m.-1 p.m.

1805

.蒲焼の香にまけじとや梅の花
kabayaki no ka ni makeji to ya ume [no] hana

unconquered
by the smell of broiled eels...
plum blossoms

In Jean Cholley's French translation of this haiku the two smells are "rivals" (rivales); En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 63.

Robin D. Gill suggests: "Not giving in / to the roast-eel smell-- / blossoming plums! "

1805

.袖口は去年のぼろ也梅の花
sodeguchi wa kozo no boro nari ume no hana

my kimono cuffs
are last year's rags...
plum blossoms

Issa paints a self-ironic portrait that emphasizes the contrast of old and new.

1805

.ちるは梅畠の足跡大きさよ
chiru wa ume hata no ashiato ôkisa yo

through the garden's fallen
plum blossoms, footprints...
he was big!


1805

.塊に裾引ずつて梅の花
tsuchikure ni suso hikizutte ume no hana

in cuffs dragging
through the dirt...
plum blossoms

"Cuffs" (suso) can pertain to trousers, but Issa is more likely referring to the hem of his kimono. The scattered plum blossoms have filled his cuff/hem, which he drags over the dirt. The juxtaposition of "dirt clods" (tsuchikure) and plum blossoms is striking. Issa sees beauty and ugliness, yin and yang, with wide-open eyes.

1805

.寝勝手や夜はさまざまの梅の花
ne katte ya yo wa sama-zama no ume [no] hana

while I slept--
night unfurled all kinds
of plum blossoms


1805

.松が根に一息しては梅の花
matsu ga ne [ni] hito iki shite wa ume no hana

catching its breath
on the pine tree's root...
plum blossom

Issa humanizes the fallen blossom. He imagines that it is resting on its downward journey upon the pine tree's root.

1805

.梅咲や江戸見て来る子ども客
ume saku ya edo mite kitaru kodomo kyaku

plum blossoms--
they've come to see Edo
child tourists

Edo is today's Tokyo.

1805

.梅さくやかねの盥の三ケの月
ume saku ya kane no tarai no mika no tsuki

plum blossoms--
in a metal tub
a sickle moon

The moon is a "three-day moon"...just a sliver. Shinji Ogawa clears up a mystery concerning the rômaji spelling of mikazuki ("three-day moon"). He notes, ("Mikezuki is the old way of spelling in kana letters, but the pronunciation has always been mikazuki."

1805

.素湯売りも久しくなるや花の山
sayu uri mo hisashiku naru ya hana no yama

even the hot water vendor
lingers...
blossoming mountain

Or: "blossoming mountains." "Blossoms" (hana) can signify cherry blossoms in the shorthand of haiku.

1805

.ちる花を屁とも思はぬ御顔哉
chiru hana wo he to mo omowanu o-kao kana

not giving a damn
that cherry blossoms fall...
his stern face

This haiku has a prescript, "In praise of Dharma" or "An inscription on a picture of Dharma." Dharma (Bodhidharma) was the Buddhist patriarch who brought Ch'an (Zen) Buddhism from India to China. "Blossoms" (hana) can signify cherry blossoms in the shorthand of haiku. In an almost identical undated haiku, Dharma appears among falling plum blossoms. Shinji Ogawa explains that the expression, he to mo omowanu (consider it less than a fart) is a Japanese colloquial expression for "don't care a bit about it."

In the undated haiku, I translated o-kao as "his saintly face," but Gabi Greve and Sakuo Nakamura suggested that "stern" would be more befitting. For consistency's sake, I have done the same in this translation.

1805

.ちる花に活過したりとゆふべ哉
chiru hana ni iki-sugoshitari to yûbe kana

in scattering blossoms
I've lived too long...
evening

In the shorthand of haiku, "blossoms" (hana) can mean "cherry blossoms."

1805

.ちる花や土の西行もうかれ顔
chiru hana ya tsuchi no saigyô mo ukare kao

cherry blossoms scatter--
even the clay Saigyo
looks merry

The editors of Issa zenshû explain that tsuchi no saigyô is a clay doll shaped like Saigyô, a famous Japanese poet-priest (1118-90). Here, the clay Saigyô imitates the other blossom-viewers; (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 2.266, note 6. Shinji Ogawa adds that Saigyô was a tanka poet especially known as a cherry blossom lover.

In the shorthand of haiku, "blossoms" (hana) can mean "cherry blossoms."

1805

.花さけや惟然が鼾止るやら
hana sake ya izen [ga] ibiki tomaru yara

bloom, cherry trees!
Izen's snoring
may stop

"Blossoms" (hana) can denote cherry blossoms in the shorthand of haiku.

Shinji Ogawa explains that Izen in this haiku refers to the priest Hirose Izen (d. 1711), one of Basho's disciples. He adds, "I don't know whether Priest Izen is legendarily famous for his snoring as the haiku implies." I haven't found this connection, but according to W. Puck Brecher in his essay, "In Appreciation of Buffoonery, Egotism, and the Shômon School: Koikawa Harumachi's Kachô karurenbô (1776)," Izen was famously eccentric; Early Modern Japan Vol. 18 (2010): 93.

1805

.花に雨糸楯着たる御顔哉
hana ni ame itodate kitaru o-kao kana

rain on blossoms--
under a hemp tarp
his stern face

In another "blossom" haiku of 1805, Issa uses the phrase, o-kao to refer to the face of Dharma. Dharma (Bodhidharma) was the Buddhist patriarch who brought Ch'an (Zen) Buddhism from India to China. Since, as Gabi Greve and Sakuo Nakamura point out, Dharma is known for his stern expression, I've translated the third phrase as "his stern face"--making explicit in English something implied in Issa's Japanese.

Itodate is an old word for hemp or straw matting that, on journeys, can be worn as a sunshade or rain cover; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 144.

1805

.花の山飯買家はかすむ也
hana no yama meshi kau ie wa kasumu nari

blossoming mountain--
the little food shop
lost in mist

Or: "blossoming mountains." In the shorthand of haiku, "blossoms" (hana) can mean "cherry blossoms."

1805

.後から吹来る桜々哉
ushiro kara fuki-kuru sakura sakura kana

from behind me
they blow...cherry blossoms!
cherry blossoms!


1805

.かいはいの口すぎになる桜哉
kaiwai no kuchi sugi ni naru sakura kana

feeding the whole
neighborhood...
cherry blossoms

Shinji Ogawa notes that kuchi sugi means "to take care of the mouth" or "to make a living." The cherry blossoms benefit the neighborhood (kaiwai) because the neighbors can make a living by selling things to the blossom-viewers.

1805

.米袋空しくなれど桜哉
kome-bukuro munashiku naredo sakura kana

though my rice sack
is empty...
cherry blossoms!

Issa's rice has run out, but Nature's treasure of cherry blossoms compensates for this hardship.

1805

.桜咲く春の山辺や別の素湯
sakura saku haru no yamabe ya betsu no sayu

cherry blossoms
on the spring mountain...
another hot water?

Shinji Ogawa translates the last phrase, betsu no sayu: "Why not another cup of hot water?"

1805

.一里の身すぎの桜咲にけり
hito sato no misugi no sakura saki ni keri

it's how the village
makes a living...
cherry trees in bloom

The village makes its money like any tourist trap does: selling food and drink to hordes of visiting blossom-viewers.

1805

.桃の門猫を秤にかける也
momo no kado neko wo hakari ni kakeru nari

peach blossoms--
at the gate he weighs
the cat


1805

.青柳や二軒もやひの茶呑橋
ao yagi ya ni ken moyai no cha nomi hashi

green willow--
jointly owned by neighbors
a tea-drinker's bridge


1805

.朝やけも又めづらしき柳哉
asayake mo mata mezurashiki yanagi kana

dawn's glow
even more of a wonder...
willow tree

Shinji Ogawa comments on Issa's original: "With this wording, it is difficult to figure out what modifies what." Is dawn's glow the wonder, or is it the willow tree? In light of this ambiguity, an alternative translation would be:

in dawn's glow
even more of a wonder...
willow tree

Is dawn's glow more of a wonder, or is it the willow tree? Or, does Issa mean to imply that both the dawn and the willow seem more wondrous--each one because of the presence of the other? He leaves this decision to our imaginations.

1805

.入相を待遠しがる柳哉
iriai wo machidôshigaru yanagi kana

waiting and waiting
for sunset...
the willow tree


1805

.入口に柳の立し都哉
iriguchi ni yanagi no tatashi miyako kana

a willow stands
at the entrance gate...
Kyoto

The "capital" (miyako) was Kyoto in Issa's day. This is where the emperor and his court lived. Political and military power was centered in the Shogun's city of Edo, today's Tokyo.

1805

.うとましき片壁かくす柳哉
utomashiki kata kabe kakusu yanagi kana

annoyingly
it hides one wall...
willow

Instead of appreciating the willow like a typical haiku poet, Issa complains about it. Is he standing outside looking at the house, annoyed at the way the tree obstructs his view of it, or is he inside the house, looking at a blocked window? Either way, he finds the tree utomashiki: disagreeable; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 216.

Note the fun that he has with k-alliteration in this haiku: kata kabe kakusu.

1805

.さし柳翌は出て行庵也
sashi-yanagi asu wa dete yuku iori nari

willow tree graft--
tomorrow you leave
the hut

Issa was famously tender and compassionate toward animals and, as in this haiku, plants.

1805

.土染もうれしく見へて柳哉
tsuchizome mo ureshiku miete yanagi kana

the earth-dyed cotton
looking happy too...
willow tree

The "too" (mo) indicates that the dyed fabric isn't the only thing or person looking happy. I picture people in their earth-dyed clothes, lazing contentedly under the willow.

1805

.炎天にてり殺されん天窓哉
enten ni teri korosaren atama kana

in sweltering heat
sunshine kills...
my poor head!

Issa ends this haiku simply with the image, "head" (atama).

1805

.夏の夜やあなどる門の草の花
natsu no ya ya anadoru kado no kusa no hana

summer night--
the disdained gate's
wildflowers

People scoff at the gate in question, perhaps because it leads to a poor, ramshackle house and is decrepit itself. However, the gate (perhaps Issa's gate?) is surrounded by lush, colorful wildflowers. Nature bestows her riches upon the poor, too. This "disdained" gate looks regal.

1805

.五月雨におつぴしげたる住居哉
samidare ni oppishigetaru sumai kana

crushed
under the Fifth Month rain...
my home

My translation has been guided by Jean Cholley's French version in En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 63. Though I cannot locate the verb, oppishigetaru, in dictionaries, Cholley translates it: "is crushed" (s'en ècrase). Based on this clue, I feel that the verb must be a compound in which the second cognate is hishigu (to crush). "Fifth Month rain" (samidare) pertains to the old lunar calendar; it would be June rain in the present calendar. Shinji Ogawa observes, "In the modern Japanese sense, May weather consists of mostly fair days, not cold, not hot, in the best season of the year. Therefore, May rain is very pleasant in modern Japanese sense. On the other hand, samidare (May rain in old Japanese), is the June rain that falls day after day, creating high humidity and helping mold to grow in the corners of the house."

1805

.すき腹に風の吹けり雲の峰
sukihara ni kaze no fuki keri kumo no mine

for my empty belly
the wind blows...
billowing clouds

Or: "his belly" or "her belly." Issa suggests that rain will fall from the clouds and cause crops to grow, thus making food.

1805

.峰となる雲が行ぞよ笠の先
mine to naru kumo ga yuku zo yo kasa no saki

billowing clouds
on the move...
before my umbrella-hat

The haiku's ending phrase, "before [my] umbrella-hat" (kasa no saki), might suggest that the brim of Issa's hat serves as a stationary object against which the movement of the clouds is perceived.

1805

.あさぢふや夏の月夜の遠砧
asajiu ya natsu no tsuki yo no tô-ginuta

a reedy place--
in summer moonlight, distant
cloth-pounding

In Japan and Korea, fulling-blocks were used to pound fabric and bedding. The fabric was laid over a flat stone, covered with paper, and pounded, making a distinctive sound. Asajiu means a place where asaji, a sort of miscanthus reed, is growing; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 25.

1805

.鶯も鳴さふらふぞ苔清水
uguisu mo naki sôrô zo koke shimizu

the nightingale
sings too...
pure water over moss

A pleasant duet.

1805

.青田中さまさせて又入る湯哉
aoda naka samasasete mata iru yu kana

chilled amid the green
rice field...
back into the hot tub

In a wonderful moment of synaesthesia, the color of the green rice field chills Issa, sending him back to the hot tub.

1805

.其次の稗もそよそよ青田哉
sono tsugi no hie mo soyo-soyo aoda kana

barnyard grass too
rustles, rustles...
like the green rice field

The "barnyard grass" (hie) starts rustling after the rice field's rice plants have done so--as if the one inspired the other.

1805

.うれしさや御祓の宵の天の川
ureshisa ya misogi no yoi no ama no gawa

a happy sight--
on purification evening
the Milky Way

This haiku refers to a Shinto purification ritual that takes place in Sixth Month in the traditional Japanese calendar.

Issa's phrase, "Heaven's River" (ama no gawa) refers to the Milky Way.

1805

.夕はらひ竹をぬらして済す也
yû harai take wo nureshite sumasu nari

evening purification--
a splash of water on bamboo
will do

This haiku refers to a Shinto purification ritual that takes place in Sixth Month in the traditional Japanese calendar. Someone (Issa?) is in a hurry.

1805

.身一ッや死ば簾の青いうち
mi hitotsu ya shinaba sudare no aoi uchi

my life--
if I die may the bamboo blinds
still be green

"Green bamboo blinds" (ao sudare) is a summer season word. The blinds are fresh-made. A year later, they will be yellow. Shinji Ogawa paraphrases: "lonely life.../ if I must die, I wish it comes/ before the bamboo blinds lose their green." Issa later revises this haiku to begin with "secluded house" (kakurega ya).

1805

.団扇張つて先そよがする葎哉
uchiwa hatte mazu soyogasuru mugura kana

after re-papering
the first thing I fan...
weeds

The plant is mugura, which some translators render as "goose-grass." Maruyama Kazuhiko defines it simply as zassô, "weeds"; see Issa haiku shû (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1990; rpt. 1993) 288, note 1537. Shinji Ogawa explains that uchiwa hatte means "to re-paper the fan." After Issa puts new paper on his fan, he playfully fans the plant.

1805

.反故団扇しやにかまへたるひとり哉
hogo uchiwa sha ni kamaetaru hitori kana

with my wastepaper fan
striking poses...
alone

Or: "his" or "her." Shinji Ogawa explains that sha ni kamaetaru means "to pose in a slightly side-ways fashion" or "to pose affectedly."

1805

.夕陰のはらはら雨に団扇哉
yûkage no hara-hara ame ni uchiwa kana

evening shadows--
rain pitter-patters
on my fan

Or: "his" or "her."

1805

.買水を皆竹に打つゆふべ哉
kai mizu wo mina take ni utsu yûbe kana

all the bought water
is for the bamboo...
evening

In a later haiku (1813), Issa notes:

kado e utsu mizu mo zeni nari edo sumai

even water sprinkled
at the gate earns money...
life in Edo

1805

.板塀に鼻のつかへる涼哉
itabei ni hana no tsukaeru suzumi kana

my nose
to a wooden fence...
cool air

Or: "our noses," "his nose," "her nose," "their noses." All of these translations are possible, but I prefer to read this as a comic self-portrait.

Makoto Ueda translates this haiku using third person: he pictures townspeople sitting outside, enjoying the cool air in a yard that is so small "their noses almost touch their neighbors' fence"; Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 54.

1805

.宵々や下水の際もゆふ涼み
yoi-yoi ya gesui no kiwa mo yûsuzumi

every evening
at the canal's edge...
evening cool

According to Maruyama Kazuhiko, Issa is referring to Old Edo's sewer system: two nine-foot wide canals running north and south through the city Issa haiku shû (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1990; rpt. 1993) 204, note 1058.

1805

.夜涼や蟾が出ても福といふ
yo suzumi ya hiki ga idete mo fuku to iu

evening cool--
the toad who comes out
I call "Lucky"

A year later (1806) Issa writes a haiku in which Lucky the Toad crawls out of a lotus blossom. "Lucky" (Fuku) is a common pet name for toads.

1805

.降雨は去年のさま也時鳥
furu ame wa kozo no sama nari hototogisu

this falling rain
feels like last year...
"cuckoo!"

According to this haiku's prescript, a "big, windy rain" was falling, just as it had a year ago.

1805

.午の貝うしろになりて閑古鳥
uma no kai ushiro ni narite kankodori

after the trumpet-shell's
blast, another...
mountain cuckoo

Umagai or uma no kai is a trumpet-shell blown at noon. The hours of 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. are the period of uma ("horse"); kai means "shell," which is why "horse shell" is the name of the conch that serves to announce the noon period. In another haiku of 1805, Issa refers to umagai with a different meaning in mind, according to Shinji Ogawa: a "trough-shell" or "round clam" that children wear as play sandals.

1805

.草も木も源氏の風やとぶ蛍
kusa mo ki mo genji no kaze ya tobu hotaru

in grass, in trees
the army of the Genji...
fireflies flit

This haiku alludes to the historical battle between the Minamoto (Genji) and Taira (Heike) clans. The swarming fireflies remind Issa of a great army lighting campfires or carrying torches in the night. See Issa zenshû (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 2.287, note 5.

1805

.一しめり松浦のうらを蛍哉
hito shimeri matsura no ura wo hotaru kana

a rain sprinkle...they're off
to Matsura Lagoon!
fireflies

A lagoon in the northwest part of Saga Prefecture; see Issa zenshû (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 2.285, note 2. Notice the sound play of matsura no ura wo.

1805

.宵々はきたない竹も蛍哉
yoi-yoi wa kitanai take mo hotaru kana

every evening
even in the dirty bamboo...
fireflies


1805

.蜘の巣に月さしこんで夜のせみ
kumo no su ni tsuki sashikonde yoru no semi

on the moonlit spider web
an evening
cicada


1805

.蝉時雨蝶は日やけもせざりけり
semi shigure chô wa hiyake mo se[za]ri keri

cicada chorus--
for the butterfly too
no sunburn

Originally, I thought that the phrase "cicada rain" (semi shigure) referred to cicadas singing in a summer rain. Gabi Greve and Sakuo Nakamura corrected this mistake. The phrase, in Sakuo's words, means "cicadas sing like heavy rain falling."

1805

.せみ啼や梨にかぶせる紙袋
semi naku ya nashi ni kabuseru kami-bukuro

a cicada chirrs--
covering the pears
a paper bag


1805

.朝やけがよろこばしいかかたつぶり
asayake ga yorokobashii ka katatsuburi

does the red dawn
delight you
snail?

Here we have the thematic opposite of another haiku that Issa wrote in same year (1805), about tears shining in a frog's eyes at sunset. In both poems, Issa seeks human emotions in small animals: a frog weeps at sunset; a snail, at the beginning of day, delights in dawn colors ... maybe. Issa leaves some uncertainly by making this a question. Is the snail as delighted as, we presume, he is? The fact that he poses his haiku as a question adds to the warmth and humor of the scene. Snails are motionless, unemotive. Asking about a snail's "delight" raises a smile. But, on a deeper level (and there usually is a deeper level in Issa's poetry), the question is valid and important. Do not all creatures revel in the beauty of the dawn, which might be read, symbolically, as the beginning of their lives? And furthermore, who is to say that even the taciturn snail isn't happy at dawn? The Chinese Taoist Chuang Tzu famously claimed to know the "joy of fishes" because of his own joy, walking along the river.

1805

.かたつぶり蝶はいきせきさわぐ也
katatsuburi chô wa ikiseki sawagu nari

snail--
the butterfly in a mad
hurry


1805

.昼顔の秣の員に刈れけり
hirugao no magusa no kazu ni karare keri

day flowers
along with the hay...
clipped

Sakuo Nakamura comments, "We enjoy the beautiful day flowers, but judging from the point of view of Nature, the flowers, too, are only the horse's and livestock's feed. Beauty and art mean little in Nature's cycle of rebirth."

1805

.蓮の花辰上りしと人のいふ
hasu [no] hana tatsu noborishi to hito no iu

lotus blossom--
a dragon once rode you
people say

Shinji Ogawa suspects that Issa is referring to the famous love affair between Chinese Emperor, Xuan Zong (772-846) and one of his consorts, Yang Guifei, the Chinese Cleopatra--a liaison celebrated by the poem, "The Song of Eternal Sorrow," written by Bai Juyi (b. 772). The lotus is Yang Guifei, and the dragon is the Emperor Xuan Zong.

1805

.足首の埃たたいて花さうぶ
ashikubi no hokori-tataite hana shôbu

dusting off
my ankles...
irises blooming

The flowers in the haiku are Japanese irises: Iris ensata. Eduardo Lopez Herrero comments: "In the poem, Issa expresses how long he had to walk (thus collecting a lot of dust on his ankles) to finally be able to admire the beautiful flowers."

1805

.うしろ日のいらいらしさよ花あやめ
ushiro hi no irairashisa yo hana ayame

the sunlight behind
is irritating...
blooming irises

Shinji Ogawa translates ushiro hi as "the sunlight behind something" or "counter-light." Issa is griping like a photographer: the sunlight is ruining an otherwise perfect scene.

The flowers in the haiku are Japanese irises: Iris ensata.

1805

.見るうちに日のさしにけり花せふぶ
miru uchi ni hi no sashi ni keri hana shôbu

while looking at them
sunlight hits...
blooming irises

A magical moment.

The flowers in the haiku are Japanese irises: Iris ensata.

1805

.瓜一ッ丸にしづまぬ井也けり
uri hitotsu maru ni shizumanu i nari keri

the melon
can't sink completely...
the well

Someone (Issa?) is cooling melons in the water of a well. As Shinji Ogawa explains, the nu in shizumanu is a negative ending. The well or fountain is too shallow for the melon to sink completely.

1805

.加茂川や瓜つけさせて月は入る
kamo-gawa ya uri tsukesasete tsuki wa iru

Kamo River--
after making a melon soak
the moon sets

Kamo River is a river that runs through the center of Kyoto. Shinji Ogawa translates the second and third phrases: "having had the melon soaked/ the moon is setting." The agency of action in this haiku is interesting. Issa credits the moon, not a human being, for having made the melon soak in the river. Shinji comments: "I think that Issa treats the moon as a governor of night. Isn't it Issa's humor to see the main accomplishment of the governor at night is to make a melon soak?"

1805

.僧入れぬ垣の卯の花咲にけり
sô irenu kaki no u [no] hana saki ni keri

a hedge where no priests
enter...
deutzia in bloom

Kaki can mean a fence or a hedge (that may serve as a fence). In this context, "hedge" seems to be the more appropriate term. I picture a place on the grounds of a Buddhist temple where the priests don't usually go.

1805

.人形りに穴の明く也花うの木
hito nari ni ana no aku nari hana u no ki

a person-shaped
hole beckons...
deutzia blossoms

People going through the blooming shrubs have made a passageway.

1805

.小朝顔大朝顔も九月哉
ko asagao ôasagao mo kugatsu kana

little morning-glories
big morning-glories...
it's Ninth Month!


1805

.朝寒し寒しと菜うり箕うり哉
asa samushi samushi to nauri miuri kana

so cold in morning's cold--
vegetable vendor
winnow vendor

A miuri is a vendor of winnows; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1550.

1805

.朝寒や蟾も眼を皿にして
asa-zamu ya hiki mo manako wo sara ni shite

morning cold--
the toad's eyes too
open wide

"Eyes like saucers" (manako wo sara ni shite) is a Japanese expression for eyes opened wide with surprise. The toad "also" seems astonished at the coldness of the morning, suggesting that Issa is just as surprised. The time for the frog's winter hibernation and the poet's winter seclusion is fast approaching.

1805

.青柳の門にはらはら夜寒哉
ao yagi no kado ni hara-hara yozamu kana

green willow at the gate
rustling...
a cold night


1805

.二度生の瓜も花咲く夜寒哉
ni do-bae no uri mo hana saku yozamu kana

even the replanted
melon blooms...
a cold night

The melon shows its hardy spirit, blooming despite the cold.

1805

.有明に躍りし時の榎哉
ariake ni odorishi toki no enoki kana

dawn is your time
for dancing...
nettle tree


1805

.鶴亀の上にも秋の夕哉
tsuru kame no ue ni mo aki no yûbe kana

even tortoise and crane
meet their fate...
autumn evening

As Shinji Ogawa explains, ue ni mo in this haiku means that the fate of the tortoise and crane is creeping up on them, despite their legendary longevity. Even they must face the autumn evening: the sadness of aging.

1805

.かつしかや月さす家は下水端
katsushika ya tsuki sasu ie wa gesui-bata

Katsushika--
a moonlit house
by a sewer

A beautiful moonlit house sitting next to a sewer is a striking juxtaposition of images.

Katsushika is an area of land east of Sumida River--a riverside suburb of Edo (today's Tokyo); see Maruyama Kazuhiko, Issa haiku shû (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1990; rpt. 1993) 33, note 109.

Makoto Ueda believes that this could be a portrait of Issa's rented house in Katsushika; Dew on the Grass: The Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2004) 55.

1805

.里の火の古めかしたる月夜哉
sato no hi no furumekashitaru tsuki yo kana

the village fires
burn anciently...
a moonlit night

In Issa's time, furumekasu was a verb that denoted a state of being old, as in olden times.

1805

.汁の実を取に出ても月よ哉
shiru no mi wo tori ni idete mo tsuki yo kana

going out
to get soup stock...
bright moon

Shiru no mi is "soup stock." Shinji Ogawa explains the scene: Issa went outside to bring in the stock to make his soup, and found the bright moon. He wasn't planning on moon-gazing; it just happened in the course of an ordinary chore.

1805

.むさしのに住居合せて秋の月
musashi no ni sumai awasete aki no tsuki

on Musashi Plain
complementing a house...
autumn moon


1805

.むさしのや犬のこふ家も月さして
musashi no ya inu no kôka mo tsuki sashite

Musashi Plain--
over the dog's toilet too
a bright moon

In a haiku of 1815, Issa once again uses the phrase, "dog's toilet" (inu no kôka):

uramachi wa inu no kôka mo hatsu yuki zo

the backstreet
is the dog's toilet
first snowfall

Shinji Ogawa notes that Issa doesn't mean "toilet" literally. He paraphrases, "In the back street, dog's droppings, too, are covered by the first snow."

1805

.山の月親は綱引子はおがむ
yama no tsuki oya [wa] tsuna hiki ko wa ogamu

mountain moon--
father pulls the bell rope
his child prays

Or: "mother pulls the bell rope." As Shinji Ogawa explains, the rope in question is attached to a bell at a Shinto shrine. One pulls it before praying, to wake up the god so that one's prayers can be heard. Other elements of the scene are important: the moon, the mountains, the praying child. Moon and mountains suggest the vastness of the universe, and yet the child, so small, is also so precious: Issa's ultimate focus. A parent--whether mother or father is left to the reader's imagination--prays at the little mountain shrine in the moonlight, and the child joins in. Issa's Jôdoshinshû Buddhism, as established by its founder Shinran, values non-calculating trust in Amida Buddha. Looking at the praying child from this Buddhist perspective, one sees in him or her the embodiment of Shinran's ideal of innocent, spontaneous piety. As in so many of Issa's poems, children show us the way; they are our teachers.

1805

.待宵の松葉焚さへさが野哉
matsuyoi no matsuba taku sae saga no kana

almost a harvest moon
burning pine needles...
Saga Field

Saga is a place near Kyoto.

In this haiku, Issa plays with two meanings of matsu: "wait" and "pine." Matsuyoi ("wait" + "evening") refers to the night before the harvest moon.

1805

.雨降らぬ空も見へけり月一夜
ame furanu sora mo mie keri tsuki hito yo

in some sky
rain isn't falling...
harvest moon night

Poor Issa!

1805

.雨降も角田河原や月一夜
ame furi mo sumida kawara ya tsuki hito yo

rain falling, too
on Sumida's river beach...
harvest moon night

The beach along Sumida River would be an ideal moon-gazing site, if only...!

1805

.家かりて先名月も二度目哉
ie karite mazu meigetsu mo ni do me kana

after renting the house
the first thing: moon gazing
twice

Shinji Ogawa explains that true moon viewing should be done twice: on the fifteenth day of Eighth Month (around the middle of September, modern calendar) and the thirteenth day of Ninth Month (about the second week of October, modern calendar). He adds, "According to some theories, the two moon-viewings must be done in the same garden."

1805

.家かりてから名月も二度目哉
ie karite kara meigetsu mo ni do me kana

after renting the house
moon-gazing there...
twice

A slight revision of a haiku written that same year; the original begins, "before renting the house" (ie karate mazu).

1805

.大雨や月見の舟も見へてふる
ôame ya tsukimi no fune mo miete furu

a big rain--
on the moon-gazing boat
watching it fall


1805

.けふの月我もむさしに住合せ
kyô no tsuki waga mo musashi ni sumi-awase

tonight's moon--
I, too, am staying
in Musashi!

Musashi is the name of one of the old Japanese Provinces which occupied the land that is now divided between Saitama and Tokyo Tô Prefectures. Issa mentions it in the opening passage of his first travel diary, Kansei san nen kikô ("Kansei Era Third Year [1791] Travel Diary"): "Rambling to the west, wandering to the east, there is a madman who never stays in one place. In the morning, he eats breakfast in Kazusa; by evening, he finds lodging in Musashi. Helpless as a white wave, apt to vanish like a bubble in froth--he is named Priest Issa" (5.15).

1805

.年よりや月を見るにもなむあみだ
toshiyori ya tsuki wo miru ni mo namuamida

growing old--
even while moon gazing
praising Buddha!


1805

.後の月片山かげのくひ祭
nochi no tsuki kata yama kage no kui matsuri

Ninth Month moon--
in the mountain's shade
a food festival

This haiku refers to the full moon of the Ninth Month, 13th day. In the old calendar, there were two harvest moons: the 15th day of Eighth Month (this is the more important meigetsu) and the 13th day of Ninth Month.

1805

.雨がちに十三夜とは成にけり
amegachi ni jû san yo to wa nari ni keri

rain, rain!
on the 13th night
of Ninth Month

This haiku refers to the full moon of the Ninth Month, 13th day. In the old calendar, there were two harvest moons: the 15th day of Eighth Month (this is the more important meigetsu) and the 13th day of Ninth Month. Issa doesn't write the words "Ninth Month" in this haiku; this is implied by "13th night" (ni jû san yo).

1805

.そば花は山にかくれて後の月
soba hana wa yama ni kakurete nochi no tsuki

the mountain's blooming
buckwheat hides it...
Ninth Month moon

Shinano, present-day Nagano Prefecture, was Issa's home province, known as buckwheat country.

This haiku refers to the full moon of the Ninth Month, 13th day. In the old calendar, there were two harvest moons: the 15th day of Eighth Month (this is the more important meigetsu) and the 13th day of Ninth Month.

1805

.秋雨のこぼれ安さよ片山家
aki ame no kobore yasusa yo katayamaga

no fear
of autumn rain's downpour...
mountainside house

Because the house is built into the side of a mountain, the water rushes down and away--no fear of flooding. The resident of the house (Issa?) can remain "at peace" (yasusa).

1805

.翌の茶の松葉かくらん秋の雨
asu no cha no matsuba kakuran aki [no] ame

he rakes pine needles
for tomorrow's tea, perhaps...
autumn rain

Or: "she gathers." Pine needle tea is a traditional remedy high in vitamin C.

Shinji Ogawa notes that kaku in this context means "to gather" or "to rake."

1805

.殻桶に鹿の立ち添ふ秋の雨
kara oke ni shika no tachisou aki no ame

the deer stands close
to the husk bucket...
autumn rain


1805

.草切の足にひつつく秋の雨
kusa-gire no ashi ni hittsuku aki no ame

the cut grass
sticks to my feet...
autumn rain

Or: "his feet" or "her feet."

1805

.けふもけふも秋雨す也片山家
kyô mo kyô mo aki amesu nari katayamaga

today too, today too
autumn rain...
mountainside house


1805

.山畠や鳩が鳴ても秋の雨
yama hata ya hato ga naite mo aki no ame

mountain field--
pigeons cooing
in autumn rain


1805

.秋風にあなた任の小蝶哉
aki kaze ni anata makase no ko chô kana

in autumn wind
trusting in the Buddha...
little butterfly

Robin D. Gill assisted with this translation. Literally, the little butterfly "trusts in the Beyond," but in Issa's Pure Land sect this means trusting in the liberating power of Amida Buddha to make possible its happy reincarnation, in the next life, in the Pure Land or Western Paradise. The cold autumn wind signifies the fact that death is near for the tiny, fragile creature. But instead of struggling against this inevitability, Issa suggests that the butterfly is surrendering to death, trusting death, and at the same time trusting in the Buddha. This is one of his most memorable images of religious surrender to Amida's "Other Power."

1805

.秋風の吹夜吹夜や窓明り
aki kaze no fuku yo fuku yo ya mado akeri

an autumn wind's
blowing! blowing! night...
open window


1805

.秋風や家さへ持たぬ大男
aki kaze ya ie sae motanu dai [no] otoko

autumn wind--
without even a house
the "big man"

I think that Issa might be referring to himself ironically, hence my quotation marks around "big man." The French translator, Jean Cholley, also pictures the "big man" (dai no otoko) to be Issa, but he interprets this phrase to mean a man who is "old" or "mature" (l'homme mûr);Cholley has the woodpecker "peck as if it wanted it to die" (comme s'il voulait sa mort pioche). (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 65.

1805

.秋風や草より先に人の顔
aki kaze ya kusa yori saki ni hito no kao

autumn wind--
topping the grasses
someone's face

Or: "people's faces."

1805

.穴底の仏の顔も秋の風
anasoko no hotoke no kao mo aki no kaze

reaching the face
of Buddha in his niche...
autumn wind


1805

.水打し石なら木なら秋の風
mizu uchishi ishi nara ki nara aki no kaze

water splashed
on the stone, on the tree...
autumn wind

I believe that Issa is referring to the monumental stone and ornamental pine tree that are typically found near the gate of a traditional Japanese house.

1805

.見る度に秋風吹や江戸の空
miru tabi ni aki kaze fuku ya e[do] no sora

each time I look
autumn wind is blowing...
Edo's sky

This haiku contains the same phrase, miru tabi ni ("each time I look"), as in Issa's famous 1812 poem:

naki haha ya umi miru tabi ni miru tabi ni

my dead mother--
every time I see the ocean
every time...

1805

.朝霧の引からまりし柳哉
asa-giri no hikikaramarishi yanagi kana

the morning mist
tangled
in the willow


1805

.一薮は別の夕霧かかる也
hito yabu wa betsu no yûgiri kakaru nari

over one thicket
a custom-made shroud...
evening mist


1805

.秋の山活て居とてうつ鉦か
aki no yama ikite iru tote utsu kane ka

autumn mountain--
is he banging that gong
because he's alive?

In my first translation I pictured someone hitting the great bell of a Buddhist temple. Gabi Greve, however, points out that kane, when spelled with this kanji, is actually a small prayer gong used to keep time when one is chanting Buddhist prayers such as the nembutsu (Namu Amida Butsu: "All Praise to Amida Buddha!").

1805

.秋の山一つ一つに夕哉
aki no yama hitotsu hitotsu ni yûbe kana

autumn mountains
one by one
the evening falls

Shinji Ogawa offers an alternative translation:

autumn mountains...
each mountain
each evening

1805

.足元に日落て秋の山辺哉
ashi moto ni hi ochite aki no yamabe kana

at my feet
sunset's rays, autumn
mountain

Or: "mountains."

1805

.鳥鳴て又鐘がなる秋の山
tori naite mata kane ga naru aki no yama

bird sings again
bell tolls again...
autumn mountain

Birdsong and the tolling of a bell at a Buddhist temple create an interesting counterpoint.

Shinji Ogawa observes: "The 'again' implies that a substantial amount of time has passed uneventfully."

1805

.人顔も同じ夕や秋の山
hito-gao mo onaji yûbe ya aki no yama

in people's faces
the same darkness...
autumn mountain

A literal translation:

people's faces, too
the same evening...
autumn mountain(s)

An enigmatic haiku. I substitute "darkness" for "evening" in my translation in an attempt to capture what I think might be Issa's feeling: that he discerns the coming of night (and death?) in the faces of people in this autumn scene.

1805

.戸口迄秋の野らなる雨日哉
toguchi made aki no nora naru ame hi kana

up to my doorway
the autumn field blooms...
rainy day


1805

.あばら家も夜は涼しき灯籠哉
abaraya mo yoru wa suzushiki tôro kana

at my ramshackle hut, too
night is cool...
lanterns for the dead

Or: "at the tumble-down house..."; Issa doesn't say that it's his hut, but this can be inferred.

This haiku refers to Bon Festival lanterns. The Bon Festival of the Dead takes place in Eighth Month in the old lunar calendar. At this time, people light lanterns to guide their ancestors' spirits back home. French translator Jean Cholley renders tôro simply as ("lanternes de pierre": stone lanterns; En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 65.

Sakuo Nakamura notes that there are two kinds of Bon lanterns: one is located outside of the house--in temples or shrines or rich gardens--and the other is the ornament of an indoor altar. In the case of this haiku, he believes that Issa might be referring to the latter. The poet is standing outside his house, feeling the cool night air. The lantern light streams through the window and door.

1805

.寒い程草葉ぬらして灯籠哉
samui hodo kusaba nurashite tôro kana

almost cold
drenched in grass...
lanterns for the dead

Or: "lantern."

The Bon Festival of the Dead takes place in Eighth Month in the old lunar calendar. At this time, people light lanterns to guide their ancestors' spirits back home.

1805

.松風も念入て吹く灯籠哉
matsu kaze mo nen irete fuku tôro kana

the pine breeze too
blows carefully...
lanterns for the dead

Shinji Ogawa translates kaze mo nen irete fuku as "blows honestly" or "blows relentlessly." I believe the wind is blowing with care, so as not to extinguish the lanterns. If this is true, the "too" (mo) implies that someone else in the scene is taking care not to blow out the flames: Issa?

The Bon Festival of the Dead takes place in Eighth Month in the old lunar calendar. At this time, people light lanterns to guide their ancestors' spirits back home.

1805

.隠家も星待顔の夜也けり
kakurega mo hoshi machi-gao no yo nari keri

at the hermit's hut, too--
an upturned face awaits
the stars

Even the hermit (Issa?) waits to see stars on Tanabata night, a festival that takes place on the seventh day of Seventh Month. According to a romantic legend, two celestial lovers--the stars Altair and Vega--are separated by Heaven's River (the Milky Way). One night a year (Tanabata night), they cross the starry river to be together.

1805

.星待や亀も涼しいうしろつき
hoshi matsu ya kame mo suzushii ushirotsuki

awaiting the stars--
even a turtle cools
his behind

I'm not clear on why Issa makes it a point to mention that the turtle is viewed in rear profile. Perhaps he is implying that the turtle has seemed to join a group of human star-gazers who also have their backs to the poet. In any case, the haiku refers to Tanabata, a festival that takes place on the seventh day of Seventh Month. According to a romantic legend, two celestial lovers--the stars Altair and Vega--are separated by Heaven's River (the Milky Way). One night a year (Tanabata night), they cross the starry river to be together.

1805

.しやんとした松と並ぶや男星
shan to shita matsu to nara[bu] otoko-boshi

lined up perfectly
with the pine...
Herder Star

Shan to can denote a slapping or a ringing sound, or kichin to: "accurately"; "exactly." The latter definition fits here; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 827.

Tanabata is a festival that takes place on the seventh day of Seventh Month. According to a romantic legend, two celestial lovers--the stars Altair and Vega--are separated by Heaven's River (the Milky Way). One night a year (Tanabata night), they cross the starry river to be together. The female star (Vega) is pictured as a weaver; the male, a herder. In this haiku, Issa refers to the latter as otoko-boshi ("Male Star").

1805

.とうとうと紅葉吹つけるかがし哉
tôtô to momiji fuki-tsukeru kagashi kana

a rush of red leaves
blown against him...
scarecrow


1805

.一ッ宛寒い風吹鳴子哉
hitotsu-zutsu samui kaze fuku naruko kana

one by one
the frigid gusts...
bird clapper

The "bird clapper" (naruko) is a wood and bamboo contraption that hangs from a rope over a field. The wind causes its dangling parts to clack loudly together, a sound that the farmer hopes will scare off birds that might otherwise raid his crop. In this haiku, the clapper records the gusts of cold wind, one by one.

1805

.浅山や砧の後もなつかしき
asa yama ya kinuta no ato mo natsukashiki

Mount Asa--
even when cloth-pounding stops
sweet nostalgia

In Japan and Korea, fulling-blocks were used to pound fabric and bedding. The fabric was laid over a flat stone, covered with paper, and pounded, making a distinctive sound.

Natsukashiki has no exact English equivalent. It usually connotes the feeling of something dear or fondly remembered--a sort of sweet nostalgia. Issa believes that Mount Asa exudes a feeling of old times even when the ancient sound of cloth-pounding stops.

1805

.新しい家も三ッ四ッきぬた哉
atarashii ie mo mitsu yotsu kinuta kana

new house--
here too, three or four
cloth-pounders

In Japan and Korea, fulling-blocks were used to pound fabric and bedding. The fabric was laid over a flat stone, covered with paper, and pounded, making a distinctive sound. In this haiku, someone new to the neighborhood (Issa?) discovers how noisy it can be with cloth-pounding on all sides.

1805

.けぶり立松立そして砧哉
keburi tachi matsu tachi soshite kinuta kana

rising smoke
towering pine, then...
cloth-pounding

Or: "pines."

In Japan and Korea, fulling-blocks were used to pound fabric and bedding. The fabric was laid over a flat stone, covered with paper, and pounded, making a distinctive sound.

Shinji Ogawa believes that Issa is approaching a house. First, he sees the rising smoke, the next the pine, and then he can hear the sound of the pounding.

1805

.梟も役にして来る砧哉
fukurô mo yaku ni shite kuru kinuta kana

the owl comes
to lend a hand...
cloth-pounding

In Japan and Korea, fulling-blocks were used to pound fabric and bedding. The fabric was laid over a flat stone, covered with paper, and pounded, making a distinctive sound.

1805

.みちのくの鬼のすみかも砧哉
michi no ku no oni no sumika mo kinuta kana

remote province--
even in the haunted field
pounding cloth

In Japan and Korea, fulling-blocks were used to pound fabric and bedding. The fabric was laid over a flat stone, covered with paper, and pounded, making a distinctive sound. In my earlier translation, I use the phrase, "fulling-block," an arcane term that means nothing to most English readers. "Pounding cloth" is a translation solution provided by Makoto Ueda, whose example I gratefully follow; Matsuo Bashô (Tokyo: Kodansha, 1982) 53.

1805

.投やりの菊も新酒のゆふべ哉
nageyari no kikumo shinshu no yûbe kana

I leave my chrysanthemum
for the evening...
fresh-brewed sake

The brewing of new sake (rice wine) is an autumn event. Shinji Ogawa paraphrases this haiku, "Even though (with) the unattended mum, (I'm very happy with) the evening with new sake'."

1805

.大汐にざぶりざぶりと男鹿哉
ôshio ni zaburi-zaburi to oshika kana

high tide--
splish-splash
goes the buck


1805

.さをしかの萩にかくれしつもり哉
saoshika no hagi ni kakureshi tsumori kana

the young buck
tries to hide
in bush clover


1805

.むら萩に隠れた気かよ鹿の顔
mura hagi ni kakureta ki ka yo shika no kao

do you think you're hiding
in that bush clover?
face of a deer


1805

.山の雨鹿の涙も交るべし
yama no ame shika no namida mo majirubeshi

this mountain rain
and the deer's tears
must be mingling

The suffix -beshi indicates that the action of the verb is probable: a guess on the poet's part; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1469.

1805

.木つつきの飛んでから入る庵哉
kitsutsuki no tonde kara iru iori kana

only after the woodpecker
flies...
back in my hut

Shinji Ogawa paraphrases this haiku, "after the woodpecker/ had flown away/ I entered my hut." He adds, "Obviously, Issa observed the woodpecker for a while. As if he didn't want to disturb the woodpecker, he waited till the bird flew away before entering his house."

1805

.木つつきの松に来る迄老にけり
kitsutuki no matsu ni kuru made oi ni keri

the woodpecker returns
to the pine...
now I'm old

Shinji Ogawa writes, "Though I'm not sure, the haiku may mean, 'A woodpecker, after I waited for a long time (=I'm getting old), finally came to my pine'."

1805

.木つつきや一ッ所に日の暮るる
kitsutsuki ya hitotsu tokoro ni hi no kururu

the woodpecker works
one spot...
all through sunset


1805

.木つつきの死ねとて敲く柱哉
kitsutsuki no shine tote tataku hashira kana

the woodpecker
pecks it to death...
the post

Jean Cholley's French version has the woodpecker pecking "as if it wanted it to die" (comme s'il voulait sa mort pioche); En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 63.

1805

.雁鳴や旅寝の空の目にうかぶ
kari naku ya tabine no sora no me ni ukabu

honking geese--
I picture skies
over inns

French translator Jean Cholley helped me understand Issa's meaning. Literally, the honking geese cause a vision of "the sky of inns" (tabine no sora) to float into the poet's eyes. In other words, the traveling geese make Issa imagine and, perhaps, yearn for his own traveling: to look up each night and see starry skies over the inns where is staying. See En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 65.

1805

.けふ翌の秋となりけり小田の雁
kyô asu no aki to nari keri oda [no] kari

just today and tomorrow
left of autumn!
rice field geese

Shinji Ogawa explains, "The phrase kyo asu no aki means 'autumn remains only for a few days'."

1805

.虫なくやきのふは見へぬ壁の穴
mushi naku ya kinou wa mienu kabe no ana

an insect chirps--
yesterday it wasn't there
hole in the wall

Literally, the hole was "unseen yesterday" (kinou mienu), but this could imply that it wasn't there yesterday.

1805

.こほろぎや江戸の人にも住馴るる
kôrogi ya edo no hito ni mo sumi naruru

cricket--
you too have adapted to life
in Edo

Or: "crickets." Literally, the cricket(s) has gotten used to living among "Edo people" (edo no hito): the aggressive, pushy, loud folk of the Shogun's big city, later called Tokyo. Coming from a far province, Issa has done the same.

1805

.きりぎりすきりきり死もせざりけり
kirigirisu kiri-kiri shini mo sezari keri

katydid--
"katy-katy!" not dead
yet

Issa plays with sound in this haiku. The expression, kiri-kiri, recalls the first two syllables of the katydid's Japanese name, kirigirisu. Shinji Ogawa explains that kiri kiri mai means "extremely busy" or "out of control." Instead of attempting to translate the literal meaning--"the katydid/ very busy/ not yet dead"--I have attempted to catch the poem's whimsical music.

A katydid (kirigirisu) is a green or light brown insect, a cousin of crickets and grasshoppers. The males possess special organs on the wings with which they produce shrill calls. Although katydid is the closest English equivalent, many translators (such as R. H. Blyth) use the more familiar "grasshopper" and "cricket." See Haiku (Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1949-1952; rpt. 1981-1982/reset paperback edition) 4.1068-69.

1805

.きりぎりす鳴する藪もなかりけり
kirigirisu nakasuru yabu mo nakari keri

not a thicket
for a katydid's singing
in sight

Shinji Ogawa comments, "I think that the haiku depicts living in Edo." In the big city (present-day Tokyo), Issa longs for country thickets and the chirring of katydids.

A katydid (kirigirisu) is a green or light brown insect, a cousin of crickets and grasshoppers. The males possess special organs on the wings with which they produce shrill calls. Although katydid is the closest English equivalent, many translators (such as R. H. Blyth) use the more familiar "grasshopper" and "cricket." See Haiku (Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1949-1952; rpt. 1981-1982/reset paperback edition) 4.1068-69.

1805

.蔵陰も草さへあれば秋の花
kura kage mo kusa sae areba aki no hana

even in the barn's shade
if there's grass
there's autumn blooms


1805

.空に迄仏ましまして草の花
sora ni made hotoke mashimashite kusa no hana

even in the sky
Buddha dwells...
wildflowers

After first posting this haiku, I asked: What is the connection between Buddha in the sky and the wildflowers? Shinji Ogawa responds: "Let me guess the connection between Buddha in the sky and the wildflowers. Seeing those wildflowers that no one is likely to see, Issa thinks that the wildflowers are for the Buddha in the sky."

Issa wrote this on the sixth day, Eighth Month. In his diary, it is followed by another religious haiku:

aki kaze ni anata makase no ko chô kana

in autumn wind
trust in the Buddha...
little butterfly

See Issa zenshû (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 2.295.

1805

.朝顔に入口もないしだら哉
asagao ni iriguchi mo nai shidara kana

blocking the gate--
morning-glories
and a slob

Shidara, which means slovenly or disorderly in modern Japanese, in earlier times stood for any condition or course of events; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 773. Shinji Ogawa points out that by the time of Chikamatsu Monzaemon (1653-1724) the negative meaning of shidara was well established. Literally, a lazy, slovenly person is blocking the gate. Shinji adds, "Of course Issa is talking about himself."

In an earlier translation, I end with the phrase, "and lazy me."

1805

.朝顔に片肌入れし羅漢哉
asagao ni katahada ireshi rakan kana

into morning-glories
with one shoulder bare...
holy man

The "holy man" (rakan) is a Buddhist arhat ... one who has attained enlightenment. The juxtaposition of saintly and earthly--in this case, a Buddhist holy man and morning-glories--is one of Issa's favorite themes. At first, the saint and the flowers seem mutually incompatible, almost enemies. Enlightened people, after all, are supposed to be unattached to the temporary beauties of this temporary world. However, this particular holy man strides boldly into, not away from, the flowers. Issa's message is both complex and beautiful. On one level, he's suggesting that it is spiritually intelligent to enjoy Nature's beauty here and now, however fleeting. On another level, he hints that flowers show the way to enlightenment. Flowers teach Buddhist wisdom. If we would only learn from the flowers: how they bloom and then, without a word of complaint to the universe, shrivel and fall ... we, like the arhat, would be enlightened.

1805

.朝顔に子供の多き在所哉
asagao ni kodomo no ôki zaisho kana

morning-glories
and loads of children...
farmhouse

Shinji Ogawa helped me to understand the syntax. As in many if not most of Issa's haiku, the focus is revealed in the last image: the zaisho or farmhouse, a happy place. In other haiku where Issa uses the word zaisho, Shinji suggests that he is referring to his own house or, more generlaly, to his home village. Here, however, he seems to be looking at someone else's home, since in 1805 Issa as yet had no children.

1805

.あさがほに咲なくさるる小家哉
asagao ni saki nakusaruru ko ie kana

lost
in the morning-glories
little house


1805

.朝顔に雫拵へて居りけり
asagao ni shizuku koshiraete suwari keri

droplets forming
on the morning-glories...
sitting still

The word "still" does not appear in Issa's original, which ends simply with suwari (sit). However, one would need to sit long and quietly to watch dewdrops forming: a meditative posture and attitude.

1805

.朝顔に背中の冷り冷り哉
asagao ni senaka no hiyari hiyari kana

in morning-glories
a chill chilling
my spine


1805

.朝顔にほかほかとして寒哉
asagao ni hoka-hoka to shite samusa kana

in the morning-glories
warming up...
the cold

Shinji Ogawa points out that hoka-hoka has three meanings: (1) something done suddenly, (2) something done indiscreetly, (3) feel something very warm. He comments, "If Issa meant the third meaning it becomes contradictory. Issa is obviously enjoying playing with the word."

1805

.朝顔や下水の泥もあさのさま
asagao ya gesui no doro mo asa no sama

morning-glories
even in sewer mud
a morning scene

Shinji Ogawa translated the final phrase, asa no sama: "morning scene." My original translation, though less literal, might be a better haiku in English:

morning-glories
even in sewer mud
greet the dawn

1805

.朝露の朝顔売るやあら男
asa tsuyu no asagao uru ya araotoko

selling morning-glories
wet with morning dew...
a tough character

The juxtaposition of delicate flowers and rough flower seller is comic and, deep-down, tender.

1805

.鐘の声朝顔先へそよぐ也
kane no koe asagao saki e soyogu nari

voice of the bell--
the morning-glories are the first
to stir


1805

.取込みの門も朝顔咲にけり
torikomi no kado mo asagao saki ni keri

on the busy gate, too
morning-glories
bloom


1805

.我宿の悪朝顔も夜明哉
waga yado no waru asagao mo yoake kana

my house's pitiful
morning-glories, too
greet the dawn


1805

.片枝は真さかさまに紅葉哉
kata eda wa massakasama ni momiji kana

on one branch
tumbling head over heels...
autumn colors


1805

.山畠は鼠の穴も紅葉哉
yama hata wa nezumi no ana mo momiji kana

mountain field--
the mouse's hole too
under red leaves


1805

.秋霜に又咲ほこるむくげ哉
aki shimo ni mata saki hokoru mukuge kana

in autumn frost
lushly blooming again
roses of Sharon


1805

.浦向に咲かたまりし槿哉
ura muki ni saki katamarishi mukuge kana

they crowd to bloom
facing the sea...
roses of Sharon

Like people, the roses seem to value seaside real estate, crowding together for an ocean view.

1805

.遅咲の木槿四五本なく蚊哉
oso-zaki no mukuge shi go hon naku ka kana

late-blooming roses of Sharon
four or five...
mosquitoes whine

The roses are very late: an autumn flower blooming while a summer insect, the mosquito, sings! Issa wrote two versions of this haiku around the same time. This is the second one. The first one begins, "even roses of Sharon/ blooming late..." (mukugae sae sugare ni naru); Issa zenshû (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 2.295.

1805

.酒冷すちよろちよろ川の槿哉
sake hiyasu choro-choro kawa no mukuge kana

a babbling brook
chills the sake...
roses of Sharon

Shinji Ogawa defines choro-choro kawa as "a very thin stream." I use the cliché, "babbling brook," in my English translation for its sound quality. Issa's choro-choro is onomatopoetic, suggesting the sound of the water.

1805

.木槿さへすがれになるをなく蚊哉
mukuge sae sugare ni naru wo naku ka kana

roses of Sharon, too
have passed their season...
mosquitoes whine

The roses are very past their season (Shinji Ogawa translates sugare as the season of blooming being over). The autumn flowers linger while a summer insect, the mosquito, sings. Who or what else is Issa referring to with the word "even" (sae)? Himself? Does he perhaps feel a kinship with the roses, past their prime, clinging to life?

Issa wrote two versions of this haiku around the same time. This is the first one. The second one begins, "late-blooming roses of Sharon/ four or five..." (oso-zaki no mukuge shi go hon); Issa zenshû (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 2.295.

In some of earlier translations of naku ka, I had the mosquitoes "buzzing," but this isn't quite right. The high-pitched wing-beats of a mosquitoe sound more like a whine.

1805

.木槿咲く凸ミ凹ミや金谷迄
mukuge saku takami kubomi ya takaya made

roses of Sharon
on peaks, in valleys
all the way to Takaya

Takaya was one of the fifty-three post towns on the Tôkaidô highway from Edo (today's Tokyo) to Kyoto.

In his journal, Issa ends this haiku with the kanji for naku ("cry"); the editors of Issa zenshû assume that this is a calligraphy mistake for made ("until" or "up to"); (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 1.591.

1805

.柳まで淋しくしたる槿哉
yanagi made sabishiku shitaru mukuge kana

even the willow
is lonely...
rose of Sharon


1805

.夜々はよい風の吹く槿哉
yoru yoru wa yoi kaze no fuku mukuge kana

night after night
a good wind blows...
roses of Sharon


1805

.曲り目に月の出たる瓢哉
magarime ni tsuki no idetaru fukube kana

the moon emerges
'round a curve...
the gourd

Though the kanji for "gourd" is today read as hisago, Issa read it as fukube.

1805

.山々も年よるさまや種瓢
yama-yama mo toshiyoru-sama ya tane fukube

all the mountains
are looking old...
gourds

Or, more literally, "seed gourds" (tane fukube). Though the kanji for "gourd" is today read as hisago, Issa read it as fukube.

Emma Pierson writes, "He is comparing the shapes of the mountains to the shapes of gourds. Both are rounded. Both are riven with imperfections and differences. Think of mountain paths seen from a distance and the up-close creases in gourds with are dried and dessicated."

1805

.枯し木の空しく暮るることし哉
kare[shi] ki no munashiku kururu kotoshi kana

with the emptiness
of bare trees...
this year ends


1805

.我と松あはれことしも今暮るる
ware to matsu aware kotoshi mo ima kururu

for me and the pine
this damned year, too
ends


1805

.口明て春を待らん犬はりこ
kuchi akete haru wo matsuran inu hariko

its mouth open
waiting for spring?
paper dog

An inu hariko is a papier maché dog. I added the question mark to the second line because Issa's original is speculative: the dog "may be waiting" (matsusuran).

1805

.春待や雀も竹を宿として
haru matsu ya suzume mo take wo yado to shite

waiting for spring
sparrows also make a home
in the bamboo

Or: "a sparrow." The "also" (mo) seems to refer to Issa.

1805

.大年や我死所の鐘もなる
ôtoshi ya waga shinidoko no kane mo naru

year's end--
the bell of my death place
tolls too


1805

.大年や我はいつ行寺の鐘
ôtoshi ya waga wa itsu yuku tera no kane

year's end--
when will my turn come
temple bell?

I.e., when will the bell ring for my funeral?

1805

.むら竹や大晦日も夜の雨
muratake ya ôtsugomori mo yoru no ame

bamboo thicket--
on the year's last day, too
evening rain

Sakuo Nakamura sees this haiku as a "gloomy scene."

1805

.はつ雪やかさい烏がうかれ鳴
hatsu yuki ya kasai karasu ga u[ka]re naki

first snowfall--
the crows of Kasai
happily caw

Kasai is an agricultural region between the Nakagawa and Edogawa rivers.

1805

.只居ればおるとて雪の降にけり
tada o[re]ba oru tote yuki no furi ni keri

just existing
I exist...
snow flitting down


1805

.夜の雪だまつて通る人もあり
yoru no yuki damatte tôru hito mo ari

night snow--
in a hush people
passing


1805

.いざ走れ霰ちる夜の古木履
iza hashire arare chiru yo no furu bokuri

hurry along!
in nighttime hail
on wooden clogs

French translator Jean Cholley assumes that Issa is talking to himself: that furu bokuri refers to ("mes vieux socques en bois" (my wooden clogs); En village de miséreux: Choix de poèmes de Kobayashi Issa (Paris: Gallimard, 1996) 65.

Since the haiku opens with a command, "Well hurry up!" (iza hashire), I prefer to imagine that the poet is urging someone else to outrun the hail, the clacking of his or her clogs adding to the racket of hailstones.

1805

.春の夜のおもはくもあり夜の霜
haru no yo no omowaku mo ari yoru no shimo

expecting a night
of spring...
night frost

A haiku of disappointment.

1805

.名月や松の天窓の煤もはく
meigetsu ya matsu no atama no susu mo haku

harvest moon--
the pine tree's head too
swept for soot


1805

.松風や小野のおくさへせき候と
matsu kaze ya ono no oku sae sekizoro to

pine breeze--
in the middle of a field too
Twelfth Month singers

Sekizoro refers to a Twelfth Month custom in which strolling female singers wandered from town to town, singing festive celebration songs; Kiyose (Tokyo: Kakugawa Shoten, 1984) 348. Shinji Ogawa adds, "They covered their mouths like ladies in the Arab countries. They usually consisted of three or four persons with some types of musical instruments."

1805

.もちつきも夜に入るさまの角田川
mochi tsuki mo yo ni iru sama ni sumida-gawa

pounding rice cakes
gliding into evening...
Sumida River


1805

.もちつきや門は雀の遊処
mochi tsuki ya kado wa suzume no asobi-doko

pounding rice cakes--
the gate is the sparrows'
playground

Preparing rice cakes by pounding them with a pestle is a winter activity.

1805

.餅つきや羅漢の鴻もつつがなく
mochi tsuki [ya] rakan no kô mo tsutsuganaku

pounding rice cakes--
the holy man's goose, too
alive and well

The "holy man" (rakan) is a Buddhist arhat ... one who has attained enlightenment. Is Issa implying that the goose will receive a rice cake once they're done?

1805

.夜に入れば餅の音する榎哉
yo ni ireba mochi no oto suru enoki kana

at night a sound
like rice cake pounding...
the nettle tree


1805

.我門は常の雨夜や餅の音
waga kado wa tsune no amayo ya mochi no oto

at my gate
the usual evening rain...
pounding rice cakes

I imagine that the rice cakes are being made elsewhere, not at Issa's gate. He hears the distant pounding of someone else's treat, adding to his melancholy feeling in the rain.

1805

.若松に雪も来よ来よ衣配
waka matsu ni yuki mo ko yo ko yo kinu kubari

come, come, snow!
the young pine needs
new clothes

This haiku alludes to the Twelfth Month custom of providing gifts of new clothes, usually for one's relatives. Here, Issa includes the pine in this human celebration. To his eyes, it looks naked without the "clothing" of snow.

1805

.浄土寺の年とる鐘や先は聞
jôdo ji no toshitori kane ya mazu wa kike

a Pure Land temple's
bell of old age...
listen!

Issa belonged to the Pure Land Buddhist faith, specirfically to Jôdoshinshû Buddhism. The season word in this haiku, toshitori, ("growing old") relates to the year's ending; in the traditional Japanese system for counting age, everyone gains a year on New Year's Day.

1805

.鷹がりや麦の旭を袖にして
takagari ya mugi no asahi wo sode ni shite

falconry--
a barley field's rising sun
on one sleeve

Mugi is a generic term that refers to several grains: wheat, barley, oats, and rye. The field's rising sun being "on a sleeve" (sode ni) indicates that the hunter is facing either north or south.

1805

.あつさりと浅黄頭巾の交ぞ
assari to asagi zukin no majiriwari zo

plain, light-blue
skullcaps...
sprinkled in

In other words, among the winter skullcaps (zukin) being worn, some are light blue. Issa later writes, in 1825:

assari to asagi zukin no hanami kana

with a plain, light-blue
skullcap...
blossom viewing

1805

.ちとの間は我宿めかすおこり炭
chito no ma wa waga yado mekasu okori-zumi

in a flash my home's
dressed to the nines...
morning's charcoal fire

Issa humorously applies the human action of "adorning one's self" (mekasu) to his house. On the cold winter morning, the house "dresses" itself with the warmth of the fire.

The phrase, okori-zumi, signifies "beginning charcoal [fire]." In Issa's Japanese okoru could mean hajimaru ("begin"); Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 260. The implication is that it's morning's first fire on a cold winter's day.

1805

.宵々に見べりもするか炭俵
yoi-yoi ni miberi mo suru ka sumidawara

every evening
you're also more depleted...
charcoal bag

As the cold weather continues and the charcoal is burned, the bag holds less and less. Issa hints at a comparison between the bag and his own aging.

1805

.雨ふるや翌からほたの当もなき
ame furu ya asu kara hota no ate mo naki

rain falling--
tomorrow's chance of firewood
is nil

On one level, Issa is saying that the wood will be soaked and impossible to burn.

Shinji Ogawa goes deeper: "Issa has no hope for firewood tomorrow not because of the rain but because of his pure poverty. The rain is just coincidental, intensifying miserable feelings."

1805

.ほた焚て皺くらべせんかがみ山
hota taite shiwa kurabesen kagami yama

by the wood fire
comparing our wrinkles...
Mount Kagami

Mount Kagami is in Saga Prefecture near the resort city of Karatsu.

1805

.埋火に桂の鴎聞へけり
uzumibi ni katsura no kamome kikoe keri

banked fire--
gulls clamor
in the redbud tree

A "banked fire" is a fire covered with ashes to ensure low burning. The katsura is the "Japanese Judas tree," due to its resemblance to the Judas or redbud tree on which, it is thought, Judas hung himself. I purposely use "redbud" instead of "Judas" in my translation. The latter, while it makes for an interesting poem, has sinister overtones that Issa would not have intended.

1805

.埋火や山松風を枕元
uzumibi ya yama matsu kaze wo makura moto

banked fire--
the mountain pine wind
at my pillow

A "banked fire" is a fire covered with ashes to ensure low burning. Is the pine wind blowing smoke on Issa as he tries to sleep?

1805

.鳴鹿に紅葉もほろりほろり哉
naku shika ni momiji mo horori horori kana

when the deer cries
the red leaves too
fall like tears

Shinji Ogawa explains that horori horori means "to drip," and so it can refer both to tears and to falling leaves. Traditionally a deer's cry is regarded as a sad sound.

1805

.月よ闇よ吉原行も冬枯るる
tsuki yo yamiyo yoshiwara yuku mo fuyugaruru

moonlight! shadow!
even en route to Yoshiwara
winter's withering

Yoshiwara was the licensed brothel district near Edo (today's Tokyo). Even this pleasure center can't escape the ravages of winter.

1805

.人かげや地蔵の塔も冬枯るる
hitokage ya jizô no tô mo fuyugaruru

a man's shadow--
even on St. Jizo's monument
winter withering

Tô can mean pagoda, obelisk, or monument. Jizô is the beloved guardian deity of children. As Gabi Greve notes, Jizô is not a "saint" in the strictest sense, since saints are human beings. On the other hand, Jizô certainly is a supernatural helper of humans. It is because of this aspect of saintliness that I add "Saint" to the name in my translation: to let Western readers who might not know who Jizô is understand at least that he is a helpful religious figure.

1805

.冬枯もそしらぬ顔や都鳥
fuyugare mo soshiranu kao ya miyakodori

even for winter's withering
an indifferent face...
sea gull

Or: "sea gulls." A miyakodori can mean "sea gull" or a toy bird on a string. Here, it refers to a live bird. Shinji Ogawa explains that soshiranu kao means "an unconcerned air" or "indifference." The gull is stoic and unperturbed by winter.

1805

.冬枯や親に放れし馬の顔
fuyugare ya oya ni hanareshi uma no kao

winter withering--
departing from mother
the pony's face


1806

.又ことし娑婆塞ぞよ草の家
mata kotoshi shaba-fusage zo yo kusa no ie

another year
just taking up space...
thatched hut

Robin D. Gill assisted with this translation and the romanization. Shinji Ogawa notes that the phrase, shaba fusagi, means "a good-for-nothing person occupies this place." He adds, "It is Issa's self-abasement which we observe so often in his haiku. But, as everyone knows, self-abasement is sometimes very close to arrogance." Literally, shaba refers to the Buddhist notion of a fallen age, the "Latter Days of Dharma," but Shinji believes that Issa's use of the word "has no religious connotation." Nevertheless, I believe, in light of Issa's lifelong interest in Pure Land Buddhist metaphors, he is at least hinting at the Buddhist connotation of shaba.

1806

.長閑しや梅はなくともお正月
nodokeshi ya ume wa naku [to] mo o-shôgatsu

spring peace--
no plum blossoms yet
this First Month

The throngs that will flood the countryside to view the plum blossoms have not yet arrived.

1806

.我宿もうたたあるさまや御代の春
waga yado mo utata aru same ya miyo no haru

even my house
is all decked out...
the emperor's spring

Miyo no haru refers to the first day of a new calendar year of the imperial reign. Perhaps Issa, uncharacteristically, has decorated his home for the occasion. Utata is an old word that can mean iyo-iyo ("more and more") or hidoku ("severely, terribly"); Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 198.

1806

.へら鷺も万才聞か君が春
herasagi mo manzai kiku ka kimi ga haru

does the spoonbill too
hear the begging actors?
"Happy New Year!"

This haiku refers to begging actors who make their rounds during the New Year's season performing a traditional style of stand-up comedy. Kimi can signify "you," "my friend," or "the emperor." Kimi ga haru could therefore mean: "Happy New Year to you" or "Happy New Year to the emperor."

1806

.君が世やよ所の膳にて花の春
kimi ga yo ya yoso no zen nite hana no haru

Great Japan!
with your dinner trays
spring blossoms

"Great Japan" is my translation of kimi ga yo, a phrase that refers to the emperor's reign and begins the Japanese national anthem.
Issa would have known the lyrics, though not the current melody which came after his time.

Shinji Ogawa explains that a zen (dining tray) is about one foot by one foot with five-inch legs. He suspects that haiku may have been composed by Issa as a token of his appreciation for a dinner invitation. Yoso in this context means, "not my place" or "not belonging to me."

1806

.正月を寝てしまひけり山の家
shôgatsu wo nete shimai keri yama no ie

sleeping through
the New Year's celebration...
mountain home

The seasonal reference in this haiku is to neshôgatsu (formerly pronounced, neshôgwatsu), which refers to staying in bed for leisurely sleeping during the New Year's holiday. This can be due to a sickness or simply for relaxation's sake; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1280.

1806

.相持の橋の春めく月よ哉
aimochi no hachi no harumeku tsuki yo kana

on Aimochi Bridge
spring has sprung...
bright moon

Aimochi means, literally, "Mutual Aid." Shinji Ogawa explains that, despite the "ridiculous luxury" of the war lords and the shogun, many bridges (such as this one) were built with donations from the people.

1806

.軒の雨ぽちりぽちりと暮遅き
noki no ame pochiri-pochiri to kure osoki

rain from the eaves
drip-drip...
a late sunset

The seasonal phrase "late sunset" (kure osoki) indicates a long day of spring.

1806

.山守や春の行方を箒して
yamamori ya haru no yukigata wo hôki shite

forest ranger--
he sweeps away spring
with a broom

This haiku commemorates the last day of spring. Shinji Ogawa writes, "I can imagine the forest ranger sweeping away colorful flower petals."

1806

.行春の空はくらがり峠哉
yuku haru no sora wa kuragari tôge kana

departing spring's
sky turns dark...
mountain pass


1806

.二葉から朝顔淋し春の霜
futaba kara asagao sabishi haru no shimo

down to two leaves
the lonely morning-glory...
spring frost


1806

.あさぢふや逆に寝てさへ春の雨
asajiu ya gyaku ni nete sae haru no ame

shelter in the reeds--
even when I turn over
spring rain

Asajiu means a place where asaji, a sort of miscanthus reed, is growing; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 25. Issa's shelter must be open on the sides; when he changes his sleeping position, he still sees (and feels?) the spring rain.

1806

.春雨のめぐみにもれぬ草葉哉
harusame no megumi ni morenu kusaba kana

not missing
the spring rain's blessing...
blades of grass


1806

.春雨や千代の古道菜漬売
harusame ya chiyo no furu michi nazuke uri

spring rain
on an ancient road...
the pickle vendor

The vendor is selling pickled vegetables (nazuke).

1806

.春雨や窓も一人に一つづつ
harusame ya mado mo hitori ni hitotsu-zutsu

spring rain--
there's one window
per person

A comic, slice-of-life haiku. Every person, up and down the block, is stuck inside, watching the rain. What emotions are they feeling? Joy? Irritation? Boredom? Issa leaves this unsaid, and, really, the emotions of the watchers in their windows don't matter. What matters in the scene, its controlling reality, is the spring rain itself, falling from the sky and splashing the street.

1806

.笠程の窓持て候春の風
kasa hodo no mado mochite soro haru no kaze

through a window big
as an umbrella-hat...
spring breeze


1806

.春の風垣の雑巾かわく也
karu no kaze kaki no zôkin kawaku nari

spring breeze--
the mop on the fence
drying

Kaki can be translated as "fence" or "hedge."

1806

.春の風草にも酒を呑すべし
haru no kaze kusa ni mo sake wo nomasu-beshi

spring breeze--
let the grass also
drink sake!

I picture a drinker (perhaps Issa) drunkenly spilling some of his sake, then generously offering it to the grass. Louis Russ wonders, "Perhaps the grass is waving in the breeze like someone who's had too much to drink?"

Shinji Ogawa notes that the word beshi, in this context, indicates a strong suggestion : sake wo nomasu-beshi = "let (the grass) drink sake or have (the grass) drink sake."

1806

.山寺や春の月夜の連歌道
tera yama ya haru no tsuki yo no renga michi

temple mountain--
under a spring moon heading
to a poem party

At the party poets will make a renga of linked verses. Shinji Ogawa comments, "The meaning of renga michi is a haiku road or a road to a poem party."

1806

.宵々や軒の雫も春の月
yoi-yoi ya noki no shizuku mo haru no tsuki

every evening
in raindrops from the eaves...
spring moon


1806

.段々に朧よ月よこもり堂
dan-dan ni oboro yo tsuki yo komori-dô

bit by bit
more haze, more moon...
secluded temple

Is the haze making the moon seem bigger?

1806

.かすむ日に窓さへ見へぬ獄屋哉
kasumu hi ni mado sae mienu hitoya kana

in the misty day
no window can be seen...
a prison

In Issa: Cup-of-Tea Poems (Berkeley: Asian Humanities, 1991), I translated this haiku as if "prison" (hitoya) were a metaphor: "misty/ day/ windows/ solid/ blank/ prison" (17). Now I believe that the prison is real. Shinji Ogawa concurs. He writes, "Though I do not know anything about this haiku, if we can assume that Issa's friend was in the prison, then the phrase, 'no window can be seen' is a very proper expression."

1806

.霞む日や門の草葉は昼時分
kasumu hi ya kado no kusaba wa hiru jibun

misty day--
grasses at the gate
at noon

The morning mist lingers all the way to the noon hour.

1806

.片袖はばらばら雨や春がすみ
kata sode wa bara-bara ame ya harugasumi

on one sleeve
rain pitter-patters...
spring mist

On one side of the poet ("one sleeve") rain is falling. Issa might imply that the spring mist is located on the other side--in the direction of his other sleeve.

Shinji Ogawa pcitures the scene: "The rain hit one side of the poet due to the direction of the wind. Inferring from the expression bara-bara ("pitter-patter"), I think that Issa might be wearing a paper raincoat: paper clothing reinforced with some sort of oil. It is known that in Issa's day such raincoats were used and handy, especially for the travelers like Issa."

1806

.菜畠のふくら雀もかすみ哉
na-batake no fukura suzume mo kasumi kana

fat little sparrows
in the farm field too...
in mist

Shinji Ogawa explains that fukura suzume refers to sparrows that are fat and round or due to cold weather.

1806

.春がすみ鍬とらぬ身のもつたいな
harugasumi kuwa toranu mi no mottaina

spring mist--
not taking up a hoe
a shameless loafer

Issa is referring to himself, for, as Shinji Ogawa reminds us, he was born as a farmer's first son who, at this point in his life, did not farm. Mi no mottaina, a shortened form of mi no mottainai, means to feel ashamed or guilty, Shinji says. He believes that Issa feels a guilt pang, loafing while others work hard with their hoes in the misty field. While this may be true, I imagine Issa saying the poem with a smile. In a perverse way, he takes pride in his laziness.

1806

.むさしのや我等が宿も一かすみ
musashi no ya warera gay ado mo hito kasumi

Musashi Plain--
our dwelling too
in mist


1806

.山里の寝顔にかかるかすみ哉
yama-zato no ne-gao ni kakaru kasumi kana

draping the mountain
village's sleeping face...
mist


1806

.陽炎や蚊のわく薮もうつくしき
kagerô ya ka no waku yabu mo utsukushiki

heat shimmers--
the mosquito-breeding thicket
is pretty too

"Heat shimmers" are the wavy bends in the air that one sometimes sees in the distance on a warm day--a phenomenon associated with springtime in Japan.

1806

.妹が家も田舎雛ではなかりけり
imo ga ya mo inaka hina de wa nakari keri

in my dear one's house
not one provincial doll
on Doll's Day

This haiku refers to the Doll Festival, the third day of Third Month. Imo ("sister") is a literary word for "dear one"--an intimate term that a man uses to refer to his beloved; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 454. Issa didn't marry until a decade later, in 1814. The woman in question evidently had sophisticated taste, preferring fancy city-made dolls over the crude clay dolls of the country. Since Issa came from a poor province, perhaps there is another layer to this haiku: perhaps he is the "country doll" that has no place in this woman's house ... or life.

1806

.古郷は雛の顔も葎哉
furusato wa hina no kao mo mugura kana

my home village--
even the doll's face
made of weeds

This haiku refers to the Doll Festival, the third day of Third Month. In Issa's poor village, weeds supply the material for doll-making--no porcelain faces to be had. In an earlier version I rendered mugura as "goose-grass," but I now believe that its sense is more correctly conveyed as "weeds." See Maruyama Kazuhiko, Issa haiku shû (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1990; rpt. 1993) 288, note 1537.

1806

.染色の傘のちらちら汐干哉
some-iro no kasa no chira-chira shiohi kana

their colorful umbrellas
fluttering...
low tide

The people under the umbrellas are looking for shellfish.

1806

.田を打てば露もおりけり門の口
ta wo uteba tsuyu mo ori keri kado no kuchi

plowing the rice field
dewdrops fall too...
entrance gate

I think the last image, "gate" (kado no kuchi), reveals the viewer's perspective in this haiku. Issa is standing at a gate, contemplating the work in a nearby field.

1806

.畠打や祭々も往く所
hata uchi ya matsuri-matsuri mo iku tokoro

plowing fields--
festivals, festivals
all over!

Along with spring plowing comes a myriad of agricultural festivals in honor of the appropriate gods.

1806

.うら道や草の上迄種を蒔く
ura michi ya kusa no ue made tane wo maku

back road--
even on top of grasses
sowing herbs


1806

.山畠や種蒔よしと鳥のなく
yama hata ya tane maki yoshi to tori no naku

mountain field--
"Nice job of seeding!"
sing the birds

Shinji Ogawa helped me revise this translation. Originally, I had the birds singing, "Hooray! He's sowing seeds!" This rendering is slightly off; the greedy birds are complimenting the farmer's sowing, calling it "good" (yoshi).

1806

.鶯のあてにして来る垣ね哉
uguisu no ate ni shite kuru kakine kana

the nightingale aims
and arrives...
my fence

"My" is not stated in the haiku but might be inferred.

Kaki can be translated as "fence" or "hedge."

1806

.山烏山のうぐひすさそひ来よ
yama-garasu yama no uguisu sasoi kiyo

mountain crows
bring the mountain nightingales
when you come

Shinji Ogawa paraphrases, "mountain crows/ bring with you/ nightingales of the mountain."

1806

.巣乙鳥や草の青山よそにして
su tsubame ya kusa no aoyama yoso ni shite

hey nesting swallows--
grassy green mountains
are elsewhere

Issa is informing the birds that green spring mountains are somewhere else. Winter weather lingers.

1806

.とぶ燕君が代ならぬ草もなし
tobu tsubame kimi ga yo naranu kusa mo nashi

flying swallows--
wherever there's grass
hail Great Japan!

"Great Japan" is my translation of kimi ga yo, a phrase that refers to the emperor's reign and begins the Japanese national anthem. Issa would have known the lyrics, though not the current melody which came after his time. Shinji Ogawa helped with this translation. He notes that kimi ga yo naranu kusa mo nashi is a double negative that makes a positive: "no grass without praising/ Great Japan."

1806

.野烏に藪を任せて鳴雲雀
no-garasu ni yabu wo makasete naku hibari

entrusting the thicket
to the field crow...
the lark sings


1806

.足がらの片山雉子靄祝へ
ashigara no kata yama kigisu moya iwae

Mount Ashigara's
mountain pheasant,
celebrate the haze!

Or: "pheasants." Shinji Ogawa explains that Ashigara is the name of a mountain.

1806

.丘の雉鷺の身持をうらやむか
oka no kiji sagi no mimochi wo urayamu ka

hilltop pheasant
are you jealous of the heron's
style?

More literally, Issa wonders if the pheasant is jealous "of the way the heron carries himself" (sagi no mimochi).

1806

.昼比やほろほろ雉の里歩き
hiru-goro ya horo-horo kiji no sato aruki

around noon, squawking
the pheasant walks
through town

Though horo-horo can signify the falling of leaves or tears, it has a special meaning in conjunction with pheasants: it evokes the sound of their singing; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1498.

1806

.山陰も畠となりてなく雉子
yama kage mo hatake to narite naku kigisu

even in mountain shade
a plowed field!
the pheasant cries

Issa fancies that the pheasant is crying out with surprise and delight.

1806

.行雁や更科見度望みさへ
yuku kari ya sarashina mitai nozomi sae

geese fly north--
how they yearn to see
Mount Sarashina

Mount Sarashina is another name for Ubasute or Obasute: a mountain in Issa's home province of Shinano (today's Nagano Prefecture) where old people were, according to legend, "thrown away": left to die. Today it is called Kamurikiyama.

1806

.見知られし雁もそろそろ立田哉
mishirareshi kari mo soro-soro tatsu ta kana

the geese I know
by sight, are they gone?
rice field of Nara

Tatsu ta refers to a place in Nara Prefecture, located north of the river; see Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1007.

Shinji Ogawa notes that Issa is punning in this haiku: "The word tatsu means 'to stand up' and 'to depart.' Tatsu ta (Tatsuta) is the name of the place in Nara Prefecture and also means 'departed.' The word soro-soro means, in this context, 'by now.' Hence, the haiku says, 'Have the geese we are acquainted with departed by now?'"

1806

.蛙なくやとりしまりなき草の雨
kawazu naku ya torishimarinaki kusa no ame

frogs croaking--
"This rain on the grass
is unsanctioned!"

The phrase, torishimarinaki, is an old expression for being negligent (darashi no nai) or lax (shimari ga nai)--especially, as Shinji Ogawa points out, in the sense of lax government. The rain is falling with "no government regulation."

1806

.あだしのに蝶は罪なく見ゆる也
adashi no ni chô wa tsumi naku miyuru nari

in Adashi Field
the butterflies seem
sinless

Or: "a butterfly seems..." Adashi Field is a place near Kyoto.

Shinji Ogawa notes that Issa is punning in this haiku. Adashino means "Adashi Field" and "guilty field." The butterflies seem sinless, despite being in "Sinful Field."

Gabi Greve explains that Adashi Field adjoins the Adashino Nembutsu-ji, a famous temple and cemetery on the outskirts of Kyoto. With over 8,000 grave markers, it is a place that, Gabi writes, evokes the Buddhist concept of "the brevity and fragility of life."

1806

.跡のてふ松原西へ這入なり
ato no chô matsuhara nishi e hairu nari

behind me a butterfly
west toward Matsuhara
crawls

Why is the butterfly crawling and not flying? Issa wrote this on the 16th day of Third Month. For that day, he wrote in his journal, "Rain at 5-7 p.m." Are the butterfly's wings wet, perhaps?

1806

.一姫の神笑み給へ草のてふ
ichihime no kami emi tamae kusa no chô

O goddess Ichihime
smile!
a meadow butterfly

Kamu-O-Ichi-Hime is an important Shinto goddess, the mother of O-Toshi-no-Kami, the great harvest god and guardian of rice fields. She has an important shrine in Kyoto, Ichihime Jinja.

1806

.うつつなの人の迷ひや野べの蝶
utsutsuna no hito no mayoi ya nobe no chô

casting a spell
on the man...
meadow butterflies

Or: "on the woman" or "on the people." "Meadow butterfly" could be singular, depending on how the reader chooses to imagine the scene.

1806

.かつしかや雪隠の中も春のてふ
katsushika ya setchin no naka mo haru no chô

in Katsushika
even in the outhouse...
a spring butterfly

Katsushika is an area of land east of Sumida River--a riverside suburb of Edo (today's Tokyo); see Maruyama Kazuhiko, Issa haiku shû (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1990; rpt. 1993) 33, note 109.

1806

.門々を一々巡る小てふ哉
kado kado wo ichi-ichi meguru ko chô kana

gate after gate
making the rounds...
little butterfly

Issa constructs the poem like a joke. Its first two phrases, "Gate after gate/ making the rounds," set up an expectation of human activity, human agency. Who's making the rounds? A policeman? A beggar? A vendor? But then, in the third and last phrase, Issa shifts gears, presenting a "little butterfly" as the scene's protagonist. On one level, he's playing a favorite haiku joke: showing animals in human terms. On a deeper, Buddhist level; he presents and acknowledges the personhood of the animal. In this perspective, the little, friendly butterfly isn't only a peer--but a role model.

1806

.杭の鷺蝶はいきせきさわぐ也
kui no sagi chô wa ikiseki sawagu nari

heron on a post--
butterflies in a breathless
flurry

The butterflies "breathlessly" or "pantingly" (ikiseki) "make merry" (sawagu nari).

1806

.草の蝶牛にも詠られにけり
kusa no chô ushi ni mo nagamerare ni keri

meadow butterflies--
the cow also
gazes

Or: "meadow butterfly." In my first translation, the cow was "entranced," but I've followed Shinji Ogawa's advice to make the action plainer. The butterflies are so lovely, the cow (like Issa) gazes at them. A cow with a poet's heart!

1806

.蝶ひらひら仏のひざをもどる也
chô hira-hira hotoke no hiza wo modoru nari

flitting butterfly
to Buddha's lap
returns


1806

.若草に冷飯すすむ伏家哉
waka-gusa ni hiya meshi susumu fuseya kana

the new grass
cools my cold rice...
humble hut


1806

.わか草に夜も来てなく雀哉
waka-gusa ni yoru mo kite naku suzume kana

in the new grass too
evening comes...
chirping sparrow


1806

.わか草や油断を責る暮の鐘
waka-gusa ya yudan wo semeru kure no kane

chiding the new grass
for not being ready...
sunset bell

The new spring grasses are not ready for death. The sunset bell of a Buddhist temple seems to be scolding them.

1806

.薄菫是にも月のやどる也
usu sumire kore ni mo tsuki no yadoru nari

straggly violets--
here, too
the moon's dwelling


1806

.ついついと藪の中より菜種哉
tsui-tsui to yabu no naka yori na tane kana

a swish-swish
deep in the thicket...
flowering mustard

Rape (or canola) is a bright yellow flowering oil seed plant.

In my first translation of this haiku I read tsui-tsui as tsui to, meaning "suddenly." However, commenting on a different poem, Shinji Ogawa suggests that Issa is using this word onomatopoetically to express the swishing sound of a canoe's paddle in water. In light of Shinji's comment on that poem, I've decided to rethink (and re-translate) this haiku and all others that contain this phrase.

1806

.なの花にうしろ下りの住居哉
na no hana ni ushiro sagari no sumai kana

flowering mustard
drapes the back...
my home

Or: "a home." Issa's doesn't specify "my" in the original text, but this might be inferred. Rape (or canola) is a bright yellow flowering oil seed plant.

1806

.人しらぬ藪もつやつや木の芽哉
hito shiranu yabu mo tsuya-tsuya ki [no] me kana

in the thicket no one
knows about
trees budding bright

Shinji Ogawa defines tsuya as "glossy, lustrous, or bright." Therefore, tsuya-tsuya can mean "very glossy," or, in this case, maybe "lively." He interprets Issa's meaning as follows: "Human beings are not the center of this world; we belong to the world, not vice versa."

1806

.春ぞとてしぶしぶ咲し椿哉
haru zo tote shibu-shibu sakushi tsubaki kana

springtime
yet it blooms reluctantly...
the camellia


1806

.古郷は牛も寝て見る椿哉
furusato wa ushi mo nete miru tsubaki kana

my home village--
even lying-down cows
look at camellias

Or: "even the lying-down cow..."

Shinji Ogawa explains that neru means "to sleep" or "to lie down." In this haiku, the phrase nete miru means "lie down and see," i.e., "see something from a lying-down position." This implies that camellia viewing is not such a serious matter. Shinji adds, "I think that Issa is humorously teasing his colleagues in Edo who go to camellia viewings and hold a haiku meeting to compose haiku on camellias. Though I don't know the circumstances of this haiku, the humor would be more intense if it were composed at such a haiku meeting."

1806

.ありふれの野さへ原さへ梅の花
arifure no no sae hara sae ume [no] hana

in plain old everyday
plains and fields...
plum blossoms!


1806

.梅がかを都へさそふ風も哉
ume ga ka wo miyako e sasou kaze mo gana

may the wind send
this plum blossom scent
to Kyoto!

This haiku has the prescript, "Renga," indicating that Issa wrote it as part of a series of linked verses done with other poet(s). The "capital" (miyako) was Kyoto in Issa's day. This is where the emperor and his court lived. Political and military power was centered in the Shogun's city of Edo, today's Tokyo. Robin D. Gill explains that mo gana is an archaic expression of wishing: "Oh, for a wind/ to take the plum blossom scent/ to the capital."

1806

.梅がかに鼬もないて通りけり
ume ga ka ni itachi mo naite tôri keri

plum blossom scent--
even the weasel passes
with a song


1806

.梅がかに引くるまりし小家哉
ume ga ka ni hiki-kurumarishi ko ie kana

wrapped in the scent
of plum blossoms...
little house


1806

.梅がかや針穴すかす明り先
ume ga ka ya hari ana sukasu akarisaki

plum blossom scent--
through a needle's eye
the light

Someone (Issa?) is trying to thread a needle. Shinji Ogawa notes that the play on the senses of smell and sight is "very traditional," resulting in an unremarkable haiku.

I wonder if there might be a deeper connection between the plum blossom scent and the light. Is it possible that the "light" in the scene is reflecting off the blossoms?

Shinji replies: "The plum blossom scent is so faint that after the sensibility of his nerves is increased by the action of threading, Issa is able to notice the faint scent. It is a very clever setting. To some, this haiku may seem to be excellent; in my judgment, however, the traditional subject of the faint scent and the vision, and the clever setting, make the haiku unimpressive nevertheless."

1806

.下草も香に匂ひけり梅の花
shitagusa mo ka ni nioi keri ume no hana

even weeds under the tree
smell nice...
plum blossoms


1806

.山里は油手ふくも梅の花
yama-zato wa aburate fuku mo ume no hana

mountain village--
wiping greasy hands
on plum blossoms


1806

.金の糞しそうな犬ぞ花の陰
kin no fun shisôna inu zo hana no kage

that dog ought to poop
pure gold!
blossom shade

Robin D. Gill, who assisted with this translation, alerted me to Kaneko Tohta's belief that the dog in question might be the pampered pet of a rich person, which makes the haiku a satire on Edo-period extravagance. As for the rômaji reading of the first phrase, Kaneko prefers kin no fun to the reading given by the editors of Issa zenshû: kane no hako. See Issa kushû (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1983; rpt. 1984) 177-79.

1806

.咲ちるやけふも昔にならんずる
saki chiru ya kyô mo mukashi ni naranzu[ru]

scattering blossoms--
today too
like olden times

In the shorthand of haiku, "blossoms" (hana) can mean "cherry blossoms."

1806

.鼻先の上野の花も過にけり
hana saki no ueno no hana mo sugi ni keri

up close
even the cherry blossoms of Ueno
pass on

In the shorthand of haiku, "blossoms" (hana) can mean "cherry blossoms." Since Ueno is famous for its cherry blossoms, there's no doubt that Issa means "cherry blossoms" here.

Issa puns in this haiku: hana saki means both "tip of the nose" and "blossoms in bloom." Though he literally means the former (since the kanji that he uses for hana and saki remove ambiguity), the second meaning of hana saki lingers in the haiku as a little joke for readers who notice it.

Shinji Ogawa notes that the phrase, hana saki no is a short form of me to hana no saki ("front of the eyes and nose"), a Japanese idiom for "very close."

1806

.花咲や二十の比の鐘もなる
hana saku ya hatachi no koro no kane mo naru

cherry blossoms--
I also hear a temple bell
from my twenties

In the shorthand of haiku, "blossoms" (hana) can mean "cherry blossoms."

In my first translation, I had Issa hearing twenty temple bells. Shinji Ogawa explains that hatachi no koro no kane in fact means, "the bell I heard in my twenties." Issa's point, according to Shinji, is that the excitement of blossom viewing makes him feel young again.

1806

.花の陰此世をさみす人も有
hana no kage kono yo wo samisu hito mo ari

in cherry blossom shade
there are even those
who hate this world

Or: "there is even one/ who hates this world." In the shorthand of haiku, "blossoms" (hana) can mean "cherry blossoms." Samisu is an old verb that can mean to be foolish (baka ni suru) or to despise (anadoru); Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 719. The second meaning seems to fit here. Even amid the glories of the blossoms, there are some who hate the world. Is Issa referring to a Buddhist ascetic who has rejected worldly attachments?

Shinji Ogawa notes that blossom viewing is always associated with sake drinking. When they get drunk, some people become jolly; some grumble.

1806

.今からは桜一人よ窓の前
ima kara wa sakura hitori yo mado no mae

from now on
cherry blossom solitude!
my window

Issa enjoys the blooming cherry tree(s) outside his window.

1806

.姥捨し片山桜咲にけり
ubasuteshi kata yama-zakura saki ni keri

on Mount Ubasute
where the old were left to die...
cherry blossoms

Obasute (sometimes Ubasute) is a mountain in Issa's home province of Shinano (today's Nagano Prefecture) where old people were, according to legend, "thrown away": left to die. It was also known as Sarashinayama. Today it is called Kamurikiyama.

1806

.大かたは泥にひつつく桜哉
ôkata wa doro ni hittsuku sakura kana

most end up
stuck in mud...
cherry blossoms

Issa's simple observation resonates with spiritual and philosophical insight.

1806

.穀つぶし桜の下にくらしけり
gokutsubushi sakura no shita ni kurashi keri

an idler--
under the cherry blossoms
I live

Or: "he lives" or "she lives." I prefer to see Issa as the "idler" (gokutsubushi).

1806

.土鳩が寝に来ても鳴く桜哉
tsuchibato ga ne ni kite mo naku sakura kana

even in sleep
pigeons come to coo...
cherry blossoms

Or: "a pigeon comes to coo." Tsuchibato (or dobato) is a domesticated pigeon.

1806

.初桜花ともいはぬ伏家哉
hatsu sakura hana to mo iwanu fuseya kana

no one says
"First cherry blossoms!"
my humble hut

Or: "the humble hut." Issa doesn't specify that it is his, but this is strongly suggested.

1806

.人寄せぬ桜咲けり城の山
hito yosenu sakura saki keri shiro no yama

cherry trees in bloom
with no crowds...
castle mountain


1806

.夕過や桜の下に小言いふ
yû sugi ya sakura no shita ni kogoto iu

all night
under the cherry blossoms
nagging

A haiku of comic juxtaposition. The evening cherry blossoms, so delicate and ethereal, clash with the grumbling, nagging humans sitting below them--possibly a married couple. Whoever's doing the nagging, Issa points out in this haiku the fact that many people go into the countryside to view Nature's splendor--and completely miss the point. Instead of observing, and learning from, the cherry blossoms, they bring their daily squabbles with them, continuing and amplifying them in the fresh country air. Issa watches with a smile ... a sad smile.

1806

.留主寺やせい出してさく桃さくら
rusu tera ya seidashite saku momo sakura

vacant temple--
industriously blooming
peach and cherry

Later, in 1815, Issa writes:

rusu tera ni seidashite saku sakura kana

vacant temple--
cherry trees blooming
industriously

Shinji Ogawa notes that rusu tera means an unoccupied temple, or a temple whose master is out of the town.

1806

.日本は柳の空となる夜哉
nippon wa yanagi no sora to naru yo kana

Japan's night sky
has become
all willows

Under the spring willows, the people of Japan (like Issa) look up to see willow branches instead of the night sky.

1806

.夕山に肩を並ぶる柳哉
yû yama ni kata wo naraburu yanagi kana

lined up
with the evening mountain...
a willow

Shinji Ogawa helped me improve this translation by offering this paraphrase: "The willow tree stands abreast with the evening mountain." He adds, "In Issa's perspective, the willow might be as high (or bold) as the mountain."

1806

.明安き榎持けりうしろ窓
ake yasuki enoki mochi keri ushiro mado

in summer's early dawn
a nettle tree...
back window

The seasonal expression in this haiku, ake yasuki ("early dawn"), refers to the short nights of summer.

1806

.明安き鳥の来て鳴榎哉
ake yasuki tori no kite naku enoki kana

in summer's early dawn
a bird comes chirping...
nettle tree

The seasonal expression in this haiku, ake yasuki ("early dawn"), refers to the short nights of summer.

1806

.月さして遊びでのない夜也けり
tsuki sashite asobi de no nai yo nari keri

the moon shining--
no carousing
this summer night!

Issa is referring to the short nights of summer. Since the moon is shining bright, there's too much light for people to perfomr and hide naughty deeds, hence "no carousing" (asobi de no nai).

1806

.夕涼や凡一里の片小山
yûsuzu ya oyoso hito sato no kata oyama

evening cool--
for each little village
one little hill

Issa estimates that "as a rule" or "in round numbers" (oyoso), for every village there is a little hill upon which people can enjoy the evening cool.

1806

.夕涼や薬師の見ゆる片小藪
yûsuzume ya yakushi no miyuru kata ko yabu

evening cool--
a Buddha of healing
in a thicket

In a clump of trees Issa comes upon a stone or wooden statue of the Buddha of healing.

1806

.夕立に次の祭りの通りけり
yûdachi ni tsugi no matsuri no tôri keri

in a cloudburst
another festival shrine
passes by

Shinji Ogawa explains, "The phrase, tsugi no matsuri no tôri keri means 'the next festival passed'." Issa is watching as the next mikoshi (portable shrine) passes.

1806

.夕立の祈らぬ里にかかる也
yûdachi no inoranu sato ni kakaru nari

rainstorm--
hanging over the village
that doesn't pray

Other villages have been praying for rain

1806

.夕立や草花ひらく枕元
yûdachi ya kusabana hiraku makura moto

rainstorm--
a wildflower blooms
at my pillow

Or: "wildflowers bloom."

1806

.切雲の峰となる迄寝たりけり
kire-gumo no mine to naru made netari keri

only when a scrap of cloud
billows to form peaks...
then to bed

In Issa's journal, this related haiku appears next:

ne-kaereba haya mine tsukuru ko-gumo kana

when I go back to sleep
it quickly forms peaks...
little cloud

1806

.寝返ればはや峰作る小雲哉
ne-kaereba haya mine tsukuru ko-gumo kana

when I go back to sleep
it quickly forms peaks...
little cloud

In Issa's journal, this haiku immediately follows a related one:

kire-gumo no mine to naru made netari keri

only when a scrap of cloud
billows to form peaks...
then to bed

1806

.柴門も青田祝ひのけぶり哉
shiba no to mo aoda iwai no keburi kana

at my humble hut, too
celebration smoke
for green rice fields

Or: "at a humble hut"--the "my" is not stated but is implied. Even the poorest of farmers (presumably, Issa) celebrates the greening of his rice paddies.

Shinji Ogawa explains that shiba no to ("brushwood door") is an idiom for a "hut" or "my humble house." It does not mean that Issa's door is literally made of brushwood.

1806

.手枕におのが青田と思ふ哉
temakura ni ono ga aoda to omou kana

an arm for a pillow
imagining the green rice field
is mine

Shinji Ogawa explains that the particle to in this context means "as if."

1806

.灌仏やふくら雀も親連れて
kuwanbutsu ya fukura suzume mo oya tsurete

Buddha's birthday--
fat little sparrows
and their parents

On the Eighth Day of Fourth Month Gautama Buddha's birthday is celebrated. Shinji Ogawa explains that fukura suzume refers to sparrows that are fat and round or due to cold weather.

1806

.花つみや替々のうちは持
hana tsumi ya kawaru-gawaru no uchiwa mochi

picking flowers--
everyone with a different
style of fan

Shinji Ogawa points out that kawaru-gawaru normally means "by turns" but, in this case, means "a variety of" or "according to one's own taste." Issa is depicting, Shinji writes, "a florid and joyful flower-picking party."

1806

.わざわざに蝶も来て舞ふ夏花哉
waza-waza ni chô mo kite mau gebana kana

a butterfly deigns
to come and dance...
summer flowers

Or: "butterflies too/ come dancing..." Shinji Ogawa notes that in this context waza-waza denotes how the butterfly "deigns" to come and dance.

1806

.涼風もけふ一日の御不二哉
suzukaze mo kyô tsuitachi no o-fuji kana

a cool wind today
the first of the month...
Mount Fuji

During Issa's time, on the first day of Sixth Month pilgrims would climb artificial, miniature hills shaped like Mount Fuji.

1806

.軒の菖蒲しなびぬうちに寝たりけり
noki no shôbu shinabinu uchi ni netari keri

irises on the eaves--
before they shrivel
to bed I go

The seasonal reference of this haiku is to the Boy's Festival of fifth day, Fifth Month (Issa's birthday), which involved some sort of thatching ritual. The flowers in the haiku are Japanese irises: Iris ensata.

1806

.更衣里は汐干る日也けり
koromogae sato wa shiohiru hi nari keri

new summer robes--
the town today
at the low-tide beach

I picture people wearing colorful summer kimonos. In Issa's day bathing suits as we know them didn't exist. But people enjoyed going to the beach. At low tide, they would collect shells inside which edible marine life lurked.

1806

.あかざをも目出度しといふ団扇哉
akaza wo mo medetashi to iu uchiwa kana

a "Good fortune!" wish
even for the pigweed...
paper fan

Though Issa writes, "the paper fan says," Shinji Ogawa believes that it is natural to assume that the person holding the fan has spoken.

1806

.入相に片耳ふさぐ団扇哉
iriai ni kata mimi fusagu uchiwa kana

sunset bell--
one ear covered
with my paper fan

The word, iriai, literally means "sunset," but in this context, according to Shinji Ogawa, it is shorthand for "the sunset bell." Issa finds himself a bit too close to the loud, clanging sunset bell.

1806

.煙してかはほりの世もよかりけり
keburi shite kawahori no yo mo yokari keri

smoke rising--
the bats' world, too
is good

The rising smoke could be coming from smudge pots, as people attempt to smoke out the mosquitoes. There are so many of the pesky insects, the bats are having a feast: the world is good! In modern Japanese "bat" is pronounced, kômori. Issa pronounced it, kawahori.

1806

.時鳥火宅の人を笑らん
hototogisu kataku no hito wo warauran

cuckoo--
laughing at the man
in the burning house?

This haiku refers to a parable in The Lotus Sutra, Chapter 3. A man coaxes his three children from a burning house by offering each of them a carriage. The burning house represents addiction to temporary, worldly pleasure. The three carriages represent the three main schools of Buddhism.

Shinji Ogawa notes, "In Japan, the phrase, kataku no hito (a man or persons in the burning house), is customally used as a idiom for people in this world, just like the phrase shaba no hito. The word, warauran, means 'may be laughing' (conjecture)." Shinji offers this translation:

cuckoo may be laughing
at the people's
struggling lives

1806

.芋茶屋もうれしいものよ閑古鳥
imo chaya mo ureshii mono yo kankodori

even a penny teahouse
a happy thing!
mountain cuckoo

Shinji Ogawa explains that "potato teahouse" (imo chaya) is a teahouse that serves potatoes as well: an inexpensive "penny teahouse."

1806

.かんこ鳥しなのの桜咲にけり
kankodori shinano no sakura saki ni keri

mountain cuckoo--
the cherry blossoms of Shinano
have bloomed!

The humor of this haiku involves seasonal expectations. The mountain cuckoo (kankodori) is a summer bird, yet the "spring" cherry blossoms, in Issa's home province, are only now blooming. The winter, in this cold, mountainous area, has been long and hard. Robin D. Gill adds that "the mountain cuckoo (kankodori) is also a metaphor for nothing-doing, laid-back places/times. This, in contrast to the bustling cherry-blossom viewing days of the capital."

1806

.山のはへ足を伸せばかんこ鳥
yama no ha e ashi wo nobaseba kankodori

when you step one foot
on the mountain...
mountain cuckoo


1806

.庵の蛍痩なくなりもせざりけり
io no hotaru yase nakunari mo sezari keri

my hut's firefly
still hasn't starved
to death

A humorous reference to Issa's poverty and lack of food.

1806

.痩蛍大舟竿にかかる也
yase hotaru ôfunezao ni kakaru nari

skinny firefly
on the big boat's mast
clinging


1806

.我家や町の蛍の逃所
waga ie ya machi no hotaru no nige-dokoro

my house
where the town's fireflies
hide out


1806

.我門や蛍をやどす草もなき
waga kado ya hotaru wo yadosu kusa mo naki

my gate--
lodging for the fireflies
there being no grass


1806

.我薮は時分はづれの蛍哉
waga yabu wa jibun hazure no hotaru kana

in my thicket
at the end of their time...
fireflies

Perhaps Issa is alluding to the fact that their mating (and glowing) season is at an end. He wrote this on the 20th day of Fourth Month.

1806

.目出度さは上総の蚊にも喰れけり
medetasa wa kazusa no ka ni mo kuware keri

a thing to celebrate!
the mosquitoes of Kazusa
feast on me too

Kazusa was an ancient province in the Kantô area. With tongue in cheek Issa celebrates the ""joys"" of travel.

1806

.焼にけりさしてとがなき藪蚊迄
yake ni keri sashite toga naki yabu ka made

everything has burned
even the blameless
mosquitoes

This haiku has the prescript, "Shitaya fire." Shitaya was a district in Edo (today's Tokyo), near the place where Issa was living at the time.

According to R. H. Blyth, "thicket mosquito" (yabu ka) refers to a species of "striped mosquitoes"; Haiku (Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1949-1952; rpt. 1981-1982/reset paperback edition) 3.805. Robin D. Gill notes that the scientific name for these large striped, bloodthirsty mosquitoes is Stegomyia fasciata, according to Kenkyûsha's Japanese-English Dictionary.

Issa's sympathy extends even to the pesky mosquitoes.

1806

.蝿打てけふも聞也山の鐘
hae uchite kyô mo kiku nari yama no kane

while swatting a fly
today again...
the mountain temple bell

Literally, it is a "mountain bell" (yama kane), but Issa's readers Japanese readers understand that this refers to the bell of a Buddhist temple. Perhaps Issa feels a tinge of guilt for taking a life: violating one of Buddha's main precepts. And just as he does the dirty deed, as if to personally chide him, the temple bell tolls in the distance.

1806

.馬の子も同じ日暮よかたつぶり
uma no ko mo onaji higure yo katatsuburi

sharing the sunset
with the pony...
a snail


1806

.小盥も蓮もひとつ夕べ哉
ko-darai mo harasu mo hitotsu yûbe kana

one little tub
one lotus
one evening falls

Shinji Ogawa clarified Issa's meaning in this haiku. The word "one" (hitotsu) modifies all three entities: the little tub, the lotus (which, I assume, is floating in the tub), and the evening. We might add one more "one" in the haiku: the solitary poet, contemplating and capturing the moment.

1806

.蓮の花乞食のけぶりかかる也
hasu [no] hana kojiki no keburi kakaru nari

lotus blossoms--
the beggar's smoke
wafts over


1806

.蓮の花燕はとしのよらぬ也
hasu [no] hana tsubame wa toshi no yoranu nari

among lotus blossoms
the swallows don't
grow old


1806

.福蟇も這出給へ蓮の花
fuku-biki [mo] haiide tamae hasu no hana

Lucky the Toad
crawl out!
lotus blossom

"Lucky" (Fuku) is a common pet name for toads. Since the lotus blossom is associated with rebirth and Buddhist enlightenment, the toad crawling out of one is lucky indeed.

1806

.霧雨にあらのの百合のさきぬべし
kirisame ni arano no yuri no sa[ki]nu-beshi

misty rain--
let the lilies in the desolate field
bloom!

Issa wrote saenu but the editors of Issa zenshû believe that he meant to write, sakinu; (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 1.403.

Arano is a desolate and deserted field or moor; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 79.

1806

.筍に娑婆の嵐のかかる也
takenoko ni shaba no arashi no kakaru nari

the bamboo shoots suffer
this crappy world's
storm

Though the term shaba has Buddhist connotations, suggesting the notion of a fallen age (the Latter Days of Dharma), Shinji Ogawa believes that Issa is using the word to mean "this world" without religious connotations. Still, the feeling is negative, so I've added the "crappy."

1806

.痩梅のなりどしもなき我身哉
yase ume no naridoshi mo naki waga mi kana

the scrawny plum tree
is fruitless too...
my life

When he wrote this haiku, Issa was 44 by the Japanese way of computing age. He was unmarried and childless.

1806

.長月の空色袷きたりけり
naga tsuki no sora iro awase kitari keri

Ninth Month--
the sky wears a colorful
kimono

The editors of Issa zenshû leave the original text of this haiku mysterious. In Volume 1 the sky is wearing hakama, a man's formal divided skirt or woman's pleated skirt. But in Volume 2 the sky is wearing awase: a lined kimono (Nagano: Shinano Mainichi Shimbunsha, 1976-79) 1.429; 2.370. I have decided to base my translation on Vol. 2.

Since Ninth Month is the end of autumn, even the sky seems to be changing into warmer clothes.

Shinji Ogawa explains that this haiku can be read in two ways: (1) the Ninth Month wears a sky-blue [kimono], or (2) the Ninth Month sky wears a colored [kimono]. He adds, "The word no indicates that