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Kyorai Mukai part 4

Special Commemorative Key-Note Public Lecture

At World Haiku Festival 2010 In Nagasaki


 Susumu Takiguchi

Chairman, The World Haiku Club

Kyorai Mukai (16511704):


Having been born into a Samurai family, Kyorai was a man of exemplary character and held a spirit worthy of bushi (warrior) all through his life. Not a few of his hokku reflect such personality of his. For example:


     元日や家にゆずりの太刀帯ん (続虚栗)

Ganjitsu ya/ie ni yuzuri no/tachi hakan (Zoku-Minashi Guri)


New Year’s Day...

today I shall wear the special sword

handed down for generations



     秋風やしらきの弓に弦はらん (阿羅野)

akikaze ya/shiraki no yumi ni/tsuru haran (Arano)


autumn wind...

I am stringing

a plain-wood bow



yoroi kite/tsukare tamesan/doyo-boshi (Zoku Minashi-guri)


wearing the armour,

I shall test my endurance...

Doyo-boshi (airing clothes)


     千貫のつるぎ埋けり苔の露  (芭蕉庵小文庫)

Sengan no/tsurugi umekeri/koke no tsuyu (Basho-an Kobunko)


I buried a sword

weighing a thousand kan,

dews on the moss


(1 kan=3.75 kilograms, but this is an exaggerated expression for effect)


Kyorai was a brave man. One episode which is testimonial to his bravery is to be found in a book entitled “Rakushi-sha Kyorai-Sensei Jijitsu” (Facts of Master Kyorai of Rakushi-sha) written by Genchu Mukai. Genchu was a relation of Kyorai. He was a grand-son of Kyorai’s brother, Gentan. According to this book, one day Kyorai was walking near Shogo-in after visiting his father Gensho’s tomb at Shin-nyo-do in the east of Kyoto. Suddenly, he witnessed a wounded wild boar come out of nowhere and assault a hapless farmer who happened to be working nearby. Kyorai was still in mourning which meant no violence perpetrated on his part. However, he could not stand idly by and watch the man killed. He drew his sword and cut down the dangerous beast.


This episode goes some way to explain what sort of person Kyorai was in contrast with his brothers who chose to study medicine and literature. Kyorai was also very bright and his talents led him to be invited to serve Lord Kuroda of the Chikuzen Province in Kyushu. However, he turned this invitation down. Quite why it was is not known. Considering how much Kyorai yearned for becoming a samurai, devoting to learning and martial practice extremely diligently, his decision is a puzzle.


Eventually, Kyorai gave up all his kyuba-no-jutsu to yumiya (all samurai training). Once again the reason is not known. This makes it even more complicated to try to interpret what sort of life he led after that. It is held to have been the decision he made when he was around 25, or in the year of Enpo 3 (1675). In today’s Japan, 25 years old is regarded as very young and green but in Kyorai’s time of early Edo Period it was well into adulthood and maturity and therefore it must have been inconceivable that a grown-up samurai adult should chop and change his life’s plan so carelessly. One can only speculate that there must have been some truly serious reason we do not know, which made it necessary for him to give up his ambition to be a good samurai and presumably to turn round family fortune.


A boy was born to Kyorai’s uncle with whom he was staying. The emergence of this heir to the Kume family meant that the time had come for Kyorai to leave and go back home in Kyoto. There is a possibility that Kyorai might have been expected to succeed the Kume family line in the absence of an heir. Thus, when the boy was born Kyorai lost his reason of being there. There is a hokku which he composed in the winter of Jokyo 3 (1686), remembering the time of his giving up of military practices.



       kamo naku ya yumi-ya wo sutete juyo-nen


          ten odd years

          since I gave up martial arts...

          ducks’ cry


 (End of Part Four)



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 Read also :

Part 1 is below

Part 2

Part 3














Kyorai Mukai (16511704): PART ONE



Nagasaki no nagaki mo towan kumo-gasumi


wishing to know

how long the spring mist extends

over Nagasaki


This poem is said to be one which Kyorai wrote wistfully longing to return to his hometown, Nagasaki. This actually came true in Genroku 2 (1689).


When he was only 8 years old, his father, Gensho, took the whole family from Nagasaki to live in Kyoto. It was in Manji 1 (1658). This means that Kyorai was away from his birth place for 31 long years. He was already 38 years old.


He arrived there in summer which quickly turned autumn when he had to leave back for Kyoto already. He left behind a poem which since has become one of his most celebrated haiku:


kimi ga te mo majiru naru beshi hana-susuki


your waving hand

must be mingled among

the pampas grass


His family and friends did not want him to go and came as far as the hill called Himi, the boundary, to see him off, where there were pampas grass waving in the autumn wind as they said the final goodbye to the departing traveller. This haiku was published in the famous Sarumino (The Monkey’s Straw Raincoat) and the kotoba-gaki (a kind of note) says “Departing Ushichi at the Himi Hill when coming back from Chikushi (the Province of Nagasaki)”. Ushichi was a relative of his, said to be either his nephew or cousin or cousin-in-law, and was very close to Kyorai in that he discussed haikai with Kyorai a lot and had tutorial from him.


The Himi Hill is now part of the administrative district of the City of Nagasaki and called Susuki-zuka-cho. There is a stone monument there which was erected in Tenmei 4 (1784), bearing this haiku. To reach there you follow the old Nagasaki Gaido and climb up to the Himi-toge which will lead to Yagami-mura and Susuki-zuka can be found there. It is very picturesque and it commands a fine view of the Mount Unzen. In the past one could not enter or come out Nagasaki except for passing this particular route. It is believed that this haiku was the only known poem Kyorai wrote in commemoration of his first return to his homeland.


Sarumino (The Monkey’s Straw Raincoat) is the famous anthology which established Shofu, or the Basho School Style. It was compiled by no other person than Kyorai and his fellow student of Basho, Boncho Nozawa and published on 3 July Genroku 4 (1691). Kikaku Enomoto wrote the foreward for it. Kikaku was another important disciple of Basho and will be discussed in detail later in this lecture. The anthology is called “the Kokin-waka-shu of haikai” in terms of its importance, influence and quality. Kokin-waka-shu is an ancient waka anthology compiled in early 10th century by a group of top waka poets such as Tsurayuki Ki-no and Tadamine Mibu-no. ‘The Bible of haikai’ would be the apt English expression. When Kyorai was staying in Nagasaki he was not idling time away drinking or playing but was hard at work disseminating and teaching Shofu among his relatives and friends who were engaged in haikai.


Are there any other stone monuments in Nagasaki with inscriptions of Kyorai’s poems? The answer is in the affirmative. At what is now Number 56-2 Honkawa-cho and along the old Nagasaki Gaido stands Watari-dori-zuka, or migrating birds monument, which was constructed in Bunka 10 (1813) by the haikai poets in Nagasaki of the Shomon School in order to commemorate the 120th anniversary of Basho’s death. On the front of the monument are inscribed two haikai poems. One is by Basho which reads:


me ni kakaru kumo ya shibasi no watari-dori


no sooner

clouds come into sight, than

migrating birds appear


And the other by Kyorai which goes:


furusato mo ima wa kari-ne ya watari-dori


my hometown…

now only a temporary abode;

a migrating bird


On the back of the same stone monument is an inscription which reads:


In the summer of Bunka 10 and during Mina-zuki, or the waterless month (June of the lunar calendar) we the disciples of Basho hereby sincerely erected this monument.


There is a stone monument called “Inazuma Kuhi” (the lightning haiku monument) at the site of the famous restaurant Kagetsu located in the gay quarter Maruyama, which reads:


inazuma ya dono keisei to kari-makura



which prostitute am I sharing

temporary pillows


At Shuntoku-ji Temple there is a stone monument called Shigure-zuka, the winter rain monument which was erected in Horeki 14 (1764), on which the following poem by Basho is inscribed:


yado kashite na wo nanorasuru shigure kana


lodging given…

I had to give my name,

winter rain


At Suwa-jinja Shrine, there is this stone monument with the famous poem by Kyorai which goes:


furusato wo Kyo de kataru mo Suwa no tsuki


talking in Kyoto

about my hometown, about

the moon at Suwa

Tokuzo-ji Temple in Nagasaki’s Tagami area is the place where once stood Senzai-tei which was the detached residence of Tagami-no-ama, Kyorai’s aunt. Here is a stone monument bearing Kyorai’s poem which he composed while staying in this house in Genroku 11 (1698):


meigetsu ya tagami ni semaru tabi-gokoro


bright moon…

travelling sentiment

at Tagami


[to be continued]



Part 2

Part 3