Katsura Nobuko


Katsura Nobuko
(1914 - 2004)

桂信子(かつら のぶこ)
Name: Niwa Nobuko 本名:丹羽信子 (にわ のぶこ)
1914年11月1日 - 2004年12月16日

"By the end of the 20th century, the 'josei haiku' was dissolved.
I remember Nobuko Katsura said on the last day of 'josei haiku'"that the time was over when only women spoke about haiku's with each other." Ms Katsura was also concerned that their goal might change from their initial aim and if the meetings were continued, it would become something totally different."

© PHOTO and Text : www.gendaihaiku.gr.jp/


Biographical information from
Ueda's "Far Beyond the Field:"

Katsura Nobuko was born Niwa Nobuko in Osaka on 1 November 1914 and almost died of acute pneumonia when she was five. After graduating from Ootemae Girls' High School, she began writing haiku when the poems in 'Kikan' (The flagship) magazine impressed her with their nonraditional style. She subsequently met the magazine's editor, Hino Soojoo, and became his protege. Her marriage in 1939 changed her family name to Katsura, but her husband died two years later.

Childless, she returned to her mother's home. On 13 March, 1945, American planes bombed Osaka. Nobuko's house caught fire. She struggled in vain to douse the flames. Her mother was nowhere to be seen. Nobuko was just able to gather her haiku manuscripts before fleeing barefooted from the fire. Finally, when the danger had passed, she was reunited with her mother. "You are safe -- that's all I care," her mother said, weeping. The rescued manuscripts were later published in her first volume, 'Gekkoo shoo (Beams of the moon 1949).

After she had worked at the library of the Kobe College of Commerce for two years, Nobuko settled into a secretarial job at Kinki Vehicles Company in 1946, and she remained there until her retirement in 1970. In 1954 she helped Katoo Chiyoko edit the magazine 'Josei haiku' (Women's haiku), becoming one of the most faithful participants in its meetings. After 'Gekkoo shoo', she published 'Nyoshin' (The female body) in 1955, 'Banshun' (Late spring) in 1967, 'Shinroku' (Young leaves) in 1974, and several other collections.

In 1970 she founded the magazine 'Sooen' (The grass garden), which is still publishing today. Her honors include the Women's Prize in Modern Haiku in 1977, the Osaka Cultural and Artistic Award in 1981, and the Dakotsu Prize in 1992, the last being the most prestigious prize in haiku, established in 1966 to honor Iida Dakotsu (1885-1962). Her ninth collection of haiku 'Kaei' (The shadows of flowers) came out in 1998.
Translating Haiku Forum

My Japanese Reference

More Haiku by Nobuko


Let us look at a discussion about the hardships of
being a woman during the rainy season !

futokoro ni chibusa aru usa tsuyu nagaki

the hardship
of having breasts in my bosom <>
long rainy season

.. .. .. .. .. or a rather modern version

what a drag
with these boobs in my blouse <>
long rainy season

Tr. Gabi Greve

This haiku has been discussed widely in our forum. Other translations are given a bit further below.

the hardship of having breasts in my bosom

meaning the hardships of being a woman.
Maybe she would have preferred to be a male ?


.. .. .. .. ..

Exactly mid month of the menstruation period - the breasts feel heavy, generally for most women. But if a woman is small bosomed, then it hardly matters or is troublesome.

But a heavy chested woman can feel the burden of having to carry the load.
And in the rainy season , when a person is housebound to a certain degree - the thought rotates more around the self?

In India, a girl is supposed to be ready for marriage, when she matures [things have changed now] so the first thing visible is her bosom and if a girl child doesn't want to get into wed-lock, then a situation like in this poem can be experienced?!!!

Kala Ramesh, India

.. .. .. .. ..

....... more of her haiku about being a woman

mado no yuki nyotai nite yu o afureshimu

snow on the window--
a female body makes hot water
overflow the tub

Tr. Ueda

Outside the window, snow;
a woman in a hot bath,
water overflowing.

Tr. from "A Long Rainy Season"

.. .. .. .. ..

Comment by Larry Bole

I wonder if it has anything to do with the rainy season? Is the rainy season also a hot and humid time of year?

I remember reading somewhere that in the Tokugawa era, men commonly stripped to the waist when relaxing at home on a summer evening, to take the evening cool-- a privilege denied to women. And that this practice was even a minor topic of haiku.

I can't find any more explicit than the following:

yuusuzumi yoku zo otoko ni umaretaru

The evening cool;
How glad I am
I was born a man!

Kikaku, trans. Blyth

Of this haiku, Blyth says:

"What Kikaku meant was that being a man enabled him to sit practically naked and cool himself in the evening breeze. ..."

And yet there is the following senryu:

ko ga dekite kara wa arawa ni hada o dashi

After she has a baby,
She openly
Exposes her body.

Shoushi, trans. Blyth

Blyth says about this senryu:

"Japanese women, after they have had their first child, will expose their breasts in public without a second thought [for breast feeding, as an accompanying drawing illustrates]. This is a national custom, and perhaps a good one."

So, what does Nobuko mean by 'usa'? Can 'usa' mean "distraction" as well as "gloom?"

Is Nobuko distracted by having breasts? Are they a sexual distraction when she wants to concentrate on something else? I don't think she wants to be a man, but she might want to be free of the restrictions that are placed on women which aren't placed on men--including the restrictions during her lifetime regarding female haijin not being
taken as seriously as male haijin, although it sounds like that isn't the case anymore.

.. .. .. .. ..

Comment by Gabi Greve

In a time before air conditioning or electric fans, the rainy must have been pure hell.
Imagine being in a sauna for 24 hours ...
Any breeze coming from the sea is hot and sticky with salt ...

It is humid everywhere, mold is growing everywhere ... the sky is dark the whole day (that can hit your mood after about two weeks).
As a housewife, you have to extra chores to keep the mold at bay, wiping the tatami mats, the floor, the walls, wooden beams and just about anything to keep the mold at bay.
Without a refrigerator, you have to take extra care of the food and its preparation.

... for me, thinking of hell has become not one of fire but one of permanent rainy season conditions ... grin

I remember well during my first years in Japan (around 1980) travelling in the countryside with Japanese friends, all the old womenfolk would sit there bare-brested like the menfolk and have supper, it was just tooo hot and humid to do otherwise.
Now the ladies in our countryside have very very very thin cotton or hemp shirts for summer to done, where you can still see all the female beauty, but it is officially all covered up.


The nuisance
of breasts-
a long rainy season.

This short verse can either say quite a lot about the speaker as well as the state of being a woman. Conversely, it may simply be very literal--the physical burden of carrying breasts on one's chest.
"A Long Rainy Season: Haiku and Tanka,"
edited and translated by Leza Lowitz, Miyuki Aoyama, and Akemi Tomioka
(Stone Bridge Press, Berkeley, CA., 1994).
© www.stonebridge.com

See also:


with two breasts
between my shoulders, and this gloom...
season rain without end

Tr. Ueda


gloom in my bosom
comes about by means of breasts -
long monsoon rains

Tr. Norman Darlington


Beneath my blouse,
The melancholy
Of having breasts -
This season of rain goes on.

© www.poetrymagazines.org.uk


yaki-ayu no zen yori fukare hashi-bukuro

blown from the tray
with grilled sweetfish -
paperbag for chopsticks

WKD : Ayu 鮎 trout, sweetfish as KIGO

nuriwan no omokute haha no kinome ae

the laquer bowl
feels so heavy ...

mother's tree buds dressing

kinome ae 木の芽和 (きのめあえ) tree buds in dressing


Translated by Etsuko Yanagibori :

shiragiku ya itsu ten no hikari atsumetaru

White chrysanthemum
sun light
sharply condense

yuruyaka ni hito to au hotaru no yo

Softly wear
To meet a person
Firefly night

hitori-ne no hikuki makura ya chichiro naku

A low pillow
by single sleeping
A cricket sound

hana no naka ni mezamete shiroki mahiru ari

Wake up
in cherry blossom
white midday

yama no me kaeru no medama man-marushi

A rainy frog
in a mountain
Open his eyes perfectly

From her last haiku book, she was 88 years

kaze oto ni yurugi mo arazu natsu kodachi

A sound of wind
A firm decision
Summer grove

asa ni yuu ni ochiba haku hi no nao ari ya

Mornings and evenings
Sweeping fallen leaves
still left the day?


Introducing Japanese Haiku Poets 


No comments: