Tagami Kikusha


Tagami Kikusha 田上菊舎

The Nun Kikusha Kikusha Ni 菊舎尼

Tagami Kikusha (1753, August 23 -1826, September 24)

whose pen name literally means "Chrysanthemum Hut" was born in Chofu in Nagato (present-day Yamaguchi prefecture) 下関市豊北町田耕.
She began to seriously devote herself to poetry after her husband's early death (Kikusha was twenty-four) and, like Basho, travelled widely for the remainder of her life.
She also visited many places in honor of Saint Shinran 親鸞聖人, the founder of the True Pure Land School of Buddhism.

She had no home for herself any more and lived day by day intensely with the daily encounters on the road, relying on the help of others and the whims of nature.
She studied haikai with Chobo-en Sankyo (1726-92 朝暮園傘狂 (Chooboen Sankyoo).
She also visited Kaga in memory of the famous haiku poet nun Chiyo-Ni.
Through haiku she learned to observe everything carefully, the clouds, the small weeds on the road side ... anything ...

At age 64, she returned to the home where she had been born in Nagato. Her mother had died shortly before she arrived. Kikusha now decided to stay there and not travel any more ... there was no difference between travelling and staying on ... you can not take anything with you anyway, so just

play with the clouds

"Tagami Kikusha:
Bohemian Nun, Haikai Poet, and Poet-Painter"
Patricia Fister
Simply Haiku , December 2004

Haiga for Haiku, Kikusha Ni The Green Leaf Gallery

Read her haiku in Hungarian Translation Terebess Online

Click HERE to see some photos ! Haiku Stone Memorials and more.


雲遊の尼 田上菊舎

© 菊舎顕彰会
More books about her in Japanese

Oka Masako 岡昌子


Both the Chinese origin and flair of the temple Manpuku-Ji and the famous tea fields in the area of Uji are commemorated in the haiku written in Spring of 1788, after leaving the temple grounds :

sanmon o dereba nihon zo chatsumi uta

Passed through the temple gate
Japan in front of me
Tea picking song.

More : When visiting Temple Manpuku-Ji

one step outside
the temple gate, it's Japan --
a tea-picker's song

"The temple is Manpuku Temple, in Uji, near Kyoto. Headquarters of the Obaku sect of Zen Buddhism, the temple was built with Ming-style architecture and so gave the impression of being in China. Uji was-- and still is--famour for producing green tea."

Haiku by Japanese Women, by MAKOTO UEDA

Leaving the temple's gate,
I found Japan, indeed -
The song of the tea leaf pickers.

Tr. Fumiko Yamamoto

Coming out of the temple gate,
The song of the tea-pickers:
It is Japan!

Tr. Blyth

outside the temple gate
it's Japan again!
song of the tea pickers

Tr. Gabi Greve

Click HERE for some photos !
Girls picking tea leaves, dressed in special kimono and headgear.

. WASHOKU - Fucha ryori 普茶料理
Chinese monk quisine at Manpukuji


asagao ya yoi wa tsubomi ni tanoshimase

morning glories --
in the evening, they let us
admire their buds

Tr. Makoto Ueda

morning glories -
in the evening we delight
in the buds

Tr. Gabi Greve


kumo kasumi ... imbibing clouds and mist
nomitsutsu koen ... I cross the chrysanthemum
kiku no yamaji ... mountain-path


tsuki o kasa ni kite ... to wander with the moon
asobaba ya ... as a hat –
tabi no sora ... traveller’s sky

tsuki to ware ... the moon and I
bakari nokorinu ... alone remain;
hashi suzumi ... cooling on the bridge

Tr. Michael Haldane

月と吾 ばかり残りぬ 橋涼み
tsuki to ware bakari nokorinu hashi suzumi

The moon
and just myself remain . . .
evening coolness on the bridge.

Tr. and further discussion
Hugh Bygott, Translating Haiku Forum

Tr. Gabi Greve

CLICK for more photos

sanchuu ya kasa ni ochiba no oto bakari

in the mountains -
on my straw hat only the sound
of falling leaves

On the way from Sendai, crossing the pass
Futaguchi Toge 二口峠.
This is a strenous walk even for a man, and there are bears in the deep woods.

shibaraku wa tsumi o wasurete tsuki suzushi

for a while
I forget there are sins -
this cool moon

komo kite mo suki na tabi nari hana no ame

even wearing a staw raincoat
I like to travel -
rain on the blossoms

the parents of Kikusha

source, with more photos


yoshiashi ni watari-yuku yo ya mu ichibutsu

this world
we pass on a rush leaf -
not one thing

. "Rush-leaf Daruma" (royoo Daruma 芦葉達磨)


Contribution from Larry Bole
Translating Haiku Forum

I recently had occasion to look at an art exhibit catalog I have, "Japanese Women Artists: 1600-1900," organized by Patricia Fister (Spencer Museum of Art, 1988), and there I got caught up reading about the haiku poet and haiga painter, Tagami Kikusha.
I will provide some more information, taken from an essay by Fumiko Yamamoto in the catalog.

Excerpts from Fumiko Yamamoto's essay:
Kikusha [was] in her youth called Tagami Michi... . She was the daughter of Tagami Yoshinaga and his wife Tane. Yoshinaga was a poet of Chinese-style verse, and since Kikusha was an only child until her brother was born when she was sixteen, she is believed to have received a good education which included composition of poetry. She married into the Murata family when she was sixteen, but her husband died eight years later. They did not have children, and Kikusha soon went back to her parents' home. It is not certain when Kikusha started creating haiku, but in 1780 at the age of twenty-seven, she decided to travel to the Oou and Tookai areas to search for poetic inspiration, following the tradition of many poets in the past, including Basho. ...

[Kikusha received the haiku name Ichijian from her teacher Sankyoo.]

When Kikusha reached Niigata [on a journey following Basho's 'Oku no hosomichi' in reverse]...she studied calligraphy with a local master named Goshoo (Five Pines) who is believed to have influenced the development of her strong and free brushwork. From the northern tip of the main island, she went across to the Pacific Ocean side and finally reached Edo, where she stayed for three years. Her name must have been known to the poets in the new capital, because she was invited to many poetry meetings and tea gatherings. In 1784 she left Edo, taking the Tookaidoo (Eastern Coastal Way) to return home. Before she reached Choofu, she stopped at Mino again. There she formally learned the art of tea ceremony under Itoo Munenaga, and was thereafter frequently invited to attend many elegant tea parties.

...Kikusha set off for Kyoto again in 1790 to participate in the centennial ceremony on the anniversary of Basho's death. ...

During this trip to Kyoto, Kikusha started composing 'waka' poetry in addition to haiku. [more on this later]

In 1793 Kikusha revisited Edo, and at this time Kikuchi Toogan taught her to play the seven-stringed 'ch'in', an instrument traditionally beloved by Chinese poets and sages.

Kikusha sought almost avariciously to develop her talents, and when she was in Kyoto she furthered her 'ch'in'-playing skills by studying with a courtier, Lord Hiramatsu. Through the art of 'ch'in' playing, Kikusha must have come to be well-known in Kyoto's high society. A former minister invited her to his musical gatherings and gave her personal 'ch'in' the name 'Ryuusui' (Flowing Water).

Kikusha spent many years traveling until she died in Choofu in 1826 at the age of seventy-three. It is believed that she visited the Kyoto area seven times and Kyuushuu four times, in addition to numerous trips to neighboring areas. On each journey, she met poets and atended poetry gatherings, musical performances, and tea ceremonies. One of her most memorable experiences occurred when she visited the temple Hooryuuji in Nara in 1812. She was allowed to play an ancient Chinese 'ch'in' which was one of the temple's treasures. Kikusha played before the statue of Prince Shootoku, who had founded the temple in 607, and she honored the happy occasion with a haiku:

Kaoru kaze ya morokoshi kakete nana no o ni

A fragrant breeze
Is blowing from China
Over these seven strings

[trans. Fumiko Yamamoto]

It must have been indeed an unusual opportunity for a commoner to touch this precious instrument. This event was obviously an unforgettable highlight in her life and Kikusha concluded her published collection of poems, 'Taorigiku' (Handpicked Chrysanthemums) with this experience. Printed in 1813 by the Kyoto publisher Tachibana Jihei, the 'Taorigiku' consists of four sections: the first part contains a travelogue with haiku that Kikusha composed during her first trip to the Oou and Tookai areas; the second part includes haiku and paintings of some of the Tookaidoo's fifty-three stations made during her 1793 journey; the third and fourth parts consist of Chinese poems with related haiku.
[end of excerpt]

So, given the kind of visibility she had, why isn't she as well-known as Chiyo to the English-language haiku community?

In Blyth's 4-vol. "Haiku", there are only two haiku by Kikusha, and in Blyth's 2-vol. "History of Haiku," she isn't mentioned at all!

Unless there were scholarly articles written about her in specialty journals, the first appearance of her haiku in English translation in any appreciable number is in the exhibition catalog, "Japanese Women Artists: 1600-1900", pubished in 1988. In this catalog, there are sixteen of Kikusha's haiku translated.

As far as I know, Kikusha's next appearance in English translation is in Faubion Bower's "The Classic Tradition of Haiku: An Anthology," 1996. In a footnote there, Bowers writes, "A Buddhist nun and friend of Issa [!].

Then English-language readers got twenty of Kikusha's haiku translated in Makoto Ueda's "Far Beyond the Field: Haiku by Japanese Women" 2003.

There is also a chapter on Kikusah in Hiroaki Sato's "Japanese Women Poets: An Anthology," 2008. But I don't have that book, so I don't know how many of her haiku are translated there.

The haiku I particularly wanted to look at is about Mt. Yoshino. Here is an excerpt from Fumiko Yamamoto's essay:

One of [Kikusha's] first 'waka' was created when she visited Mount Yoshino, renowned for its masses of cherry blossoms which had been extolled in poetry for centuries. It was summer when Kikusha went to the mountain, and there were no traces left of the cherry blossoms. Remembering that in Basho's book, 'Oi no kobumi' (Notes in a Straw Satchel, circa 1690), the haiku master had expressed a poetic vision in which "anywhere a poet looks, there are flowers," Kikusha composed the following 'waka':

Natsu kitemo
Hana ka to miete
Mine no aoba ni
Kakaru shirakumo

Even though I've come to summer,
They appear like flowers
On Mount Yoshino;
Over the green-leafed peak--
Draping white clouds.

She succeeded the 'waka' with a haiku:

Natsuyama ni kumo mite sumasu Yoshino kana

Above the summer mountain--
Satisfied by clouds
Here at Yoshino.

[both translations by Fumiko Yamamoto]

Yamamoto goes on to say:
The 'waka' solemnly explains the logic behind the artistic composition, while the terse haiku reveals the poet's stance in a brief flash: the anticipated occasion of flower viewing is supplanted by a complete absorption in the beauty of the clouds. The haiku presents a casual connoisseur's approach to the heavy traditional canon of beauty. Because of its fresh and light quality, the haiku is more appealing than the 'waka'.
[end of excerpt]

Here is Makoto Ueda's take on the same haiku:

on the summer hills
I saw a cloud--that's all
there was in Yoshino

trans. Ueda

Ueda says in a footnote:
The haiku is accompanied by an additional note: "Someone once observed, 'Are we to look at cherry blossoms only when they are in full bloom ['Tsurezuregusa' (Essays in Idleness)]?' While I agree with him, I also feel that it is disappointing to see something well past its prime. On the other hand, I know someone else said, 'There is nothing you have in mind that cannot be turned into a flower ['Oi no kobumi' (The record of a travel-worn satchel)].'" Yoshino is renowned for its cherry blossoms.
[end of footnote]

The two different translations of the same haiku each suggest a distinctly different mood. One is upbeat, the other one is kind of downbeat. I wonder which one is more true to the original.

In the exhibit catalog, "Japanese Women Artists: 1600-1900," Fumiko Yamamoto also wrote an essay on Chiyo. In Yamamoto's essay on Kikusha, Yamamoto points out some differences between Kikusha and Chiyo:

In contrast to Chiyo, who seems to have preferred to pose herself quietly before an object and to then observe it until she became assimilated into it, Kikusha was an individual of action who rigorously sought out the source of her interest.

Both Chiyo and Kikusha pursued the beauty of flowers in each season, yet their poetic stance and consequently their artistic products [haiga & calligraphy] are quite different. Chiyo envisioned a wren as a winter flower, and Kikusha took snow for winter blossoms. Chiyo's view is modest and intuitive, while Kikusha's vision is grand and cerebral. In spite of the differences, however, both poets are similar in one respect: they both achieved fame during their lifetimes through their intense devotion to art in a period when freedom of expression was restricted for women.
[end of excerpt]

Here is Chiyo's poem envisioning a wren as a winter flower, and a description of the haiga on which it is written (from the catalog):

"Wren and Pestle"
Hanging scroll, ink on paper, 38.1 x 49.5 cm.

The bold line of the pestle which diagonally cuts across the surface of the painting is balanced by the calligraphy which is divided into two parts, below and above the pestle. Chiyo's poem reads:

surikogi ni fuyu no hana saku ya misosazai

On the pestle
A winter flower is blooming
But only a wren.

[trans. Fumiko Yamamoto]

As in all of Chiyo's works, her use of space is masterly. The word 'hana' (flower) appears above the wren which seems to be singing homage to the word. The wren is aware that it is the point of brightness in Chiyo's vision. The last word, 'misosazai' (wren), is written in small characters suggestive of the bird's tiny frame.
[end of excerpt]

And here is Kikusha' haiku taking snow for winter blossoms, which is written on a hanging scroll as one of four haiku depicting the four seasons, each season being associted with a flower (from the catalog):

"Four Haiku"
Hanging scroll, ink on paper, 24.8 x 56.7 cm.
[the scroll has only calligraphy on it]

Having something which I believe in and enjoy even at the end of the seasons [headnote]:

tada tanomu takara no yama ya mutsu no hana

My only creed--
The mountain of treasure
The six-petaled flowers of snow.

Kikusha's brushwork occupies the entire space with force and vitality. At the beginning of each poem the brush was dipped anew, and the strong ink tones create acccents which strengthen the total composition. Some of her lines fluctuate dramatically in width, adding vigor to the calligraphy. ... From both the poems and the calligraphy emerges the figure of the poetess who willfully directed her life beyond the narrow frame of activities imposed on many women during an era of constrictive feudalism.
[end of excerpt]

At one point early in her career as a haiku poet, Kikusha paid a visit to Chiyo's home. According to Yamamoto (from the catalog):

Chiyo had passed away seven yeas earlier, but Kikusha became acquainted with Chiyo's adopted son, Hakuu
白雨. At his house, Kikusha wrote a poem with Chiyo's graceful figure in mind:

hana miseru kokoro ni soyoge natsu-kodachi

To reveal the flower
Of your heart
Sway, you summer grove.

[trans. Yamamoto]

To this poem, Hakuu added the next two lines to commemorate Kikusha's moonlike visit to his humble house.

yabureshi kaya ni
utsuru tsukikage

To the tattered mosquito net
Shifts the light of the moon.

[end of excerpt]

More external LINKS

Haiku by Japanese Women : Haiku Spirit

田上菊舎 . Japanese Links
宝暦3年10月14日(1753年11月8日) - 文政9年8月23日(1826年9月24日)

List of her haiku from various temples

Stone Memorials

Her Life and Poetry

Scrolls with her Poetry Click on the LINKS given.




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