NEW YEAR 1: TARŌZUKI. Tarō is one of the traditional names for a first son, and so a nickname for the first month (Sasaki 2002, 45).
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New Year 1a.    
brief notes    translations
A yang water dragon, the new year dawns from the old...And is that last night’s dirty faced fellow, in fresh hat and trousers? Now what rich girl’s bridegroom is riding by?
Allow me to present myself, Lazy Tarō Month!

た り候ぞ

Heading: e-         bo-   shi,      hakama                 no    sawayaka-   naru        wa,        yobe        
crow   cap   child,   kimono-trousers   ’       refreshing    become   as-for,   last-night (obs.)

mishi     kō-       men-   rō       ka.    Somo          dare-   dono     no    mukogane    nite              
seen      dirty    face    root     ?       Now-then,   who     mister   ’s      son-in-law    resembling    

gyo-      watari    sōrō     zo   
riding    past        masu    !     

Haiku:  makari-   ideta/   mono    wa         mono-  gusa/ /                Ta-       rō       Zuki
turned      out/      person   as-for    thing     bad-smelling//    Stout    Root   Month

syllable count: 6/7/5

black hat, an element of traditional Japanese male dress. The more formal versions are stiffened with lacquer.

full pleated trousers worn over kimono

fresh, refreshing, reviving, delightful, bracing, soothing, clear resonant, fluent, flowing, eloquent’

soiled-faced man’. The ‘root’ character is probably meant to echo Tarō, ‘stout root’. Monogusa Tarō was, in the story, incredibly filthy. Also might echo komendō na, (‘small-face-fall’), ‘annoying, troublesome’. The heading questions whether last night’s soiled faced man is truly the person wearing such fresh hakama and eboshi. A New Year’s greeting patterned after a character’s self-introduction in a kyogen play (Buson zenshū). The poor dirty man of last night, the yin-dark of the old year, has turned to the yang-light, the fresh rich man, of the new.

‘well, then, to begin with’

a guess, perhaps similar to tare-sore, ‘Mr. So-and-so’, ‘such and such a person.’

according to an old online dictionary, =muko, ‘son-in-law’. But muko also means ‘husband, groom,’ which makes more sense here.

gyo suru:
‘ride, drive (a cart), rule, reign, govern, manage, manipulate, handle, control.’ Again, a guess.

classical verb ending, =masu

male emphatic, usually indicates command

‘present oneself, appear before, leave, withdraw’

unspecified by characters, could mean ‘person’ or ‘thing’

Monogusa Tarō:
Lazy Tarō, the hero of a folk tale. He lives under a tatami mat and some poles, and is too lazy to ever get up. Someone gives him some rice balls, and when one of them roles into the road, he waits for several days for someone to ride by and hand it to him. The local lord does ride by, and ignores the request for the rice ball, but becomes interested in Tarō. Once he fails to convince Tarō to support himself, he commands the people to feed him. Finally, the local farmers decide that in return, Tarō must go to the city with the lord to do the service required of the district. They convince him to go by telling him that he’s sure to find a wife there. He does his service, and wins a wife by besting her in a long round of riddles and puns, even though he is filthy and unappealing. Now married, he is a rich man (Skord 1991, 187-198). The story is available in full here .

Buson zenshū
#1002, An-ei 1 (1772). Tarō being an auspicious name for the first born son, it became a nickname (one of many) for the first month. Another alternate, Taisō, reflects the idea that as the old year ends and new year begins, yang ascends once more over yin, tai having the same character as ta in Tarō (Sasaki 2002, 45). Buson also used the haiku as an inscription to one of his own pictures; there the head note reads mizunoe tatsu Saitan, ‘yang water dragon year-end dawn’ (Buson zenshū 2:206, 1.1, see notes on calendar). The haiku evokes the self-introduction of a character in a farcical kyōgen play. Tarō-kaja is a stock servant character in kyōgen.

NEW YEAR 2: NEW YEAR DECORATIONS. This is not an official theme in haiku tradition, although these haiku would probably all fall under the general category of “observances.”

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New Year 2a.    
brief notes    translations
This morning’s sun: from the sardine’s head it flashes


hi    no  hikari/         kesa                ya//  iwashi   no/   kashira  yori
sun  ’s   brightness/  this-morning   ://     sardine  ’s/   head       from

‘sun, day’

‘light, flashing, brightness, luster, glimmer, radiance’

Buson zenshū
#1006, Meiwa 9 (1772). In the posthumous works, iwashi is written as a picture. In another version, kashira is kajira. The implied season word is risshun, the first day of spring: the sardine’s head exerts an influence on the beginning of spring, although it belongs to the last day of the year before. The simple radiance of the sun, as spring begins, reflects off the sardine to shine on everything.

Sardine’s heads and holly were hung at the front gate on the last day of the year to drive away demons ( the smoked fish smell offended their noses and holly pricked their eyes (the smoked fish smell offended their noses and holly pricked their eyes—see Sakanishi 1935, passim). This haiku is set on the morning of New Year’s Day, and the first day’s first light shines from the ritual that ended the old year, in fine Taoist understanding of how positive yang is generated from the negative void of yin. Setsubun, the dark yin end day of the year, is susceptible to demons, and another traditional rite is performed to ward them off. Someone, usually the head of the household, dons a demon mask, and the other members throw soybeans at him. 

Blyth dealt with this haiku twice. His first version of it:

    The light of day,—
    from the head of the ___ it came
    this morning. (Blyth 1992, 1:96)

He gives it as one of two examples where Buson played with the rebus. Where the blank is he inserts a printer’s dingbat of a fish, complete with eye, gill, fins. His footnote is wonderful: “A pilchard. This illustration is too good.” Buson’s version was a few brush strokes, the kind that one would use at the beginnings of writing—picture for word. However, Buson wrote out and published poems multiple times, and he wrote versions of the poem without the rebus. They instead employ the regular character for iwashi: a lovely constellation of the radicals meaning fish, sword, frail.
    A day of light
    begins to shine
    from the heads of the pilchards. (Blyth 1992, 2:355)

“This verse, the one exception to Buson’s rule of inserting a season word in each poem, has been included by some under Setsubun, the last day of winter, but the spirit of it belongs rather to the New Year. The pilchards are hanging from the eaves. This verse is conventional and has no specially deep meaning, other than the real waking of light and life, but illustrates the tendency to bring down the spiritual and majestic into the material rather than glorifying the insignificant” (ibid, 356).

Although Blyth mentions Setsubun, he seems to be unaware of the meaning of the dried fish, and so I think undervalues the haiku. Notice his switch to plural–pilchards, rather than pilchard. Japanese nouns do not usually specify singular or plural, so without some contextual clue, both meanings are possible. I tend to favor the singular: Henderson says that haiku describe “a particular event” (1992, 14), and the singular tends to be more particular than the plural. But in many of these haiku, either is possible.

New Year 2b.   
brief notes    translations
Meiwa era, yang water dragon spring
Returning in the morning mist: a god wind stirs the straw twisted rope

明和 壬辰春

Heading: Mei-wa   mizunoe   tatsu   haru          Enlightened   Peace   yang-water   dragon   spring

Haiku:  kami-   kaze    ya//   kasumi    ni    kaeru/         kazari-          wara
god      wind   ://       mist         in    returning/    decoration    straw

kamikaze, shimpu:
‘providential wind’

Buson zenshū
#1004, An-ei 1 (1772). Season word: kazariwara: sacred Shinto straw rope—a rope of twisted straw, often hung with lightning bolt-like strips of white paper, used to mark sacred sites: the entrance to a shrine, a sacred tree, etc., especially for festivals like the New Year. The sight of the wind faintly swaying the rope at the gate as one returns home in the clearing mist from one’s first, early morning shrine visit creates a mood of awe. The alliteration of k sounds rhythmically drives the poem. 

‘mist’, is also a season word for spring, and it is significant to see this sign of spring on the day that the season officially changes.

New Year 2c.    
brief notes    translations
Spring again, they meet together at the gate pine and bamboo
Again in spring, greener than green they come out together pine and bamboo


mata    haru       ni/    ai           yori     idete//              matsu    to       take
again    spring    in/     indigo    from    coming-out//    pine       and    bamboo

Buson zenshū
#2579. No date. Season word: haru, ‘spring’. Refers to kadomatsu, New Year’s decorations of pine and bamboo at the front gate. Pivots around ai (joint, associate), ai yori (gathering together, approaching each other), and the proverb ao wa ai yori idete ai yori aoshi (blue is bluer than the indigo it comes from), a saying to encourage learning (the student surpasses the teacher) by Chinese philosopher Hsün Tsu. We welcome the return of spring with rounds of visits and greetings, and so bamboo and pine meet again at the gate, their fresh greens coming together in harmonious relation, a good omen for the new year.

There is a special vividness to the hue of the first green things of the year.

New Year 2d.   
brief notes    translations
At my own gate: the pines are two on these three dawns.


Heading: omitted

waga    mon    ya//    matsu    wa         futa-    ki        wo/        mitsu    no    asa
my        gate    ://       pines     as-for     two      trees    (acc.)/    three    ’s     morning

Buson zenshū
#2348, Temmei 3 (1783). Season word: mitsu no asa, ‘three mornings’. New Year’s morning is three dawns, of the day, the month, and the year. (One version is written on folding fan paper as an inscription for his own picture, appended: ‘On the first day of the first month of the year of the younger brother of wood, at the request of Hyaku-ike.’)

is ‘gate pine’, paired arrangements of pine and diagonally cut bamboo, one on each side of the gate, to welcome in the new year (see previous note). ‘Doubtless this is Buson on the triple morning seeing in the two pines at his gate the dreamed of sight of Michinoku’s wondrous twin pine, grown from the old root.’


Tachibana no Suemichi,
from Goshūishū (Later Gleanings Anthology) #104:
    Takekuma no            
        The Takekuma
    matsu wa futaki wo      
   pine has two trunks;
           should a person from the city ask,
    ikaga to towaba        
       ‘How was it?’,
    miki to kotaen         
         I’d reply, ‘I’ve seen it.’ (Arii 2000, 32)

is a pun on ‘three trees,’ which Buson echoes in mitsu, suggesting seeing.

And Matsuo Bashō, from Narrow Road to the Deep North:

    Takekuma no                
    The Takekuma Pine:
    matsu misemōse          
    show it to him,
         late blooming cherries

Kyohaku gave me this hokku as a farewell gift, so I wrote,

    sakura yori                
       Since the cherries bloomed,
    matsu wa futaki wo          
I’ve longed to see this pine: two trunks
      after three months’ passage (Bashō 2004, 92)

The Takekuma pine of Iwanuma, in Michinoku province, grew back several times. Nōin has a waka about the pine being cut down. But supposedly it always grew back with a divided trunk. The spot where it grew is now uncertain. Basho also puns on matsu, ‘pine’ and ‘pine for’.


    At my gate
        the longed for double pines
            seen on this triple dawn

New Year 2e.   
brief notes    translations
In the An-ei Era, year of the yin water snake

A courting stick left by a man of undivided heart the pine at the gate


Heading: An-ei    mizunoto    mi        Peaceful Eternity       yin water     snake

Haiku: nishiki-    gi       no/    makoto     no    otoko//    kado    no    matsu
brocade    tree    ’s/     sincerity    ’s     man//      gate     ’s     pine

as a declaration of intention a man would stand a piece of wood, painted with the five colors, at the gate of the woman he wanted to court

‘sincerity, true/single heart, faithfulness, fidelity, constancy, devotion’

Buson zenshū
#1025, An-ei 2 (1773). Season word: kado no matsu, ‘gate pine’, paired arrangements of pine and diagonally cut bamboo, one on each side of the gate, to welcome in the new year (see notes to 2c, this section). One version is as an inscription on his own picture: the head note is An-ei mizunoto mi Saitan: ‘An-ei yin water snake dawn of the year’. The haiku suggests that the plain pine would have been a better display of manliness than the foppishly colorful brocade wood (Buson zenshū note).

A man traditionally left a courting stick at the gate of a woman he wanted to marry. I have read two different descriptions: a single stick painted many colors, or a bundle of twigs from different trees. In the background of several of Buson’s haiku is the anecdote of Mōotsu, quoted in Essays in Idleness, who said: “when I see white threads I weep, because they can be made yellow or black” (Blyth 1992, 4:1024). Our fall into the world is a fall into many divided wants; the pure white of the thread, or the single green of the pine, is the innocence of undivided desire.

New Year 2f.   
brief notes    translations
In the newly trimmed gate pine wind: Fukurokuju


sori-       tate-     te/       kado-   matsu    kaze     ya//    Fuku-           roku-       ju
shaven    fresh    and/    gate      pine       wind    ://       Happiness    Wealth    Longevity

soritate, suritate:
‘clean shaven, freshly shaven’; so(ru), su(ru): ‘shave’

one of the seven lucky gods, the god of longevity and wisdom.

Buson zenshū
#2582. No date. The season word is kadomatsu, ‘gate pine’, a New Year’s decoration, here with its needles freshly trimmed (see notes to 2c, this section). An inscription for haiga on folding fan paper. The phrase pivots on matsu, ‘pine’ and ‘wait for’, and joins the expressions ‘gate pine’ and ‘pine wind’; fuku in Fukurokuju also puns with ‘blow’. Fukurokuju is often depicted in folk painting with Daikoku on a ladder, shaving his tall head. For Fukurokuju, with fresh shaven head and waiting at the gate for spring’s visit, the wind would indeed be refreshing.

Since Fukurokuju is the god of longevity, which the pine tree also symbolizes, ‘newly trimmed’ could apply to the god or the tree.

New Year 2g.   
brief notes    translations
Catching a sea bream with a grain of rice—spring welcoming pine


meshi-    tsubu    de/       tai                wo        tsuru     kane//        matsu    no    haru
rice         grain    with/    sea-bream    (acc.)    catch     tortoise//    pine       ’s      spring

Buson zenshū
#2299, Temmei 2, 10th month (November 1782). The season word is matsu no haru, ‘pine spring’. This haiku exists as an inscription on a picture at Nishiyama Guesthouse; it has with the artist’s signature ‘Gekkei’s picture of Leech Child’. Gekkei wrote Temmei mizunoe tora: Temmei era, year of the tiger, younger brother of wood’, and signed his name. Gekkei was Matsumura Goshun, 1752-1811, one of Buson’s followers, and the chief inheritor of his knowledge of painting. Leech Child is Hiruko, the leech child of legend, who at the age of three grew legs and eventually became Ebisu, one of the seven gods associated with good fortune and the New Year. Ebisu is the god of fishing and good luck and holds a fishing pole and sea bream. He is often paired with Daikokuten, the god of wealth, with his bales or sack of rice.
      “Catch a sea bream with a grain of rice” is a proverb meaning ‘use small funds to make a huge profit’. The Kokin wakashū #287 (1985) has the saying “catching a bluefish with a grain of rice,” which McCullough says is probably the equivalent of the modern ebi de tai, ‘use a shrimp to catch a sea bream’, i.e., something for nothing. Tai wo tsuru kane hinges on tsuru for ‘angle, catch with fishing pole’ and tsuru kane, ‘crane and tortoise,’ long lived animals that often accompany the god Fukurokuju (happiness, wealth, longevity). Tsurukane even means ‘congratulations’.  Tsurukane and kadomatsu (gate-pine) are both decorations to celebrate the early spring (see notes to 2c, this section) .

New Year 2h.   
brief notes    translations
An-ei Era, yin wood year of the sheep, the new year dawns
Hōrai Mountain festival: old age’s spring


Heading: An-ei  kinoto   hitsuji   Sai-   tan      Peaceful Eternity, yin-wood sheep Old-year Dawns

Haiku: Hō-             rai              no/    yama-         matsuri     se-    mu//      oi             no    haru
Mugwort    Goosefoot   ’s/     mountain    festival      do     will//    old-age    ’s      spring

the mythical Taoist mountain of the immortals. According to Ueda, it is represented on trays of Japanese New Year decorations by a pile of uncooked rice.

Buson zenshū
#1220, An-ei 4 1/10 (February 9th, 1775). Season word: oi no haru, ‘an old man’s spring’. One version includes the head note. Mt. Hōrai, represented in New Year’s decorations by a pile of rice or rice cakes, is a legendary mountain in China inhabited by Taoist hermit-wizards. Yama-matsuri: a festival celebrating the god of a mountain. One greets the spring with another year added to one’s age [everyone is considered a year older at New Year’s], but by making a festival of the Mt. Horai decoration, one celebrates one’s old age.

‘Mountain’ is a hinge or pivot word joining the two compounds ‘Hōrai Mountain’ and ‘mountain festival.’

NEW YEAR 3: THE SEVEN LUCKY GODS. Images of these seven deities are associated with the new year. They are often depicted sailing together on a treasure boat.
   brief notes    translations    season page     home

Fukurokuju, the god of longevity and wisdom. Short with a very high forehead, a staff with a sacred book tied to it (perhaps with everyone’s span of life inside), often accompanied by a crane and/or a turtle and/or a black deer (symbols of longevity–a deer is said to turn black when it reaches a thousand years in age). His tall head is bald and at times phallic (in which case it is often covered with a cloth) and his whiskers are very long. His head is often shown being shaved by Daikoku on a ladder.

Ebisu , the god of fishing and good luck. Holds a fishing pole and sea bream. He is often paired with Daikoku.

Daikoku , the god of wealth, with his bales or sack of rice and magic mallet.

The four others not mentioned here are Hotei, the fat laughing god of health and plenty with his sack; Benten, the only goddess, of beauty, knowledge and music; Bishamon, god of war and punishment, and Jurōjin, almost indistinguishable from Fukurokuju.

New Year 3a.   
brief notes    translations
I’ll hold a festival for the Mountain of the Immortals, an old man’s spring

See New Year 2h.

New Year 3b.   
brief notes    translations
From the magic hammer all this, the ten thousand things, breed forth.
New Year’s Day: from the lucky mallet, newly unsealed, the gems of spring

         元日 や小槌のこぐち玉の春

Heading: tsuchi    wa         tsuch    nari    bam-                butsu     mina    kore    yori     shōzu
mallet   as-for     earth     is       ten-thousand    things    all        this     from    creates

Haiku: Gan-             jitsu    ya//    ko-        zuchi     no    ko-        guchi/     tama    no    haru
Beginning    Day     ://       small    mallet    ’s     small    mouth/    jewel   ’s     spring

‘all things, all creation’

Buson zenshū
#2578. No date. The season word is Ganjitsu, ‘New Year’s Day’. Kozuchi: Daitoku’s lucky mallet from which wealth is shaken out. Koguchi: kiriguchi (‘mouth cutting’)–ceremony for the new tea, when the seal is cut and the jar of the year’s tea leaves is opened for the first time. Just as from the earth the ten thousand things are generated, from the round unsealed mouth of the hollow lucky mallet jewels and treasure fly out. As for the new year, it is born from the bitter past year as from the mouth of the mallet. Indeed spring is a felicitous new jewel.

New Year 3c.   
brief notes    translations
Fresh shaved and waiting for the wind to blow through the gate pine Fukurokuju

See New Year 2f.

New Year 3d.   
brief notes    translations
As the year begins: Fukurokuju appears flowers in the grass


Gan-      jitsu    ya//    kusa    no    naka    naru/         Fuku-      roku-           ju
Origin    Day    ://      grass    ’s     midst    become/    wealth    happiness    longevity

Buson zenshū
#2577, no date. An inscription on Buson’s own picture. Season word: Ganjitsu, ‘New Year’. In the spirit of the season, fukujusō (New Year anemone, see New Year section 5) blooms in a clump of grass. The name and shape of the flower mean that Fukurokuju is here.

New Year 3e.   
brief notes    translations
Crane, tortoise, and a grain of rice to catch a sea bream; spring awaiting pine

see New Year 2g.

NEW YEAR 4: FIRST THINGS. The first instance of many actions of the New Year is supposed to be significant—first dream, first writing, first drawing of water.   
brief notes    translations    season page     home

New Year 4a.   
brief notes    translations
The year’s first drawn water: a thousand years comes through the bamboo pipe...

若水の千代をへて来ル 筧かな

waka-    mizu     no/    chi              -yo       wo         hete                 kuru//      kakehi    kana
young    water    ’s/      thousand    years    (acc.)    passing-thru    comes//    pipe        ...

‘year’s first drawn water’

chiyo, sendai:
‘a thousand years, a very long period’

‘pass through, pass, elapse, expire’

‘water pipe, conduit, flume’, usually of bamboo

Buson zenshū
#2581, no date. Season word: wakamizu, ‘first water’, drawn in the hour of the tiger (4-6 a.m.) (Sasaki 2002, 5). It is drawn by a man, either the man of the house or a man born under the animal of the coming year, the first male activity. Women should stay away from the well. The bucket is often decorated with auspicious things, shinto rope and lightning paper, etc. The water is supposed to give those who drink it health, well being and youthfulness. One might invite guests to drink tea from the water, or use it to make zōni (New Year’s soup). (Buson zensh
ū notes + Greve 2005).

New Year 4b.   
brief notes    translations
Spring of the year of the boar, younger brother of greenwood, again to green childhood you return. The wind blowing in the thousand-year pines conveys your long life, the enduring auspiciousness of your dwelling. Yamato by its alphabet is the honorable instrument conveying to Mr. Karai congratulations on his reaching the end of sixty years. From the letter
i we borrow the meaning, i, ino, inoshishi, inoji, boar for the boar’s child.
In Japanese style, a child’s letter A: first writing of the year


Heading: tsuchinoto    no    i          no    haru,      mata     midori-   go       ni    koma-   gaeri,
yin wood      ’s      boar    ’s     spring,    again     green     child    to    youth    returning,

oi             yukusaki       no    chi-            yo         no    matsu-    kaze     fuki           tsutaete,
old-age    destination    ’s     thousand    years    ’       pine         wind    blowing     conveying

tsukisenu    yado          no     medetasa             wo       Yamato            no    kuni         naru
enduring     dwelling    ’s       auspiciousness    (acc)    Great Peace    ’s      country    becoming

Ka-       rai            no     nushi      ga          hon-    ke                        no    gai                           ni
What    Coming    ’s      master    (sub.)    base      divination-sign    ’s     joy of the season     in

mōshi-                    haberu.      Ichi-     ji               kari-             oto
having the honor    to serve.    One      character    borrowed     sound

Yamato-         ga-             na/       ‘i’    no    ji                wo       chigo    no/    fude                 hajime
Great Peace    informal    name/    i     ’s     character    (acc)    child    ’s/     writing-brush    first

(‘baby’) echoes matsu no midori (‘pine’s green’). As in English, ‘green’ is a synonym for ‘young’.

matsukaze, shōfū:
‘wind in the pines’

old name for Japan

may be the Edo poet Karai Hachiemon, pen name Senryū, who gave his name to the comic haiku form.

‘second [childhood]’

Yamato-gana: ‘hiragana’.
Writing in the syllabic alphabet is associated with Japan. Yamato: an old name for Japan. Kana, gana: ‘Japanese syllabary’

‘handwriting, letter, word, character’

Buson zenshū
#2034, An-ei 8 (1779). Season word: fude hajime, ‘first writing’. Appears in the anthology Old Man Buson with almost the same script (however, i no haru is i wo hajimetoshi, ‘beginning the year of the boar’; mata is mata mo ya matsu no (‘again also: pine’s’); chiyo no matsukaze is chiji no harukaze (‘thousand years’ spring wind’), sensen no shumpū (‘a thousand thousand spring breezes’) in the head note. In a letter addressed to Kitō, he includes this haiku and adds that jokes and witticisms are appropriate for season’s greetings, so one should employ tricks whenever skill and opportunity allow.

The iroha is a poem that teaches children the syllabic alphabet, as children learn the alphabet song in English. Mr. Karai is beginning his writing with the syllable i, as a child does learning the iroha, because he is celebrating his 61st year, his honke gaeri or ‘return to childhood’. Having gone through the complete sixty year cycle of the zodiac (see note on dates), he is traditionally supposed to be returning to childhood and starting over. This haiku is a prayer for his health and longevity. There is also a pun on i no ji, ino, inoshishi, the boar, the animal belonging to this year and the sign under which Karai was born.

The Iroha (Ryuichi Abe’s translation):

  Although its scent still lingers on
            the form of a flower has scattered away
       For whom will the glory
            of this world remain unchanged?
        Arriving today at the yonder side
            of the deep mountains of evanescent existence
        We shall never allow ourselves to drift away
            intoxicated, in the world of shallow dreams.

New Year 4c.   
brief notes    translations
Sixth year of the era of Eternal Peace, year of the yin fire rooster

Just as Japanese musicians playing at the Gion Festival do without the rhythm of “The Autumn Wind”, better to shun the tenderness and elegant simplicity of the Bashō School on the occasion of a spring entertainment, in order to imitate the haiku style of today’s youthful poets of the eastern provinces.
New Year dawning triumph on the face of the haiku master

盛席       抑席一、さればこの日の俳諧は、わかわかしき x吾妻の人の口質にな

Gi-            on-          e               no    haya-              shi-      mono    wa          fure         kana
peaceful    garden    meeting    ’s      play [music]   child    thing      as-for    without    cooperation

[wa]    “Aki-        kaze    [no]    on-         ritsu”       [ni],   Shō-        mon    no     sabi,  
as-for    Autumn   Wind   [’s]     sound    rhythm”    with,   Banana    Gate    ’s      elegant-simplicity,

shiori          wa         yoshi[re]       yo[ku]    “shūn      -kō            [no]    jō-            seki”          [wo]
tenderness   as-for    had-better     avoid       “spring    pleasure    [’s]     prosper-    occasion    [acc.]    

sareba    kono    hi      no     hai-       kai             wa        wakawakashiki    A-      zuma    no    hito
then        this      day    ’s      haiku    harmony    as-for    young                  My    Wife     ’s    people

no    kō-          shitsu     ni    narawa-   n                   tote
’s     speech    quality    to    follow      (intention)    by-way-of

Alternate heading: An-       ei            roku,    hinoto      tori         toshi
Peace    Eternal    six,      yin-fire    rooster    year

Haiku: Sai-       tan       o/          shitari-          gao     naru/            hai-     kai-      shi
year’s    dawn    (acc)/    triumphant    face    becoming/    play     actor    master

A week-long festival at Yasaka Shrine, beginning on the 7th day of the sixth month, in Gion, the pleasure district of Kyoto.

Japanese orchestra with gong, flute and drum, such as would play on a parade float

an example of a composition of classical court music

the Bashō school, that is, Bashō’s students and their followers who tried to maintain Bashō’s aesthetic principles in their haiku.

sabi, shiori:
key qualities in haiku according to the Bashō School. Hisamatsu defines sabi as the general atmosphere of “loneliness in the midst of brilliant beauty or...grandeur”, and shiori as the style that produces that atmosphere (1963, 60).

shunkō no jōseki:
a brilliant, showy haiku gathering at the beginning of spring

an old name for the eastern regions of Kantō and Tōhoku.

‘the New Year’

‘triumphant expression, self-satisfied look.’ Shitaru: interjection: ‘Good Heavens! God bless me!’

‘writer of haikai poems’

Buson zenshū
#1488, An-ei 6, perhaps 1/10 (Feb. 17th, 1777). The inserted words in the heading are because it was composed in Chinese with kambun, Japanese particles added so that the text could be read as Japanese. The season word is Saitan, ‘New Year’–the term could refer to the New Year or to the haiku celebrating it, written for the New Year haiku gathering or saitan-biraki. This was the first verse of a kasen, or 36 stanza linked poem, written at just such a gathering. This kind of old-fashioned word play woven skillfully into a New Year’s poem evokes the lightness of Basho’s school at its height, turning the haiku inside out to make Buson’s self-portrait. What the haiku master has to feel triumphant about is presumably his first poem of the year, as other translations of the poem make more clear.‘The Azuma poets’ refers to followers of Hayano Hajin, by then deceased, Buson’s haiku teacher in Edo.

Ueda writes:

“The Lunar New Year started on February 8th, 1777. As usual, Buson and his group gathered together to produce a kasen, but this time the result was a sequence of verses markedly different from an ordinary renku of the Buson school. Called ‘His New Year’s Verse,’ the kasen was flamboyant in its language, daring in its imagery, and often self-mocking in its implications...It seems he was aware of his own lapse later on, for he wrote a brief apology and made it a preface to the kasen. ‘It seemed that the sabi and shiori taught in the Bashō school had better be avoided at a party celebrating the arrival of spring,’ he said. ‘Our haikai of that day, therefore, tried to emulate the youthful language of poets in the eastern provinces...’”

    looking proud                    
    of his New Year’s verse            
    this haiku master (Ueda 1998, 99)   

Other translations:

        The First Day of the Year;                        
    A haikai master                        
        With a complacent air. (Blyth 1984, 1:287)   

    The year’s first poem done                
    with smug self-confidence—                
    a haiku poet. (Sawa and Shiffert 1978, 52)      

New Year 4d.   
brief notes    translations
From out of the dark of the year’s last night
I too have deciphered the writing on the feather first crow


Heading: misoka                     no    yami          no    kuraki    yori
last-day-of-month    ’s     darkness    ’s     dark       from

Alternate heading: Sai-   tan              Old-year    Dawns

Haiku: ono         ga         ha           no/    mo-       ji          mo     yome    tari//     hatsu    karasu
myself    (sub.)    feather    ’s/     ideo-    gram     also    read     have//    first      crow

‘oneself, myself’

Buson zenshū
#1979, An-ei 7 (1778–yang earth dog). The season word is hatsu karasu, ‘first crow’. An alternate heading is Saitan, ‘Old Year Dawns’. Buson included the haiku in a letter to Korekoma, where he says: ‘As for this, in the old times from the land of China they sent a message on a crow’s feather to measure Japan’s wisdom, but as the days passed no one could decipher it. However, a certain O Shinni was told, a wise man, and he steamed the feather in a basket over rice, then pressed it to paper, which took the imprint of the characters, as it says in accounts of ancient history.’ From of the dark of each day’s night, the crow cries out, foretelling the return of the yang principle and refreshing us as it vanishes. A song of praise, rejoicing that in the strange wisdom of the dragon king, in light of the new year, the writing on the feather of the self can be read and unraveled (Buson zenshū note).

The crow is therefore seen in terms of the Taoist balance of yin and yang. Yin is dark, night, endings, winter; yang is light, day, beginnings, spring; the crow is at the edge between the two. The story of the crow’s feather, presented in the Nihon shoki, is set in the court of the Emperor Tenno. The crow’s feather was actually from Kōrai (an ancient kingdom on the Korean Penninsula), and Ō Shinni had come from there. The ink of the message was invisible on the black feather, but the steam liquified it and O Shinni was able to transfer it to the paper. The haiku might also evoke the mythic Yatagarasu, the Eight-Span Crow, who appeared to guide the Emperor Jimmu.

New Year 4e.   
brief notes    translations
Poem for the first day of the first month: The last light of the old year shines in the lamps of Mt. Ibuki; the sound of the Kamo River flowing foretells that spring is nearly here
he striking of the shuttlecock is the year’s first bird song before the pillars of Utsu no Miya


Headings:   Sei-   saku-    gin          Origin          First-Day-of-Month           song

Ibuki-   yama          no    go-              tō          ni     furu-    toshi    no    hikari    wo       nokoshi,
Ibuki    Mountain    ’s     honorable    lamps    in     old        year     ’s     light      (acc)    remaining,

Kamo-   gawa    no    mizu     oto        ni    yaya       haru       wo        tsuge        tari
Kamo    River    ’s     water    sound    in    nearly     spring    (acc.)    foretold    has

Haiku: tori          wa         ha            ni/     hatsu-    ne       wo         Utsu      no/    Miya-    bashira
chicken    as-for    feather    by/    first       sound    (acc.)    strike    ’s/      shrine    pillar

Buson zenshū
#14. Enkyō 1 (1744). Season word: hatsune, ‘first song’, as for example uguisu no hatsune, ‘the first song of the bush warbler’. Seisaku is ‘New Year’s Day’. The heading has several errors: Ibukiyama is a pillow word for a small hill now in Tochigi City, mistaken for Usu peak at Utsu no Miya’s Daimyōjin (also in Tochigi Prefecture). Kamogawa is a mistake for Kamagawa (Kettle River), which flows through Utsu no Miya city. Utsu no Miya is the large impressive Futarasan Shrine (Daimyōjin), where the poem is set. The haiku pivots on hane wo utsu (striking the shuttlecock), Utsu no Miya (House Capital Shrine), and miya bashira, shrine pillars.

An early poem, using his teacher’s suggestion that he write a New Year’s haiku using the shrine of Utsu no Miya and the season word hatsune, ‘first song’. Buson jokingly substitutes for the bird’s song the sound of the shuttlecock being struck. Hanetsuki, a type of net-less badminton played with special ornate paddles, is a popular New Year’s game.

New Year 4f.   
brief notes    translations
Setting off from a lone house this year’s lucky direction may take me all the way to China


hitotsu-   ya          wa/         Morokoshi-    kakete/         e-          hō-             michi
one         house     as-for/     China             beginning/    lucky     direction    path

‘China, Cathay’

‘starting, beginning, betting, wagering’

Buson zenshū
#2580, no date. Season word: ehōmichi: ‘the path to go visit a Shinto shrine in that year’s auspicious direction’. Astrology dictated that certain directions were lucky or unlucky at certain times. In The Tale of Genji, characters are often stranded for a short time, unable to travel in the direction they need to go because the day has made it inauspicious (although they seem to be somewhat selective about when they worry about this). As the new year begins, one tries to take the auspicious direction to make the important first shrine visit, but from an isolated house, in a sparsely inhabited area, a given direction may not reach a shrine any time soon.

New Year 4g.   
brief notes    translations
Especially it shrouds the foreigner’s mansion first mist


kotosara    ni/    Tō-          jin    ya-        shiki//    hatsu    kasumi
especial-    ly/    foreign-   er     house     site//      first       mist

‘T’ang Dynasty, China, foreign countries’


Buson zenshū
#400, Meiwa 6 (1769). ‘Mist’ and ‘New Year’s Day’, kasumi and Ganjitsu, were the two chosen topics at a gathering on 1/10 (Feb. 16th). Season word: hatsugasumi, ‘first mist’, a spring kigo. The Chinese quarter was set up in Nagasaki, and few Japanese people were allowed to enter, except for prostitutes. So the mist especially covers the foreigner’s mysterious mansion–a new year’s scene of romantic longing. Another version has the error tōjin zashiki, ‘foreigner’s apartment’.

NEW YEAR 5: FUKUJUSŌ, NEW YEAR ANEMONE. This is Adonis amurensis, also called ‘pheasant’s eye.’ The god Fukurokuju’s name, ‘Happiness-wealth- longevity,” elides with fukujusō, ‘happiness longevity grass,’ a flower of the anemone family associated with the new year because it blooms so early. Often cultivated in small pots, the flowers range from cream to orange, and look like light itself.   

brief notes    translations    season page     home

New Year 5a.   
brief notes    translations
Celebrating our three companions’ fortieth birthdays gives us three ways to read the poem’s three beginnings
Year, month, day: the three perfumes of the New Year anemone


Heading: mi-      tari                   ga        sho-          ro            wo        gasuru ni,       sam-    men    no
three    people (obs.)   (sub.)   beginning old-age    (acc.)    celebrating,    three    faces   ’

mon-ji     wo        tachi-ire,                    san-     shi(?)            no    gin        wo        motte su.
writing    (acc.)    beginning to enter,     three    beginnings    ’       poem    (acc.)    doing

Haiku: toshi    tsuki       hi/      mitsu     no    kaori            ya//    fuku-      ju-              sō
year     month    day/    three      ’s    fragrances    ://       wealth    longevity    grass

forty years, the official beginning of old age

Buson zenshū
#2349. Temmei 3 (1783). One version has heading ‘Temmei Era year 3, yin water rabbit spring New Year. People considered themselves a year older when the year changed, rather than celebrating the day of their birth. Here three friends have reached this auspicious mark together. Likewise, New Year’s morning marks three beginnings, of the day, month and year.

New Year 5b.    
brief notes    translations
On the year’s first day: happiness-wealth-long life flowering in the grass

See New Year 3d.

New Year 5c.   
brief notes    translations
Morning sun shafts in the bow maker’s shop: pheasant’s eye flowers


asa-           hi      sasu/        yumi-    shi          ga    mise     ya//    fuku-      ju-              sō
morning    sun    pierces/    bow       master   ’s      shop     :///     fortune    longevity    grass

unspecified by character, could mean ‘pierce, thrust, stab, prick’, or ‘shine into, stream into, pour into, fill’, etc.

‘bowyer, bow maker’ (Buson zenshū note)

Buson zenshū
#2178, Temmei 1 (1781). Due to the use of nibe (a glue made of bboiled fish bladders and deer skin), the archery bow shop needs to be in a sunny place [for the glue to dry?]. The flowers are set in the alcove, and the sun enters, purifying the shop, and touching the flowers in a composition of auspicious, harmonious beauty.

NEW YEAR 6: FIRST MIST. The mist is a season word for spring, a sign that the new year and the new season truly are beginning together.

brief notes    translations    season page     home

New Year 6a.   
brief notes    translations
Heaviest over the foreign quarter the year’s first mist

See New Year 4g.

New Year 6b.    
brief notes    translations
First day of the year, then the next mist gathers in the nooks and corners of Kyoto


Gan-       jitsu    futsu-      ka/     kyō         no    sumi-     zumi//      kasumi-    keri
Origin    Day      second    day/    capital    ’s     corner    corner//    misted       has

An example of ji-amari, use of excessive syllables: 7/7/5.

this character, ‘capital,’ is in the names of both Tokyo and Kyoto. In Buson’s time, the capital was still officially Kyoto.

sumizumi: ‘
every nook and corner’

Buson zenshū
#2352, probably Temmei 3 (1783). Season word: Ganjitsu futsuka. Kasumi, ‘mist, haze,’ is a general season word for spring (as opposed to oboro, mist of a spring night, or kiri, autumn mist). Refers to the western quarter of Kyoto

Although spring begins officially on New Year’s Day, the weather can remain wintery for some time, so it is reassuring to see the first mists of spring appear with the new year.

New Year 6c.   
brief notes    translations
Meiwa era, yang water dragon spring
Returning home in the morning mist: a sacred wind sways the straw rope

See New Year 2b.

NEW YEAR 7: WILLOW. The willow is a spring kigo, but both of these haiku employ it to emphasize the beginning of spring with the new year.

brief notes    translations    season page     home

New Year 7a.   
brief notes    translations
At the Forbidden Palace, spring colors in the pale blue dawn
The blue-green willow: our sovereign lord’s tree? grass?


Heading:  kin-                jō         shun-     shoku      akatsuki    sō-    
prohibition    castle    spring    colors     dawn         pale    pale

Haiku:  ao-        yagi        ya//    waga    ō-        kimi    no/    kusa    ka    ki      ka
green    willow    ://       our       great    lord     ’s/      grass   ?      tree   ?

the emperor’s palace

‘blue, pale’

‘blue, green’

‘sovereign, the emperor’

Buson zenshū
#1012, probably An-ei 1(1772). Blyth 1992, 1:121:

       The green willow,
    A tree or grass
        Of our great emperor.

This appears simple and devoid of any poetical meaning, but some study of it will bring out unsuspected values. It has a postscript...which is the second line of an eight-line poem by Kashi [Chia Chih], 718-722. The poem is entitled ‘Going Early to the Taimei Palace, and Presenting It to Colleagues of Both Offices.’ The first four lines are

        In the dawn, while the silver tapers are yet alight, the road in the capital is long;
        In the Palace, the spring scenery of early morning is bright and clear.
        A thousand drooping branches of the willows hang over the green inscriptions on the wall;    
        A hundred voices of nightingales are heard around the Kenshō Palace.

    Buson was familiar with the poem from the popular Edo period collection of Tang era poetry, the Tōshisen. Another source of allusion is found in the Japanese historical annals of the Taiheiki:

        [I]n the reign of the Emperor Tenchi, there was a man named Fujiwara Chikata, who employed four kinds of demons...Because of these creatures, ordinary people being unable to withstand them, in the provinces of Iga and Isa, there was no one who obeyed the Imperial Rule. A man named Ki no Tomotake receiving an Imperial order, went to these provinces, and composing a waka, sent it among the demons:

            Even trees and grasses
                Are the kingdom of Our Lord;
            Where can there be dwellings
                For demons?

The four kinds of demons, reading this verse...dispersed in every direction, and disappeared,
    losing their power everywhere, at last overcome by Tomotake” (ibid.,121-122).

The haiku is therefore a little bit of a joke, setting out to harmonize allusions from classical sources and ending in confusion. New Year’s haiku often have the lightness of occasional verse.

New Year 7b.   
brief notes    translations

Unmarred by even one dead branch—willow tree...


hito-    suji    mo/       sutaru    eda          naki//         yanagi    kana
one      line    even/    dead       branch    without//    willow    ...

Buson zenshū
#76, Meiwa 4 (1767). Sutaru: ‘something ruined by withering or corruption’. Ueda (1998, 50): the haiku was written while staying in Shikoku to contribute to an acquaintance’s New Year haiku album. Buson zenshū notes: in the Shunkei-biki, Spring Congratulations Album, it has Buzen’s head note, ‘Poetic composition for Nankai’s collection’. Nankai might be Gion Nankai, an Edo scholar, 1677 to 1757, a pioneer of Nanga. Buzen might be Mochizuki Buzen.

NEW YEAR 8: THE SEVENTH DAY. Several customs converge on this day. In the Chinese tradition, each day of the first week of the year was named after an animal, sacred to that day and not to be harmed on it. On the seventh day, “Human Being Day,” no criminal could be executed.

This day is also the “Gathering of the Seven Young Herbs”, some variant of the following:

water dropwort or parsley (seri)
shepherd’s purse, water chestnut, caltrop (nazuna)
cudweed or cottonweed (gogyō)
chickweed (hakobera)
nipplewort or henbit (hotokenoza)
turnip (suzuna)
radish (suzushiro)

The young greens are chopped up in a rice porridge to ensure health for the following year (now the plants are sold in supermarkets, wrapped in plastic).

And finally, it is also the day for gathering pine seedlings to ensure longevity, since pine trees are said to live a thousand years.

Confusingly, the pine seedlings and herbs were traditionally gathered on the year’s first day of the rat, which is the rat of the regular zodiac, not the seven animals celebrated in the first seven days.

brief notes    translations   
season page     home

New Year 8a.   
brief notes    translations
On the seventh day of the new year
Setting out to gather the seven herbs: hakama tied in a half knot


Heading: Jin-   jitsu:         Person    Day

Haiku: nana-    kusa       ya//    hakama            no    himo    no/    kata-    musubi
seven    grasses    ://       trouser-skirts    ’      cord     ’s/      half      knot

pleated trouser skirts, worn over kimono by either men or women, tied at the waist.

a light knot for tying hakama or obi, resembling a half bow with one loop and one loose end showing.

Buson zenshū
#1339, An-ei 5, 1st month (February 1776). Some versions lack heading. Early in the morning, the ‘bean scatterer’ (see notes, New Year 2a) dons ceremonial clothing to pick the greens. Those garments are usually worn according to strict custom, but here the cord is tied with artless simplicity.

New Year 8b.    
brief notes    translations   
Old soldier daikon how he despises the young herbs


Heading: Jin-   jitsu                                Person       Day

Haiku: oi-             mu-          sha to/    dai-   ko       anadoru/    waka-     na         kana
old-man    military    man/       big     root    despises/     young    greens   ...

‘despise, contemn, slight, hold [a person] in contempt, have contempt for, look on [a person] with scorn, hold [a person] cheap, underrate, make light/little of, look down upon, turn up one’s note at’

Buson zenshū
#29, Hōreki 2 (1752). While wakana, ‘young greens’ (which include daikon greens) is a season word for spring, daiko (an old pronunciation for daikon) referring to the root rather than the leaves, belongs to winter. Old soldier daikon: an allusion to Tsurezure-gusa.

“There was in Tsukushi [an old name for Kyushu–n.] a certain man, a constable of the peace it would seem, who for many years had eaten two broiled radishes each     morning under the impression that radishes were the sovereign remedy for all ailments. Once some enemy forces attacked and surrounded his constabulary, choosing a     moment when the place was deserted. Just then, two soldiers rushed out of the building, and engaged the enemy, fighting with no thought for their lives until they drove     away all the troops. The constable, greatly astonished, asked the soldiers, “You have fought most gallantly, gentlemen, considering I have never seen you here// before.     Might I ask who you are?” “We are the radishes you have eaten so faithfully every morning for so many years,” they answered, and with these words they disappeared.     So deep was his faith in radishes that even such a miracle could occur” (Kenkō 1998, 61-62).

The haiku in Winter section 4 also allude to this episode.

New Year 8c.   
brief notes    translations
A happy thing—the seven herbs, their roots showing white


medetasa             yo/    nana-   kusa         no    ne        no/    shiro-   ku    miyu
congratulations    !/      seven    grasses    ’       roots    ’/      white    ly     appear

Buson zenshū #2584, no date. According to the theory of five elements, the color blue/green is aligned with spring and the element of wood, while white is aligned with autumn and metal. The young plants show white roots that balance the opposite green of the leaves, an auspicious thing.

New Year 8d.   
brief notes    translations
Celebrating hopes for his long life on Mr. Karai’s sixtieth birthday
This boar’s year on the first day of the rat seedlings of the millennial pine


Heading: Ka-      rai-        shi       ga        roku   ju    ichi    no   kotobuki             wo       gashite
What   Comes   Child   (sub.)   six     ten   one    ’s    congratulating   (acc.)   celebrating

Haiku: toshi    kore    i/         ne     no    hi       ni    sasagu//       chi-            ji                no    matsu
year     this     boar/    rat    ’s     day    on    offering//     thousand    thousands   ’       pines

‘to lift up, give, offer, consecrate, devote, sacrifice, dedicate’

chiji, sensen:
‘thousands, a great many’

Buson zenshū
#2035. An-ei 8 (1779). Included in a letter addressed to Kitō. Buson overlays the festival for gathering pine seedlings with the congratulatory celebrations for Karai-shi, now beginning his 61st year and beginning the zodiac cycle again, a rebirth into a new youth, traditionally accompanied by wishes for a long life. See New Year 4b, which is written for the same occasion.

Buson’s pupil Goshun (1752-1811) made a similar haiga:

        gojū kara            Because you’re fifty
    kazoe yo chiyo no        count the New Year’s pine branches
        matsukazari            of a thousand ages (Addiss 1995, 50-51)

NEW YEAR 9: FIRST DRAWING OF THE BOW. This is an archery ritual at the beginning of the year. In the Edo Shogonate, it was held on the 11th day of the first month.

brief notes    translations   
season page     home 

New Year 9a.   
brief notes    translations
The old year dawns into the new yang water dragon year. Not yet having seen Yoshino’s blossoms, therefore all the more I resolve this spring, without fail, to set eyes on them for myself—
The answering clouds take on the faint look of cherry blossoms: the year’s first arrow


Heading: mizunoe    tatsu    Sai-    tan                 yang-water    dragon    year    dawn

ware    imada    Yoshi-          no         no    hana           wo        mi-      zu-    sōrō       hodo ni,
I           yet         Good-luck    Field    ’s     blossoms    (acc.)    see      not    -masu,    all-the-more

kono    haru      wa         zehi                omoi-   tata-     ba    ya to              zonji-         sōrō
this      spring    as-for    without-fail    think    stand     as    such-things    knowing    -masu

Haiku: te-       gotae       no/    kumo     ni    hana           ari//              yumi    hajime
hand    answer    ’s/     clouds    in    blossoms    there-are//     bow     first

a classical verb ending, equivalent of -masu

‘plan, project, take into one’s head, think of (doing), have (a thing) in contemplation, resolve, make up one’s mind, set one’s mind upon’

Buson zenshū
#1003, An-ei 1 (1772). The Yoshino Hills are west of Kyoto, famous for their abundance of cherry trees. With its old-fashioned diction, the heading opening mimics the self-introduction of a noh character, explaining the journey that will set the action of the play into motion. Concentrating on this desire as he releases the arrow, he sees in the distant clouds the fleeting image of blossoms. The faintness of the manifestation reflects some uncertainty about the intention’s strength. In fact Buson did not manage to go to Yoshino to see the cherry blossoms until near the end of his life, and when he got there, a stormy wind was in the process of demolishing them. 

SPRING 1: PARSLEY . Japanese parsley is also called dropwort or Chinese celery (Oenanthe javanica). On the seventh day of the first month, it is one of the seven herbs that are gathered in the Festival of the Seven Herbs. But while those references describe hunting with difficulty for the earliest shoots, the spring parsley is more abundant.

brief notes     translations        season page         home

Spring 1a.   
   brief notes     translations
Today along an old road happening on some root parsley, leaving it behind...


furu    michi    ni/     kyō       wa         mi-         te       oku//                      ne-     zeri         kana
old      road     on/    today    as-for    seeing     and    leaving-behind//    root    parsley    ...

same as seri, ‘parsley’, called so because the roots are also edible.

Buson zenshū
#420, Meiwa 6 (1769). Perhaps written on 1/27 (March 5th), when at Tafuku-tei the chosen topic was Gyoki, the memorial service for Honen, a late spring kigo. See Buson zenshū #418:
    Naniwa me ya         
        Women of Naniwa:
    kyō wo samugaru                
on pilgrimage to the capital
    gyoki mōde                     
            complaining of the cold

On an aimless walk, diverted from one’s way, happening on a yearned-for old road and seeing root parsley—a landscape of memory. Picking it would be pitiful, so for today, it will only be seen and left alone (Buson zenshū note). However, if the editor is right that the memorial pilgrimage for Honen was the inspiration for this haiku, then the walk would not be aimless or nostalgic, but a religious observance, not the kind of walk on which one stops and picks herbs.

Spring 1b.    
    brief notes     translations
In “the Village of the Meadow Parsley” amid the parsley a blue-green willow


ao-      yagi        ya//    Seri-        yo                    no    sato        no/    seri         no    naka
blue    willow    ://       parsley    grassy-place    ’s     village    ’s/     parsley    ’s     amid

Buson zenshū
#1497, probably An-ei 6, 1st month (February 1777). The season word is actually aoyagi, ‘green willow’, for late spring.

Seryō, ‘Parsley Meadow’, is an old name for the western part of Ōhara, north of Kyoto, the neighborhood of Jakko-in nunnery. A pillow word. The haiku is meant to contrast with the bleakness of Saigyō’s

     Ōhara wa                              
On the snowy path
     Seryō wo yuki no            
     of Ohara’s Parsley Meadow
     michi ni akete             
           as dawn breaks:
     yo mo ni wa hito mo           
not a single person
     kayowazari keri            
       has passed by


Spring 1c.   
brief notes     translations
All the path there is—it trails off into the parsley


kore    kiri    ni/    komichi    tsuki-       tari//    seri         no    naka
this-    end    at/    path          run-out     has//     parsley   ’s     amid

‘become exhausted, be consumed, spend, end’, etc.

Buson zenshū
#421, Meiwa 6 (1769); Perhaps written on the same occasion as Spring 4a. One version has the error kōri (ice) for tsuki. The disappearing path evokes the memory of youth, and the scent of one’s hometown.

Spring 1d.   
brief notes     translations
Old temple: a thrown-away clay pot amid the parsley


furu-    dera        ya//    hō-      roku    sutsuru/     seri          no    naka
old        temple    ://       roast    burn    discard/     parsley    ’s     amid

‘a simple unglazed earthenware pan for roasting or parching’

Buson zenshū
#1996, probably An-ei 7 (1778). The broken pieces of a simple clay pot are thrown away behind an old temple. The picture suggests human bones, the broken receptacle of the human body discarded, in contrast to the lush green life of the vegetation.

SPRING 2: BURNING THE FIELDS. This agricultural practice, done in early spring, killed harmful vermin and caused new grass to sprout (Buson zenshū #440).
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Spring 2a.    
brief notes     translations
A field of bracken: come, let’s set ablaze these withered azaleas


warabi     no        ya//    izamono    taka-    mu/      kare-          tsutsuji
bracken    field    ://       come         burn     let’s/    withered    azalea

‘burn, kindle, build (a fire), boil, cook’, = yaku: ‘set fire to, burn, bake, roast’

Buson zenshū
#441, Meiwa 6 (1769). Written on same theme (and perhaps on same occasion) as Spring 2d. Season word: while it initially appears to be warabi, ‘bracken’, a spring season word, the deeper term is no wo yaku, ‘burning the fields’. Every year people go out to the fields to pick and gather bracken shoots to eat. The presence of the withered azaleas are a source of good fortune: the tone is one of anticipation that next year, in the burned traces, much more bracken will sprout up.

Spring 2b.   
brief notes     translations
Reading the Ten Foot Square Hut
Blazing things from the beggar’s fire to the burning fields...


Heading: Hō-    jō-    ki    wo    yomu          Direction    10-feet    Narrative    (acc.)     reading

Haiku: mono     taita/       ko-     jiki      no    hi      yori//     yake         no      kana
things    burned/    ask    food    ’s     fire    from//    burning   field   ...

Buson zenshū
#442, Meiwa 6 (1769). One version has heading. Written on same theme (and perhaps on the same occasion) as Spring 2d. Invokes an event from The Ten Square Hut, the fire that begins from the beggar’s or dancer’s shack (or inn where dancers were staying) and devastates the capital. But Buson’s fires, in contrast, are beneficent.

“The fire was said to have been started at the narrow street name Higuchitomi-no-kōji, in a rough house specially made to put up a group of dancers for a short time. The fire went on stretching this way and that before the angry wind, getting wider and wider in the form of an unfolded fan. Houses in the distance were thickly covered with smoke and the earth nearby was a sea of violent flames. The sky was bright and red with heated powder sent up into the air, and gave back the light of the angry fire under it, while the cruel wind got the fire separate into numbers of flames, which went on running over the earth, burning houses even one or two hundred meters off. The persons with such flames all around them seemed unconscious of themselves while living. Some went down to the earth almost unable to take breath because of the thick smoke, and others went to their deaths in a minute, coated over with flames. Some were able to get out of the fire almost after giving up hope, taking with them nothing of their property. All the jewels and things of great value were completely burned” (Kamo 1990, 6-8).    

Reminiscent of this haiku from the same year (Buson zenshū #594):

    mono taite            
 Burning things:
    hanabi ni tōki           
 the distant fireworks,
 a boat’s fishing torch

Spring 2c.   
brief notes     translations
The field and Jizō’s anise branches burning together...


no       to       tomo ni/    yakuru             Ji-         zō              no//    shikimi    kana
field    and    alike/        being-burned    Earth    Treasury    ’s//     anise        ...

A Bodhisattva, the guardian of children

‘Japanese anise’. Branches of it are used as offerings to Buddha, and the fragrant bark can be an ingredient in incense.

Buson zenshū
#443, Meiwa 6 (1769). Written on same theme (and perhaps on same occasion) as Spring 2d. Shikimi/anise is a member of the magnolia family, a tall evergreen tree, the branches of which are offered before the Buddha. As the sparks fly from the burning field, the anise branches burn before the roadside statue of Jizō. Jizō smiles gently at the barrier of self. See also:

    fuyu no yo ya                               
A winter night:
    furuki hotoke o                                   
let’s start with the old Buddha
    mazu takan (Buson zenshū
#2161)            for firewood

Spring 2d.   
brief notes     translations
As the eastern sky lightens, small rain begins to fall on the burned field...


shinonome    ni/    ko-       same    furi-    dasu//             yake-      no       kana
east-cloud      at/    small    rain     fall       beginning//     burned    field    ...

‘daybreak, dawn, aurora’

Lanoue often translates this as ‘burning field’ in Issa’s haiku

Buson zenshū
#440; Meiwa 6 (1769). The rain deepens the burned black as well as the new green. As the eastern sky lightens, and night turns to dawn over the burned field, the small rain falls silently. In the dawn light, the deep black field recovers the bright color of life.

Spring 2e.   
brief notes     translations
Daybreak and rain: the blackened tips of a field of silvergrass...


akatsuki    no/    ame    ya//    su-     guro            no/    susuki            hara
daybreak    ’s/    rain    ://       tip-    blackened    ’s/      silver-grass    field

eulalia’ or ‘silvergrass’, often translated as ‘pampas grass’ for its visual resemblance, although the two plants are not closely related.

Buson zenshū
#1354, probably An-ei 5 (1776). Season word: suguro no susuki. The silvergrass is singed from the old way of burning back vegetation in the spring mountains. A rain at dawn comes falling, washing the deep black of the charred grass, and changing yesterday’s burned field completely. Sasaki: “After the burning of a field (no-yama ayaku), the tips (sue, su) of grasses are scorched black (kuro, guro). That field is su-guro-no. There is su-guro of eulalia too...

 It is raining at dawn across the expanse of black burned eulalia” (2002, 104-105).

SPRING 3: MUGWORT , wormwod, sagebrush, Artemisia vulgaris, a general spring kigo.

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Spring 3a.   
brief notes     translations
Just out the temple’s back gate, encountering new sprouted sage


ura-   mon    no/    tera        ni    hō-            chaku       su//         yomogi      kana
rear    gate    ’s/     temple    at    meeting    arrive-at    doing//    mugwort    ...

Syllable count: 5/8/5

hōchaku suru:
‘face, encounter’

Buson zenshū
#2375, probably Temmei 3 (1783). Notice the first character for hōchaku plus the radical for grass creates the character for yomogi. Hōchaku is an allusion to Chang Chi ( 768-830), his poem “Meeting Chia Tao” from Poems in Three Hands: ‘At the priest’s temple quarters, encountering butterbur flowers’ (that is giant butterbur, Ligularia kaempferi). (Chia Tao was Chang Chi’s contemporary, author of the famous poem “Note Left for an Absent Recluse”.) Buson exchanges silverleaf for mugwort, found while looking at the ground, foraging for plants in the area behind the temple.

SPRING 4: TREE GRAFTING. A mid-spring kigo.
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Spring 4a.   
brief notes     translations
As they work, they talk of things across the hedge—tree grafting...


kaki-     goshi ni/   hanashi    shi         nagara//    tsugi-    ki       kana
hedge    across/      talk           doing    while//       splice    tree    ...

kaki: ‘hedge, fence, wall’

Buson zenshū #2194, probably Temmei 1 (1781). Alternative version to: kakigoshi ni/ mono uchi kataru/ tsugiki kana. Mono-uchi: ‘thing within’, could also mean ‘blade’; in kendo, it refers to the third of the sword blade farthest from the handle. There could be some playfulness in the use of sword terminology in relation to the grafter’s knife–“Across the hedge, discussing the fineness of the blade–tree grafting.” The note says: ‘while the neighbors chat at ease, across the living hedge, their hands take no note of their talk. A tranquil tree grafting landscape.’

other translation:

    Over a hedge
    Exchanging stories—
    Tree-grafting. (Saito and Nelson 2006, 38)

Spring 4b.    
brief notes     translations
Beside the field of yellow flowers the tree grafter has left his pipe behind...


na-           batake    ni/    kiseru    wasururu//    tsugi-     ki      kana
mustard    field       in/    pipe       forgotten//     splice    tree    ...

Buson zenshū #2195, probably Temmei 1 (1781). Buson zenshū note: the peaceful scene evoked, of the grafter smoking while looking at the flowers, contrasts with the toil of the season that he is probably now engaged in.

other translation:

    on the field of mustards
    a tobacco pipe is left
    by a tree grafter (Ueda 1998, 133)

SPRING 5: BRACKEN . Pteridium aquilinum var. latiusculum, ‘bracken, fern, adder-spit’, a late spring season word.

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Spring 5a.    
brief notes     translations

See Spring 2a.

Spring 5b.   
brief notes     translations
Bracken fronds left broken and wilting in the slow dusk


ori-            moteru/       warabi     shiore-       te/       kure             ososhi
breaking    enduring/    bracken    drooping    and/    darkening    slowly

Buson zenshū #2118, An-ei 9, 3/20 (April 24th, 1780). Kure ososhi: ‘dusk comes slowly,’ is also a general spring season word. The returning traveler picked ferns along the way to carry home, but they tightened and wilted as the day darkened.

SPRING 6: PINE FLOWERS, late spring, actually referring to the pine tree’s pollen.

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Spring 6a.    
brief notes     translations
Joss stick’s ash; a pine tree sheds its pollen


sen-    kō         no/    hai    ya//    koborete/    matsu    no    hana
line     scent    ’s/      ash    : //      spilling/      pine      ’s     flower

senkō: ‘incense stick’

koboreru: ‘fall, drop, spill, be spilt, overflow, be scattered,’ etc.

Buson zenshū #77, Meiwa 4 (1767). Heading omitted. The new sprouting of the lavender female flowers causes the light brown male flowers to take shape; the pollen is compared to ashes spilling from the incense stick offered before the grave. Written as part of a collection on the occasion for the Buddhist memorial service on the first anniversary of Sōoku’s death (edited by Buzen). Sōoku passed away on Meiwa 3, 3/12 (April 20, 1766).

“Master Sōoku always had on his wall my painting of a man seating in a relaxed posture under a pine tree. It was his favorite painting. Despite our difference in age, we were close friends. Unfortunately I could not be with him during his last days as I was out of town for a certain reason. That had bothered me all this time, until another spring came round. Now in front of his grave, I wish to express my regrets and hope that he will still recognize me as someone dearer than a mere stranger.”

        is that the ash
        from my incense sticks?
        pollen from the pine (Ueda 1998, 42-43)

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Spring 7a.    
brief notes     translations
Through spring grass the path divides in three: one is a shortcut inviting me home

春艸路三叉中に捷径 あり我を迎ふ

shun-     sō        michi    san-     sa        naka    ni    sō-     kei      ari           ware    wo        mukau
spring    grass    path     three    forks    in-       to    fast    path    there-is    me      (acc.)    greeting
(24 syllables)

Buson zenshū appendix 3. Stanza 10 of Buson’s long Japanese/Chinese poem, “Spring Wind on the Riverbank of Kema,” “Shumpu batei kyoku, first published in the spring of An-ei 6 (1777). It is a tribute to Chinese literature, the spring grass evoking nostalgia and homesickness.

Spring 7b.   
brief notes     translations
Coming home—how many paths through the spring grass!


(Heading omitted)

waga    kaeru/     michi    iku-               suji     zo//    haru       no    kusa
my        return/    path      how-many    lines    !//      spring    ’s     grass

Buson zenshū #1990, also in v. 4, 177. An-ei 7, 3/15 (April 12th, 1778). Haibun inscribed on his own picture. Alludes to several sources, one from the Ch’u tz’u, or Songs of the South:

    A prince went wandering
    And did not return.
    In spring the grass grows
    Lush and green (probably Liu An, 179-122 BCE, Hawkes 1985, 244)

Another is Wang Wei (700-761):

    Among the mountains we bid each other farewell;
    The sun is setting as I close my bramble gate.
    Spring grass every year is green;
    But will the young prince ever return? (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000-2013)

Wandering, longing for the old days are fitting material for poetry. Wandering with companions, traveling on the spring plain, longing for the old days until the sad dusk, while wishing for a return path, how many lines diverge far into the spring grass and disappear? Thoughts of keen nostalgia accumulate for the person mourning the loss of his home...(note)

This quote from Li Yu (937-978 CE) also seems relevant:

    This pain of separation is like the spring grass—
    The farther away I journey, the ranker it grows. (Watson 1984, 362)

Ueda includes the prefatory prose of the haibun:

“‘We had a verse-writing party at Rinshō Temple in Cape Wada. Of the topics given out at the party, mine happened to be ‘spring grass’. That kindled an irresistible emotion within me and led me into a series of pensive reflections. What remote land does the prince continue to roam? For whom does he think spring returns to his native village? One should not emulate his roaming habit. Nor should one learn from his hardened heart...’

The haiga was a gift from Buson to [Imada] Tairo. Through the haibun, therefore, Buson is speaking to Tairo and comparing him to a romantic hero expelled from his homeland and leading a life of exile. The prince referred to is a stock character who appeared in Chinese poetry starting with Ch’u Yuan in Elegies of Ch’u. Noble in character as well as in birth, he has to wander far from his homeland for reasons beyond his control.  Thoughts of his old home are always tormenting him, yet there is no way for him to return there. In Buson’s mind, Tairo is such a prince” (1998, 121).

Cape Wada is a pillow word for the middle of Kobe Harbor.

Spring 7c.    
brief notes     translations
In new sprouted grass the willow tree its roots forgotten


waka-    kusa      ni/    ne       wo       wasure-      taru//     yanagi    kana
young    grass      in/    root    (acc)   forgotten    have//    willow    ...

Buson zenshū #2232, probably Temmei 2 (1782). The season word here is really yanagi, ‘willow’, for late spring. Ne is shōne, ‘nature, disposition, spirit, mind, natural skills’. As young grass sprouts at the roots of the willow, the willow’s spirit forgets itself and rises up, even though its early buds still shake in the cold wind.

SPRING 8: KERRIA, yamabuki, Kerria japonica, ‘breath of the mountain’, a wild yellow thornless rose, often associated with waterside banks, a season word of late spring.

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Spring 8a.    
brief notes     translations
Kakuya Tachihaki no Osa was an unparalleled aesthete. While remembering how he and the monk of Kosobe pursued elegance, upon their first meeting, by drawing their treasures from their brocade pouches, and as I am spurred on ceaselessly by the beauty of spring:     

Mountain roses: on the waters of the Ide are flowing shavings from the carpenter’s plane


Heading:   Ka-            ku-              ya         Tachi-   haki  no    Osa      wa        sōnaki
                 Increase    Old-story    Night    Belt       Sword        Long    as-for   unrivaled

su-            ki-        mono    nari-        keri,    Ko-    so-           be             no    nyū-          dō
strength    gather   thing     become   had,     Old     Former    Section    ’s      entering    way

hajimete           no    gezan         ni,         hiki-    de-    mono    misu-         beki        tote,
first-meeting    ’s      interview    upon,    pull     out    thing     showing     had-to    even   

nishiki      no    ko-       bukuro    o           sagashi-motome-    keru    fū-      ryū     nado
brocade    ’s     small    bag         (acc.)    sought-to                 had     pine    flow    et cetera

omoi-ide-     tsutsu,    suzuro                shun-     shoku     ni     taezu       habere-      ba
remember    while,     made-restless     spring    nature    by    always    attending    as

Haiku:  yama-         buki       ya//    I-           de        o                      nagaruru/    kanna-   kuzu
             mountain    breath    ://       spring    hand    (accusative)    flowing/        plane     scraps

nyūdo: a lay monk

fūryū: ‘elegance, taste, refinement’

Ide, a village in the hills of Yamashiro, is a poetic toponym associated with yamabuki, fresh water, and song frogs” in waka (Cranston 2006, 451)

Buson zenshū #2345, Temmei 3 (1783);Temmei 2, 12th month (February 1783)

Heading: Kamens traces the allusions in this haiku, beginning with this anecdote of the first meeting of Kakuya no Osa Tachihaki Toshinobu and Nōin (988–1051?), the monk of Kosobe in Fukuro zōshi:

“Toshinobu, the head of the crown prince’s archers, was a great connoisseur (sukimono nari). When he met Nōin for the first time, both men were deeply impressed by one another. ‘I have something I would like to show you,’ Nōin said, ‘to commemorate your gracious visit,’ and he withdrew from within his robes a brocaded pouch. Inside it was a single piece of wood shaving. Showing this to Toshinobu, Nōin said, ‘This is my greatest treasure. It is a shaving made at the time of the construction of the Nagara bridge.’
Toshinobu was thrilled, and then he also took an object wrapped in paper from within the folds of his own robe. He unwrapped it and showed that inside lay the body of a dried frog. ‘This is a frog from Ide,’ he explained. Both men were extremely pleased. Then each returned his treasure to its place of safe-keeping, and the two parted company. People of the present would no doubt call them foolish.”

In his manuscript New Florilogem, Buson dismisses this habit of collecting objects connected to the history of poetry, saying “If someone of the present day were to say that he owns one of the pillars from the Nagara Bridge, or the preserved body of a frog from Ide, I’m sure that most people would think that person an utter fool, and would refuse to believe his claim...” However:

“Buson, it is clear, had read his Fukuro zōshi, and remembers, in particular, the Nōin and Toshinobu episode. He remembered it a few years later, as well, and, in letters to disciples written in the winter of 1782 and again in the following autumn, he wrote an abridged version of their story as a kotobagaki for one of his own hokku:

‘Kakuya no Osa Tashihaki Toshinobu was a sukimono without equal. Remembering how, at his first encounter with the Kosobe monk [Nōin], the two men felt the need to show one another their treasures, and how Nōin proved his elegant connoisseurship by displaying the contents of a brocade bag—and, deeply stirred by the sights of spring, I wrote— [the hokku]...

        Kerria roses!
        And, flowing down Ide’s stream, wood shavings.’”
Furthermore, in one of these letters, Buson adds these comments on his composition:

“I wrote the poem you see here with this amusing old story../.in mind. But on the surface it will appear that I have simply described a pleasing scene, with gentle spring sunlight and a suggestion that the wood shavings are drifting down from some place upstream on the Ide River, where peasants are building a cottage. It is frequently the case that the reading of a Chinese poem can be explained in two ways; the same holds true for haikai” (Kamens 1997, 160-165).

SPRING 9: SWEETFISH . Ayu, a kind of freshwater trout, is often translated as ‘sweetfish’. They are a kigo for late spring, when the young fish (waka aya, about two inches long) swim up mountain streams. They are prized for their delicate flavor (Buson zenshū).

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Spring 9a.   
brief notes     translations
A young sweetfish swim upstream, a blade of bamboo grass from the valley floating by


waka     ayu      ya//    tani        no    o-         zasa                    mo/     hito-    ha      yuku
young    trout    ://       valley    ’s     small    bamboo-grass    also/    one      leaf    goes

ozasa: ‘bamboo grass, dwarf bamboo’

Buson zenshū #978, Meiwa period (1764-1771). One leaf of dwarf bamboo falling from the shaded valley has the same size and shape as the fish, but it floats down the rapids and they swim in the opposite direction. The leaf reveals the energy and power of the fish. (“An ayu trout, when it grows to about two inches, leaves the sea in early spring and swims up the stream where it was born. Between a swimming trout and a fallen bamboo leaf, there is a similarity in shape and size, as well as contrast in the direction each is going”–Ueda 1998, 158n).

Spring 9b.    
brief notes     translations
Scooping up sweetfish all day, all day the crags alive with wings


ayu             kumi           no/    hine-    mosu    iwa      ni//     tsubasa    kana
sweetfish    scooping     ’s/     finish   day       crags    on//    wings      ...

Buson zenshū #2620, no date. Season word: ayu kumi, ‘ladling up small sweetfish with a fan-net’. The haiku compares the sight of the round fan nets to wings—or perhaps doesn’t distinguish between the birds and the fishermen.  The fisherman stand on the crags above brandishing the nets all day like birds unfurling their wings.

SPRING 10: SPRING DEEPENS. A late season kigo.
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Spring 10a.    
brief notes     translations
Where iris leaves rise up is that a pond? spring grown five feet deep


ayame    ou/              ike       ka//    go-     shaku    no/    haru      fukashi      
iris          growing/    pond    ?//      five    feet        ’s/     spring    deep

shaku: an old Japanese unit of measure, close to a foot in length. Goshaku: one of several allusions Buson makes to Bashō’s haiku, from Shikō’s haiku treatise The Pine Forest of Kuzu:

    hototogisu                             A cuckoo
    naku ya go shaku no                sings: atop five feet
    ayame-gusa                                 of iris leaf (Buson zenshū note)

Buson zenshū #2590, date unknown. ‘Iris flowers’ are a summer season word, but this haiku refers to the leaves; the flowers have not yet appeared.

SPRING 11: PEAR BLOSSOMS, a late spring kigo. Some important sources for this image in Japanese poetry are the Chinese poem “Song of Unending Sorrow” and Sei Shonagon’s Pillow Book.

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The poet Po Chü-i wrote his famous “Song of Unending Sorrow” about the relationship between T’ang Emperor Hsuan Tsung and his notorious concubine, Yang Kuei-fei. His favoring of her unimportant family led to a rebellion, during which she was forced to hang herself, and the T’ang dynasty fell soon after. But the poem allows the emperor a final meeting with her on a magic island—
    Her face, delicate as jade, is desolate beneath the heavy tears,
    Like a spray of pear blossom in spring, veiled in drops of rain.
    This poem was read in Japan with great appreciation. In the Pillow Book, Sei Shōnagon says

“The pear blossom can be compared to the face of a plain woman; for its coloring lacks all charm. Or so, at least, I used to think. Knowing that the Chinese admired the pear blossom greatly and praise it in their poems, I wondered what they could see in it and made a point of examining the flower. Then I was surprised to find that its petals were prettily edged with a pink tinge, so faint that I could not be sure whether it was there or not. It was to the pear blossoms, I recalled, that the poet likened to the face of Yang Kuei-fei when she came forth in tears to meet the emperor’s messenger—‘a spray of pear blossom in spring, covered with drops of rain’—and I realized that this was no idle figure of speech and that it really was a magnificent flower” (1979, 63).

Translator Ivan Morris points out in his notes that Yang Kuei-fei’s beauty was famously compared to jade, and only her paleness here to the pear flowers, thus bringing into question Sei Shonagon’s real knowledge of Chinese literature (ibid., 291). It may be that Sei Shonagon cemented the comparison in Japan, however. In the 13th century song “Blossoms,” a catalog of blossoms appearing in poems, “the countenance of Yang Kuei-fei” is “a branch of blossoms wrapped in rain” (Brazell 1980, 254).

Spring 11a.    
brief notes     translations
The whole long day whitely blooming pear blossoms


nagaki    hi     ni/    mashiro    ni    saki-          nu//     nashi    no    hana
long       day    in/    white        in    bloomed    has//    pear      ’s     blossoms

Buson zenshū #452, Meiwa 6 (1769). The season word is nagaki hi, ‘long day’, a general spring kigo. Written on same theme (and perhaps same occasion?) as #451:

    kure kururu                        The setting sun
    hi ya yama tori no                    lingers: the copper pheasant
    otoshizashi                                    dangles his tail

In the long days of spring, the pure white pear blossoms begin to bloom. That whiteness adds a shadow of melancholy to the tranquil spring scene.

Spring 11b.    
brief notes     translations
Someone lingers under the trees of the pear garden, the hazy moon


nashi    no    sono       ni/    hito         tatazumeri//    oboro-   zuki
pear      ’s     garden    in/    person    loitering//         hazy      moon

Syllable count: 6/7/5.

Buson zenshū #503, Meiwa 6. Although it contains the spring season word oborozuki or ‘hazy moon’, the concept is derived from Shōha’s haiku gathering on the chosen autumn theme meigetsu, ‘famous moon’, ‘harvest moon’, on 8/2, Meiwa 5 (September 12th, 1768). There is something charming, fascinating, coquettish, in the behavior of the mysterious figure. Compare to Buson zenshū #173:

    nashi no sono ni        Someone lingers
    hito tatazu-meri            under the trees of the pear garden,
    yoi no tsuki                        this evening’s moon

The pear orchard evokes Chinese opera (in which Yang Kuai-fei was a favorite character–see section heading). Ming Huang (712-756), an emperor of the Tang era, established the first academy for music and performance in his pear garden at the palace in the capital of Changan. It was therefore called the Pear Garden, and actors came to be known as “children of the Pear Garden.”

Spring 11c.    
brief notes     translations
Under the blossoming pear there is a woman reading a letter by moonlight


nashi    no    hana/          tsuki      ni    fumu    yomu/        onna       ari
pear      ’s     blossoms/    moon    in    letter    reading/    woman    there-is

Buson zenshū #504, Meiwa 6 (1769). Pear blossoms again are associated with China and the figure of a Chinese beauty in opera or drama, particularly Yuan Kuai Fei (see previous note). The haiku makes a harmonious picture because the blossoms, the letter, and the moonlight are all white. The letter must be a love letter for the woman to have been driven out of doors to read it (Blyth 1992, 2:592; 3:765).

Spring 11d.   
brief notes     translations
A cloud just beginning to form on Mt. Tortoise Shell: pear blossoms


Kai-                    gane           ni/     kumo    koso    kakare//        nashi    no    hana
Tortoise-shell    Patterned    on/    cloud    just     beginning//    pear      ’s     blossoms

Buson zenshū #1366. An-ei 5, 3/10 (April 27th, 1776). Kaigane: a pillow word, a tall range of three mountains in the Kaigane region in Yamanashi prefecture. Yamanashi is a pear producing region, so the whole side of the mountain would be covered with the suspended white cloud of pear trees blooming. Nōin also joins Mt. Kaigane and pear blossoms in a waka from the Mandaishū (10,000 Ages Collection).

The compound kaigane means ‘effect, result, fruit, success, benefit, advantage’, probably originating from the augury method of reading burnt tortoise shells.

SUMMER 1: LILY, LILY FLOWER. Covers several species, a late summer kigo, but the first of these haiku especially suggest early summer.
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Summer 1a.     brief notes        translations
Bending with dew toward the red ink stone—lily flower


shu-    suzuri        ni/    tsuyu    katabuke    yo//    yuri    no    hana
red      inkstone    to/    dew      tipping       !//      lily      ’s    flower

Buson zenshū #989, Meiwa era (1764-1771)—a copy in Buson’s handwriting comes from the end of this period.     

red: Chinese tradition aligns the four seasons with colors, directions, animals, elements, and other categories.


Autumn:               Heaven:                                     Spring:
metal                    air                                               wood
white                    yellow or gold                            green/blue
tiger                      associated with the emperor      dragon
west                      center                                         east


The lily is bending toward red, which is the color of summer. Red refers to the color of India ink used in the ink stone, not the ink stone itself. The dew on the flower will spill onto the ink stone and become ink. In the dyeing of the white dew there is another iteration of an idea Buson returned to many times. White in Buson’s haiku often signifies whole hearted being, undivided by contradictory desires, and color therefore represents a kind of fall from innocence See notes to New Year 2e, also:

    kiku no tsuyu                                    Dew on the chrysanthemum:
    ukete suzuri no                                     the ink stone receives
    inochi kana (Buson zenshū #613)            its life...

Summer 1b.    brief notes        translations
For a moment, the early lily kept alive in the monk’s cell at the valley temple


karisome    ni/    sa-       yuri                    ike-             tari//             tani       no   
brief-          ly/    early    hundred-meet    kept alive    has-been//    valley    ’s     temple

ikeru: ‘keep alive, arrange flowers (in a vase)’ (ikebana uses this character)

bō: ‘monk, monk’s house or cell, house, room, small (Buddhist) temple’

Buson zenshū #1724, An-ei 6 (1777).

SUMMER 2: POPPY. Papaver somniferum, usually white or red, a season word of early summer.

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Summer 2a.    brief notes        translations
A poppy blooming—would the woven fence were not there...

けしの花 籬 すべくもあらぬ 哉

keshi      no    hana/          magaki            subeku    mo//      ara-    nu     kana
poppy    ’s      blossom/     hedge-fence    should     also//    be       not    ...

Buson zenshū #1125, probably An-ei 3, 4th month (May 1774). Magaki alludes to Tsurezuregusa:

“About the tenth month I had the occasion to visit a village beyond the place called Kurusono. I made my way far down a moss-covered path until I reached a lonely looking hut. Not a sound could be heard, except for the dripping of a water pipe buried in fallen leaves. Sprays of chrysanthemum and red maple leaves had been carelessly arranged on the holy water shelf. Evidently somebody was living here. Moved, I was thinking, ‘One can live even in such a place,’ when I noticed in the garden beyond a great tangerine tree, its branches bent with fruit, that had been enclosed by a forbidding fence. Rather disillusioned, I thought now, ‘If only the tree had not been there!’” (Kenkō 1998, 11)

Buson zenshū: poppies fall easily, so the master has protected them with this fence. If not, the speaker could pluck them at his leisure, free from care. Or, both the owner and the person wanting to pick them could have a more free, careless attitude. [I also thought the fence was a disappointment because it was an unfitting foil for the poppies. In any case, it seems a more straightforward regret then Kenkō’s, which I don’t quite understand. Does the place seem less beautifully solitary and melancholy because of the tree? Is the tree the problem because it created the need for the fence?]
Buson referred to the same passage from Kenkō in Buson zenshū #1261:

    takenoko ya                Hunting bamboo shoots:
    kōji wo oshimu                I resent the tree full of tangerines
    kaki no soto                        from outside the fence

Summer 2b.    brief notes        translations
For them also the monk strikes the vesper bell: poppy flowers
They enter each other: temple bell at evening, poppy flowers

入相 を撞くも法師や芥子花

iri-       ai                  wo/        tsuku     mo      hō-    shi          ya//    ke-           shi        no    hana
enter    each-other    (acc)/    strike     also     law    master    ://       rubbish    child    ’s     flower

iriai: ‘sunset’

tsuku: ‘strike a bell, strike against, attack, thrust, pierce, stap, gore, prick, push, poke’

Buson zenshū #87. Perhaps written on Meiwa 5, 5/6 (June 20th, 1768), when keshi hana was the chosen topic at Tessō’s Dairaidō on this day (according to Natsu yori). Certainly it existed by Meiwa 8 (1771).

The 11th century poet Nōin wrote the waka yama sato no haru yūgure kite mireba iriai no kane ni hana zo chirikeru, “Visiting a mountain temple on a spring evening, when the evening bell tolls, the blossoms fall”, Shinkokinshū #116 (Klein 1991, 318). The haiku makes a substitution in the waka convention of kane ni rakka, bell sounding amid falling cherry blossoms.

Lanoue, “Winter Quilt” (1991-2010): Shinji Ogawa explains that iriai (sunset) is, in this context, “a short form for iriai no kane (sunset bell). This bell is struck six times at thirty minutes after sunset, three times in short intervals as the prelude, then six times in longer intervals.”

The ambiguity of the term iriai suggests the alternative translation.


Summer 2c.     brief notes        translations
Leaving Mount Shumi...            poppy flower

須弥を出 る                               けしの花

Shu-      mi                    wo        deru//       keshi      no    hana
Ought    All-the-more    (acc)    go-out//    poppy    ’s     flower

Syllable count: 5//0/5.

Buson zenshū #2502, An-ei 7-Temmei 3 (1778-1783). The middle line is left blank, an unprecedented break with form in Buson. Shumi is the high mountain at the center of existence, according to Buddhism, here compared to the tiny speck of the poppy.

SUMMER 3: MANDARIN ORANGE FLOWER, Citrus nobilis, a season word of the 4th month (early summer). It was also the surname of an important noble family in the Heian period, and so has a certain atmosphere of a lost aristocratic past.

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Summer 3a.    brief notes        translations
Scent of orange blossom: long ago, a high ranking general was lord of this manor

橘や むかしやかたの弓矢取

tachibana               ya//    mukashi     yakata       no/    yumi-    ya         tori
mandarin-orange    ://      old-times    mansion     ’s/     bow      arrow    having

yumiyatori, ‘soldier’; yumitori: ‘archer’

Buson zenshū #1560, An-ei 6, 4/20 (May 26th, 1777). From New Flower Picking. Alludes to:

       satsuki matsu                     When I breathe the fragrance
    hana tachibana no            of the mandarin orange
       kao kageba                          blossoms that await
    mukashi no hito no           the Fifth Month   it brings back the
    sode no ka zosuru             scented sleeves of one I loved
                                                                                                (Kokinshū 2004, 885; also in Tales of Ise, dan 60)

In the Muromachi period, yakata (‘mansion, hall, residence’) was a title bestowed upon higher levels of military commanders. The orange blossom evokes the memory of the illustrious lineage of the high ranking warrior who was this mansion’s lord in former times.

This later haiku (Buson zenshū #2067) uses a pun on tachibana no ka, ‘the scent of orange blossom’ (tachibana no kagoto, “orange blossom’s excuse”) to evoke the above waka and the link between scent and memory:

    Having pulled out the wadding from a lined kimono, I attach this note to send it back to the elderly lady known to me that it originally belonged to

    It provides an excuse
        for the orange blossom crest:
            lined kimono...

Summer 3b.    brief notes        translations
Orange blossoms’ perfume: in the dawn twilight, a ruined mansion


tachibana               no/    kawataretoki    ya//    furu-     yakata
mandarin-orange    ’s/     dawn                ://        old        mansion

kawataretoki: ‘dawn’, but has archaic meaning of ‘dusk’ as well.

yakata: ‘mansion, palace, large building, hall, temporary residence’

Buson zenshū #1139, probably An-ei 3, 6/8 (July 16th, 1774). In fragmentary documents, kawatare toki ya is amended kawatare toki no. Pivots on tachibana no ka, ‘scent of orange blossoms’, as does Buson zenshū #2067 in the previous note.

In the dim light of dawn, we glimpse what the ruined mansion must have looked like in its prime. The floating scent of orange blossom stirs recollections of old waka and deepens the longing for the past.

I find the haike also evocative of Ueda Akinari’s ghost stories, like “A Serpent’s Lust,” in which a young man spends the night seduced by a rich beautiful widow in her mansion, only to find out that the house is a burned ruin and the woman is a demon snake in disguise.

SUMMER 4: FLOWERING THORN, WILD ROSE . Rosa multiflora, early summer. In Buson, closely associated with nostalgia for childhood.

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Summer 4a.     brief notes        translations
After the breath-of-the-mountain, after the rabbit flower: briar rose


yama-         buki       no/   u            no    hana      no    ato      ya//    hana     ibara
mountain    breath    ’s/     rabbit    ’s      flower    ’s     after    ://       flower    thorn

5/8/5 syllable count.

yamabuki: ‘kerria, a small wild yellow rose’, a season word of late spring (see Spring 8).

u no hana: Deutzia scabra, a shrub that bears small white flowers in May and June, and so a season word of early summer.

Buson zenshū #1255, An-ei 4, 4/12 (May 11th, 1775). Blyth sees the haiku as a succession of colors—yellow, then white, then red (1992, 3:850 ). Buson zenshū says the pale wild rose is tinged with pink, and it is as if a succession of characters appeared on the scene of a play.

Summer 4b.     brief notes        translations
Lost in sad thought while climbing the hill: wild roses


urei-             tsutsu/   oka    ni     nobore-      ba/         hana      ibara
lamenting     while/    hill     up    climbing     while/    flower    thorn

urei: from ureu, ‘grieve, lament, be anxious’

oka: ‘hill, knoll, rising ground’

Buson zenshū #1129, probably like #1128, written in An-ei 3, 4th month (May–June 1774). In the embrace of melancholy while climbing a nearby hill, seeing the white flowering briars blooming thickly here and there, and feeling the melancholy deepen all the more for the contrast with Tao Yüan-ming (see notes to next haiku). Keene also says that the haiku is heavily indebted to Li Po for its elements (1996, 347).

Other translation:

    I have brought the melancholy of my heart
    up the hill
    to the wild roses in flower (Merwin and Lento 2013, 89)

Summer 4c.     brief notes        translations
Climbing that eastern slope:
Briar roses blooming on the path just as they did in the village of my childhood


Heading: kano     tō-     kō         ni     nobore-       ba
               that       east    shore    up    ascending    as

Haiku:  hana      ibara/    ko-        kyō                  no    michi    ni//    nitaru            kana
             flower    thorn/    cause     native-place    ’s     path      to//    resembling    ...

kokyō: also kokyaku, ‘one’s (old, ancestral) home, one’s native place (land, province, town, village), the country of one’s origin, one’s birthplace, homeland, hometown’

Buson zenshū #1128, An-ei 3, 4th month (May–June, 1774). The roadside is crowded with wild blooming roses. This color, this scent, is just as it was running around the paths and roads of one’s very young days. The white color and purity of the perfume awaken sweet, beautiful memories of childhood. One version has the note kano tōkō, ‘that eastern slope,’ referring to the closing of Tao Yüan-ming’s “The Return,” from book 1 of the 17th century anthology Kobun kōshū; however, he is describing the actual return to his home, while Buson returns home only in memory.

    And climbing the mountains of the east
    To the accompaniment of a liquid stream,
    Chanting a few songs,
    Till the time comes when I shall be summoned away,
    Having accomplished my destiny, with no cares in the world (Payne 1960, 145).

Summer 4d.     brief notes        translations
As the path dies out the scent of flowering thorn closes in...


michi    tae-      te/       ka        ni        semari       saku//            ibara     kana
path      ends     and/    scent    with    closes-in    blooming//    thorn     ...

taete: from taeru, ‘become extinct, cease to exist, go out of existence, be annihilated/extinguished, die out, cease, discontinue, end, come to an end, fail, peter out’

semari: from semaru, ‘press, urge, push, force, compel, approach, draw near, gain on, be near/close at hand, be upon one, close’

Buson zenshū #1254, An-ei 4, 4/12 (May 11th, 1775). Same occasion as Summer 4a, at Buson’s Midnight Pavilion, on which hana ibara was the chosen topic. The path and air are consumed together; the scent and the memory of childhood are connected together. In Buson’s conception, the path to his birthplace is continually being disappearing, unfollowable.

SUMMER 5: GARDENIA , also called ‘cape jasmine’. A midsummer kigo. The characters mean ‘mouthless’.

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Summer 5a.     brief notes        translations
The way cape jasmine blooms in hiding, a stranger to the sun


kuchi-    nashi      no/    hana       saku            kata    ya//    hi       ni        utoki
mouth    without   ’s/     flowers    blooming    way    ://       sun    from    far

Buson zenshū #1582, An-ei 6, 4/14 (May 20th, 1777). From New Flower Picking. Jasmine has small flowers but a beautiful smell, stronger in the evening. The smell makes the eye look for the flowers, but the hidden flowers are hard to find.

SUMMER 6: CITRON FLOWERS. A midsummer kigo. ‘Citron’ is yuzu, an Asian citrus plant that produces bitter aromatic fruit used as a flavoring in cooking. The flowers are small, white, and fragrant.

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Summer 6a.     brief notes        translations
The scent of citron flowers: how mysterious the manor’s corner shrine


yu         no    hana        ya//    yukashiki    mo-         ya         no/    inui-      sumi
citron    ’s     flowers    ://       lovely          mother    house    ’s/     estate    corner

yukashii: ‘mysterious, lovely, sweet, charming, alluring’

moya: ‘main house, main building (of a noble’s home)’

Buson zenshū #1558, An-ei 6, 4/12 (May 18th, 1777). From New Flower Picking. Inuisumi: estate’s northwest corner, a quiet place where the ancestors and estate gods are enshrined and auspicious trees are planted. The scent of citron flowers comes floating from somewhere...perhaps the tree was planted to draw the heart in the direction of the shrine.

Summer 6b.     brief notes        translations
Scent of citron flowers: a fine sake is hidden behind these walls


yu         no    hana        ya//    yoki     sake    kakusu/    hei       no    uchi
citron    ’s     flowers    ://        good    sake     kept/        wall     ’s     within

kakusu: ‘hide, conceal, cover, veil, cloak, screen, obstruct’.  The character
means ‘hide, accumulate, have, own, keep, cherish’

Buson zenshū #1577, An-ei 6, 4/14 (May 20th, 1777, from New Flower Picking). Yu no hana was changed from kiri no hana, ‘paulownia flowers’, in New Flower Picking. The place within is famous for superior sake brewing, and the mingled scents of citron flower and good sake float over the wall.

SUMMER 7: PERSIMMON FLOWERS . Midsummer. The new leaves of the persimmon tree are a kigo for early summer, the small pale yellow flowers for mid summer, and the green fruit for late summer. In autumn, the bright orange fruits are a much more flamboyant marker, remaining on the bare branches after the leaves have fallen.
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Summer 7a.     brief notes        translations
It has become “The Village of Falling Sour Persimmon Flowers”


shibu          kaki               no/    hana       chiru    sato  to/   nari        ni       keri
astringent    persimmon    ’s/    flowers    fall       village/     turned    into    has

shibu kaki: ‘a tree whose sap is used to treat wood and paper clothes to protect them from insects; also refers to unripened persimmons’

Buson zenshū #1553, An-ei 6, 4/11 (May 17th, 1777). From New Flower Picking. Hana chiru sato is the title of chapter 11 of The Tale of Genji. Genji is visiting the Reikeiden Consort and talking over the past when they hear a cuckoo. Genji composes the waka “Many fond yearnings for an orange tree’s sweet scent draw the cuckoo on/ to come to find the village where such fragrant flowers fall.” He in turn is alluding to the Kokinshū, #139: “The perfume of orange blossoms awaiting the fifth month recalls the sleeves of someone long ago” and the Man’yōshū, #1477: “The cuckoo in the village where the orange blossoms fall sings and sings on many and many a day” (Murasaki 2003, 224 and 224n). The chapter is full of melancholy nostalgia, tinged by the consort’s isolation, and here the modest, sober persimmon flowers evoke that mood of being forgotten by the world.

Summer 7b.     brief notes        translations
Insect eaten falling persimmon flowers


mushi     no    tame         ni/     sokonaware     otsu/        kaki               no    hana
worms    ’       account    on/    damaging          falling/    persimmon    ’s     flowers

Syllable count: 6/7/5.

mushi in recent times has come to refer more specifically to insects, but older generations still use it indiscriminately for small creeping things: bugs, larvae, worms, spiders, salamanders, etc. (see Laurent 1995, passim).

sokonau: ‘injure, harm, mar, spoil, damage’

Buson zenshū #2693, date unknown. This fall’s persimmon crop will be poor—a different kind of disappointment from falling cherry blossoms, which are sad for their own sake .

Summer 7c.     brief notes        translations
Under the tree persimmon flowers falling evening...


ki       no    shita ni/    kaki               no    hana        chiru//    yūbe         kana
tree    ’s     under/       persimmon    ’s     flowers     fall//       evening    ...

Buson zenshū #986, Meiwa Period, possibly Meiwa 6 (1769). The blossoms are pale in the twilight. Neither blossoms nor the small green fruit are prominent on the tree, so one doesn’t notice them until they fall, an invitation to think on the passing of the season.

Summer 7d.    brief notes        translations
Persimmon flowers the ones that fell yesterday look yellowed


kaki               no    hana//       kinō              chirishi    wa/        kibami           miyu
persimmon    ’s     flower//     before day    falling      as-for/    yellow-tint    appear

Buson zenshū #1581, An-ei 6, 4/10 (May 16th, 1777). New Flower Picking. Today’s flowers are white; the contrast between the white and wilted yellow flowers is a measure of the erosion of time (Buson zenshū note).

SUMMER 8: SPATTERDOCK. Spatterdock, cow lily, or candock (Nuphar japonicum) is a mid-summer season word. The Japanese characters mean ‘river bones’, because that is what the roots look like. “The kōhone ...lives in the shallow water of marshes and swamps. The leaves look like the stalks; in summer a plum-like, yellow, five-petalled flower blooms” (Blyth 1984, 1:269). It has bowl-shaped flowers that bloom upward, a perennial from the lotus family.
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Summer 8a.     brief notes        translations
Spatterdock, two clumps blooming in the rain


kō-      hone    no/   futa-    moto    saku            ya//    ame    no    naka
river    bone    ’s/    two      roots    blooming    ://       rain    ’s     amid

Buson zenshū #767, Meiwa 7 (1770). Alludes to haiku by Sodō, 1741-1716, a member of Basho’s circle:

    kōhone no                     The paired spatterdocks
    tsui ni hirakamu                 will open
    hanazakari,                             into full bloom

Since Japanese doesn’t require the use of singular or plural, there is an air of deliberation in the specifying of two clumps of flowers.

SUMMER 9: CHINQUAPIN FLOWER , pasania flower, Castanopsis cuspidata. The Japanese is shii no hana; shii is ‘oak’ (to which the chinquapin is closely related); the character is also read as tsuchi, ‘mallet’. A mid-summer kigo. The flowers bloom in the sixth month and emit a strong smell.

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Summer 9a.     brief notes        translations
Personal grievance
No one comes to praise the chinquapin’s blossoms, that fragrance...

 述懐 (夏述懐)

Heading: shutsu-    kuwai           speaking   heart-feeling

Haiku:  shii    no    hana/       hito        mo       susame-    nu/     nioi           kana
             oak    ’s     flowers/    person    even    praise        not/     perfume    ...

shutsu-kuwai: more commonly read jukkai. In Chinese and Japanese poetry, following in the steps of Ch’u Yuan’s ‘Li sao’, a plaint, an expression of the heart’s discontent, especially from being ignored or ill-used by those in authority (Buson zenshū note).

hana hito: evokes the compound hanabito, ‘blossom viewer’, i.e., a person making an outing to view the cherry blossoms, an ironic term to use in conjunction with these little-noticed flowers.

Buson zenshū #1392, An-ei 5, 4/15 (June 1st, 1776). Susamenu: ‘don’t praise/applaud/value/admire/ prize’. -Nu is a negative verb ending, the rentaikei version of -zu. The first two lines are therefore an adjective phrase modifying nioi; a more accurate translation would be ‘That fragrance, praised by no pasania blossom viewer...’ Alternative heading: Natsu shutsu-kuwai, ‘Summer Grievance’. An allusion to the Kokinshū (2004, 63):

       yamazakura                      oh mountain cherries
    waga mi ni kureba            when I come to visit you
       harugasumi                       the spring mist rises
    mine ni mo o ni mo           rolling across both peaks and
    tachikakushitsutsu            foothills   concealing your beauty

One wants an existence in which the world does not look back at one, just as nobody looks back at the strong smelling chinquapin flowers.

SUMMER 10: FLOWERING BINDWEED . Calystegia japonica, a lavender-pink flower sometimes called ‘wild morning glory’, is a season word for midsummer. Hirugao means ‘noon faces’, reflecting the close similarity between these flowers and asagao, ‘morning faces’ (morning glories) and yūgao, ‘evening faces’ (moon flowers).
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Summer 10a.    brief notes        translations
Flowering bindweed after the violet, just as dear


hiru-    gao      ya//    sumire    no    ato      no/    yukashisa    yo
noon    faces    ://       violet      ’s     after    ’s/     dearness      !

Buson zenshū #2142, probably Anei 9 (1780). From a tanzaku, small vertical poem card. An allusion to Bashō:

    yamaji kite                     along the mountain road
    naniyara yukashi                 somehow it tugs at my heart—
    sumire gusa                                a wild violet

Buson has another haiku that alludes to the same Basho poem (Ueda 1992, 127).

    kotsu hirou                     The one gathering bones
    hito ni shitashiki                     intimate
    sumire kana                                    with violets (translation mine)

In spring the modest, humble violet was blooming on the mountain path; now the bindweed is blooming, equally humble and beloved.

Summer 10b.    brief notes        translations
Noon faces: a garland for the head of the heatsick cow


hiru-    gao      ya//    wazurau    ushi    no/    makura    moto
noon    faces    ://       ill              cow    ’s/      pillow      base

wazurau: ‘be ill, afflicted, in pain, troubled; worry’

makura moto: ‘bedside, by one’s pillow, near where one sleeps’

Buson zenshū #1720, An-ei 6 (1777). The cow is stretched out with heatstroke beside the bindweed in full bloom. A witticism based on the alternative name for morning glory, ‘cowherd flower’. The bindweed is deep summer’s version of the cowherd flower.

Summer 10c.     brief notes        translations
Noon faces: thirty leagues of this road in the Chinese measure


hiru-    gao      ya//    kono    michi    Tō         no/    san-    jū       ri
noon    faces    ://       this      road     China    ’s/     three   tens    leagues

ri: ‘A Japanese league, 2.44 miles’

Buson zenshū #63. Probably written on same occasion as 10d, that is, Meiwa 3, 6/2 (July 8th, 1766). In the Japanese system, 6 cho make one ri; in the Chinese system, one ri is 36 cho. The bindweed flowers in hot weather, and the pain and difficulty of walking under the blazing sun makes the Chinese number more emotionally accurate.

Summer 10d.    brief notes        translations
Bindweed flowers: as the posts marking the miles to town become the town


hiru-     gao     ya//    machi    ni       nari-            yuku/    kui       no    kazu
noon     face    ://        town      into    becoming    goes/    stake    ’s     number

kui: ‘stake, post, picket, piling’

Buson zenshū #62, Meiwa 3, 6/2 (July 8th, 1766). Hirugao was the chosen poetic topic at a haiku meeting at Tessō’s Dairaidō on that date, the first meeting of the Sanka group (Ueda 1998, 44). Ueda: the stakes mark sites for new houses on a farm field that is “becoming part of the town”.

    flowering bindweed                    
    round the stakes on a lot                
    becoming part of the town  –Ueda ibid.    

My translation reflects the interpretation suggested by the notes in Buson zenshū. The posts, overgrown with vines, are mile markers telling the traveler how far away the town is. As the traveler advances, finally the markers foretelling the town turn into the town itself.

SUMMER 11: CRAPE MYRTLE . Hyakujitsukō or sarusuberi (Lagerstroemia indica), famed for its long period of blooming.
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Summer 11a.     brief notes        translations
So gradually the crape myrtle’s red flowers fall: Komachi Temple


hyaku-      jitsu-   kō//      yaya       chirigate    no/    ko-       machi-   dera
hundred    days     red//    a-little    falling         ’s/     small    town      temple

Syllable count: 6/7/5.

Buson zenshū #1694, Ani 6 (1777). Komachidera is a popular name for the temple Fudarakuji in the north of Kyoto. The slow, long continuous bloom of the flowers and the temple’s name evoke the way the beauty of Ono no Komachi, the medieval poetess, lingered in the mind.

SUMMER 12: SILK TREE FLOWERS . A late summer kigo, the Persian silk tree is called the ‘sleeping tree’ in waka because at night while the tree is blooming, the leaves fold together like hands, the hands of a person asleep. It can be read as a metaphor for the sexual union of men and women. Resembles a mimosa.

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Summer 12a.     brief notes        translations
They will by the graceful silk tree’s undershadows be netted up


kokoro-    nikuki/    nemu              no    shita-    kage    [yami]/   ami    ire-      n
heart         hating/     meet sight     ’s      under    shade    [dark]/    net    enter    will

Syllable count: 6/7/5.

kokoronikui: ‘detestable, refined, graceful, excellent, reticent’

kage: ‘light, shadow, silhouette, phantom, reflection, figure, trace’

Buson zenshū #1702, An-ei 6 (1777). 6/7/5. While on the surface, the season word seems to be nebu, ‘silk tree’, the implied season word is kawagari, ‘river fishing’, also indicating summer. The silk trees are growing thick on the riverside, creating dark shade. At night as the leaves come together to sleep it is said the silk tree casts a net. Perhaps the fish sleep with their children in the undershade as a family under a mosquito net, but the net also foretells their fate from the fishermen.

Written on same topic, and perhaps same occasion, as #1701:

    ami wo more                             Leaking through the nets,
    ami wo moretsutsu mizu                 leaking through the nets:
    mizu no tsuki                                        moon on the water (Buson zenshū note)

Summer 12b.     brief notes        translations
The serpent’s snoring also heard under the silk tree’s leaf shade...


uwabami    no/    ibiki         mo     nebu            no/    ha-     kage     kana
viper          ’s/      snoring    also    meet sight   ’s/      leaf    shade    ...

uwabami: ‘anaconda, boa constrictor, python’;           FUKU, mamushi: ‘viper, adder, asp’

Buson zenshū #1413, probably An-ei 5 (1776). Nebu no hakage functions as a pivot word, suggesting the kigo gokan/nemu /nebu [no hana], silk tree blossoms. Uwabami: archaic for ‘giant or monster snake’, also a metaphor for someone who is drinking heavily. In the evening, under the tender leaf shade of the silk tree, not only is there the lovers’ talk, but now the snakes’ snoring also comes into hearing. Perhaps it suggests passed out drunkards. A joking reversal of the waka tradition.

Summer 12c.    brief notes        translations
In grief for Torao, so early vanished from the world
Day of rain: in the early falling evening silk flowers bloom


Heading: Tora-    o         shi        ga        yo          wo        haya    useshi          wo        itamu
               Tiger    Hero    child    [sub.]    world    [acc.]    early    vanishing    [acc.]    grieve

Haiku: ame    no    hi       ya//    madaki ni    kure-            te/       nemu    no    hana
            rain     ’s     day    ://       early            darkening    and/     sleep    ’s      flowers

Buson zenshū #1408, An-ei 5 (1776). A mourning haiku for haiku poet Torao of the Ashikage company, who died on the 21st day of the 5th month. Because of the rain, the flowers are blooming late in the day, but the leaves are already folding up for the night, a beautiful sentiment for Torao, blooming in accomplishment only as he nears death.

AUTUMN 1: OTOKOESHI. Patrinia, or Patrinia villosa, Patrinia scabiosaefolia. The tall thin stalks bear umbels of small white flowers. By its appearance and name, which in Japanese means ‘man flower’, it is paired with the more often referenced ominaeshi, ‘maiden flower’ (the Japanese means something more like ‘courtesan flower’).
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Autumn 1a.     brief notes    translations
All the more unsteady in the dew-laden air: man flower


hyoro-      hyoro      to/           nao                 tsuyu-    keshi ya//      otokoeshi
stagger-    stagger    -ingly/    all-the-more    dew       what-with://    man flower

hyorohyoro: ‘staggering, swaying, frail, slim and lanky’

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” (Lanoue 1991-2010, “Humidity”).

Buson zenshū #2762, unknown date. Inscribed on a portrait of Kitō, who was tall and thin. Changes the terms of a haiku by Basho:

    hyorohyoro na                           trembling, teetering,
    nao tsuyu keshi ya                      now even more dew-like–
    ominaeshi                                   lady-flowers (Bashō 2004, #235)

Bashō was referring to a tradition in waka, in which ominaeshi are the epitome of feminine fragility, their tendency to bend in the dew making them like women of easy virtue:

       aki kureba                           Now that autumn comes
    nobe ni tawaruru                 They tangle on the grassy fields,
       ominaeshi                            These lady flowers:
    izure no hito ka                    Where is the man who can see them
    tsumade mirubeki                And not pinch a bloom or two? (Cranston 2006, 180)

The joke in applying this tradition to Kitō is clear.

AUTUMN 2: MORNING GLORIES. In the lunar calendar, autumn was in the seventh, eighth, and ninth months, corresponding roughly to August, September and October. Morning glories are an early autumn kigo. They were introduced from China during the T’ang dynasty and have been a favorite for cultivation ever since. They are sometimes included in the seven grasses of autumn, along with bush clover, pampas grass, arrow root, pink, maiden flower, boneset, and bell flower.
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Autumn 2a.     brief notes    translations
The valley stream pools into indigo
Morning glory: deep in each corolla, color of the abyss


Heading:  kan-    sui    tataete    ai     no    gotoshi          valley    water    pooling    like     indigo

Haiku:  asa-           gao      ya//    ichi-    rin          fukaki/    fuchi    no    iro
             morning    glory    ://       one      flower    deep/       pool     ’s     color

tataeru: ‘fill’

gotoshi: ‘seem to be like’

rin: counter for flowers, circles, wheels, rings

Buson zenshū #134, Meiwa 5, probably 7/4 (August 15th, 1768). On that day, morning glory was the chosen topic at Dairaisō, according to Natsu yori. In one version, the middle line has fukashi for fukaki. Another has kuki (stem) instead of ai (indigo) in the heading, probably an error. The tiny flower contains an abyss, showing a witty grasp of Zen paradox.

The heading quotes the Chinese Zen koan collection Blue Cliff Records:

“A monk said to Tairyū, ‘The Body of Form suffers annihilation; how about this Eternal Body of the Law?’ Tairyū replied, ‘The mountain flowers opening are like brocade; the valley water accumulating is like indigo.’”

Blyth offers this translation, going on to say:

“The monk speaks of the relative and asks concerning the absolute, but Tairyū’s reply is not in either realm...What is this world out of time that nevertheless is in time; that is spaceless, and yet in this very room? Buson answers, ‘Look at this fleeting flower: it is the color of eternity.’ But it is not an eternal color” (1992, 4:1089).

Tairyū’s reply is quoted in the noh drama “Cherry Blossom River,” one of several allusions Buson makes to this play.
Other translation:
            A single flower
        Of the morning glory:
            The color of a deep tarn. (ibid.)

Autumn 2b.     brief notes    translations
Morning glory: the indigo border of the hand towel now so disappointing


asa            gao    ya//    te-       nogui    no    hashi      no/    ai           o           kakotsu
morning    face   ://       hand    wipe     ’s      border    ’s/     indigo     (acc.)    spill

Syllable count 5/8/6.

tenogui, ‘towel, hand towel,’ can also be pronounced tefuku.

kakotsu: a play on words, it means ‘spill, slip, drop, pour out’, and also ‘complain of, grumble at.’

Buson zenshū #1854, An-ei 6, 7th-8th month (August-September, 1777). Another version has as the middle line tenogui no sama no, ‘the towel’s indigo appearance, state, manner’. Kakotsu: ‘something said under the pretext of grumbling, of foolishness’. When washing one’s face in the morning, one has occasion to compare the color of the dew-wet morning glory with the towel border’s indigo dye...(Buson zenshū note)...another possible interpretation is:

    Morning glory:
        the hand towel border’s indigo
            spilled over

Other translations:

    Morning glories—
    the indigo color of the towel’s edge
    no longer satisfies me. (Sawa and Shiffert 1978, 123)

    The morning glory
    is not at ease
    with the towel’s indigo border (Merwin and Lento 2013, 134)

Autumn 2c.     brief notes    translations
“Hey, Koremitsu!” A snore amid the morning glories...


asa-          gao      ni/     yayo    Kore-    mitsu         ga//         ibiki         kana
morning    faces    in/    “Hey    Rope    Radiant”    (sub.)//    snoring    ...

Buson zenshū #2564, 1778-1783. In Genji monogatari, Koremitsu is Genji’s “milk brother,” as his mother was Genji’s wet nurse. He is a trusted servant and accomplice. He is associated especially with the Yugao story: as his lord is passing the night with Yugao, Koremitsu returns to the oxcart. Genji comes to Yugao in the evening when the summer evening faces are blooming; now it is morning and the autumn morning glories are open. From amid the morning glories, Koremitsu entertains the two with a loud snore. It would be more elegant and discrete to have him ready to draw up the cart; instead, they must call to wake him first, so this a humorous take on the chapter. Yayo Koremitsu is how Genji would call him with a forced, bitter smile.

Koremitsu also acts as the go between with the kidnapping of Murasaki, and accompanies Genji to his exile in Suma.

Autumn 2d.     brief notes    translations
Morning glories: also going to fruit, morning by morning, one by one


asa-          gao     ya//    mi      mo      asa-asa ni/                    hitotsu-zutsu
morning    face    ://      fruit    also    morning by morning/    one-by-one

Buson zenshū #1420, An-ei 5, 7/20 (Sept. 2nd, 1776). Asagao was the subject selected at Buson’s Midnight Pavilion on that date. The flowers bloom reliably each morning. And, the haiku observes, they wither just as reliably in the morning sun.

AUTUMN 3: ROSE OF SHARON, althea, a deciduous shrub of the hollyhock family, Hibiscus syriacus, early autumn . Hibiscus mutabilis, the cotton rose, is grouped with it. Each flower blooms in the morning and wilts in the evening.
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Autumn 3a.     brief notes    translations
In slight acquaintance with the morning glory: rose of Sharon...


asa-           gao     ni/        usuki    yukari      no//    mukuge           kana
morning     face    with/    weak    relation    ’s//      tree-hibiscus    ...

yukari: ‘acquaintance, relation, affinity’

Buson zenshū #2763, no date. It is said “The rose of Sharon has one day of glory.” Because of the shape and form of the flowers, and because of their transience, it has some slight affinity with the morning glory. Their blooming would also slightly overlap. Similar in concept to Buson zenshū #2122:

    kashiwagi no              Looking upon   
    hiro-ha mi suru o                the oak tree’s broad leaves:
               osozakura                         late blooming cherry    

Autumn 3b.    brief notes    translations
The paulownia tree’s leaves fall away and become rose mallow blooming


kiri               no    ha     wa/          ochi-     tsukusu    naru            o/           moku    fu-       yō
paulownia    ’s     leaf    as-for/    falling    used-up    becoming    (acc.)/    tree      lotus    lotus

Syllable count: 5/8/5. See 3e, this section.

tsukusu: ‘exhaust, use up, run out of, come to the end of, exert oneself, endeavor, discharge [one’s duty]’

Buson zenshū #1860, An-ei 6, 7th-8th month (Aug.–Sept. 1777). Kiri: Paulownia tomentosa. Kiri hitoha, ‘one paulownia leaf’, is an early autumn season word, referring to the sound of one of the large leaves falling (UVA: brief entries: autumn: plants). Buson zenshū: The paulownia loses its leaves completely halfway through autumn, but then, a leaf of the same form remains on the beautifully blooming rose of Sharon. A quiet evocation of the profound theme of prosperity and decline, the vicissitudes of fortune.

The haiku is similar in concept to Buson’s more famous

    hana chirite                                 Blossoms fallen,
    ko no ma no tera to                             the spaces between branches
    nari ni keri (Buson zenshū #455)                have become a temple

Autumn 3c.     brief notes    translations
At the Office of Repairs in rain the twilight falls: rose-of-Sharon...


shuri-          ryō         no/    ame    ni    kure          yuku//    mukuge               kana
governing    justice    ’s/     rain     in    nightfall    goes//    rose-of-Sharon    ...

Buson zenshū #1419, An-ei 5 7/20 (September 2nd, 1776). This was the chosen topic on that day at Buson’s Yahantei, the Midnight Pavilion. Shuriryō: the repair office, an appointed government office responsible for the upkeep of the imperial court and so on. Since it formerly fell under the jurisdiction of the Mokkōryo, the Timber Construction Department, responsible for repairing all palace buildings, perhaps it is being confused for that office?

In the rainy dusk, all the officials have withdrawn, so the rose of Sharon flower in the hedge around the office fades away alone. Its lonely elegance is appropriate to the situation.

Autumn 3d.     brief notes    translations
Court lady
Cotton rose resentfully it withers with the waning sun


Heading: kan-   jo          government woman

Haiku: hi      wo         obite/              fu-       yō        katabuku//    urami    kana
           sun    (acc.)     tinged-with/    lotus    lotus    waning//        regret    ...

kanjo: ‘court lady’; kannyo: ‘woman workers in the palace of the shogun or emperor’

obiru: ‘wear (at the belt), carry, be armed/entrusted with, assume, take on (the character of), be tinged with, gird up (one’s loins)’

katabuku: ‘incline toward, tilt, slant, slop, lurch, heel over, be disposed to, trend toward, be prone to, go down (sun), wane, sink, decline’

urami: ‘regret, grudge, hateful, malice’

Buson zenshū #2761, no date. Since the cotton rose withers in a day, it receives the evening sun with regret. It resembles a court lady of waning beauty under the lord’s favor, but not for much longer.

Autumn 3e.     brief notes    translations
This evening no one there to see how the althea uses up its last few flowers...


hito        shira-    ji/                  mukuge            ochi-      tsukusu//         yuube       kana
person    views    would-not/    tree hibiscus    falling     exhausting//    evening    ...

Syllable count: 5/8/5. See 3b, autumn section: ochitsukusu seems to lend itself to an extended line.

-ji: =nai darou, ‘would not’

tsu(kusu): ‘use up, exhaust, run out of, serve, befriend, work for, endeavor, do (one’s duty)’

yuube: ‘an evening’; 昨夜: ‘ last/yesterday night/evening’

Buson zenshū #1841, An-ei 6, 7th-8th month (August-September 1777). The rose of Sharon bush loses its flowers one by one until all are used up. It is said “the rose of Sharon has one day of glory”, and quickly the flowers that bloomed yesterday utterly fall away; no one is there to see this loneliness of late autumn.

AUTUMN 4: COCKSCOMB . Celosia cristata, also amaranthus, velvet flower. A general autumn kigo.
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Autumn 4a.     brief notes    translations
Cockscomb flower red with shame permanently


kei-           tō        no/    hana      no    haji       suru/       itsumademo
chicken    head    ’s/      flower    ’s     shame   doing/     indefinitely

haji: ‘shame, dishonor, disgrace, humiliation, insult, infamy, ignominy’

itsumademo: ‘as long as one likes, for any length of time, indefinitely, forever, for good, permanently, eternally, to the end of the chapter’

Buson zenshū #2847, uncertain provenance. Cockscomb doesn’t lose its color, wither or fall, but stays bright red. The head note is here omitted, but it refers to dan 152 of Tsurezuregusa, in which someone praises the priest Jōnen for his venerable appearance. An observer points out that the priest is merely old, then brings the speaker an old grizzled dog as a gift, saying, isn’t he dignified? Perhaps the connection to is the speaker’s embarrassment.

Autumn 4b.     brief notes    translations   
A broom leaning harmoniously against a stalk of cockscomb...


kei-          tō         no/    ne      ni     mutsumajiki//       hōki       kana
chicken    head    ’s/     root    at     harmoniously/ /   broom    ...

Buson zenshū #993, Meiwa period, probably year 5 or 6 (1768 or 1769). In a corner of a garden, a broom is kept propped against the base of the sturdy cockscomb stalks. The relationship is harmonious because a variety of cockscomb is called hōkeitō, ‘broom cockscomb’ (others are fan, spear, tassel, bantam rooster, rope). The broom might be quite short, of a height with the flowers.

Autumn 4c.     brief notes    translations
After the brocade tree’s been brought down by the autumn wind cockscomb flower


nishiki-     gi       wa/         fuki-      tao-       sare-     te/      kei-           tō        ka
brocade    tree    as-for/    blown    down     being    and/    chicken    head    flower

fukitaosu: ‘blow down’

Buson zenshū #2565, around An-ei 7? (1778). Nishikigi, the red leaves of the spindle tree, Euonymus alatus , is also a late autumn kigo. Both share the brilliant colors of autumn vegetation, but once the autumn tempest (nowaki) blows down the tall spindle tree (or perhaps only its leaves), only the modest annual cockscomb remains to boast of its bewitching color.

Autumn 4d.     brief notes    translations
What the autumn wind left behind: cockscomb flowers


aki-          kaze      no/    fuki-         nokoshite             ya//    kei-             tō        ka
autumn    wind      ’s/     blowing    leaving-behind     ://        chicken     head    flower

nokosu: ‘leave behind, keep back, leave undone, reserve, save, amass, bequeath’

Buson zenshū #2566, An-ei 7–Temmei 3 (1778-1783). Akikaze, ‘autumn wind’, is also a general autumn kigo. The autumn wind has left so little behind; amid the fallen yellow leaves of the other vegetation, he hunts the brilliantly colored figure of the cockscomb flower. See Basho:

    samidare no                            did the seasonal rains
    tonari nokoshite ya                come and go, leaving out
    Hikari-dō                                this Shining Hall? (Ueda 1992, 244)

Autumn 4e.     brief notes    translations
Imagine! how I’ll scatter the cockscomb’s seeds...


kei-          tō         no/    tane    kobore        yo to//    omou                 kana
chicken    head    ’s/     seed    scattering    !//          thinking-about   ...

omou: ‘think, consider, plan, believe, think (of doing), imagine, suppose, expect, look forward to, feel, desire, want, recall, remember’

Buson zenshū #1843, An-ei 6, 7th-8th month (August-September, 1777). The cockscomb blooms deep red. The speaker is looking carefully at the small flowers on the plants he is preparing to gather. This expresses the wish and hope that scattering these seeds will lead to beautiful flowers next year also.

Perhaps the chicken in the name evokes scattering seeds. Another possible translation is ‘Remembering how I scattered the cockscomb’s seeds’, probably while looking at the resulting flowers.

AUTUMN 5: REEDS. Can refer to the common reed, Miscanthus sacchariflorus. This category is a little confusing as it involves several plants and several names for the same plant. According to Shunzei, for example, the plant called hama-ogi (beach reed) at Kamikaze in Ise is ashi (rush) at Naniwa ferry crossing, and yoshi (a reed) in the eastern provinces (Kerkham, 2006, 156n).
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Autumn 5a.     brief notes    translations
Wind through the reeds noisy as a careless man...


ogi      no   kaze/    ito       sōzōshiki//    otoko    kana
reed    ’s     wind/    very    noisy//          man      ...

5/8/5 syllable count

sōzōshii: ‘noisy, boisterous, clamorous, uproarious, vociferous, blusterous, turbulent’

Buson zenshū #1774, An-ei 6, 7/20 (August 22nd, 1777). Season word: ogi no kaze, ‘wind in the reeds’, early autumn. In waka, the advent of wind in the reeds announces the coming of autumn, also ogi no koe, ogi no uekaze, ‘voice of the reeds, wind over the reeds’. Sōzōshi is also ‘unsatisfying/missing something, desolate’. The term appears in this passage from Essays in Idleness: “A man may excel at everything else, but if he has no taste for lovemaking, one feels something terribly inadequate about him, as if he were a valuable wine cup without a bottom. What a charming figure is the lover, his clothes drenched with dew or frost, wandering aimlessly, so fearful of his parents’ reproach or people’s gossip that he has not a moment’s peace of mind, frantically resorting to one unsuccessful stratagem after another; and for all that, most often sleeping alone, though never soundly” (Kenkō 1998, 5). Although the sound of the wind in the reeds, the announcement of autumn, is the perfect culmination of loneliness, here that destitute event is like what Kenkō calls the “terribly inadequate” man. The reed-blowing wind is an unsusceptible person, reversing the waka tradition.

Autumn 5b.     brief notes    translations
Gathering beach reeds: waves for a desk edge


hama-   ogi       ni/      yosete         wa         nami     no/    fude-    gaeshi
beach    reeds    up/    gathering     as-for    waves    ’/     brush    return

Buson zenshū #2256, Temmei 2 (1782). One version has the head note ‘With the inscription Futami-kata bundai, Futami-no-ura writing desk; this vessel is in the old founder’s taste, especially in keeping with the thousand thousand surrounding fudegaeshi-waves’ (very uncertain translation).

The ‘old founder’ is Saigyō, an early source of the haiku spirit if not the form. There is a tradition of seeing features of the landscape as Saigyō’s possessions, used again by Buson in
    Takao:                                                Takao:

    Saigyō no                                            Saigyō’s quilt
     ya gu mo dete aru                                     already laid out:
    momiji kana (Buson zenshū #2408)                    red maple leaves

Bundai is a special writing desk, often very ornate, used for poetry gatherings. Saigyō spent some time in retreat in Futami-kata (now Futami-no-ura or Futami-ga-ura, on the coast near Ise in Mie prefecture), and refers to it several times in his work, for example this waka from the Manyōshū 4:503 or Shinkokinshū 10:911

    kamikaze ya                      Breaking off the reeds
    Ise no hama-og               That grow along the beach at Ise        
    orishikite                           Of the divine wind                
    tabine ya suran                 Does he spread them for his traveler’s bed    
    araki hamabe ni                There on the rough sea strand? (Brower 1985, 407)           

According to legend, while there he made a writing desk by spreading a folding fan on a rock. Fudegaeshi is the upward beveled edge of a desk or shelf in the Chinese style that keeps things from rolling off. If the rock is the writing desk, the waves are its up-curving edge, rolling back the brush just as Ise’s waves return the gathered beach reeds.

Buson is probably adding to Bashō’s reference to the same legend:

    Futami                        Futami

    suzuri to                    Saigyo’s inkstone?
    hirou ya kuboki         I pick it up—dew
    ishi no tsuyu              on the concave rock (Basho 2004, 453)

Buson uses the desk metaphor again in a haiku from the same year:

    haru kaze ya                                Spring wind:
    nani wo Futami no                                the waves are Futami’s
    fudegaeshi (Buson zenshū #2255)                desk edge

Autumn 5c.     brief notes    translations
Rites for the dead
Around the emerging crests of reeds, miscanthus, halos of light


Heading: tsui-   sen                   drive-away      encourage

Haiku: ogi     susuki/       ho          ni    arawaruru//    go-       kō      kana
            reed    pampas/    beards    at    appearing//      after    light    ...

tsuisen: ‘Buddhist memorial service’

ho: ‘ear, head (of grain), crest (of wave)’

arawareru: ‘appear, emerge, come in sight’

gokō: ‘halo, corona, glory, aurora’

Buson zenshū #1074, An-ei 2 (1773). Written for Sawamura Chōshirō’s memorial anthology in the ninth month of that year. Sawamura Chōshirō was an actor, father of Hatsushiro Kunitarō. Susuki,miscanthus’, is also an autumn kigo. At the height of autumn, the heads of reeds and miscanthus emerge, trembling in the light, just as the meritorious deeds of Chōshirō, becoming a Buddha, emit a halo to the world.

Autumn 5d.     brief notes    translations
Reed flowers; from the old fisherman’s hut smoke flies up


ashi    no    hana/       gyo-     ō                ga    yado     no/    keburi     tobu
reed    ’s     flower/     fisher    old-man    ’s     house    ’s/      smoke     flies

Buson zenshū #1861, An-ei 6, 7th–8th month (Aug.–Sept. 1777). The season word is ashi no hana, ‘reed flowers, flowering rushes’. In Buson zenshū this is grouped with susuki grass rather than ogi. In autumn, the head of the reed stalk opens in an ear of white flowers, shaped like a head of grain. An autumn evening, and the old fisherman’s reed hut disperses white smoke just as the reeds at the water’s edge disperse cottony white flowers. A landscape in the style of a Nanga painting. From the Tōshisen, see Chang Yuan (?uncertain), “Nightfall Landscape from the Southern Slope”: ‘the shallows disgorge white rush flowers’. The character for ‘disgorge’, 吐, also means ‘emit, breathe out,’ thus suggesting the smoke.

AUTUMN 6: RED SPIDER LILY, hurricane lily, Lycoris radiata. The characters for manjusage or manjushage mean ‘beautiful gem sand flower.’ The word can also refer to clustered belladonna or amaryllis. It is a mid-autumn season word.

According to the World Kigo Database, the flower is planted as a border to rice fields, as a deterrent to mice and as an emergency crop if the rice fails (the stems are edible). Since it blooms around the autumn equinox, and since it is associated with the Lotus Sutra, it is planted in graveyards to correspond with equinoctial visits to the family grave. It has more than a hundred names, including:

    manjushage: “from a line in the Buddhist Lotus sutra, referring to a red flower in Sanskrit pronunciation”
    higan-bana: ‘autumn equinox flower’
    doku-ban: ‘poisonous flower’
    kitsunebana: ‘fox flower’
    shibito-bana: ‘flower of the dead’
    sanmaibana: ‘samadhi flower’
    sutegobana: ‘abandoned child flower’
    yuurei-bana: ‘ghost flower, phantom flower’
    tengai-bana: ‘flower in the form of a ceiling decoration of a Buddhist inner sanctuary’
    yome no kanzashi: ‘bridal hairpin flower’ (slightly emended from Greve 2006)

brief notes      season page         translations     home

Autumn 6a.     brief notes    translations
From among the orchid-like spider lilies a fox barks


manjusage/         ran         ni        taguite/                kitsune    naku
red-spider-lily/    orchid    with    accompanying/    fox          cries

Buson zenshū #1865, An-ei 6, 7th–8th month (Aug.–Sept. 1777.). The poem is a little ghost story, with the magical fox barking under the graveyard flowers. Orchids and foxes have a traditional association in haiku, according to the haikai handbook Accompanying Boat (Ruisenshū). One source for the juxtaposition comes from Po Chü-i’s couplet

    The owl hoots in the branches of pine and cassia,
    The fox hides in clumps of orchids and chrysanthemums (Buson zenshū note, Hare 1996, 204)

AUTUMN 7: ORCHID. A mid-autumn kigo.
brief notes      season page         translations     home

Autumn 7a.     brief notes    translations
Orchid evening: I’ll burn aloeswood as an offering to the foxes


ran         yūbe/         kitsune    no    kureshi/    kyara                            o           taka-    mu
orchid    evening/    fox           ’s     giving/      strange camphor-tree    (acc.)    burn     will

Syllable count: 5/7/6

kyara: ‘Aloes-wood, aloes-wood perfume’ (Buson zenshū). The best quality aloes-wood, an ingredient in fine incense

Buson zenshū #1270, probably An-ei 4, 7/22 (August 17th, 1775). Ran, kitsune: foxes and orchids are associated due to lines by Po Chu-i, see previous note to 6a. Since orchids are present, poetic tradition dictates that foxes must be present as well (life dictated by art, rather than the other way round). Buson used similar logic in the haiku

    susuki mitsu                                 Now the silvergrass shows itself:     
    hagi ya nakaramu                                 shouldn’t there be bush clover
    kono hotori (Buson zenshū #1075)             somewhere nearby...

Foxes are messengers of the god Inari, and therefore incense offerings are appropriate. I have read also that people might burn incense when it seems a fox spirit is haunting their house, to placate its mischievous nature.

Other translations:

    “Orchid in the evening
    I will burn the fragrant twig
    a fox gave me

 ...a hermit will burn an aromatic twig, a gift from a has a pure and noble aroma...because the aromatic tree itself gives such an impression, but also because it is a gift from a fox” (Merwin and Lento, quoting Shimizu, 2013, 135). Shimizu is editor and annotator of Yosa Buson shu, The Collected Writings of Yosa Buson. Shincho Nihon Koten Shusei, v. 32 (Tokyo: Shinchosha, 1979)

Autumn 7b.     brief notes    translations
This orchid was blooming in Gosuke’s garden just yesterday


kono    ran         ya//    Go-     suke     ga    niwa        ni/    kinō          made
this      orchid    ://       Five    Help    ’s      garden    in/    past day    until

Buson zenshū #1269, An-ei 4, 7/22 (Aug. 17th, 1775). Alternative middle line has the name Mosaku or Shigesaku, with first character meaning ‘growing luxuriantly, thickly’. This haiku and the next were made on the same drawn topic at Buson’s Midnight Pavilion. Gosuke is a typical petty farmer’s name.

Autumn 7c.     brief notes    translations   
Night orchid in perfume hiding its flower’s white


yoru     no    ran/         ka        ni    kakure-    te       ya/    hana      shiroshi
night    ’s     orchid/    scent    in    hiding      and    :/       flower    white

Buson zenshū #1784, An-ei 6, 7/20 (August 22nd, 1777).

The orchid’s scent wafts here and there, misleading to one looking for the small white flowers in the dark.

Autumn 7d.     brief notes    translations
Scent of an orchid: from the shadows of the thicket of chrysanthemums


ran        no    ka        ya//    kiku                        yori           kuraki/    hotori       yori
orchid    ’s     scent    ://      chrysanthemums    gathered    dark/       vicinity    from

Buson zenshū #1271, probably An-ei 4, 7/22 (Aug. 17th, 1775). Chrysanthemums are the recluse of flowers (see notes to Autumn 11a). Both chrysanthemums and orchids were beloved by eremitic scholar-poets (bunjin), who were praised as ‘orchids and chrysanthemums growing together’. The orchid’s scent is all the more deeply elegant ascending from the chrysanthemums, from the dark secret yin of the soil, just as the elegance of the bunjin’s life is deepened by his solitude.

Buson zenshū notes cite two passages from the orchid section of the Chinese poetics encyclopedia Enki kappō: ‘The orchid inhabits the yin of earth’ and ‘a dense growth of orchids and chrysanthemums’—the later perhaps from the aforementioned Po Chü-i quote in the notes to Autumn 6a:

    The owl hoots in the branches of pine and cassia,
    The fox hides in clumps of orchids and chrysanthemums (Buson zenshū note, Hare 1996, 204)

AUTUMN 8: CHINESE BELLFLOWER . Platicodon grandiflorus, a general season word for autumn.

brief notes      season page         translations     home

Autumn 8a.     brief notes    translations
Bellflowers seen in the flower shop, the household shrine


kichikō          mo/     miyuru            hana-     ya       ga/      ji-       butsu-       dō
bell-flower     also/   seen-can-be     flower    shop   and/    have    Buddha    hall

kichikō=an old word for kikyō, ‘bellflower’ (see Buson zenshū #1817).

jibutsdō: “Small, private buildings or rooms used by noblemen to enshrine their own Buddhist images, butsuzō, and for their own personal spiritual edification. According to the Nihonshoki, an imperial edict of 686 stated that every domicile throughout Japan must create a hall or space wherein Buddhist statues and sutras were to be kept, honored and worshiped. Appropriate memorial services were to be held to honor them” (Parent 2001, “jibutsudou”).

Buson zenshū #1818, An-ei 6, 7th-8th month (Aug.-Sept. 1777). One version has as first line kichikō ya. The bellflowers are part of the show of diversely colored autumn flowers in the store front, but are also a fitting offering for the quiet, private display in the interior of the Buddhist household altar.

Autumn 8b.     brief notes    translations
Along the ascetic’s narrow path: beloved bell flowers...


su-               gyō-    za            no/    komichi    ni    mezuru/     kikyō             kana
asceticism    go       person    ’s/      path          on    beloved/    bell-flower    ...

komichi: The character is usually read michi, ‘path, method.’ The reading komichi suggests 小道, ‘narrow path, lane, alley’.

mezuru: ‘love, hold dear, admire, appreciate’

Buson zenshū #1817, An-ei 6, 7th– 8th month (August–September, 1777). Sugyōza: also pronounced shugyōsha, ‘person engaged in training, ascetic discipline, Buddhist austerities, or the pursuit of knowledge’. The monk follows the ascetic practice of a walking tour through each province. He happens to see Chinese bellflowers beside his path and stops for a short while, lost in admiration. The narrow road of the traveling ascetic monks comes from the 9th dan of The Tales of Ise: “The road they thought to enter was quite dark and narrow, grown over with ivy and maples...their minds were wandering aimlessly in such an uneasy surrounding when they met a traveling ascetic priest” (1972, 45-47).

    See also Buson zenshū #807:

    sugyōza no                         The pilgrim monk
    shigure wo hazusu                     in the winter rain loses
    komichi kana                                    his path...

AUTUMN 9: GENTIAN , Gentiana scabra. The characters, not used here, mean ‘dragon’s gall bladder’.

brief notes      season page         translations     home

Autumn 9a.     brief notes    translations
Gentians: the spaces between the dead leaves have become purple blooming


rindō       ya//    ko-      yō-         gachi         naru/        hana         saki-          nu
gentian    ://       dead    leaves    between    become/    flowers    bloomed    having

Buson zenshū #1762, 1777. Among the withered leaves the spaces between the weeds under the trees become the vivid clear purple of flowers that have bloomed.

For haiku by Buson that similarly use the concept of spaces becoming flowers, see Autumn 3b.

AUTUMN 10: IVY , Parthenocissus tricuspidata, a general autumn kigo.

brief notes      season page         translations     home

Autumn 10a.     brief notes    translations
Dust devil eddies through: every ivy leaf shows its pale back...


ten-         gu      kaze/     nokorazu    tsuta    no/    ha-    ura              kana
heaven    dog    wind/     entirely       ivy       ’s/     leaf    underside    ...

Buson zenshū #1791, An-ei 6, 7/20 (Aug. 22nd, 1777). Tengu kaze: ‘suddenly blowing whirlwind, eddy wind, tornado’ (a tengu is a supernatural bird man, demonic or at least mischievous, so the Japanese term is very similar to the English). See Kakei, The New Monkey’s Raincoat:

    tsuta no ha ya                    Leaves of ivy
    nokorazu ugoku                 Everyone astir
    aki no kaze                         The autumn wind (Bowers 1996)

Reminiscent also of the husband’s promise in Ueda Akinari’s “Reed-Choked House”, from his collection of ghost stories, Tales of Moonlight and Rain, published the previous year: “I shall return this autumn, when the arrowroot leaf turns over in the wind. Be confident and wait for me” (2007, 94). He does not return, and the wife dies waiting. Buson and Ueda Akinari were friends, united in their love of good ghost stories.

AUTUMN 11: TATTERED LOTUS. Lotus flowers are a late summer season word; the torn, battered leaves mark late autumn.
brief notes      season page         translations     home

Autumn 11a.     brief notes    translations
In this case indeed being a gentleman does not save him—tattered lotus


sareba    koso/        ken-    ja        wa        toma-             zu/     yare          hachisu
if-so        indeed/    wise    man    as-for    be-wealthy    not/    defeated    shoulder-burden

sareba: ‘then, if so, in that case, if that is the case’

koso: ‘the very, just, indeed’

Buson zenshū #1785, An-ei 6, 7/20 (August 22nd, 1777). There is a pun here between the way the characters for yare hachisu are sounded out, which suggests this late autumn season word, and the meaning of the characters, which suggests a palanquin which has been set down by its bearers. ‘The Gentleman of Flowers’ is the lotus, because it remains pristine and untouched by the mud it grows in, but this gentleman, far from wealth and honor, has settled into the mire. One source cited in the Buson zenshū notes is the famous “An Explication on Love of the Lotus” by Chou Tun-i, a Confucian scholar of 11th century China.

“Thoughts on the Love of the Lotus Flower:

There are many lovable flowers of grasses and trees both upon the water and on the land. In the Jin Dynasty, Tao Yuanming loved only the chrysanthemum. Since the Tang Dynasty, people of the world have loved the peony very much. I especially love the lotus, which grows out of the dirty mud yet is clean, cleansed by the pure waters but not seductive; its center is void, thus the lotus has vacuity; it grows straight and has no creeping vines and branches; its fragrance is milder in the distance, its stem is erect, slim and clean; it is to be enjoyed from a distance but not too intimately.

I say the chrysanthemum is like a recluse while the peony is like a person of high position and wealth; whereas the lotus is like a gentleman. Alas! The love of the chrysanthemum is seldom heard of except for Tao Yuan-ming; where are the people who, like me, love the lotus? As for those who love the peony, of course there are many!” (2000)

Also relevant is this earlier example, from Si-ma Qian’s biography of Ch’u Y üan from The Songs of the South. Qu Yuan, referred to several times by Buson, drowned himself after his emperor exiled him, even though he served the emperor honestly.

“Because his mind was pure, his subjects breathe a natural sweetness. Because his actions were noble, he preferred death to compliance. He withdrew himself from the muck and the mire. He sloughed off the impurities of life to soar away out of reach of the dust and turmoil. Refusing to accept the foulness of this world, he emerged shining and unspotted from its mud” (Hawkes 1985, 56).

Other translations:

        That’s the way it is
        A wise man never rich becomes—
        Broken lotus leaves. (Saito and Nelson 2006, 167)

WINTER 1: ROCK BUTTERBUR FLOWERS . Farfugium japonicum, an edible  plant that grows near water, a kigo for early winter.
brief notes     translations         season page        home

Winter 1a.     brief notes    translations
It blooms although all unlooked for, the rock butterbur flower


saku-     beku    mo/       omowa de           aru      wo/         tsuwa                  no    hana
bloom    must    even/    thought not of    being   (acc.)    / rock-butterbur    ’s     flower
sakubeki mo/omowazu aru ni/—alternate version

beshi: following shushikei, means ‘confident conjecture, strong intention or resolve, potential, command, appropriateness or obligation or duty or natural expectation’

Buson zenshū #1977, An-ei 6 (1777). In a corner of the bleak, desolate garden is a plant of deep green color, somewhat resembling fuki (butterbur) but with round leaves. In winter, from that expanse of deep green, long stems spring up and flowers open, resembling chrysanthemums in their vivid yellow. The import of that green is that the future will be redeemed with such unlooked-for growth, taking root with stout life-energy and putting forth bright flowers.

WINTER 2: TEA FLOWERS . The tea plant (Thea sinensis) is a tropical/subtropical plant that flowers in early winter. It has a simple flower, a little more than an inch in diameter, with seven or eight yellow-white petals.
brief notes     translations         season page        home

Winter 2a.     brief notes    translations
I choose a path that circles round a stone: tea flowers


cha    no    hana        ya//    ishi       wo         meguri-    te/       michi    wo        toru
tea     ’s     flowers    ://        stone    (acc.)    turning      and/    path     (acc.)    taking

michi: ‘path; route; road; distance’

Buson zenshū #2019, An-ei 7, 10th month (Nov.–Dec. 1778). Different versions have alternate characters for michi. A stroll in a winter-withered garden. Taking a path around the large garden stones, and at the turn around a stone, the modest white flowers of the tea plant unexpectedly reveal themselves.

Winter 2b.     brief notes    translations
Tea flowers: as I leave out the back gate, a tofu peddler’s cry


cha    no    hana        ya//    ura-    mon    e          deru/         tō-      fu      uri
tea     ’s     flowers    ://       back    gate    from    leaving/    bean    rot    seller

Buson zenshū #1949, An-ei 6 (1777). In the Edo period, many common products were sold by wandering peddlers, and their songs announcing their goods were a common street sound. (Even now, it is possible to hear the plaintive song of the roasted yam peddler on winter nights, although the seller’s voice had been replaced by a recording on a loud speaker). I’m assuming it’s the call, rather than the person himself, that the speaker encounters, although it could be either. There is a harmonious parallel between the curds of tofu and the modest white flowers of the tea plant.

Winter 2c.    brief notes    translations 
Along the road lined with tea flowers I’ll see you off as far as Keage


mi-    oku-    ran/     cha    no    hana      dō       wo/        Ke-      age    made
see    send    will/    tea      ’s     flower    road    (acc)/    Kick    Up     until

Buson zenshū #371, Meiwa 5 (1768). Keage: Kyoto’s east gate, east of Awataguchi. Understood to refer to the anecdote of Ushiwaka-maru and Sekihara, from the noh play ‘Sekihara Yoichi’. Silently the tea flowers bloom along the road, the stage of travel along the winter Tōkaidō Road up to the appearance of Ushiwaka’s departure gate at Keage.

Ushiwaka-maru (a childhood name for Yoshitsune, or perhaps a folk hero based on him) and Benkei fought Sekihara Yoichi at the Keage pass. Sekihara’s men splashed mud on Ushiwaka crossing the river, and when he asked for an apology, beat him instead. Ushiwaka killed almost all of them and trapped Sekihara in a water hole, humiliating him by beating him with the flat of his sword.

Winter 2d.   
brief notes    translations
Tea flowers: can’t say if they’re white or yellow


cha    no    hana        ya//    shiro    ni mo    ki            ni mo/    obotsukana
tea     ’s     flowers    ://       white    or         yellow    or/          doubtful

Buson zenshū #369, Meiwa 5 (1768). Obotsukana is the stem of obotsukanashi, ‘uncertainty, doubt, dubiousness’, although of course kana evokes the cutting word. They are idiomatically called kōhaku, ‘pale yellow’, literally ‘yellow-white’, which also means ‘gold and silver’ or ‘corruption’, clearly at odds with the nature of the quiet, inconspicuous flower.

       Flowers of the tea-plant,
    Are they white? Are they yellow?
       Who can tell? (Blyth 1984, 1:275)

Winter 2e.    
brief notes    translations
The last sunlight kindles a faint yellow in the tea blossoms...


cha    no    hana       no/    wazuka    ni    ki            naru/            yūbe         kana
tea     ’s     flowers    ’/      faint-        ly    yellow    becoming/    evening    ...

wazuka ni: ‘only, merely, barely, just, slightly, faintly, narrowly’

Buson zenshū #370, Meiwa 5 (1768). Alternate first line: cha no hana ya. In the dim sinking sun, the touch of yellow in the pistils and stamens of the quiet blooming tea flowers is kindled to the surface.

Winter 2f.   
brief notes    translations
Even to the tea flowers in the moonlight, indifferent—winter seclusion


cha    no    hana       no/    tsuki-    yo        no    shira-         zu/     fuyu-      gomori
tea      ’s    flowers    ’/      moon    night    ’s     knowing    not/    winter    confinement

Buson zenshū #2812, no date. Fuyugomori, ‘winter seclusion or solitude or confinement’, is a general winter kigo. Indifferent even to the moon shining beautifully on the white flowers of the tea plantation outside, warm under the kotatsu, one hides onself in the earnest pretense of winter confinement.

WINTER 3: WINTER CHRYSANTHEMUMS. Chrysanthemums are an autumn seasonal term. The chrysanthemums of autumn are large and showy, the product of long and obsessive cross breeding. However, kangiku (‘cold chrysanthemums’) are a general kigo for winter. In comparison, they are small, meager, and modest, living up to Chou Tun-i’s name for them, “the recluse of flowers” (see notes to Autumn 11a). Most of the haiku in this section emphasize that comparison.
brief notes     translations         season page        home

Winter 3a.   
brief notes    translations
Winter chrysanthemums so intent on budding—when will they reach full bloom?


kan-    giku                      ya//    itsu      wo         sakari           no/    tsubomi-    gachi
cold    chrysanthemum    ://      when    (acc.)    full-bloom    ’s/      buds           tending-towards

itsu: ‘when, how soon, [at] what time’

-gachi: ‘apt to, liable to, easily’

Buson zenshū #319, Meiwa 5 (1768). Perhaps written for same occasion as Winter 3d below Expresses dissatisfaction towards the meager characteristics of the winter chrysanthemum, putting out such sparse flowers and so many buds.

Winter 3b.   
brief notes    translations
Deadheading the winter chrysanthemums—how easily they snap off


kan-   giku                       ya//    ta-        ori     yasu-   sa        ni/        tsukuri          keru
cold    chrysanthemum    ://       hand    fold    easi-    ness    with/     cultivation    it-is-said

tsukuru: ‘make, create, manufacture, prepare, draw up, write, compose, build, coin, cultivate, organize, establish, make up (a face), trim (a tree), prepare (food), fabricate, commit (a sin)’. Tsukuri: ‘structure, construction, make, physique, build, workmanship, (a woman’s) make-up, cultivation, a mounting’.

Buson zenshū #318, Meiwa 5 (1768). Perhaps written for same occasion as Winter 3d below. Not the austere atmosphere of that haiku’s evocation Tao Chien, but a light, cheerful, simple observation. The stems of the weaker, smaller, more brittle flowers are easier to snap off than autumn chrysanthemums.

Winter 3c.    
brief notes    translations
Winter chrysanthemums: the sun shines on a corner of a remote country village


kan-   giku                         ya//     hi       no    teru         mura       no/     kata-   hotori
cold    chrysanthemum      ://        sun    ’s       shining    village    on/     one      vicinity

katahotori: ‘corner; remote country place’

 Buson zenshū #320, Meiwa 5 (1768). Perhaps written for same occasion as Winter 3d below (11/4; Dec. 12th). The winter sun shines peacefully on one corner of the village, the pretty chrysanthemums adding the warmth that the winter landscape lacks. This is the peace of the slack season in the farming village. In this way also, winter chrysanthemums differ from the showy blossoms of autumn, well tended in the gardens of important men.

Winter 3d.    
brief notes    translations
Winter chrysanthemums, how artlessly they bloom at the foot of the hedge...


kan-   giku                       wo/       aisu     tomonaki/         kaki-     ne      kana
cold    chrysanthemum    (acc)/    love    friendless(?)/     hedge    root    ...

kakine: ‘hedge, fence’

Buson zenshū #317, Meiwa 5, 11/4 (Dec. 12th, 1768). Another version has the first line as kangiku ya. This was the season word chosen on this day’s gathering at Tafuku-tei. See Kokkei zatsudan (Comic Miscellany, Amusing Stories, 1713):

“The flowers and leaves of the winter chrysanthemum become more narrow than the ordinary flowers. They open in the tenth month and may last as long as the twelfth. We have reason to admire these flowers, which brave the elements to bloom in a time without flowers. In the Kyoto cold, those leaves resist changing with the fall colors.”

Aisu tomonaki is a ‘state of unconcern, indifference, apathy, easiness, simplicity, artlessness’. Winter’s chrysanthemums bloom carelessly under the hedge, in contrast to the large flowers so earnestly cultivated in autumn.

Evokes the rustic solitude of T’ao Yüan-ming ( T’ao Chien)’s poem “Chrysanthemums”:

    I built my cottage among the habitations of men,
    And yet I hear neither horses nor carriages.
    Would you know how these things come to pass?
    A distant soul creates its own solitude.
    I pluck chrysanthemums under the east hedge.
    Easily the south mountain comes in sight.
    So wonderful is the mountain air at sunset,
    And the birds flying in flocks homeward.
    In all these things are secret truths:
    Though I try to explain it, words are of no avail. (Payne 1960, 138).

WINTER 4: DAIKON or giant white radish, Raphanus sativus var. longipinnatus. A general winter kigo.
brief notes     translations         season page        home

Winter 4a.    
brief notes    translations
Grow a beard to show your warrior’s prowess—white radish


musha-       buri          no/    hige            tsukuri          se    yo//    tsuchi    oo-       ne
warriorly    prowess    ’s/     mustache    cultivation    do    !//       earth      giant    root

hige: ‘mustache, beard’

tsukuri: ‘cultivation, production, distillation, creation’, etc.

Buson zenshū #2837, no date. Tsuchi oone is another term for daikon. See Tsurezuregusa dan 68 in the notes of the next poem for reference. Perhaps the beard is a fringe of fine roots growing from the daikon, or perhaps its crest of green leaves?

Winter 4b.    
brief notes    translations
The giant radishes of Tsukushi’s constable of the peace transformed into warriors and fought back the enemy. Priest Jōshin’s potato heads were likewise not without miraculous properties.

Armed with giant radishes, he fights on—warrior priest


Heading: Tsukushi        no    ō-        ryō-            shi         no    tsuchi    oo-      ne       wa,
               Tsukushi       ’s      push    dominion    envoy    ’s     earth      great    root    as-for

tsuwamono    ni       keshi-                      te       kataki     wo        oi-          kaeshi    keru    to zo.
warriors         into    transforming-into    and    enemy    [acc.]    driven    back      have    they say.

Jō-           shin          Sō-       zu           no    imo-      gashira    mo,     nadoka    kakaru
Prosper    Parents    priest    capital    ’s    potato    heads       also,    why         concerned-with

kidoku     no    nakute     ya                   wa
miracle    ’s     without    such-things    as-for

Haiku: dai-     kon     ni/    tsuzuku         tsuwamono/   hō-    shi          mu-          sha
            great    root    in/    continuing    warrior/           law    master    military    person

nadoka: ‘why’, in classical Japanese

tsukuku: ‘continue, go on, keep on, be continuous’

tsuwamono: ‘soldier, warrior’

hōshi: ‘Buddhist priest’

Buson zenshū #2860, provenance uncertain. Season word: daikon (winter). See #2837 for similar content. See dan 68 of Tsurezuregusa for references:

“There was in Tsukushi [an old name for Kyushu–n.] a certain man, a constable of the peace [approximation of the title ōryōshi] it would seem, who for many years had eaten two broiled radishes [tsuchiōne is a large variety of white radish] each morning under the impression that radishes were the sovereign remedy for all ailments. Once some enemy forces attacked and surrounded his constabulary, choosing a moment when the place was deserted. Just then, two soldiers rushed out of the building, and engaged the enemy, fighting with no thought for their lives until they drove away all the troops. The constable, greatly astonished, asked the soldiers, ‘You have fought most gallantly, gentlemen, considering I have never seen you here// before. Might I ask who you are?’ ‘We are the radishes you have eaten so faithfully every morning for so many years,’ they answered, and with these words they disappeared. So deep was his faith in radishes that even such a miracle could occur” (Kenkō 1998, 61-62).

 “Jōshin, an abbot of the Shinjō-in, was a high-ranking priest of great holiness. He was extremely fond of what are know as ‘potato heads,’ [imogashira, apparently a kind of taro] and devoured prodigious quantities of them. He kept a large bowl heaped with these potatoes by his knee in his scripture class, and would go on eating as he lectured on the sacred books. If ever he fell ill he would shut himself up in his room for a week or a fortnight, announcing that he was taking a cure, and indulge himself with especially good potatoes, eating more than ever. This was how he cured any and all ailments. He never gave his potatoes to anyone else, but ate them all himself.    

“Jōshin had always been extremely poor, but his teacher on his deathbed left Jōshin 200 kan of copper coins and a monks’ residence hall. Jōshin sold the building for 100 kan, making a total of 30,000 hiki, all of which he decided to use for buying potatoes. He deposited the money with a man in the capital and had potatoes delivered to him in lots of 10 kan worth each. In this way he was able to eat all the potatoes he could desire, so many indeed that although he made no other use of the money, it soon disappeared. People said, ‘A poor man who falls heir to 300 kan and then spends it in that way must be pious indeed.’
“Once, when this abbot saw a certain priest, he dubbed him the Shiroururi. Someone asked what a shiroururi was. He replied, ‘I have no idea, but if such a thing existed, I am sure it would look like that priest’s face.’

“This abbot was handsome, robustly built, a great eater, and better than anyone at calligraphy, Buddhist scholarship, and rhetoric. He was highly regarded within his temple as a beacon of the sect, but, being an eccentric who cared nothing for society and acted exactly as he pleased in everything, he refused ever to conform to the others. Even when he sat down to a collation after performing a service, he would never wait until the others were served, but began eating by himself as soon as the food was put before him. Then, the moment he felt like leaving he would stand up from the table and go off by himself. He did not eat even collations in his temple at the regular times with the others, but whenever he felt like eating, whether in the middle of the night or at the break of day. When he felt like sleeping, he shut himself in his room, even in broad daylight, and refused to listen when//people addressed him, no matter how urgent their business might be. Once he awakened, he might then spend several nights without sleeping, going about serenely, whistling as he went. His behavior was unconventional, but people, far from disliking him, allowed him everything. Might it have been because his virtue had attained the highest degree?” (ibid 55-56)

I have quoted the selection on Jōshin so extensively because he is a good example of the kind of enlightened eccentric that Buson admired.

WINTER 5: WINTER WITHERING. A general winter kigo. “Fuyuzare is the gruesome scene of all things in the universe withering” (Sasaki 2002, 625).
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Winter 5a.  
brief notes    translations
Winter withering: the crow is black, the heron white


fuyu-      gare            ya//    karasu    wa         kuroku/    saza      shiroshi
winter    withering    ://        crow       as-for    black/       heron    white

Buson zenshū #1482, An-ei 5 (1776). Appears in a letter addressed to Masana on 11/27 (Jan. 6th, 1777). Evokes the zen koan “The willow is green, the flower is red”, but with the bleak colors of winter.

Winter 5b.   
brief notes    translations
Winter withering: a single bird takes shelter among the leeks


fuyu-      gare            ya//    nira      ni     kakururu/    tori     hitotsu
winter    withering    ://       leeks     in     hiding/          bird     one

kakureru: ‘hide, conceal oneself, take cover, take shelter, pass away, disappear’

Buson zenshū #1889, An-ei 6 (1777). Alternative first lines are fuyusare, fuyuzare, ‘withering in winter’, and mono arete, ‘things withered’. Alternative writing for last line. In the fields of withered vegetation and chilly wind, only the leeks kindle green with life. Under those leaves a single bird hides, drawn near to houses and people.

WINTER 6: LOQUAT BLOSSOMS. Eriobotrya japonica. A midwinter kigo. According to the notes of Buson zenshū (#1315), the white flowers take on a cream yellow hue as they release their sweet, heady fragrance.
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Winter 6a.   
brief notes    translations
Loquat flowers: without even birds to attend to them as the sun sets


bi-         wa      no    hana/        tori      mo       susame-    zu//     hikure    tari     (susamazu)
spoon    rake    ’s     flowers/    birds    even    admire      not//    sunset    has

susamaru: ‘grow in intensity (violence), run to waste, go to ruin, fall into decline, addict onself to, indulge in’. The notes in Buson zenshū define this negative form as ‘fail to attach the heart’.

Buson zenshū #1315, An-ei 4, 11/20 (Dec. 12th, 1775). Written at the Midnight Pavilion, where loquat blossoms was the chosen topic. Evokes an anonymous waka from the Kōkinshū:

    Yamatakami                        high in the mountains
    hito mo susamenu            with no one to admire you
    sakura-bana                        oh cherry blossoms–
    itaku nawabiso                do not be melancholy
    ware mihayasan              for I’ll delight in your charms (Kōkinshū 2004, 63)

The subdued, sober loquat flowers are ignored by the birds and soon the sun sets quietly and completely. One wants to be filled with that quiet elegance.

Other translations:

    Flowers of the loquat;
    Even the birds cannot fly hither and thither;
    The day is over. (Blyth 1992, 2:571)

    The loquat blossoms,
    even birds do not like them--
    the day is ending. (Sawa and Shiffert 1978, 147)

WINTER 7: WINTER PEONY. Paeonia suffruticosa .Tree peonies are usually a kigo for early summer but some varieties of peonies have been cultivated to bloom in the snow.     brief notes         translations         season page        home

Winter 7a.   
brief notes    translations
Not even a butterfly comes to buy its dream—winter peony


(Heading omitted)

yume     kai     ni/    kuru         chō            mo     nashi/    fuyu      botan
dream    buy    to/    coming    butterfly    even   not/      winter    peony

Buson zenshū #2836, no date. Peonies and butterflies have a traditional association in haiku, according to the 1676 haikai handbook Accompanying Boat. There is also an evocation of the tradition of Chuang-tzu dreaming he was a butterfly flirting with the flowers, waking up and unsure which was the dream and which was reality (Buson’s source could have been Sōshi seibutsuron, Public Criticism of Chuang Tzu. Buson’s painting of this anecdote shows how much he valued it.) The story of buying a good dream comes from Gleanings from Uji. But for the winter peony, no insects can carry tales. A version of the story follows:

“The Bee and the Dream

Two merchants living in a certain place set out together to sell things. While they rested along the way, the older fell asleep. The younger man looked absently at the  other's face and saw a horsefly come out of his nose and fly off toward Sado. The man woke up and said he had had a wonderful dream. It was about a wealthy man on Sado who had a yard full of white blooming camellias. A horsefly flew up from the root of a camellia and told him to dig there and he found a jar full of gold. The younger man asked him to sell him his dream. The older man thought it strange, but he sold it for 300 coins. After their journey was over and they had returned to their village, the younger man secretly crossed over to Sado. He hunted out the wealthy man and lived as yard sweeper for him until spring. When the flowers bloomed, they were all red, not a single white one. He waited another year, and this time there was one tree covered with white flowers. He was delighted. He probed with fire tongs at its roots secretly in the night and heard a click. A jar of coins came out when he dug. He hid it where nobody could find it, and after half a year had passed, he asked to go home. He took the jar back to Echigo and he became a chōja. He lived the rest of his life in ease” (Yanagita 1948).

Winter 7b.   
brief notes    translations
In Praise of Tōkōkei
Prime minister of the mountains, a peony in the snow...


Heading: Tō-    kō-  kei   san         Porcelain    Wide    View    on

Haiku:  san-             chū       no/    shō             set-       chū      no/    botan    kana
             mountains    amid    ’s/     councilor    snow    amid    ’s/      peony    ...

Buson zenshū #2023, probably An-ei 7 (1778). Tōkōkei: This is the Chinese Taoist immortal T’ao Hung Ching, who lived during the Six Dynasties and left his post in the government to become a recluse. While in retirement on Mt. Mao, he gave advice to several emperors, and was therefore called “the Minister from the Mountains” (Wong 2001, 68). Buson is drawing his material from the chapter “Renowned Men” in the Enki kappō.

See the notes to Autumn 11a for the peony as the plutocrat of flowers. An advisor suited for the lavish setting of court taking up a hermit’s mountain residence is akin to a peony blooming in the starkness of winter. The metaphor is especially apt because gardeners protect winter peonies with small straw roofs, like hermits in their own grass huts.

Bashō wrote:

    fuyu botan                                A winter peony
    chidori yo yuki no                    the plover must be
    hototogisu                                a cuckoo in snow (2004, #212)

WINTER 8: WINTER CHERRY BLOSSOMS. Prunus subhirtella autumnalis. A few cultivars of cherry blossoms bloom in the fall and then through the winter.
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Winter 8a.   
brief notes    translations
From a single branch flying petals, falling leaves: winter blooming cherry


hitotsu    eda         ni/         hi-        ka-              raku-      yō          ya//    fuyu-      zakura
one         branch    from/    flying    blossoms     falling    leaves    ://       winter     cherry

Syllable count: 6/7/5.

hikarakuyō: “blossoms fall and leaves scatter, the evanescence of worldly things”

Buson zenshū #2409, Temmei 3, 10/10 (Nov. 4th, 1783). An alternative final line is kaeribana, ‘returning flowers’, an early winter season word, the chosen topic at the haiku gathering on this day.

WINTER 9: NARCISSUS . Narcissus tazetta, a late winter kigo.
brief notes     translations         season page        home

Winter 9a.    brief notes    translations
Narcissus: the shrike’s grass stems have blossomed


sui-      sen          ya//    mozu     no    kusa-    guki/     hana       saki-          nu
water    hermit    :/ /      shrike    ’s     grass      stem/    flower    bloomed    has

kusa: grass, herbs, plants, pasture

Buson zenshū #1323, probably An-ei 4 (1775). In deep autumn, the shrike captures frogs, small birds and the like and impales them on tree thorns and grass stems to store them for later. This is mozu no hayanie, ‘the sacrifice of the shrike,’ also called mozu no kusaguki. As the narcissus bud slowly develops and the stem lengthens, it resembles the sacrifice of the shrike, lovely in its way. See the related haiku of the same year:

    kusaguki o                                         Missing the grass stems
    ushinau mozu no                                        the butcher bird,
    takane kana (Buson zenshū #1322)                    his shrill cry

Winter 9b.   
brief notes    translations
Godless Month: show to Munetō narcissus blooming


Mune-        tō         ni/    sui-      sen          mise-     yo//     Kan-   na-          zuki
Essence    Duty     to/     water    hermit    shows    !//       god     without    month

Buson zenshū  #258. Probably written for the same chosen general season term (‘early winter’) as #252—10/8 (November 16th, 1768). One version has the error misete for mise yo. The season word is Kannazuki, the 10th month, “Godless Month,” the month when all the gods are at Ise, where it is called Kamiarizuki, “Gods-are-here month.” So it refers to the first month of winter. Buson zenshū cites the episode below, adding, are the narcissus, the only colorful element in the winter landscape, a response to Abe Munetō’s tact in answering the long ago question about the plum blossoms? Still, bred in the north country as he was, Munetō would appreciate the existence of these temperate flowers.

Abe Munetō’s politically troublesome family controlled the Mutsu province in the twelfth century. The Minamoto defeated them and took Munetō captive, and he eventually became Minamoto Yoshiie’s companion. Buson zenshū cites an episode from the Tsurugi maki or “Book of Swords” (a chapter included in some versions of The Tale of the Heike) in which courtiers approached the captive with some plum blossoms and asked (“Hey, Munetō!” taunting as only medieval Japanese courtiers could taunt) what they were. Munetō replied that in his country they were called plum blossoms; no doubt they had some fancier name for them at court. Merwin and Lento say that since  his reply scanned as court verse, it was doubly withering (2013, 191).

See also Buson zenshū #2437:

    uguisu wa                         A bush warbler calls
    yayo Munetō ga                      “Hey, Munetō—”     
    hatsune kana                                 the year’s first song...

Winter 9c.   
brief notes    translations
Narcissus: a beautiful woman with her head bent in pain


sui-       sen         ya//    bi-          jin          kōbe    wo/         itamu-                  rashi
water    wizard    ://      beauty    person    head    (acc.)/    moaning [over]    like

Buson zenshū #999, probably Meiwa 6 (1769). In the cold, the cleanly blooming narcissus inclines its head to a degree, suggesting a resemblance to the posture of a beautiful woman bowed down by a headache. Perhaps meant to evoke the Chinese beauties Hsi Shih and Sun Shou from the Meng Ch’iu: the first frowned and pounded her chest with heartburn, the second affected the pained smile of someone suffering a toothache, and both were made more beautiful (Li and Hsü 1979, 102). Given these antecedents, I think Blyth’s less dramatic rendition is more successful:

    The narcissus flowers,—
A beautiful woman
    With an aching head.

“The flower of the narcissus is heavy on its stem, and of a pale, rather translucent whiteness” (Blyth 1984, 1:250).

This one of several examples of the permutations of the term bijin. In classical Chinese literature  the characters for ‘beautiful person’ referred to a virtuous person of unspecified gender, but the Japanese seem to have read it as “a beauty,” always female.

Winter 9d.   
brief notes    translations
An offering of narcissus at the flower shop’s family shrine


sui-        sen         ya//    hana-     ya       ga          yado     no/    ji-        butsu-      dō
water    hermit     ://       flower    shop    (sub.)    house    ’s/    have     Buddha    hall

Buson zenshū #1945, An-ei 6 (1777). Jibutsudō: family Buddhist shrine in which the dead are remembered. The store is full of all kinds of flowers, but the heart is drawn to the interior of the family Buddhist shrine and its offering of pure, neat narcissus.

Winter 9e.   
brief notes    translations
In the chilly capital here and there narcissus blooming


sui-       sen         ya//    samuki    miyako    no/    koko-   kashiko
water    hermit    ://       cold         capital     ’s/     here      there

kokokashiko: ‘here and there, all around, all about, everywhere’

Buson zenshū #1946, An-ei 6, 10th month (November 1777). At variance with the mix of willow and cherry of spring’s capital, this version of Kyoto is chilly, bleak. But here and there the touching blooming narcissus colors Kyoto’s winter.

Winter 9f.   
brief notes    translations
Among the narcissus flowers foxes at play: a moonlit evening


sui-       sen          ni/         kitsune     asobu    ya//    yoi-          zuki-     yo
water    wizard      amid/    fox          play       ://       evening    moon    night

asobu: ‘play, amuse/enjoy/divert oneself, make a holiday, make a trip/excursion/visit, make merry, have a spree, take one’s pleasure, visit the gay quarters/red light district, loaf, be idle, take one’s ease, do nothing’, etc.

Buson zenshū #1324, probably An-ei 4 (1775). One version has furu oka, ‘old hill’, as a heading [does it refer to Furuoka, the city? The kanji doesn’t quite match]. Yoizukiyo: ‘a night in which the moon only shows in the evening’. The notes describe a fantastic scene, appropriate to the supernatural role of foxes in Japanese legend: in the pale moonlight, the yellow foxes are among the yellow cups of flowers, as if among the wine cups at a banquet, an illusion the moonlight has engendered.

© 2014 Amy England, rights reserved