Hatsu Mode


初詣 解ける雪の 音ばかり

first shrine visit -
only the sound of
snow melting

和田北 一宮神社
Wadakita Hachiman Shrine (Ichi no Miya) 


The New Year, a Kigo

My New Year Greating Card

First Sunrise of 2005


Tensaku by Susumu Takiguchi

Good show, Gabi, jolly good show!

A wonderful haiku at the start of a New Year.
The feeling of that special sense that everything is (made) fresh and new, which has especially been strong in Japan, can be keenly felt in this poem. At the same time, the haiku paints a picture of a remote shrine or temple, most likely to be a small yama-dera (mountain temple), with no one to be seen except for the author and/or her party, and most importantly for the sound of the snow melting. It is uncommon in the sense that it is a far cry from the usual gaiety, colours, happy noises and throng of people which are associated with the kigo hatsu moode.

Instead, the haiku presents such moods as serenity, forlornness, remoteness, quietness or peace and partly as a result of this the focus is more on the nature of the scene than human activities (of practicing the first visit to the temple/shrine). These are obvious without having to see the photograph attached.

The haiku also betrays some degree of detachment with which the author presents herself to this kind of situation and also with which traditional haiku have been written. This may be because of the mixed feelings or position which the author may or may not have as she is a non-Japanese long-term resident in Japan with deep interest and involvement in and knowledge and experience of things Japanese but still retaining at least to some extent the perspective of an onlooker, visitor or observer. All these things are in the haiku and therefore successfully done, which therefore needs no TENSAKU.

In order not to make myself redundant, I will do some TENSAKU.

1) You sometimes use kogo (modern Japanese) and sometimes use bungo (old Japanese in which most of the Japanese haiku have been written except for 'tomato' or 'melon' haijin). tokeru is kogo. bakari is also a bungo word which is still used as kogo but sounds more kogo. Nomi is more like bungo but has been superseded by bakari. If you use bungo for this haiku it can make it even better. So, brush up your bungo a little bit more.

2) The kigasanari (overlapping kigo) of hatsu moode and the melting snow is a problem not because kigasanari is bad in all cases but because this is not a good case for kigasanari (sometimes it is positively a help, sometimes it has neutral effects). Melting snow is a spring kigo in the Japanese haiku but from all points of view this is a New Year haiku, hatsu moode being a very strong and specific kigo which cannot be a 'subordinate' or 'auxiliary' kigo.
No doubt it must have been true that the snow was melting and making the noise when the author went for hatsu moode. However, something must be done for this particular kigasanari, at least if the haiku were to be regarded to be in line with traditional Japanese haiku.

Otherwise, we should deviate a little bit from the traditional Japanese haiku and accept the melting snow as it happened in real life in this haiku. As everybody expects (deep) snow, especially in the mountain temple, it is the very fact that the snow is unusually and unseasonably melting that makes this haiku special and humorous, with a touch of the sense of irony felt by a cool intellectual person or an aloof 'etranger'.

This point reminds us the importance that sometimes we need to demonstrate what sort of school of thoughts each of us stands for some specific haiku which need such clarification. In other words, it is a boron (wild and wrong argument) to say that haiku is haiku and that there is no such thing (or should not be) as American haiku or Japanese haiku. It is high time we graduated such elementary stage of haiku-learning.

3) The ji-tarazu (shortage of ji-on 5-7-5) in the case of this haiku in chu-shichi middle 5, i.e. Line 2 (only 6 ji) sounds bad in the Japanese ear. Generally, ji-tarazu is worse than ji-amari (excess of ji-on).


hatsu moode
kiku wa yukige no
oto bakari


hatsu moode
haya yukidoke no
oto nomi zo


yukidoke no
oto nomi zo suru
hatsu moode


hatsu moode
toki naranu yuki
tokuru oto


toki naranu
yukige no oto ya
hatsu moode


yukidoke no
oto wo kiku mi ya
hatsu moode


kite mireba
yukige no oto ya
hatsu moode

Somehow, No. 7 is my favourite.



Thank you very much, Susumu sensei!

my revised version

yukidoke no
kasuka na oto ya
hatsu moode

雪解けの かすかな音や 初詣

Bravo, Gabi !
This one is altogether a much superior haiku and sounds very much like a GENUINE classical Japanese haiku, except for the problematic kigasanari which, in this case, would not be accepted by traditionalist Japanese haijin. Which is something of a problem which you are well advised to tackle.

Instead of appreciating the intricate meanings of the haiku which I have discussed with you, they are likely to ascribe this kigasanari to what they perceive to be your ignorance as many of them tend to think that non-Japanese people cannot possibly understand haiku.

I have established the World Haiku Club and started this world haiku movement in order to break such perception gaps and taboos and also in order to prove and encourage that haiku can also be understood, written and enjoyed in non-Japanese languages and by non-Japanese peoples.

Among many aims of WHC, this is one of the biggest. Gabi-san, in my opinion, you are one of the rarest and most important persons in terms of helping prove the point I have just mentioned. As such, once again in my humble opinion, it may be wiser if you would not give the Japanese haijin ready excuses for saying that foreigners would never understand haiku after all.

I see your point, but I still prefer to hang on to my village reality and keep the kigasanari (maybe Issa in a reborn lifetime? )

* slight wind in the pines* would not do it, neither a drop of the *hatsu moode* changed to a mountain temple, so I guess I will be the non-understanding gaijin on the surface and something else for insiders. You have explained it so well in your first tensaku !


I have this follow up question:

* This point reminds us the importance that sometimes we need to demonstrate what sort of school of thoughts each of us stands for some specific haiku which need such clarification.*

Well, to tell the truth, I have not much formal knowledge about the schools of thought of haiku, neither Japanese nor Amarican. Could you explain that a bit further?

Susumu :
There are millions of schools of thought in the Japanese haiku community and I dare say there must be as many schools of thought in the rest of the world as the number of haiku poets. Perhaps, we are using this English phrase 'school of thought' differently. WHC's own distinction of WHChaikuneoclassical, WHCshintaihaiku and WHCvanguard is, in my opinion, one of the simplest, most comprehensible, most flexible and most practical one, even if few may understand it.


yama no kami
hatsu moode ni
dare mo kon

山の神 初詣に 誰もこん

I will not do my TENSAKU on this, partly because many comments I made on another one will apply to this as well and also I have little time, except to say that once again 'ji-amari' in line 2 should be corrected and that the line 3 shows something interesting as follows.

As haiku is a literary form born and developed in a country of feudalistic, hierarchical and male-chauvinistic nature, it still retains quite a bit of characteristics emanating from that. 'kon' in line 3 is a colloquial use, which in itself is all right, especially in conversation, but in a written work of literature it seems as if it would be OK for a male author but not so OK for a female author (a question of male language and female language in Japanese). It does not sound 'lady-like' ! Now this can make your leveller-spirited blood boil as it can be taken to be sexist, politically incorrect and anachronistic etc.

Issa would have got away with it, as he was a genius of colloquial use of Japanese in haiku and he was a male. However, if you are showing this to the Japanese you should expect such reactions, even if they may never tell you!


............ revised 2nd line

yama no kami
hatsu moode ni wa
dare mo kon

I prefer to keep the KON, since all the o-baachan and o-neechan here in my mountain comunity speak like that, sort of old-fashioned medieval talk.
By the way,
I have just been researching about the HAGA zoku of Ohaga, look here if you have some extra time (all in Japanese)
. 大垪和と垪和族 .

As for the lady-like, Japanese usually take me for a male species, since I am tall and wear my hair short ... so not to worry ! :o)


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Unknown said...

sakuo Renku


silence for two of us
the year begins in the mountain


Anonymous said...

Dear Gabi san

I looked at the picture on your blog with this poem on it. The
scenery and the poem are very peaceful to me. I like this.

bowing deeply,



Anonymous said...

Dear Gabi san:

I think if I was there I would not want to leave. I always long for peaceful places like that.
I'm afraid I don't get enough of them. I do try hard to get out into the forests whenver I can.


Billie Dee said...

Dear Gabi San,

I learn so much from your site. Your sensei's comments are most interesting and motivate me to read more WHC articles. Of course, speaking no Japanese, I cannot follow the nuanced variations on your haiku, but gather that overlapping kigo are problematic, even when an actual experience (snow melting in winter) is represented. I can see how this might invoke a sense of irony, humor, or even discomfort, in any poem. As artists we always struggle to balance “fact” with “truth,” “truth” with “art.”

To my ignorant, neo-haijin mind, your new year haiku is interesting because the snow is melting – think geothermal warming. Had you reversed “snow melting” to “melting snow,” there would have been little surprise. And to my ear, your haiku rendered in English is both musical and rhythmically satisfying.

As for "ladylike" constraints, these cultural residua/anachronisms are happily fading among the youth of most industrialized nations – to my mother’s consternation, and my delight.

Many thanks, Gabi san, for this good read.

Your friend,

Billie Dee
San Diego, CA, USA