A Year in Haiku

This article originally featured in the January 2020 issue of Connect.

Art Editor: Valerie Osborne (Fukuoka)

Since coming to Japan, I’ve often found it hard to find inspiration for my writing. I used to write poetry like diary entries, recording my thoughts and feelings. Yet, despite being in Japan for over a year now, I’ve barely written anything about my time here. You would think that living in such a beautiful country, within a new and interesting culture, there would be no lack of new ideas for a writer. Yet still, I find myself drawing a blank. It doesn’t help that when I get home from school, the only motivation I have is the motivation to watch Netflix until it’s time for bed. I just don’t have the energy to write and edit the long-winded, free verse poems that detailed my college life. However, I don’t want to quit writing altogether, so I’ve tried to make it a goal to write just a little bit, even if it’s only occasionally. The Japanese poetry form haiku is perfect for this goal.

“A haiku is a short form poem that consists of three lines, the first and last lines contain five syllables, while the middle line allows seven syllables.”

I’ve found that the strict structure of the haiku gives me a more concentrated focus on my writing, while the short length allows me to write quickly without losing motivation. Haiku can also act as a scrapbook of sorts, letting me write quick snapshots of things I’ve seen and experienced in Japan. The following haiku detail some moments from the past year . . . my first full year in Japan.

 

January

First (and only snow) in Fukuoka

Tepid breath tattoos

the frozen window. Loose snow

crowns a hill of roofs.

 

 

 

February - Concert in OsakaFebruary

Concert in Osaka

A lone singer sweats

Under the hot furor of

Stage lights. The crowd hums.

 

March - Trip to OkinawaMarch

Trip to Okinawa

Salted air fills my

lungs with gulps of life. A sea

bluer than the sky.

 

April - HanamiApril

Hanami

Lilly pads, drifting

ships, catch sakura: nomads

shaken from the trees.

 

May - Lotus Lantern Festival in BusanMay

Lotus Lantern Festival in Busan

Roses glow under

the gentle flush of lanterns.

Birthday for a god.

June - Takotoyama Park

June 

Takotoyama Park

Ajisai, blooming

violet, a bruised and fitful

love paints the petals.

 

July - Train ride across HokkaidoJuly

Train ride across Hokkaido

From the train window,

Farmhouses break the fold of

waves. Midori sea.

 

August - Climbing Mt. DaisenAugust

Climbing Mt. Daisen

Clouds weaving a mask,

veil the mountain’s shy face. We

ascend for a peak.

 

September - Visiting ItoshimaSeptember

Visiting Itoshima

Itoshima weds

the sea, kissing the feet of

Heaven’s gate, chaste white.

October - Trip to YanagawaOctober

Trip to Yanagawa

Heads brushed by weeping

willows, an old man sings. The

river guides us home.

November - TokyoNovember

Tokyo

Above neon lights,

A starless sky watches the

city reach for her.

 

December - Early morning before workDecember

Early morning before work

Rising slowly, the

sun blushes, waking up to

the face of the hills.

 

 

 

 

Photos: Valerie Osborne

 

Valerie Osborne is the CONNECT Art Section editor and a 2nd year JET from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, USA. She currently works as an ALT at two high schools in Fukuoka Prefecture.