Enomoto Seifu-Jo Kubota


Enomoto Seifu-Jo

榎本星布 えのもとせいふ
"the Nun Seifu", Seifu-Ni 榎本星布尼 (1731 - 1814)

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Scroll down for Kubota Seifu.

She was born in Hachioji, now a suburb of Tokyo. She was the most famous Haiku Poet of the Tama area of her time. Hachioji 八王子 was a prosperous town along the silk road of Japan at her time.

Her Buddhist name, Cloth of Stars, gives us the vastnes of the clear sky.
She lost her mother when she was only 18 years old. Her new step-mother, 仙朝, was a haiku poet in the school of Shiro-I 白井鳥醉門, later Kaya Shirao 加舎白雄門. Her new step-brother was also a haiku poet and called himself 大甲.

The haiku community of Hachioji was just in its beginning. Seifu became a well known haiku poet and took over the retreat of her master, Matsubara-An 松原庵 in 1788 (松原庵二世). She lived to a healthy 83 years, enjoying the company of many famous haiku poets of her time.

Japanese Reference


chô oite tamashii kiku ni asobu kana

A butterfly,
having grown old, its soul plays
in the chrysanthemums.

Tr. Hugh Bygott
Read a discussion of this translation.


Makoto Ueda, in his introductory note to Seifu in
"Far Beyond the Field:
Haiku by Japanese Women," :

"Whereas Chiyojo's reputation has plummeted, Enomoto Seifu's haiku have been accorded ever higher critical acclaim in the twentieth century. The reappraisal of her work started indirectly with Shiki, who gave profuse praise to Buson's poetry for qualities that characterize Seifu's. Although Shiki himself made no reference to her, his followers were motivated to pay attention to Buson's contemporaries and eventually discovered, or rediscovered her haiku.

Especially since the poet Nishitani Seinosuke (1897-1932) praised her in 1929, her stature as a poet has steadily grown. In 1953 Yamamoto Kenkichi went so far as to say that among pre-modern women poets who wrote haiku, Seifu was the only one who had left truly outstanding work."

an aged butterfly
letting its soul play
with a chrysanthemum

Tr. Makoto Ueda


hina no kao ware zehi naku mo oi ni keri

the faces of the dolls!
though I never intended to
I have grown old

Quote from
The Green Leaf

Read more haiku on this LINK.


Her grave at Temple Daigi-Ji has a haiku memorial stone with the following haiku

hana saku mo chireru mo aji no jizai kana

cherries blossoms
and then fall down -
all this is the way of things ...

Ajikan Meditation 阿字観
aji no jizai ...

........................ More Cherry Blossom Haiku

chiru hana no moto ni medetaki dokuro kana

lying below
the falling blossoms
a lucky skull

Tr. Robin D. Gill

blissfully lying
under the falling blossoms
a skeleton

Tr. Makoto Ueda

Both Gill and Ueda mention Saigyoo's waka ("negawakuba") about hoping to die under cherry blossoms and the full moon, which Gill says Seifu copied before this haiku. Ueda mentions that "there was a widespread famine in Japan between 1782 and 1787."

arehata ya hito no soshireru sakura saku

trampled fields
the cherry they cuss-out
is blooming

trampled fields
the cherries people curse
are blooming

Tr. Robin Gill

Gill notes that the people cursing the cherry trees are the farmers whose fields are being trampled by the blossom-viewers.



miyakino no aki mo miyo to ya hagi no hana


Kubota Seifu 久保田成布 くぼたせいふ
(1783 - 1848)

wife of Kubota Shunkoo 久保田春耕(くぼたしゅんこう/ クボタシュンコウ]), who was himself a pupil of Issa.
Kubota Shunkou Kubota Shunkō
Shunkoo was a rich land owner and the headman of Takayama Village 高山村. He greatly supported the haiku activities of Issa in the area and offered him a place to live close to his home.
Notes of Issa adressed to Shunkoo !

Kubota Toen 久保田兎圍(とえん)was the father of Shunkoo.

Kubota Seifu has been mixed up with Enomoto Seifu-Jo in some anthologies, see below.

osanago ya hana o misete mo kuchi o aku

A baby -
even if seeing a flower,
opens its mouth.

Tr. Hugh Bygott
Discussion at Translating Haiku

おさな子や 花を見せても 口を明く
Takase : Seifu-jo 星布女

A Japanese source quotes 成布 as the poet.

the baby
even when shown a flower
opens its mouth

attributed to Enomoto Seifu-Jo (Seifu-ni )

I doubt that A FLOWER brings out the kigo correctly. HANA usually is for the cherry blossoms.

My translation (a bit on the ironic side)

oh this baby !
even if I show her cherry blossoms
she is yawning !

or is she joining in the merryment of the cherry blossom viewers, like the baby in the haiku by Issa below?


hiza no ko mo kuchi o aku nari hatsu utai

even the lap-baby
joins in...
year's first song

ISSA 1823年61歳
Tr. David Lanoue


Back to the problem of identity of Seifu-Jo

Compiled by Larry


I didn't know there were two haijin named Seifu-jo. This certainly makes things confusing. Even Blyth makes reference to two Seifu-jo's, based on the birth-death dates he gives.

On page 351 of "History of Haiku: Volume One," Japan, Hokuseido Press, third printing, 1968, Blyth writes, "...he [Issa] had very few diciples, at least good ones. One was Seifu-jo [no kanji given for her name], 1783-1840, wife of Shunkoo, a haiku poet."

The other Seifu-jo is the more familiar Enomoto Seifu-jo, 1731-1814.

As Gabi has pointed out, even websites apparently attribute this haiku ("osanago ya") to the wrong Seifu-jo.

The only translation by Blyth I can find of this haiku:

The baby,
Even when shown a flower,
Opens its mouth.

In Blyth it is given out-of-season though. He gives it as an example of a type of synesthesia, in a discussion of Basho's

umi kurete kamo no koe honoka ni shiroshi

The sea darkens;
The voices of the wild ducks
Are faintly white.

trans. Blyth

Blyth does not indicate which Seifu-jo wrote it, and no kanji for the poet's name is given.

In any event, it's been a favorite haiku of mine ever since I first read it. It's very Issa-like. I think Gabi's interpretation makes sense. And I'm glad she thought of it, because I never would have!

I found these two haiku of Shiki's:

osanago ya aoki o fumishi ashi no ura (1898)

Little child,
soles of her feet green
from the grass she walked in

trans. Burton Watson

Another translation of this haiku:

an infant
steps on the green grass

Another one about an infant, although not an "osanago" haiku (date unkown-- although I suspect it's middle-to-late Shiki):

gojo arite nochi no otoko ya hatsunobori

It's a boy
after five daughters
carp streamers

trans. Kim Komurasaki, with kanji here:


Kubota Toen 久保田兎圍(とえん)

(1722 - July 6, 1801)
享保7年(1722年) - 享和元年5月1日(1801年6月11日)

He was a great landowner In Takayama village (Nagano).
His name was Juemon the 5th 重右衛門(5代目), father of Shunko (see above).

46 of his haiku are mistakenly attributed to Kobayashi Issa.
source : 久保田兎園 wiki

tonboo no hyakudo mairi ya Atago yama

the dragonfly
on a one-hundred prayers circuit -
Mount Atago

. Mount Atago .

yama udo no hi o takitateru shigure kana

the mountain ascet
lights his fire with a high flame -
winter drizzle


Introducing Japanese Haiku Poets

. Enomoto Kikaku (1661-1707) .
Kikaku Takarai Kikaku 宝井其角



Anonymous said...

Blyth about the time between Issa and Shiki :

"We come now to the lowest point in the history of haiku, the period between Issa and Shiki. Shiki was born in 1856, and Issa died in 1827, so that this time is about the fifty years between 1827 and 1877.

The poets of this period, Baishitsu, Sookyuu, Hooroo, Rangai and the rest of them, are known as 'tsukinami' poets, because they usually met each month and composed verses irrespective of inspiration, mechanically and

To illustrate their quality we should choose their worst haiku, or at least their average ones, but as in the case of good poets, the best verses have been selected, so in the case of their poor relations, we must dress them up in their best clothes, and choose their most life-like haiku."

There follow a handful of translations from the named poets, as well as Shoou and Sokyoo. In the case of Sokyoo, Blyth does not give any haiku, saying, "I could not find a verse worth the paper."


Unknown said...


中村 sakuo

Gillena Cox said...

lovely cherry blossom
the baby's mouth opens
as if to say

much love

Anonymous said...


Dear Gabi

Thank you for your excellent detective work.

While it is true that to date I have only presented five woman poets who composed hokku from the time of Issa to the first hokku composed by the youthful Shiki, I have more poets to come.

What is even more important is that critics of Nineteenth Century hokku do not distinguish between hokku written to stand alone and hokku written for linked poetry. It is fashionable, following Blyth, to be critical of Sakurai Baishitsu (1769 - 1852) but he was a skilled poet composing haikai no renga.

Shiki was also critical of Baishitsu claiming that the hokku which he composed were artificial and not spontaneous.
Readers can see from this that the alleged distinction between real
haiku and desk haiku has a long history.

I have set myself the ambitious task of finding out what Shiki thought about Enomoto Seifu-Jo and Kuboto Seifu-Jo. An even greater prize awaits - finding metaphysical haiku from Shiki close to 1900.

This is based on the premise that some of Shiki's 18,000 haiku remain

Hugh Bygott