Rainier Haiku Ginsha

First published in Modern Haiku 46:3, Autumn 2015 (except for the photo and caption). See also Rainier Haiku Ginsha Poems from 2010. 

      by Hisao Mogi and Kyoko Tokuno

The Rainier Haiku Society (Renia Ginsha) of Seattle, Washington, celebrated its eightieth anniversary in 2014 with the publication of the haiku anthology Shakunage vol. 2, consisting of current and late members’ work.[1] The following translations with Japanese originals are a selection from each contributing member.[2] The anniversary celebration was also marked by a two-day event on August 23rd and 24th. On the first day the group was fortunate to have Dr. Teruko Kumei from Shirayuri Women’s College in Tokyo as its keynote speaker. The group learned much about the heritage and history of the Rainier Haiku Society as well as other haiku groups formed by Japanese immigrants before and during WWII. Her keynote lecture and other related material are the basis of this brief introduction.[3] The second day of celebration was a ginko at a wildflower meadow at Mt. Rainier National Park that concluded with haiku presentations on the bus ride back to Seattle.

Members of Rainier Haiku Ginsha at I Love Sushi on 23 August 2015, in celebration of the organization’s 80th anniversary. On the right side of the table are Shoshi Takamura (front) and Saeko Aoyama (back). On the left side of the table from left to right are Kyoko Tokuno, Prof. Kumei, Prof. Teruko Kumei (who gave keynote lecture at the conference earlier on the day), Yukiko Goto, and Mitsuyo Sakai. Standing from left to right are Mitsuko Nakata, Fumi Yoshimoto, Teruko Kyuma, Nobuko Thiesen, Miyoko Yamasaki, Hisao Mogi, Atsumi Yamashiro, and Koshi Miller.

        The Rainier Haiku Society was started by Kyōu Kawajiri (1868–1944) with the assistance of Banjin Koike (1878–1947) as a selection judge (senja) in 1934. Kyōu had come to Seattle in 1896 after a year in Vancouver. He was a journalist working as editor and publisher of newspapers for Japanese immigrants in Seattle, Portland, and Los Angeles, where he took an interest in haiku. He started the Rainier Haiku Society when he was the editor-in-chief of the Great North Daily Post (Daihoku Nippō) in Seattle and published members’ haiku in the paper. Banjin Koike arrived in Seattle from Japan in 1916. He was a physician by profession but was a well-known mountain photographer as well as an essayist on photography. There is no record of how he came to haiku, but he must have had enough experience before leaving Japan in order to serve as a selection judge for the society. That era in Japan corresponded with the dawn of modern haiku: Shiki Masaoka died in 1902; his student Kyoshi Takahama resumed his haiku career after a short hiatus and continued and expanded the legacy of Shiki’s “sketches” (shasei) as the principal method of composing haiku as well as the publication of the haiku magazine Hototogisu until his death in 1959. Banjin’s exposure to haiku while in Japan can be understood against the preceding  general background.
        The Rainier Haiku Society has followed the traditions of Hototogisu since the days of cofounder Banjin Koike, whose remarks capture the essence of “sketches” and his philosophy of haiku in America:

According to Hototogisu School, haiku is poetic composition of flowers and birds (kachō fūei). What is called “flowers and birds” refers not only to natural phenomena but it also includes human affairs. Objectivity represented in sketches may be the chief method; however, it does not ignore subjectivity of what lies [at] deeper level of [feelings or consciousness of the poet]. We follow the principle of sketches in a new environment that is America, and our work must naturally be reflective of the local color.[4]

In other words, haiku can draw material from aspects of nature, traditional seasonal events, and daily life, wherever one happens to live.
        It goes without saying that the continued existence of the Rainier Haiku Society over the past eighty years owes much to the passion and effort of the founders and generations of past members. Especially noteworthy is the fact that their passion did not diminish even under the difficult circumstances of the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII. There were ten relocation centers throughout the country and seven haiku anthologies by different groups have come to light thus far. It is speculated that there may be others that have yet to be discovered.[5] The biggest of all haiku groups was the Minidoka Haiku Society (Minidoka Ginsha) with a membership of 158 that included Rainier Haiku Society members as core haiku authors.[6] While in camp in 1945, Banjin edited and published 200 copies of Kusazutsumi (grassy bank) that included 1,139 haiku selected from over 10,000 pieces dating from October 1942 to April 1945. He hoped that the anthology would be indispensable material for future comparative studies of haiku in the United States and Japan. As soon as the war was over, Banjin restarted the Rainier Haiku Society in August of 1945 and led the group until his death in 1947.
        Over the past eight decades, the Rainier Haiku Society has preserved the legacy of the founders Kyōu and Banjin and followed the principle of sketch of the Hototogisu School of Japanese haiku. We have had the privilege of receiving instructions and comments about our haiku twice a year by members of the Hototogisu School in Japan. Just to give a few names, they included the late Haruko Takagi and Chizuko Imai; Shōko Imai is the current advisor. There are generations of haiku poets who have been deeply involved with and committed to the teaching and spread of the traditional Hototogisu haiku method and philosophy. This unbroken link to Japanese haiku tradition is truly a privilege for all of us to learn while living outside Japan.
        As of this writing, our group consists of twenty-five members who meet monthly to read each other’s haiku [in Japanese] and discuss ways to enhance our understanding of what haiku is all about. Membership also includes former members who now live in Japan or England and who submit their haiku via email. We publish selected haiku every month in local weekly newspapers: North American Post (Hokubei Hōchi; Japanese-English) and Soy Sauce (Japanese only). Publication through the popular media is a way of sharing our enthusiasm for haiku as well as informing the community about the presence of the Rainier Haiku Society so as to continue the legacy we inherited into the future.
        The following selected haiku are listed in the traditional order of a saijiki (collection of seasonal references for haiku), beginning with spring. Within each season the haiku appear in alphabetical order by the last name of the poet.


藤垂れて紫の風白の風                                                                  ベネット富士子
fuji tarete murasaki no kaze shiro no kaze                                 Fujiko Benett

the white breeze
becomes a purple breeze—
hanging wisteria

夕暮れてなほあざやかに桜咲き                                                     五島ゆきこ
yūgurete nao azayakani sakura saki                                          Yukiko Goto

at dusk
still brightly blooming
cherry blossoms

自転車の少女の会釈風かをる                                                       木本サク子
jitensha no shōjo no eshaku kaze kaoru                                     Sakuko Kimoto

young girl on bicycle
bowing slightly as she passed—
fragrant wind

装ひは真珠ひとつぶ復活祭                                                           酒井光代
yosooi wa shinju hitotsubu Fukkatsusai                                    Mitsuyo Sakai

single pearl
for dressing up
Easter morning

白樺に春の雪降る露天風呂                                                         高村笙子
shirakaba ni haru no yuki furu rotenburo                               Shōshi Takamura

hot spring visit—
a late snow falling
through the white birches

花びらを敷きつめ雨の散歩道                                                       山崎みよこ
hanabira wo shikitsume ame no sanpomichi                           Miyoko Yamasaki

all over
the walking path
a blanket of cherry blossoms



追いかけし子に低く飛び夏の蝶                                                    青山サエ子
oikakeshi ko ni hikuku tobi natsu no chō                                  Saeko Aoyama

flying low
for a child chasing after it
summer butterfly

花びらの息ずくごとし白牡丹                                                          久間照子
hanabira no ikizuku gotoshi hakubotan                                   Teruko Kyūma

as if
its petals are breathing
white peony

ハンカチの刺繍を見てはまたしまふ                                            ミラーこうし
hankachi no shishū wo mite wa mata shimau                        Kōshi Miller

embroidery on handkerchief
so pretty
save it for a special occasion

まなうらに廃墟の町や原爆忌                                                      寺田英子
manaura ni haikyo no machi ya Genbakuki                          Hideko Terada

city ruins
behind my eyelids
Hiroshima Day

山ゆりの炎帝こばむ白さかな                                                      得野京子
yamayuri no Entei kobamu shirosa kana                              Kyoko Tokuno

in all its whiteness
the wild lily denies
the blaze of summer

蒼天の青を競ふや矢車草                                                          吉原くりすてい光風
sōten no ao wo kisou ya yagurumasō                                    Kōfū Christie Yoshihara

the cornflowers
as if competing with
the sky's blueness

菜園の茄子の葉陰に小さき実                                                   吉本芙美
saien no nasu no hakage ni chiisaki mi                                  Fumi Yoshimoto

in my vegetable garden
eggplant leaves
hiding tiny fruits



月光の窓の形に降り注ぎ                                                          秋吉美幸
gekkō no mado no katachi ni furisosogi                                Miyuki Akiyoshi

pouring in
with a window shape

空真青街の一角カンナ燃ゆ                                                      エリックソン清美
sora masao machi no ikkaku kanna moyu                          Kiyomi Erickson

bluest sky—
canna flaming
in a corner of the town

客去つて不意の静けさ夕月夜                                                  マクマハン百合子
kyaku satte fui no shizukesa yūzukiyo                                 Yuriko McMahan

the silence returns
after the last guests—

秋深し踏切向かふに友の顔                                                     根岸幸子
aki fukashi fumikiri mukou ni tomo no kao                        Sachiko Negishi

deep autumn—
the face of a friend
across the tracks

新米を研ぐ手が母に似てきたり                                                さかもと明子
shinmai wo togu te ga haha ni nitekitari                             Akiko Sakamoto

washing this year’s rice—
my hands look
more like mother’s

秋風に願ひかなへと流れ星                                                     山城厚実
akikaze ni negai knae to nagareboshi                                   Atsumi Yamashiro

autumn wind—
the wish I make
on a shooting star



捨てがたし古き暦の思ひ出を                                                   江頭スマ子
sutegatashi furuki koyomi no omoide wo                            Sumako Egarashi

hard to discard
the old calendar
and all its memories

初氷踏み割る音の乾きをり                                                      茂木ひさを
hatsugōri fumiwaru oto no kawakiwori                              Hisao Mogi

first freeze—
the crackle of ice

母の声思い出しつつ年用意                                                     中田美津子
haha no koe omoidashitsutsu toshiyōi                                 Mitsuko Nakata

as I prepare
for the New Year
an echo of my late mother’s voice

玄関に夫あるごとく冬帽子                                                       大内憂華
genkan ni tsuma aru gotoku fuyu bōshi                              Yūge Ōuchi

hanging at the entrance
as if my husband’s still here
winter hat

月明り雪の白さを青に染め                                                      汀泉信子
tsukiakari yuki no shirosa wo ao ni some                           Nobuko Thiesen

under moonlight
the snow’s whiteness
dyed blue

[1] Shakunage vol. 1 was published in 1986.

[2] We would like to acknowledge Michael Dylan Welch’s assistance with the English translations. Ms. Loryn Paxton of Seattle also provided insightful comments on matters of translation between Japanese and English.

[3] Teruko Kumei, “One Century of Haiku in North America, with Special Reference to Rainier Haiku Society,” keynote speech for Renia Ginsha eightieth anniversary, August 23, 2014, Seattle, Washington; published with revision in Collected Papers on Language and Literature no. 15 (March 2015), pages 1–12, Center for Language and Literature Research, Shirayuri Women’s College. Also by Kumei, “A Study on Japanese Immigrant Haiku Collections in WRA Camps in the US,” Research Journal no. 9 (March 2014), pages 95–114, Yokohama: Japanese Overseas Migration Museum. Original sources are in Japanese.

[4] Banjin Koike, Shūkaku (harvest) no. 5, 1938. Cited in Kumei, “One Century of Haiku in North America, with Special Reference to Rainier Haiku Society.”

[5] Teruko Kumei, “A Study on Japanese Immigrant Haiku Collections in WRA Camps in the US.”

[6] Both Kyōu and Banjin were interned at Minidoka and Kyōu died there in November of 1944 at the age of seventy-seven.