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Haiku poets who visited to Soka


Matsuo Basho 松尾 芭蕉 (1644-1694)

Matsuo Basho, or “Basho” as he is usually called, is the greatest haiku poet in Japan and is known today all over the world. Born in Iga-Ueno (currently Iga City, in Mie Prefecture), his childhood name was Kinsaku. He began studying Japanese and Chinese classics around the age of 20, and started composing haiku. In 1675, he went to Edo (Tokyo), still making haiku and also gathering disciples while he was employed on waterworks.

A few years later, he became a haiku teacher at Fukagawa, across the river from the city. The reason why he began to use the pen name “Basho (芭蕉)” was that Japanese banana trees planted around his hut grew greatly and the hut was called the “Basho-an” after them.

In 1682, after this hut burnt down, the poet started to travel around Japan. In 1689, he traveled to the north-eastern region of Tohoku for the journey recorded in “The Narrow road to Oku (Oku-no-hosomichi) ”. He continued to travel until he died, in Osaka in 1694.


Masaoka Shiki 正岡 子規 (1867-1902)

Masaoka Shiki, known by his pen name “Shiki”, was a leading haiku poet in the Meiji era. He was born in Matsuyama in Iyo (Ehime Prefecture) as the eldest child of samurai. After quitting Junior High School, he moved to Tokyo, where he eventually entered the university and moved on to the world of literature. A new haiku world had opened up, partly made possible by adding realism, through sketching with words, taking haiku in a new direction, reforming the poetry of the Basho style, and Shiki was the leader of the reform.

In 1894, Shiki came to Soka accompanied by his friend and disciple Takahama Kyoshi, on a ginko, or haiku outing, for the purpose of making haiku. His haiku “Looking at the plum, / looking at the fields, going / as far as Soka (梅を見て野を見て行きぬ草加まで)” is recorded in his essay “Gathering haiku (発句を拾うの記)”, and the verse “Eating yellowtail − / in the post-town of Soka / the plum were blooming (鰤くふや草加の宿の梅の花)”, appears in another essay “Cold Mountain leafless tree (寒山落木)”.

It is sometimes held that this visit to Soka by the two poets, Shiki and Kyoshi, was the first proper ginko or haiku outing of modern times, and that it deserves to be remembered for this.


Takahama Kyoshi 高浜 虚子 (1874-1959)

Takahama Kyoshi was also born in Matsuyama in Iyo (Ehime Prefecture) as the son of samurai too, and learned about haiku from Shiki, helping to promote the movement of haiku innovation and reform.

Kyoshi , whose real name of Kiyoshi was adjusted to the pen name “Kyoshi” by Shiki, lived together with Shiki for a time in Negishi (Taito-ku, near Ueno in modern Tokyo) at the “Shiki-an (子規庵)” and continued to study haiku with him there. In 1894, they walked along the “Nikko–Kaido (日光街道)”, the old road from Senju to Soka. Kyoshi couldn't make good haiku at the haiku gatherings in those days, so Shiki invited him to go on the haiku outing, for practical training and direct experience. This was the starting point for Kyoshi as a haiku poet.


Mizuhara Shuoshi 水原 秋桜子 (1892-1981)

Mizuhara Shuoshi was born into a family of a gynecological doctors in Kanda (Tokyo), and started to study both medicine, as a profession, and haiku, as a personal interest. After enrolling as a student at university, he was invited to attend a haiku party by senior students, then eventually studied with Takahama Kyoshi. He adopted “Shuoshi” as a pen name.

Shuoshi traveled to a hospital in Kasukabe for work, commuting from Tokyo, and Soka was on the way.

He left many haiku about Soka, such as “Grasses change to shades / of autumn as the dough dries / on Soka senbei (草紅葉草加煎餅を干しにけり).” This is made about the post-town of Soka, where the poet could observe the contrast between the autumn grasses and the white dough of Soka-senbei, the rice crackers for which it is famous.