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One Hundred Haijin

WHR March 2018


ONE HUNDRED HAIJIN AFTER SHIKI


Susumu Takiguchi


PART SIX

Kaneko Tota (1919-2018)


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.


Kaneko Tota (1919-2018)

CHAMPION OF THE MODERN HAIKU REFORM

Kaneko (surname) Tota (given name)

23 September 1919 ~ 20 February 2018


For the last thirty years at least, there have been two so-called giants in the Japanese haiku world (the ‘haidan’). One is a lady called Inahata Teiko (surname followed by given name). She has been the champion of the traditionalist school of haiku. Being a grand-daughter of Takahama Kyoshi (1874-1959) who created the Hototogisu School and its organ The Hototogisu (‘cuckoo’), she has taken upon herself a difficult task of defending and promoting the greatest haiku movement in modern time which her grand-father started.

Her opponents have been numerous and formidable, each engaged in various forms of haiku reform and was intent upon attacking the traditional haiku. The greatest of them all is, and sadly ‘was’ now, Kaneko Tota, who died on 20 February 2018 at the age of 98 years and some seven months. He was indeed the other giant. He is said to have breathed his last ‘peacefully’, which is a relief for those who have sympathised with his campaign for peace, and also for his family who knew that he suffered from an acute respiratory distress syndrome, which finally killed him.

During most of his long life Kaneko virtually dedicated himself to reforming haiku in theory and practice, though he had a good job at the central bank of Japan. Having become one of the forerunners, and later the torchbearer, of the avant-garde haiku movement, his power and influence were immense not only within the anti-traditional camp but also across all the boundaries of modern haiku, which in recent years have also begun to be felt in the world haiku scene.

However, branding him away as an avant-garde haijin would in fact be a great mistake, though that is exactly what the mass media and his opponents in Japan has done. He was much more complex and broader. Yes, he did promulgate radical ideas and instigated revolutionary practices, but he actually did not dismiss traditional haiku entirely. As we shall see below, more often than not he retained vital functions of it such as kigo and 5-7-5 in his own haiku-writing.

Equally important is the fact that he did not denounce classical haiku (haikai to be more precise) at all. On the contrary, he never ceased to emphasise the importance of learning from classical masters. Kobayashi Issa was especially dear to him. Other classical masters he was fond of includes Ihara Saikaku, Arakida Moritake and Basho. Therefore, it is crucially important not to try and label him in any particular way but to study carefully the contents of the reform he strived to achieve.

At any rate, attaining such a height as described above was made possible not only because he excelled in what he was doing but also because of his personality. He was basically an amiable and accessible man and duly liked even by his detractors. He was unpretentious, straightforward, natural and plebeian even, in spite of his academic background and occupation which put him squarely in the category of the elite class in the Japanese society.


WAR  HAIKU


水脈(みお)の果(はて)炎天の墓碑を置きて去る    『少年』

mio no hate enten no bohi wo okite saru


    beyond the wake
    we left behind the tombstones
    under the baking sun


It was in 1946. Kaneko was on board a special ship sent from Japan to evacuate Japanese soldiers who were detained as prisoners of war in WWII. He had served in the Truk Islands (now the Chuuk Islands) in Caroline Islands, Micronesia, some 1,800 kilometres north-east of New Guinea. He wrote this haiku on the ship’s deck. Two years previously, Kaneko had been deployed there at a tender age of 24 as navy lieutenant in charge of accounting.

Only a few weeks before his arrival, one of the decisive battles was fought with sudden US Navy’s air and surface attacks, codenamed Operation Hailstone, on 17 and 18 February 1944. As the Truk Islands, the trophy given to Japan in the First World War for fighting against Germany, was a linchpin, strategically as important as the Rock of Gibraltar for the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) in all its operations in the Pacific, from supply routes between north and south Pacific, through air activities, to the anchorage for warships, carriers and other ships. For the Americans, it would not be possible for them to advance north to attack Japanese home islands without destroying these vital lagoons and nearby seas first.

The result was an almost one-sided victory for the American forces, one of the contributing factors of their ultimate triumph in the entire war. Having neutralised the Truk Islands, America wasted no time by landing and occupying the islands with possibly huge loss of American lives, time and ammunition, except for occasional attacks on them. She just kept the air superiority there and virtual embargo of Japanese ship movement and went on their island-hopping advances, effectively starving the enemy into submission by siege and blockade. Kaneko had a narrow escape twice. And the Japanese surrender of the Truk Islands came on the same day as Japan’s formal surrender ceremonies took place in the Bay of Tokyo, 2 September 1945.

The haiku, one of the most well-known and most frequently quoted poems by Kaneko, has got the depth and pathos of a chronicle drama. The lack of any sentimentality transports us all the more to his innermost feelings he had while watching the Truk Islands getting farther and farther away. These feelings never left him, becoming a leitmotif of the rest of his life as well as of his haiku. One of them was his resolve to dedicate himself to campaigning for peace so that the death of his comrades would not have proven in vain. In recent years, his calligraphy, opposing to Prime Minister Abe’s administration, has been used for the placards carried by demonstrators marching against the Government’s policy to turn the country back into a war-like nation.


WILL TO LIVE


よく眠る夢の枯野が青むまで                   『東国抄』

yoku nemuru yume no kareno ga aomu made


    I sleep long and well
    till the withered field in my dream
    becomes green


Despite the untold trauma experienced in the last war, Kaneko had always seemed to me to be basically an affable optimist. At the same time, he had a wry sense of humour. This haiku can be said to be a parody of the famous poem by Basho 

(旅に病んで夢は枯野をかけ廻る   sick on the journey/my dreams roam about/the withered field=version by the author). 

The poem is the last one Basho wrote (8 October 1694) with a maegaki (foreword) of byochu-gin (written while sick), though there was another one he penned the following day but that was a revision of a poem he had written previously. Though there is rigorous academic admonition against calling it his death poem, it is generally and popularly regarded as such.

Be that as it may, what is important in our context is that Kaneko was much interested in the last poems which a poet writes in his or her last days. His haiku seems to be saying that Basho may have been in a pessimistic mood before the approaching death but he, Kaneko, was determined to remain cheery and would live on until the winter turned to exuberant spring and summer.

In a recent interview with the Nikkei newspaper, Kaneko, at 95, expressed his desire to write haiku poems which would be highly avant-garde, ‘vivid’ and capable of communicating with people well. He also referred to the haiku he wrote while watching the disaster of the Great Higashi-Nihon Earthquake:

 津波のあと老女生きてあり死なぬ (after the Tsunami/an old woman is found alive/she would not die). 

He said he wanted to convey the message that we humans had resilience and we must all make the most of it.


FIRST  HAIKU


白梅や老子無心の旅に住む                           『生長』

shiraume ya Roshi musin no tabi ni sumu


    white plum blossom…
    Lao-tse takes up residence in
    the journey of mushin

*mushin (‘no mind’) is a term of Taoism, Zen and many other Japanese ways of life, including martial arts. It is a state of mind uncluttered with, and clear of, all inessentials, including thoughts, concerns and desires.

We have looked at Kaneko’s war haiku which he composed in his twenties. We discussed his deep feelings which led to the haiku and which largely determined the tenets of his life’s philosophy and of the nature and function of his involvement in haiku movement. We have also examined another haiku which pointed to his honest and positive attitude towards the question of his old age.

It is now time for us to go back to the beginning of his journey as a haiku poet.

The white plum haiku under review is believed to be his earliest haiku. Kaneko wrote it at the age of eighteen when he was a high school student. He was a bright boy. But where did he encounter haiku? His father was a practicing doctor who also practiced haiku. And there is no doubt that Kaneko learned the rope from the father, though in those days teenagers tended to turn their nose up at haiku which they thought was no more than a useless hobby for the elderly people who had nothing else to do. At the high school he also met good haiku teachers and friends. There was impetus all round that would propel young Kaneko into what was to become his lifelong passion.

There was indeed a good reason why Kaneko did not write haiku until he was eighteen, when he could have been initiated to do so by his father much earlier. Well, the reason was his mother. She resented that her husband held haiku meetings (kukai) at home all the time. What was supposed to be a good discussion for the participants to improve their haiku often developed into fierce argument. After the kukai, a long drinking session ensued and the argument turned to a noisy quarrel. His mother was totally fed up with this but could not change her husband’s bad habit. Instead, she made Kaneko promise that he would never take up haiku in his life. He kept it until he was 18.

From local schools (Minano and Kumagaya) in the Saitama Prefecture Kaneko passed the entrance examination of the elite Mito Highschool in the neighbouring prefecture, which was one of the best state high schools in the old (pre-war) system. It was also famed for being the most Bohemian (i.e. rough and uncouth) of all these prestigious high schools. This was a culture called bankara, but it was really pretence in the sense that it was fashionable for these male-only students to behave like ‘barbarians’, which was believed by them to be manly, and no less demonstratively to despise refinement, elegance or sophistication, which was regarded as feminine. Perhaps disregarding such conducts as nonsense, Kaneko ignored them and took to haiku, practicing it openly and vigorously in his high school days.

He was fond of white plum blossom because it was a representation of purity, modesty and innocence for him, which in turn wasmushin. It is remarkable that such a young man as he was would reach such a height of spiritual growth. It could be something which he wanted to aim at in life. Such questions as truth, meaning and existence are what he was to pursue all through his life, often through writing haiku. The haiku in question was based on the poem by Kitahara Hakushu called “Lao-tse”.

Basho loved journeys so much so that he felt his whole life was spent on a journey. Kaneko also loved going on a journey and wrote many haiku about it. In this haiku he talks about Lao-tse’s journey, but it might have been a manifestation of his yearning for journeys in the future.


HOME  PROVINCE


冬山を父母がそびらに置きて征く  『生長』

fuyu-yama wo fubo ga sobira ni okite yuku


    winter mountain…
    leaving it at my parents’ back,
    I go to war

Let us see where it all began: his hometown. In 1943 Kaneko graduated from the Tokyo Imperial University (Department of Economics) earlier than the usual graduation time and joined the Bank of Japan. He then went to the Imperial Japanese Navy’s school of accounting before being sent, as we have seen, to the Truk Islands in south-west Pacific in the spring of the following year. But his hometown was Chichibu, some 80 kilometres north-west of Tokyo.

The fertile Chichibu basin is surrounded by many mountains, high and low. It has one of the most popular tourist spots in Japan, Nagatoro Gorge. It is scenic, has good onsen spas and lovely environment along the River Arakawa, the downstream of which flows through the centre of the Capital and into the Bay of Tokyo. His parents must have waved him good-bye. They might have come out of the house, walked with him and finally saw him off. He must have looked back at them more than once. He could see the snow-capped mountains in the distance behind his parents, especially Mount Ryokami-san which is designated as one of Japan’s 100 most beautiful mountains. These are the images one would depict in one’s head, reading Kaneko’s haiku.

He was born on 23 September 1919 at the jikka (home from which a married woman comes, or a house of wife’s parents) of his mother in Ogawa-machi which is a neighbouring town of Minano-machi where his parents lived. Both were located in Chichibu basin. It was common in those days that a woman had the child birth at jikka, mainly because of all the help she could garner from her own mother while husband proved largely useless at best. In the case of Kaneko, his father was away abroad anyway. It is said that Kaneko was actually born in August but that his parents took a long time deciding on his name (Tota was his real name not a penname) before registering his birth. Another theory goes that when his father was told of the birth of his first child he sent a telegram, giving it a name. However, his uncle who was entrusted with the task of registering this birth wrote a wrong kanji (Chinese character) for ‘to’ of ‘Tota’ on the registration document. He used a kanji meaning wisteria rather than war helmet which was the correct kanji. It took a long time for this mistake to be corrected.

He and his mother moved to Shanghai, where his father was working, and lived there for a couple of years or so (from the age of 2 to 4) before the family returned to Minano-machi. So, Kaneko’s memories of his hometown must start from the age of four. He went to a local elementary school in Minano-machi. He then proceeded to enter Kumagaya Middle School which was situated in Kumagaya City, where Kaneko was to return to live in 1967 at the age of 47 until his death. That means he lived there for a little over half a century. Kumagaya is within 30 kilometres from Minano-machi. All in all, he spent about 70 years of his life in his home province. Asked why he moved back there, Kaneko answered that it was because of his wife’s ‘oracle’ that “If you are not on the soil, you will be finished”. There is a Japanese word, ubu-suna. Ubu means ‘to be born’ and suna means ‘soil or earth’. Hence,ubu-suna means a place where you are born. His wife’s oracle, then, was saying that a life in a big city like Tokyo was not for him and could destroy him, and that therefore he should go back where he was born, i.e. back to his soil. Incidentally, their son’s name is Matsuchi. The kanji (Chinese characters) of it means true (“ma”) soil/earth (“tsuchi”). It is obvious that they held soil dear.


WIFE

瀬を早み朴の花ゆく帰らない

se wo hayami ho no hana yuku kaeranai


    fast-flowing torrent…
    gone is the flower of magnolia hypoleuca,
    never to return

This is a desperately sad haiku. Kaneko’s wife, Minako, died in 2006 at the age of 81 after a long battle against cancer, and after nearly 60 years of married life with him. She was not only his best companion but also a good haiku friend and a magazine co-editor. She gave him his son. She was initiated to haiku when she married him. She took full charge of running the publication of the prestigious haiku magazine Kaitei which her husband founded in 1962 with like-minded friends (dojin). In 1985 Kaitei became a public organisation and Kaneko was appointed its president. Thus, his wife was the backbone of all his activities, public and private.

The haiku is a form of honka-dori. Honka-dori is a well-established literary practice in Japan, whereby a new poem is created based on an old one written by someone else, often classical masters, and normally using a part of the latter. It is not plagiarism. It is not straightforward copying. On the contrary, it is a sophisticated convention to praise and honour the old poem (homage) and to try to continue its good and time-honoured tradition. Also, there is an unwritten law that the author of the new poem must not explicitly try to better the old as the latter has been revered over centuries and deemed inimitable.

The old poem which Kaneko used for honka-dori is a famous waka by Sutokuin of the 12th century, which was included in Ogura-Hyakunin-Isshu (Ogura One Hundred Poems):

瀬をはやみ岩にせかるる滝川のわれても末に逢はむとぞ思ふ


                  (詞歌七・恋上・崇徳院)

se wo hayami iwa ni sekaruru takigawa no warete mo sue ni awamu to zo omou

    as the current is fast
    it is divided by the rock into two rapids
    but they will eventually merge;
    likewise, even we are separated now, in the end
    I wish we would get together again

This waka was composed by Sutokuin. He was rather a tragic emperor who was embroiled in political intrigues and went through violent civil wars. After he abdicated the throne and became joko (Ex-Emperor), he intensified his activities in waka, hosting waka meetings frequently and editing waka anthologies. Kaneko took this background into consideration when he composed his haiku. That is why it is tinged with the feeling of sorrow and uncertainty. It was in March that his wife died, and the magnolia hypoleuca (or Japanese bigleaf magnolia) puts out large, beautiful and fragrant white flowers in May. The tree can grow 30 metres high. It is possible that one was in their garden and loved by the couple. At any rate, he compared parting with his wife to these dear flowers falling. However, the comparison ended there because the magnolia would flower again the following year, but he would never see his wife again.

Kaneko wrote many haiku poems on the theme of his wife. Among them are those of notoriously explicit and honest description of erotic love:


(ほと)しめる浴みのあとの微光かな

hoto shimeru ayumi no ato no biko kana


    vagina wet…
    after the bath
    faint light


黒葭や中の奥処の夕じめり

kuro-ashi ya naka no okusho no yu-jimeri


    black reeds…
    deep down inside
    evening wet


唾粘り胯間ひろらに花宴(はなうたげ)

tsuba nebari kokan hirora ni hana-utage


    sticky spit,
    wide is between legs
    cherry banquet


谷に鯉もみ合う夜の歓喜かな

tani ni koi momiau yoru no kanki kana


    vale and a carp,
    the night of tussling one another…
    what pleasure!


瞼燃え遠嶺夜空を時渡る

mabuta moe enrei yozora wo toki wataru


    eyelids burning…
    distant peaks, across the sky
    time travels


MOTHER


長寿の母うんこのようにわれを産みぬ          『日常』

choju no haha unko no yo ni ware wo umi-nu


    mother’s longevity…
    like a poo she had given
    birth to me


There was another woman who was special to Kaneko: his mother. Using such words as ‘poo’ was condemned. In traditional haiku, there are many unwritten laws (including taboos) in addition to more obvious rules such as kigo and 5-7-5. The use of words which are explicitly dirty, ribald, salacious, blasphemous and in many different ways offensive is one of these taboos. Kaneko broke them all. For him it was a natural thing to do. What he did was to destroy our long-held and deeply ingrained hypocrisy, falsehood, prejudices and pretention. It was his way of seeking truths and expressing them when he reached them. He adored his mother. In this haiku he is celebrating her long life and thankful to her for bringing him into this world. Instead of cringing in disgust or embarrassment, we feel happy about this haiku with the author.

Interestingly, his father also wrote haiku using the same taboo word: 元日や餅で押し出す去年糞 (New Year’s Day…/I push out last year’s poo/by eating mochi rice cake) Basho’s haiku talking about a horse pissing is well known. Today, there are people who indulge in using ‘pissing’, ‘peeing’ or ‘urinating’. In my experience, all of them seem to do so for the sake of doing so. They are usually simply disgusting and have little literary merit. Some have even given me the impression that they felt they were obliged to do it. For one thing, Basho’s pissing was done by an animal and not by a person. Also, it is a scene of the 17th century Japan, and in a modest farmhouse of a border guard in the countryside at that. They kept horses not in a stable but in the same house as they lived in. Basho was obliged to stay there for three days because of the heavy storm. He wanted to express the feeling of despondency, inconvenience (he was bitten by fleas and lice) and also the wabi sabi of the house and its environment. In other words, Basho had a proper context in which the use of the word ‘pissing’ was not only appropriate but also a very effective literary expression. By all means, use the word ‘pissing’, but do not abuse it.

 

母逝きて風雲枯木なべて美し          『日常』

haha yuki te fuun kareki nabete yoshi


    mother’s passed away…
    wind, clouds and withered trees,
    all beautiful


Back to his mother. She died at 104. Kaneko promptly composed six haiku, of which this is the first. He was overwhelmed by the sense of beauty as well as sorrow. He had written haiku which said his mother called him yota (a good-for-nothing, silly boy). This, I interpret, must have been a tease or joke on his mother’s part. In other words, it was an expression of her affection for him, and he knew it. Reverberating that sentiment, he used in the second haiku the same word yota, depicting the glittering tears on his nose, which is a homage to his mother. His mother was expecting Kaneko to become a medical doctor to succeed his father. It must have been really disappointing for her to see him not only not becoming a doctor but also indulging in haiku which brought no earnings to him. That is why she called him yota. His mother’s incredibly long life gave Kaneko room to appreciate everything more positively on the one hand and built up intense sadness on the other when her death actually occurred.


母の歯か椿の下の霜柱  『日常』

haha no ha ka tsubaki no shita no shimo-bashira


    mother’s teeth?
    under the camellia tree
    frost columns

It must have been the camellia tree which his mother loved. Kaneko might have often admired it with her. Being an evergreen, it has the shiny and shapely leaves even in winter. One can imagine Kaneko walking everywhere after her death in search of something which reminded him of her. He noticed the frost columns and the first thing which occurred to him was that they resembled his mother’s teeth.


CAMPAIGN FOR PEACE


原爆許すまじ蟹かつかつと瓦礫あゆむ         『少年』

genbaku yurusumaji kani katsukatsu to gareki ayumu


    no more atomic bombs,
    crabs walking, clump, clump
    along the debris


As was mentioned before, Kaneko devoted himself to the campaign for peace all through his life after the end of WWII. An important part of it was to write haiku about it. I would tend to wish that even here he put haiku first and the campaign second in the sense that if one is writing a haiku one’s most (or only) important aim should be to create as good a haiku as possible, regardless of what one writes about. There may not have been any such distinction in Kaneko’s mind. Judging from his personality, it is more likely that he aimed at both, i.e. the best haiku and the best campaign. Either way, this haiku has become so well-known that it is ranked high in Kaneko’s daihyousaku, or representative works (masterpieces).

 

彎曲し火傷(かしょう)し爆心地のマラソン      『金子兜太句集』

wankyoku shi kashou shi bakushinchi no marason


    bent and burnt…
    the marathon at
    the hypocentre


This haiku is also Kaneko’s daihyosaku. One can easily see that the haiku is depicting the utmost horror, cruelty and unfathomable depth of human folly which was revealed by the dropping of the atomic bomb. But what about ‘marathon’? This amazing juxtaposition is not so far-fetched as it first appears to be. I believe the haiku was written in 1961 when Kaneko was working at the Nagasaki branch of Bank of Japan. Only 16 years after the bomb and 8 years from the armistice of the Korean War, the time still carried the remnant of the atmosphere of war. However, Japan was in the early stage of economic expansion, having been successful in the reconstruction process from the devastation of the war. The hateful period was coming to an end and the new era of hope and prosperity was dawning. Marathon was introduced in different parts of Japan as a symbol of such optimism. Kaneko is said to be standing near the ground zero. He saw the marathon runners who were struggling to run along the hilly path. Their body was bent and looked tortured. Kaneko’s strong imagination brought forth an association of buildings, bridges and humans hit by the blast, heat and radiation not so long ago.

 

わが戦後終らず朝日影長しよ           『狡童』

waga sengo owarazu asahikage nagashi yo


    my post-war
    is not over…a long
    morning sun ray


This haiku is thought to have been written around 1972/73 together with other haiku of the same theme (rensaku). What sorts of things were happening in Japan then? Nobel laureate Kawabata Yasunari committed suicide; the Japanese soldier Yokoi Shoichi was found in Guam, the return of Okinawa to Japanese jurisdiction, the birth of Tanaka Kakuei administration, Japan-China normalisation agreement, Asama Sanso incident by the radical student movement of Red Brigade, the attack on Tel Aviv Airport by the same etc. With many other disturbing events, these years represented an uncertain time. Kaneko was keenly conscious of each and every development which could be used as an indicator of whether or not Japan was following the path for peace. The whole Japan was longing for the day when they could say with confidence that the post-was period was over and the new era of confident, peaceful and prosperous Japan was ushered in. Kaneko did not lower his guard as he had his own agenda which would really determine the answer to this all too often emotional question. The time needed for coming to any conclusion is long, just like the morning sun ray.

CONCLUSION

Kaneko’s life was long. So was his haiku journey. He wrote a countless number of haiku and had many books published. He was ubiquitous: on the TV, in the newspapers, magazines, libraries and bookstores, public lectures, haiku conferences, university campus, just about everywhere. Will his work stand the test of time? Literally, only time will tell. He was fortunate enough to have good haiku friends and teachers. A year after he wrote his first haiku, he came to know Takeshita Shizunojo, Kato Shuson and Nakamura Kusatao. At Tokyo University, he started to send his haiku to Kanrai (winter thunder) presided over by Kato Shuson who later became his teacher. The people he came to know through haiku were too numerous to name, thousands if not millions. And he was always at the centre of haidan in Japan.

However, his life-long teachers were Kobayashi Issa and Taneda Santoka. He became an authority on them too. Also, he was guided by nature, realities of the world and truths of everything. People often refer to him as the champion of vanguard haiku movement, or a foremost leader of shakai-ha (social-issue school). In a sense, these labels were useful, just like the name of a political party or the Impressionism or Romanticism. But I am bound to feel that Kaneko was too big and too free to be contained in a petty convenient label. If there are many schools of haiku movement, ranging from an ultra-conservative faction to the most radical group, he was probably all of them and more.

If all his haiku were submitted to World Haiku Review, the largest portion would go to Vanguard Haiku, a lot of them would go to Shintai Haiku and a small but still significant number of them would even go to Neo-classical haiku. In other words, his haiku extends to WHR’s all three categories, which cover all existing and future haiku poems.

Above anything else, Kaneko wanted to bring freedom, innovation and joy into modern haiku which has become too dissected, theorised and compartmentalised for its own good. In a relatively recent interview, he emphasised the importance for the Japanese haijin to be freer, without bothering about kigo or particles or any other trivial things. Everyone would try to be clever and spoil the haiku. He suggested we should not feel shy about showing our foolishness because we are all fools. Probably, what he means is that we should remain natural, honest to ourselves and to others, and free from all artificial restrictions, which all amount to makoto, which was mentioned before.

What Kaneko tried to do was to reform haiku as a whole so that it gets updated to satisfy the needs of the present and future time, and its scope can be expanded to include much more areas of human life, society and the world than the traditional haiku can cover. I do not think that he was opposed to traditional haiku as such. He just wanted to reform it. Thus, he was the champion of haiku reform.

 

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