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One Hundred Haijin part 5

August 2017

ONE HUNDRED HAIJIN AFTER SHIKI

 By

Susumu Takiguchi

 

PART FIVE

Hino Sojo (1901-1956)

 

Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902) famously predicted that haiku could become extinct by the end of the Meiji Era (1868-1912). How wrong he was! And how delighted we are that he was wrong, without being unkind to him! This is indeed a cause for celebration.

 

One way of celebrating it could be to choose at random one hundred Japanese haiku poets who have helped to prove him wrong. If we chose one hundred best the case would be strong. But if we chose randomly, and not necessarily the best, one hundred from among, say, about five hundred who have been leading figures in the modern history of haiku in Japan, the case would be even stronger.

 

With this in mind, I would like to serialise my narratives in World Haiku Review about the one hundred Japanese haijin whom I shall choose at random and talk about. There is no particular reason why the number should be one hundred. It could be two hundred or fifty. Just over one hundred years have passed since the end of the Meiji Era, and a little bit longer since Shiki died. So, the number one hundred would not be bad. To write about more than one hundred haijin could be exhausting. If the number was fifty, the endeavour could be unsatisfactory and frustrating as more would surely be desired to be introduced. One thing which is certain is that it is not really intended to follow the fashion to use the number one hundred in haiku books, originally emanating from the ancient waka anthology Hyaku-Nin-Isshu (one poem each by one hundred poets). Being a heso-magari (contrarian) I would in fact have liked to avoid this cliché.

 


Hino Sojo (1901-1956) 

EROTICISM, LONELINESS & REBELLION

 

Not every Japanese haijin was a staunch traditionalist. Not every one of them was a rebel either. Hino Sojo (1901-1956), however, was both.

 

紅つつじ花満ちて葉はかくれけり

beni-tsutsuji/hana michite ha wa/kakure keri 

red azalea... 
as its flowers bloom fully 
the leaves get hidden

A textbook traditionalist haiku, but with a twist. Sojo’s attention is on the leaves of azalea, or the lack of them. He is seeing what is now not to be seen. His amazement is at the transformation of all green into all red almost overnight. The transformation is spectacular, especially at the very time when people start missing the recently fallen cherry blossoms. At the sight of azalea in full bloom, their mood also is induced to transform from sombre into optimistic, joyful and merry. It could well have been a statement-of-the-obvious haiku had it not been for such dynamism in it. Also, he goes beyond what ordinary people see (i.e. the surface of things) and digs deeper to capture the realities of things.  If he was a traditionalist, he must have been an extraordinary one.


夜半の春なほ処女(をとめ)なる妻と居りぬ

yowa no haru/nao otome naru/tsuma to orinu

the small hours
in spring, I'm now with my wife
still a virgin

By contrast, this haiku about Sojo’s honeymoon was nothing but radical. When it was published in 1934 together with nine other poems on the same theme as a rensaku, the Japanese haiku world was still a very conservative place, and so the whole thing flared up immediately into an almighty scandal as well as a fierce haiku controversy like of which had not been seen for a very long time. It put Sojo in the limelight as a champion of the anti-traditional rebel movement.

The rensaku depicts his wife as being looked at through the eyes of the author as the bridegroom at various stages of their first night and the (first) dawn at Miyako Hotel in Kyoto. However, the depiction is more subtle and suggestive than explicit. So, it was a far cry from the present-day extravagance of excessive sexual expression. Nevertheless, at that time it was thought to be too erotic and immoral and should be condemned.

Such was the controversy that the Japanese literary world looked split between pro-Sojo faction and anti-Sojo faction, involving such illustrious figures as Muro Saisei, Nakamura Kusatao, Mizuhara Shuoshi and Kubota Mantaro. But the most radical thing about this scandal was that in real life Sojo and his wife never had a honeymoon trip at all. It was all fiction. So, what’s going on? Was Sojo a radical haijin or a traditionalist?

Sojo’s father enjoyed writing both tanka and haiku as a hobby, and exerted a strong influence on Sojo as a boy, who took especial interest in (Japanese) literature in his teens. During his middle school days Sojo started to submit his haiku to the Hototogisu magazine, the citadel of traditional haiku, which was edited by Takahama Kyoshi (1874-1959) who presided over the whole Japanese haiku community along strictly traditional lines. Sojo’s interest in haiku continued unabated through high-school to university days, as he founded a haiku society at each stage. Most importantly, in 1922 he opened to the general public the haiku society he created called Kyo-Kanoko Haiku Society, and its organ, the Kyo-Kanoko, at Kyoto University, where he was reading law. This society effectively became a citadel of the Hototogisu School in the Kansai area.

In the meantime, Sojo became very active in contributing his haiku to the Hototogisu under Kyoshi. In 1921, his submissions were printed in the ‘pride of place’ of this prestigious magazine (what is called kanto, or the top entry) when he was twenty, which made him famous. Later, he was appointed as a judge (editor) of the magazine, in the section of the designated theme (i.e. kigo). In 1929, he was elected as dojin (co-editor/publisher), which is an influential position in a Japanese haiku magazine.

What all this means is that Sojo was a traditionalist haiku poet through and through at least until when he was 27 or 28. Modern Japanese haiku began with Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902). It was then still very much of traditional haiku (or hokku as it was called before Shiki renamed it) as there was no other schools of thought in existence. But it needed to be modernised and modernisation Shiki initiated, which is his haiku reform movement. However, Shiki died before the reform was completed. It was succeeded by his friends and followers, among whom Kyoshi and Kawahigashi Hekigodo (1873-1937) were the most influential.

Quite where this modernisation was leading to, nobody really knew. Kyoshi and Hekigodo were bosom friends. However, a crack appeared when the latter began to take a different view on what the modernised haiku should look like. He became a champion of what was to be called Shinkeiko School (or new trend movement), which was the beginning of a long line of radical haiku movement in Japan, and which is still earnestly pursued in the 21st century Japan. This provoked Kyoshi to take the opposite line promptly, i.e. more extreme traditionalist haiku. Until then, Kyoshi had been relatively flexible and even liberal in his thinking regarding the future course of haiku. Quarrels and wars tend to make opposing camps go to extremes. Since then, a pattern has developed whereby someone challenges, or opposes to, Kyoshi and Kyoshi, now the most powerful man in the Japanese haiku community, in turn takes decisive actions against him/her with the result that the ostracised person starts a new school to be free and independent, with Kyoshi adamantly sticking to his gun to defend his empire.

The same pattern was repeated with Sojo. After the honeymoon haiku scandal, he continued to write fictitious and/or erotic haiku and experimented on rensaku, which was all against the traditional line. When he published them in his third haiku anthology, Kino no Hana (yesterday’s flower), his mentor Kyoshi’s patience finally ran out. In 1933 when a new radical haiku magazine, Kyodai Haiku (haiku of Kyoto University), was founded Sojo became its advisor. Furthermore, in 1935 Sojo started a new haiku magazine, Kikan (flag ship), promoting new haiku-writing such as muki haiku (haiku without kigo) and rensaku. In the eyes of the master, Sojo’s acts were an open rebellion against him and should not be tolerated. So, finally in 1936 Sojo was summarily expelled from the Hototogisu.

From the point of view of Kyoshi, he had no other alternative but to take this decisive action. This is because not only Sojo had by then become popular and influential in his own right, but also the burgeoning new haiku movement against the traditionalist haiku was gathering momentum apace, challenging and threatening Kyoshi. Among those who led this new movement was that powerful Mizuhara Shuoshi (1892-1981) who was himself a leading member of Kyoshi’s Hototogisu School (one of the what was called ‘The Four S’, as the four leading members of the School all had haiku name beginning with ‘S’, Seiha, Suju, Seishi and Shuoshi). However, Shuoshi began to develop more radical ideas about haiku, which led his rift with the others who, in his eyes, were blindly following the traditionalist creed without adding anything new. The Hototogisu School was split between Shuoshi and ‘them’.

When in 1931 Kyoshi pronounced his decision to take the side of the latter, Shuoshi had no hesitation in quitting the School. This is because beside being a member of the Hototogisu, he had already been leading another haiku society/magazine, called Ashibi (Pieris japonica), to which he could now give his full attention. This was originally called Hamayumi but was renamed as Ashibi in 1928, and had been increasing its power and influence. It is important to note that Sojo was a dojin of it alongside with Shuoshi.

Sojo followed in the footsteps of Shuoshi and, as we have already seen, was duly ‘excommunicated’ by Kyoshi. However, what it also meant was that Sojo was now free to do anything he liked.  So, he pursued liberal and radical haiku in earnest. One of his main achievements was to help establish and spread muki (no kigo) haiku. Kigo of course was (and still is) a ‘red line’ of the Hototogisu School and all other traditionalist haiku societies, along with teikei (5-7-5 format), which no one was allowed to cross. Therefore, Sojo’s move posed a most dangerous threat to Kyoshi and other leaders of conservative haiku. So, what are these muki haiku like?


見えぬ眼の方の眼鏡の玉も拭く

mienu me no/hou no megane no/tama mo fuku

cleaning my spectacles,
the lens over my blind eye?
I clean it all the same

Suddenly, Sojo lost eyesight of his right eye and wrote many haiku about it. This one stunned many not only because of its pathos, poignancy and irony but also because they were woken up to the fact that muki haiku (i.e. not having kigo) could be so very powerful, unencumbered by the burdensome kigo. Let us see another example:


右眼には見えざる妻を左眼にて

ugan ni wa/miezaru tsuma o/sagan nite

my right eye 
cannot see my wife; I look at her 
with my left eye

Simple, direct and straightforward. How moving this haiku is! Sojo wrote quite a few love haiku and this is one of the best. There is no flowery language or clichés. It is a sort of straight talk and the directness gives it power. What you see is the essence of a man's true love for his life’s companion. He did not abandon kigo altogether, though:


見ゆるかと坐れば見ゆる遠桜

miyuru ka to/suwareba miyuru/to-zakura

distant cherry blossom... 
I sit up, I might be able to see them,
Oh yes, I can!

Shiki wrote a similar haiku about the garden flowers he tried to see from his sickbed. Yes, this haiku has a kigo but it is not an embellishment or formality. It is an important and indispensable part of the poem and one which tells us very eloquently the author’s feeling and what sort of life he was leading at this particular juncture. In other words it is more than a kigo, i.e. the best use of kigo. Another kigo haiku goes:


片目にて見定めんとす春の蠅

katame nite/mi-sadamen to su/haru no hae

spring fly... 
I make sure I'm seeing it 
having only one eye

I wonder if Joso was trying to swat the fly here? Otherwise, he must probably have been testing his good eye, which would make this haiku poignant. Whichever way it was, it has plenty of pathos as well as Issa-like sense of humour. It makes us smile, and cry...

Thus it was that Sojo continued to write traditional haiku even after he began to promote anti-traditional haiku vigorously. Confusion? Contradiction? No, in fact it gives one food for thought. Is it appropriate for haiku writers such as Sojo to be classified either traditional or anti-traditional in the first place? Was it not the confusion brought about at the initial stages of new movements that made Sojo alternate between the new and the old, one being still experimental and the other well-established. Or, was not Sojo the type of poet who was big enough to embrace both traditional and anti-traditional haiku? What’s wrong anyway with an individual poet who writes traditional haiku sometimes and anti-traditional haiku at other times? Is such distinction valid in its final analysis? Don’t they share the essence of haiku irrespective of their outward differences? What precisely are the fundamental factors which divide haiku poems into these opposing camps?

Part of the answer to these fundamental questions can be found in what happened to Sojo at a later stage. In 1955, the year before his death, he was pardoned by Kyoshi and was reinstated in the Hototogisu as dojin, ending 19 years of ‘exile’. His honour was restored and his achievements recognised. This says a lot for Kyoshi as well as for Sojo. It also reminds us of the importance that we must be on our guard against over-simplification and lazy generalisation in dealing with haiku.

Sojo’s life was marred by illnesses. He was on what was called ‘elite course’ in his career. Having spent his primary and secondary school days in Keijo (present day Seoul) in Korea under Japanese occupation, he proceeded to enter Sanko (the Third Highschool) in Kyoto in 1918, and then the Imperial University of Kyoto in 1921, reading law. In 1924, he joined the prestigious Osaka Marine and Fire Insurance company, starting a successful career. He was promoted to become general manager at the Human Resources Department in 1944 of the now-enlarged company after a merger, Osaka Sumitomo Marine and Fire Insurance, followed by another promotion whereby he was appointed head of the company’s Kobe branch. However, in the following year, i.e. 1945 when WWII ended, he contracted pulmonary tuberculosis, which eventually led him to give up his job and a glorious career in 1949.

His loss of eyesight occurred in 1951 on account of glaucoma. His right lung finally collapsed and became useless. He spent most of his last years in sick bed, just like Shiki. Naturally, his haiku on illnesses abound. The most moving one may be:


妻子を担ふ片目片肺枯手足

saishi o ninau/katame, katahai/kare-te-ashi

supporting my wife 
and children, with one eye, one lung, 
and worn-out limbs

Looking at the maegaki (foreword) of this haiku, saying "gambare Sojo," or "Sojo, cheer up!", one will know that this haiku is a mixture of self-mockery, self-pity and a sense of praising himself somewhat, coping with all sorts of difficulties that life threw at him. Which in turn exudes a wry sense of humour. What else can one do? Sojo was philosophical about the misfortunes he suffered from and did not wallow in them. His stance was one of realism. By facing up to the realities he tried to overcome the superficiality of the traditional haiku which had been glossing over what was unpleasant, dirty, negative, pathetic and sad, which is life itself for most. Here is Sojo’s honesty not to hide the truth and his courage also to share it with the world. He was also able to be cool and detached, which allowed for expressing the realities of life as relentlessly and almost brutally as, say, Rembrandt or Courbet did in their paintings.

During WWII, Sojo was obliged to lie low because the oppression of the haiku fraternity, especially of the radical kind, by the Japanese military authorities became intense and the public opinion was generally not in favour of any activities outside the war efforts. All these war-time restrictions reduced his haiku output considerably.

Partly because of his continued ill health and partly because of his ‘maturity’ as a haiku poet, Sojo’s haiku style became calmer, more sedate and more traditional after the war. Some commentators such as Yamamoto Kenkichi voiced their opinion that the late works by Sojo were better than the earlier ones. This influential literary critic’s famous remark that Sojo was an ‘extremely precautious and extremely late-blooming’ haijin does speak volumes about his haiku life.

Just to recapitulate briefly, Sojo started his full haiku activity when he was only in his teens. It was purely along the traditional lines, which was carried on in an increasingly intensive manner through his high school and university days and beyond, until he was in his late 20s when he became also interested in the new trend haiku, free, radical and anti-traditional, of which he became a champion. This led him to be expelled from the all conservative Hototogisu School presided over by the all traditionalist Takahama Kyoshi, after which he made the most of the newly-acquired freedom to promote anti-traditional haiku movement, writing a host of haiku poems himself on social subjects or even fictitious items. He changed again when he suffered from consumption and eye disease to focus more on ordinary daily events and occurrences (as he was mostly bed-ridden) which appeared most frequently in his haiku. Eventually, he retired from the active haiku community (haidan) but when a new haiku magazine/society called Seigen was launched in 1949 he was brought back from retirement and was appointed shusai (president) of this new group, the position he kept until his death. Looking back, the war and his illnesses may have turned him inward-looking, where he found himself at last and became more reflective.

In January 1956, Sojo became very weak and died of the asthenia of heart. He was 54 years and 6 months old.

*

In the remaining pages, we shall see some more haiku by Sojo, including ones in an extract of my earlier paper.

 

春暁やひとこそ知らね木々の雨

Shungyo ya/hito koso shira-ne/kigi no ame 

spring dawn…
people may not know it,
rain through trees

This is one of the most famous of all Sojo’s haiku works. It was published in his first haiku anthology Hana-Gouri of 1927. It is every inch a traditional haiku but already one can detect several of his characteristics, i.e. aloneness and loneliness, his fondness of trees and night.

 

夏蒲團ふわりとかかる骨の上

natsu-buton/fuwari to kakaru/hone no ue

summer bedding…
softly covering
my bones

This haiku was included in his haiku anthology Jinsei No Gogo (the afternoon of my life) published in 1953. It is most likely that it was composed during the four years prior to that, as the anthology before it Tanbo was published in 1949, the year he resigned from his company because of illness. He wrote another similar haiku: suijaku su/karei na yagu ni/ooware-te (emaciated…/covered with/gorgeous bedding).

 

ちちろ虫女体の記憶よみがへる

chichiro-mushi/jotai no kioku/yomi-gaeru

cricket chirping…
memories of a woman’s body
coming back

One of Joso’s erotic haiku. Crickets are dear to the Japanese people’s heart. There are many different sorts and each is given different names. They are almost an indispensable part of people’s life in autumn. People used to keep some of them (good singers) in a little cage inside the house and enjoyed the sounds they make. In whatever circumstances he may have been, Joso must have enjoyed their songs while making love to a woman. Or, like some of his other haiku this may be a fictitious scene. Either way, he must have been on his own when he composed this haiku, again some sadness, loneliness and wistfulness permeating.

 

ひとりさす眼ぐすり外れぬ法師蝉

hitori sasu/megusuri sore-nu/houshizemi 

administering alone,
the eyedrops missed my eye…
hoshi cicada

Joso’s attention was diverted by the dear little cicada’s distinct sound. Arguably, hoshi cicada’s song is the most musical, and unmistakable. As everybody knows, there is a knack for putting the eyedrops securely in your eyes. Without learning it, it is surprisingly difficult to do so and we waste a lot of the liquid which goes all over our face. Joso was consoled by the beauty of hoshi cicada’s ‘singing’, perhaps momentarily forgetting his affliction.

 

ものの種にぎればいのちひしめける

mono no tane/nigireba inochi/hishimekeru

the seeds of something,
I put them in my palm,
life jostling

Even such inanimate things as dry seeds made Joso feel they had life, as he was experiencing his own life diminishing. The feeling was not wishful thinking, nor was it an envy. It was not even his clinging to life. Life became so dear to him as his health deteriorated and he wanted to share this feeling with almost anybody and anything.

 

仰向けの口中へ屠蘇たらさるる

aomukeno/kouchu e toso/tarasaruru

lying on my back…
into my mouth comes in drips
the New Year’s sake
 

The sake drink is called toso which is sweetened and scented sake especially prepared to celebrate the New Year. In the morning, family members drink it one by one from special sake cups used only for this occasion in a ceremonial fashion before starting New Year’s breakfast. It is also served to greet people coming to visit your home to exchange goodwill and share the celebration and wish for health, prosperity and happiness during the coming year. Toso is normally made a few days before the New Year in a special pot looking like a glorified teapot. This allows the toso condiment to fuse into sake giving it a distinct scent, sweet and pleasant, and the liquid to become a little bit thickened and viscous. Joso was bedridden and could only be given toso by someone, most likely his wife, pouring it gently into his mouth as he lay on his back. It could well be the New Year’s Day of the year he died. If so, it would not only have been the last such celebration for him but also, he had only 29 more days to live. He must have been happy and grateful to have been alive and able to celebrate one more New Year’s Day. He must have appreciated each drip of toso as if it were life-giving drink.

 

初霜やひとりの咳はおのれ聴く

hatsu-shimo ya/hitori no seki ha/onore kiku

the first frost…
I cough alone, and I
hear it alone
 

Ozaki Hosai famously wrote a haiku about coughing: seki wo shitemo hitori (even coughing, I do it alone).  It is conceivable that Joso liked Hosai and appreciated this particular haiku because the sentiment of both men is very similar. In fact, these two eccentric haiku poets are similar in more ways than one. Hosai also studied at a state high school (the First High School, Tokyo) and at a state university (the Imperial University of Tokyo), studying law. He too worked for an insurance company. In this way, he was also on the elite course in Japan. As for haiku, he also submitted his works to the Hototogisu, and then moved on to jiyuritsu, or free haiku, similarly practicing muki (no kigo) haiku. One of his main themes was also loneliness.

 

子猫ねむしつまみ上げられても眠る

koneko nemushi/tsumami-agerare/te mo nemuru

sleepy kitten…
still fast asleep after
being picked up

Sojo wrote haiku about his wife having gone out (e.g. for shopping or getting his medication) leaving him alone. For him the only companion in such circumstances was an old female cat. Many of his haiku talks about this cat and her kitten. His haiku is more than just an observation. Joso was involved with cats emotionally.

 

春の灯や女はもたぬのどぼとけ

haru no hi ya/onna wa motanu/nodo-botoke

spring lamp
the woman has no
Adam’s apple

This haiku sounds excellent in Japanese. It needs better translation. However, one is not sure about what really is going on. I tend to think that this is again one of Sojo’s erotic haiku, whereby he was (or imagined to be) sleeping with a woman; it was springtime; he was looking at the woman lying next to him under the light and was suddenly amused at the discovery of something which was taken for granted and overlooked. It is possible that he himself had rather a pronounced Adam’s apple, which would become even more noticeable when he was so emaciated.

 

朝寒や歯磨匂ふ妻の口

asazamu ya/ hamigaki niou/tsuma no kuchi

cold morning…
smelling of toothpaste
my wife’s mouth

Are they kissing? Sojo’s wife must have got up early in the morning as usual, cleaned her teeth, washed her face, made up and came back to him to do the daily routine for him. Probably, when she came close to him the refreshing smell of sodium fluoride must have wafted across to him. Anyway, it is a lovely and moving haiku.

 

永き日や相触れし手は触れしまま

nagaki hi ya/ai-fureshi te wa/furesi mama 

day getting longer…
my hand touching hers, both hands
remain touched 

Either this actually took place or it didn’t (i.e. Joso’s fictitious imagination). Whatever the truth, it epitomises the sweet sentiment between two individuals in love and their relationship seems to be as sustainable as the daytime getting longer.

 

浴後裸婦らんまんとしてけむらへる

yokugo rafu/ranman to shite/kemuraer

naked woman after bath
looming up in all her glory
in the steam
 

This haiku reminds me of the paintings of a nude lady in the bathroom by Pierre Bonnard. It is more like a painting than a haiku. The original word ‘ranman’ is usually used to describe the height of spring with all the flowers, especially cherry blossoms, in full bloom and the world is filled with the sense of happiness, merriment, richness, fullness and abundance. Sojo’s use of this word to describe the nudity of the woman is not only unusual but also original.

 

春の雲ながめてをればうごきけり

haru no kumo/nagamete oreba/ugoki keri

spring clouds... 
as I am watching them, 
they've moved

Spring is a sleepy, milky and relaxed time. Clouds often seem stationary. However, this is conventional wisdom. Sojo seems to have accepted such conventional views, but has given them a twist (the surprise at seeing what seems stationary start to move). That was his art and it was his way of life, too. He was an astute observer of nature and life.

 

松風に誘はれて鳴く蝉一つ

matsukaze ni/sasowarete naku/semi hitotsu

a single cicada... 
enticed by the wind in the pines, 
begins to cry

Using ingredients from classical Japanese poetry--the wind blowing through pine trees and a cicada--Sojo focuses on the fact that there is only one cicada (it is rare to hear only one cicada). This is his twist, however mild it may be.

Whether the wind actually lured the cicada into its singing is a moot point. It is more likely to have been a reflection of the author's own sensibility. However, what is most important about this haiku is that in a subtle way Sojo was comparing himself to the lone cicada. Unlike Shuoshi, who put nature before man, Sojo put human affairs, especially his own, at the heart of his haiku-writing.

 

朽ちし胸空寂として冬ごもり

kuchishi mune/kujaku to shite/fuyu-gomori

my rotten chest... 
all empty and forlorn, 
winter hibernation

Sojo suffered from pulmonary tuberculosis (also called consumption) from the age of 44--an illness that four years later in 1949 forced him to resign from his job at a leading insurance company where he had worked for the previous quarter of a century. Many haiku he wrote regarding his illness touch our heart and are sometimes even painful to read. His best haiku can be found among these poems, as well as among his love haiku. He was a well-educated person. However, unlike some other intellectual haiku poets Sojo was not pedantic, but natural; not brainy, but sensual; and not detached or aloof, but passionate and tactile.


うつくしきひとを見かけぬ春浅き

utsukushiki/hito o mikakenu/haru asaki

early spring... 
I chanced to see 
a beauty

Sojo elevated a man's love of women to the height of poetic elegance and beauty. Whether or not he meant his wife when he referred to the woman, or someone else, or even an imaginary womanhood, is really neither here nor there. From his many haiku on his wife, the strong message coming across is that he was devoted to her. The quality and depth of his love for a woman made these haiku special.

 

初蚊帳のしみじみ靑き逢瀬かな

hatsu-kaya no/shimi-jimi aoki/ose kana

how green it is, 
the mosquito net first used in the season!
--our clandestine rendezvous

A mosquito net is often used as one of the popular "stage props" for the drama of sensual love in Japanese literature and in such art forms as ukiyo-e. The colour of the net varies but green is the most common. If you are lovers, once inside one of these you feel more intimate, romantic, private and aroused.

 

獨り寝の蚊帳の四隅を吊りめぐる

hitori-ne no/kaya no yosumi o/tsuri meguru

sleeping alone... 
I move about to hang the four corners 
of the mosquito net

At the other end of the spectrum from romantic bliss is when you have to sleep alone under the Japanese mosquito net. What should be an exciting, expectation-filled task of hanging it, turns into a boring and lonely chore.

 

春寒やふたたび逢へぬひとの顔

haru-samu ya/futatabi aenu/hito no kao

spring cold... 
the face of a woman I will 
never meet again

As this woman cannot be his wife, the haiku must be talking about a love affair which had come to an end. The haiku is in an anthology published in 1932 when he was 31 and, yes, still sighted in both eyes. Sojo was known for huge eyes and a fixed gaze. One can imagine him taking a long and careful look at this lady before saying good-bye, so that the image got etched in his memory.

 

手袋をぬぐ手ながむる逢瀬かな

tebukuro o/nugu te nagamuru/ose kana

looking at hands 
taking off the gloves... 
our clandestine meeting

Another "gazing" haiku. Because of the nature of Japanese, we cannot tell whose hand or hands we are talking about, or whether it is a glove, a pair of gloves or two pairs of gloves we are talking about. In other words, we cannot tell who is looking at whose hand(s). This kind of grammatical ambiguity can be frustrating. However, in this case it leaves all sorts of details to the imagination of the reader, which in a sense makes this haiku fascinating. It could be that the woman has just been ushered into the man's warm room or house and the first thing they want to do is to hold each other's hands. It could even be their first such meeting. Or, it could be that they are outside in a cold park or street. It is most likely, though, that Sojo was looking at the lady's hands and admiring the beauty of them with anticipation.

 

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