Muki Kigo Problems


To cut a long story short

Richard Gilbert coined the term

muki-kigo (season word without a season)

Kaneko Tohta talks about
"words without a season"

muki no kotoba 無季の言葉
mukigo 無季語

These "words without a seasonal reference" are usually called
topics or cultural keywords.

There seems also a misunderstanding about

dai 題 topic
kidai 季題 seasonal topic

(for example, the "seasonal topic" Christmas, with the many kigo like:
Christmas tree, Christmas cake and so on.)


Muki Kigo - Problems of Terminology

The Season of 'No-Season' in Contemporary Haiku:
The Modern Haiku Association Muki-Kigo Saijiki

Richard Gilbert et al

In this paper, we would like to offer the reader an introductory look at the most unique of the five volumes, the 'no-season' or Muki Saijiki, which represents a great innovation in modern haiku.
Simply Haiku, Summer 2006

The problem of MUKI-KIGO starts with this translation of Gilbert
muki-kigo 無季季語

Muki-Kigo Saijiki 無季季語歳時記
Muki Saijiki 無季歳時記
The Modern Haiku Association Muki-Kigo Saijiki

The above kanji constructions (re-translations from the English) give no results when googeling. "Muki Kigo" "non-season season word" is a contradiction in terms and not commonly used in Japanese, as far as I know.
# 128/129


The correct Japanse for this very important saijiki is as follows:

現代俳句歳時記  無季
Gendai Haiku Saijiki / Muki
Modern Haiku Saijiki / "No Season"
..... meaning haiku without a season word or haiku without a seasonal reference


The term "muki kigo 無季季語" (no-season season word) or "muki saijiki 無季歳時記" is not used in Japanese, as far as I know, we usually say "muki haiku 無季俳句" (haiku without a season word or seasonal reference).

This kind of saijiki usually collects zappai poems also classified into the seven categories of Japanese haiku; this kind of poetry collections have been done for a long time.

googeling with 無季季語 : Results 1 - 4 of about 6 for "無季季語" March 2, 2007
googeling with 無季歳時記 : Results 1 - 1 of about 2 for "無季歳時記” March 2, 2007 (that one HIT is the page here)

To recapitulate the kanji

季 = KI from kisetsu, season
語 = GO, kotoba, word
無季 = MUKI, no season

... ... ... ... ... ...

A question from a haiku friend sparked a long private discussion with Richard Gilbert in March 2007.

Using my European logic and scientific mind, I find the terminology
"muki kigo" rather a contradiction in terms,
like "miso soup without miso", as some Japanese argue.

Basically, we all agree on the importance of such a kind of saijiki as the MHA has attempted and I work on the same effort here in the database, so it seems to me just a bit on the best naming of the baby.

Some call these words we are struggeling to define here as Keywords. Higgionson calls these words "topics" or all season topics, I prefere simply "haiku topics", since in this context here the season is not the important part.

Let me be a bit naughty and analyze the following haiku (with my European logic turned on)

zō no me no waraikaketari yamazakura

an elephant's eyes smile -
mountain cherry blossoms


Here we have the "non-seasonal season word (muki-kigo 無季 季語)" ELEPHANT and the "real-seasonal season word (yuu-ki kigo 有季 季語 ... well I just coined this word) " mountain cherry blossoms, the whole haiku presented in a saijiki section termed "no season" MUKI.

But what about the cherry blossoms? This is a kigo by all means, giving the haiku a definite haiku SEASON. The haiku could be in the SPRING section of the same saijiki without any problem.
For my European logic, this is plainly confusing.

In my terminology I have no problem with this.

We have a haiku topic, elephant.; a season word (kigo) cherry blossoms.
A collection of words called Haiku Topics (regardless of any seasonal mention).
No problem with my European logic here.
I wonder how others feel about this ?!

By the way, here is my
Elephant as a Haiku Topic


Now let us listen to Richard Gilbert and the MHA again:

Please read Kaneko Tohta's translated Introduction here:

published in Modern Haiku Journal (Summer 2006).
You will read that he uses "muki-kigo" in two paragraphs there.

He also writes that: "From such a flexible way of thinking, the added muki ["no season"] volume contains kigo that cannot be treated as pertaining to any one season. Probably those who would question the reason why muki would be included in a saijiki are not completely familiar with the history and development of the saijiki. . . ." Please note the paraphrase: "the muki volume contains kigo." A la the term he applies twice in the adjacent paragraphs following:

1) "As increasing numbers of kigo and muki-kigo are arriving concurrently, it is natural for the saijiki to include both: this is what a saijiki should be."

2) "This new saijiki provides examples showing the history and variation in the use of both muki-kigo and kigo, and we have made an effort to offer a sweeping view. "

(Gabi: see below for my answer to this !)

So, I hope that you will desist, and admit that you stand corrected, as you seem intent on not forstering mistaken terms. Speaking frankly, I would like to posit, based on the above translation, that "muki-kigo" is a viable term, a technical term, which most recently and significantly has been introduced by the MHA ([Japan] Modern Haiku Association; gendai haiku kyokai), in their revolutionary and innovative saijiki.

So, it's not really a matter of what type of haiku you are quoting, but rather a matter of principle.
The term 'muki kigo' or 'muki-kigo' exists, is effective, and utile.
You may not like it, and may disagree with it, and may choose not to use it, of course!

But I hope I have shown to you and other readers that the term is about as "official" as can be. The Introduction (at the link above in translated form) is at the front of each of the five volumes of the new MHA saijiki. As the saijiki has taken over a decade to publish, it's not an insignificant matter.

What's most interesting I think is the really clever way the MHA reframed the saijiki, in recalling its Chinese roots, and how the Japanese renga tradition narrowed the concept to season words, over some centuries. It's fascinating. So, by reframing the intention and concept of the saijiki -- that is, by returning the saijiki to its wider 'saiji' conception, the idea of kigo is consequently reframed, and expanded.

And so, we can have muki-kigo, kigo with no season. And they didn't say, "let's use the term 'saiji' not 'saijiki.'" By keeping the term "saijiki," when interacting with the MHA saijiki, we need to keep in mind the reframed concept. And this reminds us of the roots of the haiku and kigo traditions.

That's truly wonderful -- it adds culture, rather than removes; enriches, rather than impoverishes. I wish we were as clever in innovating our own terms, in English. We're still hung up trying to sort out 'haiku and 'senryu,' as if our lives or the genre depended on it. What the MHA did so brilliantly was enrich a stark duality ('kigo or not') with expansive levels of dimension though a reframing of the ancient past. Perhaps there are some clues to be had.

Or perhaps not!
I hope the above resolves the potentially tempestuous matter of whether "muki-kigo" is viable or not. The answer is that it is viable and utile, according to the MHA saijiki and Kaneko Tohta.

The question of how it's used can be surmised by looking at the muki kigo themselves, which are available here:

(an interesting list -- it took us many months to translate so many terms!)

Richard Gilbert, March 3, 2007


金子兜太 Kaneko Tohta Kaneko Toota, Kaneko Tōta
Well, if Kanko Tohta sensei coined the expression "muki kigo 無季季語",
we will see in the future if this term will be picked up by the online haiku discussions. And there is always room for improvement with something new.

Instead of the term "non-seasonal season words", which I still feel is rather awkward and a contradiction in terms, would "Haiku Words (kugo 俳語)do it, if you want to use something that has not been used before?
or Mukigo 無季語" ?
(By the way, later, when reading the introduction to the 無季 volume of the saijiki, I came about this expression !!! and did NOT find 無季季語. see below)

"seasonless words" (muki kotoba 無季言葉)?
Or maybe another term which does not include the idea of SEASON 季 at all, that we have not thought about yet? Something even better? I still prefer "haiku topics" for the words in question.

My German friends used to say:
The "better" is the enemy of the "good" !

This is an ongoing discussion of sorts.
Feel free to add your opinions as a comment here.

Gabi Greve

.. .. ..

Addition on April 8,
after I finally got my volume of the book in question.

Reading the two sentences quoted in the  無季 volume I find

1) "As increasing numbers of kigo and mukigo 無季語 (NOT: muki-kigo) are arriving concurrently, it is natural for the saijiki to include both: this is what a saijiki should be."

2) "This new saijiki provides examples showing the history and variation in the use of both
mukigo 無季語 (NOT: muki-kigo) and kigo 季語,
and we have made an effort to offer a sweeping view. "

yuuki haiku 有季俳句 ... muki haiku 無季俳句
is used in the 無季 Volume too.

(mukigo, muki go 無季語 means muki no kotoba)

Kaneko Tohta uses the expression MUKI GO as I expected.
Here are some examples from the internet :

金子兜太: (in a discussion)
そうすると、季語だけではなく無季の言葉 muki no kotoba も共有語になり得る。
外国でも kigo 季語、無季語 mukigo を離れて共有語というものを持つこと。それはどんなものでもいいのですから。そういうことは可能ではないか。

他流試合  兜太・せいこうの新俳句鑑賞



The presentation of Buson's haiku in the muki section of the saijiki seems utterly absurd ...

Read more here :
Norman (and Message #1381)

"Seasonless Season-word"
this is a verbal construction in English that can be used.

In this case, it is a convenient, shorthand way of saying, "this is a word which we want to act like a season-word acts, without actually fitting the standard definition of a season word."

One can find several references to "non-haiku haiku", meaning a writing that superficially resembles a haiku, but in fact isn't one.

Such statements as a "non-something something" are technically contradictory, if not downright absurd, but they do convey a meaning anyway.

Larry Bole


The Online Japanese Modern Haiku Database
現代俳句データベース lists
12684 haiku with a kigo and
150 without a kigo (a lot of them by Kaneko Tohta), as of March 2007.
These numbers speak for themselves, I think !


No-season topic, all-season topic, haiku topic

Here is another discussion about the use of "all year haiku topics",
NOT "all year kigo", listed in "Haiku World" :
- - - Non-seasonal topics - - -
by Bill Higginson

. WKD : Trying to define HAIKU .

Haiku Topics of the World Kigo Database



Gabi Greve said...

This reminds me of the concept of Zero. ..snip ..

zero kigo -
no KI and no GO
and all in one

Translating Haiku Forum

More is in the link above.

Claudia Cadwell/Facebook said...

Gabi, now I am totally confused. To Kigo or not to Kigo, that is my question.
Were we to Kigo, what are the appropriate words for late autumn?


Gabi, World Kigo Database Alphabetical Index said...

Dear Claudia,
it is always better "to kigo".

Start with AUTUMN from here

and humanity kigo for autumn are here

I hope this helps.