Onomatopoetic Words - Repetition


Onomatopoetic Words

and repetition, see below

平安神宮 at shrine Heian jingu in Kyoto


harahara to
harahara hara to
sakura kana

more fluttering
cherry blossoms

- Shared by Taro Aizu -
Joys of Japan, 2012


There are a lot of Japanese haiku using onomatopoeic words or mimetic words.
I think it's hard to translate these haiku.

For example

mizu-makura gabari to samui umi ga aru

Saito Sanki

gabari to: mimetic word, "gabari to" is an unusual word.

Maybe Sanki made a new word. But I can feel suddenness from the sound of "gabari to".

The situation of this haiku is ( in my imagination) :
Sanki had a high fever, so he slept using a water pillow. There were several pieces of ice in it. Sanki was half conscious. When pieces of ice made a low sound, he felt as if he were in a cold sea ( with icebergs ).

The mimetic/onomatopoeic word "gabari to" has the power to make me imagine the above situation.
Perhaps there is no word in English like "gabari to".
Of course, there must be a lot of English mimetic/onomatopoeic words not to be translated into Japanese words.
© Hiromi / Shiki Archives 1998

Adjectives are frequently used in Japansese haiku, as they fit each situation.
See KERORI below for translation problems.


In English as in Japanese, onomatopoetic words are those that imitate natural sounds. In Japanese, however, there are literally hundreds of such words, and they are used much more frequently than in English. Words that represent actual sounds (e.g., animal noises) are called giseigo, while words that refer specifically to actions (e.g., to drink with a gulp or to drink sip by sip) are called gitaigo.

Read more HERE !


Onomatopoeia (occasionally spelled onomateopoeia or onomatopœia) is a word or a grouping of words that imitates the sound it is describing, suggesting its source object, such as "click," "buzz," or animal noises such as "oink", "quack", "slurp", or "meow". The word is a synthesis of the Greek words όνομα (onoma, = "name") and ποιέω (poieō, = "I make" or "I do") thus it essentially means "name creation".

doki doki (ドキドキ): the (speeding up of the) beating of a heart (and thus excitement).
© More in the WIKIPEDIA !

bara bara / giri giri
WKD: Some Japanese Onomatopoetic Words


CLICK for original LINK


Hototogisu, little cuckoo
This is an onomatopoetic word for the bird's call.

Little Cuckoo, C. poliocephalis, hototogisu ホトトギス, 時鳥
kigo for all summer

In 1898 Takahama Kyoshi became the editor of Hototogisu, a magazine of haiku that was started by Shiki.
“Hototogisu” (Japanese literary magazine)


a house centipede; a galley worm
gejigeji 蚰蜒 (げじげじ)

kigo for all summer

geji, げじ、
big geji, oogeji 大蚰蜒(おおげじ)

Millipede, centipede, mukade,


Compiled by Larry Bole
(Translating Haiku Forum)

Here is the url for a list of "Japanese Sound effects and what they mean," which is useful in attempting to understand manga:

Blyth discusses onomatopoeia in "Haiku," Vol. 1, "Eastern Culture," "Section V The Technique of Haiku, 4. Onomatopoeia."

To summarize:

According to Blyth, "of all languages, Japanese is by far the richest in onomatopoeic elements..."

Blyth identifies three types of onomatopoeia:
"(a) The direct representation of the sounds of the outside world by the sound of the voice. ...
(b) The representation of movement, or physical sensation other than that of sound. ...
(c) The representation of soul states. ..."

Blyth quotes the following examples:

Ochikochi ochikochi to utsu kinuta kana.

Here and there,
There and here,
Beating fulling-blocks.


Ichi boku to poku poku aruku hanami kana

He ambles along
With his man-servant:
Cherry-blossom viewing.


Butsudan ni honzon kaketa ka hototogisu

"Is the main image
Set on the altar?"
Cries the hototogisu.

Soukan - Sookan - Sokan

Ishikawa wa kawarari inazuma sarari kana.

The Stony River rippling,
The lightning


Yusa-yusa to haru ga yuku zo yo nobe no kusa.

Spring departs,
Trembling, in the grasses
of the fields.


Hito chirari konoba mo chirari horari kana.

People are few,
Leaves also fall
Now and then.


Utagauna ushio no hana mo ura no haru.
(Blyth says in a footnote, "notice the u's, and a's.")

Do not doubt it,
The bay has its spring too,--
The flowers of the tide.

. utagau na ushio no hana mo ura no haru .

Osoki hi no tsumorite touki mukashi kana.

Slow days passing, accumulating,--
How distant they are,
The things of the past!


Osoki hi ya kodama kikoyuru kyou no sumi.

The slow day;
Echoes heard
In a corner of Kyoto.


After giving these examples, Blyth goes on to say:

"We should remind ourselves once more of Basho's advice to his disciples:

'Repeat (your verses) a thousand times on your lips.'

Haiku, no less than waka, are songs; they are meant to be read aloud, and repeated aloud. Onomatopoeia is not a matter of the eye, though it may help; the full and perfect meaning of a haiku is not realized until it is heard by the physical ear."

Here is another (well-known) haiku taken from another part of Blyth's discussion of onomatopoeia:

Haru no umi hinemosu notari notari kana

The spring sea,
Gently rising and falling,
The whole day long.


I would say this is an example of (b).

In "The Haiku Handbook," Higginson reiterates Blyth, adding his own thoughts, and also discusses the visual aspect of onomatopoeia (see the book's index).

Joan Giroux, in her book, "The Haiku Form," also discusses onomatopoeia. She gives some of what she describes as "innumerable repetitious and onomatopoeic words" in the Japanese language, such as "'perapera' (fluently), 'pikapika' (shiny), 'pachipachi' (crackling), 'pakapaka' (galloping), 'parapara' (patter), 'wakuwaku' (nervously), [and] 'tsurutsuru' (slippery)--all of which are used to great advantage in haiku."

Ms. Giroux gives one Japanese example of onomatopoeia in haiku:

Uma hokuhoku Ware wo e ni miru Natsu-no kana
uma bokuboku ware o e ni miru natsu-no kana

I find myself in a picture
The cob ambles slowly
Across the summer moor.

Staying in Kaii province, admiring the horses in the summer of 1685 . . .
. Matsuo Basho 松尾芭蕉 - Archives of the WKD .

More LINKS and thoughts on the subject
Larry Bole, Translating Haiku

hokuhoku ほくほく - (various meanings)

hoku-hoku to kasunde kuru wa donata kana

who's that coming
in the mist?

Tr. Lanoue

who is it
walking slowly closer
out in the mist?

Tr. Chris Drake

This hokku comes from a letter Issa sent in the 2nd or 3rd month of 1813 to the anthology editor and haikai poet Fujimori Sobaku, who lived in Suwa, not too far from Issa. The hokku is a slight revision of one in Issa's diary for the 2nd month (March) of 1813, soon after Issa had concluded an agreement on 1/26 in his hometown with his half-brother concerning the division of his father's estate. It's tempting to read this hokku as Issa listening to his own footsteps gradually coming closer to him through the mountain mist in his hometown, where he hopes to settle down in the future, but it could be a naturalistic hokku about an uncanny experience in thick mountain mist. Issa uses a polite form for "who," so he does not seem to be afraid of the approaching person. The first version uses even more honorific language, so it's possible Issa may wonder if a bodhisattva such as Jizo or Kannon could possibly be out in the mist. It's left up to the reader to guess who or what kind of being the footsteps belong to.

For the meaning of the adverb modifying the verb, I follow Maruyama Kazuhiko (Seventh Diary 1.343) and various Japanese dictionaries. This was a very common meaning in Issa's time, though the meaning of hoku-hoku to (also boku-boku to) changes if it becomes hoku-hoku and is accompanied by tsue, as in one hokku by Issa.

Chris Drake

. Kobayashi Issa 小林一茶 in Edo .


Matsuo Basho 松尾芭蕉
. WKD : Onomatopoetic Words used by Basho .

Kobayashi Issa 小林一茶
. WKD : Onomatopoetic Words used by Issa .

Yosa Buson 与謝蕪村
. WKD : Onomatopoetic Words used by Buson .


Repetition 繰り返し kurikaeshi

Repetition can be used to emphasize the mood of a haiku.
It must be skillfully applied to create a special effect not possible without it.


Matsushima ya
aa Matsushima ya
Matsushima ya

attributed to Kyoka-Writer Monk Tahara Bo

"Repetition - For Meaning and Melody"
Florence Vilen (Sweden)

Among all poetical forms the haiku is the very soul of brevity. In no more than three lines it contains a maximum of seventeen syllables, often fewer. Every word, every break counts. Yet there are haiku that have space for repetition within this narrow frame. How then is this achieved?

It goes without saying that in order to work it must be done with considerable skill, or sensitivity. It may used for quite different poetical reasons, however.

By its very element of surprise repetition of a word or part of a phrase may make the readers pay greater attention. They may feel that in order to be understood the text as it stands calls for reading aloud. Now recitation of poetry is an excellent
practice which has been neglected in these years of silent reading due to general literacy. A poem worth reading is worth reciting, and will gain by it. Often the word which is repeated changes its sense to some degree. This will encourage the reader to savour its complete range of meaning. This effect is particularly striking when different forms of the same verb are used.

A word may create a definite anticipation that is then twisted to a surprise. Some haiku are written in an elusive style which it would be difficult to render into exact prose. By the repetition of words the reader is encouraged to shift them around and consider various possible interpretations of the scene. In other haiku the text may be perfectly clear and the repetition will serve as an exclamation, an expression of the sense of wonder. A scene will be compressed. A single word is used where normally a full description would be needed.

The repetition will show the reader the value of the word that has been chosen and the richness of meaning within its range.

with many examples


source : www.tempslibres.org


kyoo mo kyoo mo onaji yama mite haru no ame

today too, today too
I see the same old mountain ...
rain in spring

Kobayashi Issa
Tr. Gabi Greve

nake yo nake yo oya nashi suzume otonashiki

sing, sing!
orphan sparrow...
so quiet

Kobayashi Issa
Tr. David Lanoue

sakura sakura to utawareshi oiki kana

"Cherry blossoms! Cherry blossoms!"
they sang
under this old tree

Kobayashi Issa
Tr. David Lanoue

Sakura Sakura is the title of the most famous cherry blossom song.

. . . . .

- - - - - another one by Issa

kuyo-kuyo to sawagu na asu wa asu no tsuyu

The Japanese is 5 7 5, short long short
with NA as a cut marker in the middle of line 2

ku yo ku yo to
sa wa gu na a su wa
a su no tsu yu

This is a lot harder to translate if trying to keep the form of the original.

don't complain
so much - tomorrow brings
tomorrow's drewdrops

Tr. Gabi Greve


yukiyama mo yuki naki yama mo nishi takasa

Mountains with snow
and mountains without snow
all the same height

. . . . .

no no hate to sora no hate au tori kumo ni

Where fields
and sky end
birds head north

(Comment by Gabi:
the repetition of NO HATE is not reflected in the translation.)

. . . . .

kyoo nanimo kamo nanimo kamo haru rashiku

Everything, everywhere
says spring

It was a splendid warm day. The gentle sunlight made everyone happy. Winter's cold had come to an end, and suddenly it was spring. When young, I considered haiku as a means to obediently express that joy, and perhaps this poem marks my starting point. When we open our hearts and observe nature, nature speaks to us.
In this poem, I welcomed spring with my whole being.

source : HIA - Inahata Teiko
Co-translations by Kinuko & Richard JAMBOR

. WKD : Kobayashi Issa 小林一茶 .

nabatake ya hyoi-hyoi-hyoi ya kiku no hana
na-batake ya hyoi hyoi hyoi ya kiku no hana

canola field --
a chrysanthemum, another
and another

Tr. Chris Drake

This hokku is from the 8th intercalary month (October) in 1824, the month after Issa was divorced (after a very short marriage) by his second wife on 8/3 and spent the next four months with some of his students in the vicinity. On intercalary 8/1, the next month, the dazed Issa lost his ability to speak for a while (he communicated by writing), so Issa was on the road and may not have been able to speak when he wrote this hokku.

Issa seems to be standing beside a field of canola plants that have been planted mainly for their seeds, which will become canola oil. The bright yellow flowers have finished blooming long ago, and in a few weeks the green plants will be harvested. They have large leaves, which, along with the stems, will be eaten. Issa seems to be fascinated by the way wild chrysanthemums are able to grow and bloom in the midst of the rather space-consuming canola plants. Here and there the chrysanthemums have managed to find spots with enough air and sunlight to be able to put out their flowers.

Issa manages to find one and then another and then, soon, he's spotted quite a few. As they suddenly come into view one after the other, perhaps they unconsciously remind him of the hidden words which temporarily refuse to come out of his own mouth. The canola plants have lost the Pure Land-like radiance of their flowers, but perhaps the chrysanthemums are suggesting a little of the field's earlier otherworldly luminescence. Issa actually worried about whether Amida could hear him repeat Amida's name only in his mind, without actually uttering it, so perhaps he finds solace in the way the hidden chrysanthemums keep appearing here and there.

Mustard seeds and mustard seed oil are pungent and distinctly different from canola or rapeseed oil, though the flowers are quite similar, so unfortunately I couldn't use "mustard field" for this commercial field of canola plants.

Chris Drake


tsugi no yuki tsugi no yuki furitsumoru

more snow
more snow

Mizumi Hisao 水見壽男


tsubame tsubame doro ga suki naru tsubame kana

Swallows, oh, swallows,
how much you like the mud!
you swallows!
tr. Kageyama Noriko

Hosomi Ayako 細見綾子


snow is falling
on millions of homes
snow is falling

Taro Kunugi, Japan
facebook Feb. 12, 2011


the river
the river makes
of the moon

Jim Kacian, 1996
source : kacian.gendaihaiku.com


bettari  べったり 

maruku neta inu ni bettari kochoo kana

totally at rest
on a dog curled up asleep --
small butterfly

Tr. Chris Drake

The onomatopoetic word bettari is hard to translate, because English doesn't have the wide array of delicate sensation and feeling gradations found in the numerous adverbial and adjectival onomatopoetic expressions found in Japanese (and Korean).
. Comment by Chris Drake .


honobono, hono-bono ほのぼの - 仄仄 tender feeling
especially at daybreak. dimly, faintly. heartwarming (of a story)

. hatsu yuki ya hono-bono kasumu Go-Shikidai .
Kobayashi Issa in Kyoto,Nijoo-joo 二条城 Nijo-Jo Castle

. honobono to hararagohan ni takikomare .  
Oono Rinka 大野林火 enjoying some cooked rice with salmon roe

. matsu tatete sora honobono to akuru kado .
Natsume Soseki enjoys the pines at the gate

honobono to ariake no tsuki no tsukikage ni
momiji fukiorosu yamaoroshi no kaze

Dimly, dimly,
in the faint pool of moonlight
shadowing the dawn,
red leaves come fluttering down
in a gust of wind from the hills.

Tr. Paul S. Atkins

Murmured Conversations:
A Treatise on Poetry and Buddhism by the Poet-Monk Shinkei
source : muse.jhu.edu/journals - Paul S. Atkins -


Roly poly Daruma of papermachee

Daruma and Japanse Culture


. WKD : Kobayashi Issa 小林一茶 .

kaze no ochiba choi-choi neko ga osaekeri

barely moving
the cat nails it --
windblown leaf

Tr. Chris Drake

This winter hokku is from the 10th month (November) of 1815, when Issa was traveling around to see various haijin and students in the area east of Edo. The cat seems to be outside. With no wasted motion or forethought, it reaches out and lightly but firmly puts a paw precisely down on one of the fast-moving brown leaves blowing helter-skelter across the ground. Issa seems to be impressed by its spontaneity and naturalness combined with great accuracy.

I take choi-choi to be an adverb here that means 'slightly, barely, lightly, without thinking.' Three hokku later Issa uses a similar adverb, choi-to, that means virtually the same thing:

neko no ko ga choi-to osaeru ochiba kana

lightly stopped
by the kitten's paw
a fallen leaf

The only other time Issa uses choi-choi in his hokku is in a hokku from the 4th month (May) of 1816. Here it's clearly an adverb:

kawahori no choi-choi detari kome-hisago

barely moving
a bat comes out
of a rice gourd

In his house in his hometown Issa heard a bat crying inside an empty gourd used for carrying rice, and in this hokku the lost and perhaps fearful bat emerges very slowly, in an unthreatening way. In this context "barely moving" gains still another meaning.

The phrase choi-choi was also an exclamation of praise resembling "Bravo! Bravo!" and it was often followed by a to marking quotation with the verbs 'to praise; to say.' Without to, it tended to come after the praised thing or was followed by a break (ya or the end of a clause).

The first line has 6 syllables. This might be intended to suggest the unruliness of the leaves blowing in the wind.

Chris Drake
Translating Haiku Forum, January 2013


Yosa Buson (1716-1783)

ochikochi ni taki no oto kiku wakaba kana

the sound of waterfalls--
tree leaves still young

Tr. Keiji Minato

ochikochi ochikochi to utsu kinuta kana

near and far
here and there the beating sound
of fulling blocks

Tr. Gabi Greve

Fulling blocks are mallets used to beat the washing to get it dry during the Edo period.
Buson uses the Chinese characters and hiragana type of spelling words in a masterly way. this is one of the language forms of haiku that just can not be captured in a translation.


suzumego ga zaku-zaku abiru amacha kana

young sparrows
showered with sweet tea
poured on baby Buddha

Tr. Chris Drake

. Tr. and comment by Chris Drake .

. WKD : Kobayashi Issa 小林一茶 in Edo .


neko arau zabu-zabu kawa ya haru no ame

the cat washes in the river...
spring rain

zubunure no hotoke tachi keri kankodori

Buddha stands
drenched to the bone...
mountain cuckoo

iu-iu to ibara no oku no no ume kana

cool and calm
deep in the thorn thicket...
blooming plum

Issa's iu-iu signifies yuu-yuutaru 悠々たる: quiet and calm.

Kobayashi Issa
Tr. David Lanoue


hata-hata wa haha ga kinuta to shirare keri

the one pounding cloth
is Mother

ko-dakara no ne-gao mie mie kinuta kana

watching her treasured
child's sleeping face...
pounding cloth

Kobayashi Issa
Tr. David Lanoue

WKD : kinuta, the fulling block, pounding cloth


kerori けろり, kerotto けろっと, kerorinkan  けろりんかん
completely unconcerned, unfazed, as if nothing had happened, just ...

meigetsu ni kerori to tatashi kagashi kana

under the harvest moon
there it stands, unconcerned -
the scarecrow

Kobayashi Issa
Tr. Gabi Greve

Here is another translation by David Lanoue

in the harvest moonlight
unruffled, unaffected

A friend quoted this as an example for Issa, using two adjectives. But the original does not have two adjectives, but one onomatopoetic word.


. Akimoto Fujio (1901-1977)

He used a lot of onomatopoetic words in his haiku.
Translations are in the article.

tori wataru kokikokikoki to kan kireba

raitaa no hi ga hohohoho to taki kooru

herohero to wantan susuru kurisumasu

Related words

. WKD : Rhyme and Rhythm in Haiku .

***** WKD : Basic Haiku Theories



Unknown said...






中村 sakuo


Gabi Greve said...

梅雨最中 ずきずき ずきと 歯の痛み
tsuyu sanaka  zukizuki zuki to  ha no itami

long rainy season -
splitting splitting splitting
my tooth aches

© Gabi Greve

zukuzuki for a toothache


Anonymous said...

a cicada chirrs--
the pinwheel so utterly

semi naku ya tsuku-zuku akai kazaguruma


by Issa, 1819

Shinji Ogawa notes that this image of a child's red toy "brings tears to our eyes," since in the summer of that year (1819) the poet's daughter, Sato, died.
This haiku was composed during the Fourth Intercalary Month, 1819. Sato died in Sixth Month.

Tr. David Lanoue

Anonymous said...

Buson and the Language of Japanese Poetry

compiled by Larry Bole

Ueda writes that the second element of Japanese poetry that an English translation does not reproduce is its 'auditory effect'.
However, he doesn't think this is as much of a problem as the untranslatability of the 'visual effect' of a Japanese poem.

The reason he gives for this is that "while Japanese poets made every attempt to take advantage of the pictoral nature of their language, they were not so eager in expoiting the prosodic possibilities of it."

Ueda then discusses internal rhythm in Japanese haiku vs. the external 5-7-5 syllable pattern. He gives three examples of Buson's
haiku where the internal rhythm overrides the external syllable pattern.

uguisu no naku ya chiisaki kuchi aite

The nightingale is singing
With its small mouth open.

(Translated by Asataro Miyamori)

yanagi chiri shimizu kare/ishi tokoro dokoro

Willow-trees are bare--
Dried the water, and the stones
Lie scattered here and there.

(Translated by Kenneth Yasuda)

gekkoo nishi ni watareba hanakage higashi ni ayuma kana

As the moon-brilliance westward makes its crossing, so cherry-blossom shadows eastward slowly go.

(Translated by H.G. Henderson)

Ueda points out that the first haiku "is split in half by a caesura in the second line, and Miyamori was well justified in translating the poem in two lines."
[What Ueda fails to mention is that Miyamori, in his monumental translation of haiku, "An Anthology of Haiku, Ancient and Modern"
(Tokyo: maruzen, 1932), translates EVERY haiku in two lines!]

Ueda explains that the second haiku has an irregular rhythm with "its caesura in an odd place in the second line" and an extra syllable in the last line, but feels that this "is inherent in the meaning of the poem which depicts stones of varying shapes and sizes scattered disorderly on the white river-bed."

The third haiku has lines of 11, 8, and 5 syllables each. "Again the
irregularity arises out of internal need: as Henderson points out, the unusually long lines are suggestive of the slow passage of time."

Ueda then writes, "When a poet makes a deliberate use of sound effects, he does so in such a way that it would create a sensory
image rather than a music of words. Indeed, there are some instances where the sound of a word constitutes the core of the poem, but even here the sound is used to produce an image, an auditory image."

Ueda's two examples of this:

ochi kochi ochi kochi to utsu kinuta kana

Here and there, far and near,
Fulling-blocks are beating.

(Translated by Asataro Miyamori)

hi wa hi kureyo yo wa yo akeyo to naku kawazu

By day, "Darken day,"
By night, "Brightern into light,"
Chant the frogs.

(Translated by R.H. Blyth)

"In the first haiku ... the words 'ochi', 'far', and 'kochi', 'near', ... function as onomatopoeia for the sound of
fulling blocks coming from the houses far away and near by."

In the second haiku, Ueda states that the difference in the sound of
the daytime and nighttime croaking of the frogs is suggested by the
repetition of the 'hi' sound for daytime frog croaking, and
repetition of the 'yo' sound for nighttime frog croaking.

Ueda goes on to point out that there are "very few haiku in which
some vowels, consonants, accents or pitches are deliberately combined so as to produce a non-imitative musical effect."

But Ueda points out that this was not always the case. "...it is interesting to note that some of the earliest Japanese poems, such
as those by Kakinomoto Hitomaro (667?-708?) had a good deal of music
in them.
It seems that the language of traditional Japanese poetry moved closer and closer to painting, and farther and farther away from music, as time went on. In...later times, if Japanese literature wanted to bring musical elements into itself, it brought in music as music [via instrumental accompaniment] rather than creating a new prosody."

[end of summary]

Anonymous said...

working at night
under the full moon...
reed thrush

mangetsu ni yo kasegi suru ya gyoogyooshi


by Issa, 1825

Tr. David Lanoue

Anonymous said...

bit by bit
trimming the horse's hooves...
autumn gale

potsu-potsu to uma no tsume kiru nowaki kana


by Issa, 1804

Tr. David Lanoue

Anonymous said...

going nuts in hailstones
crashing down...
a fox

arare kon kon kon fureru kitsune kana


by Issa, 1818

Shinji Ogawa notes that Issa is playing with the word kon-kon in this haiku. It is both an adjective to depict the falling of hailstones and an onomatopoetic expression for a fox's voice.

Tr. David Lanoue

Anonymous said...

the cricket
"Cricky! Cricky!"
brags about his beard

koorogi no koro-koro hige o jiman kana


by Issa, 1814

Tr. David Lanoue

Anonymous said...

Here are two other translations from Prof. Lanoue's site. Maybe there is a clue to cricket/beard somewhere herein:

kôrogi no koro-koro hitori warai kana

the cricket
"Cricky! Cricky!" laughing
by himself

(but the above is not really relevant to the discussion)

kirigirisu hige o katsugite naki ni keri

the katydid
wagging his beard
is singing

R. H. Blyth translates the middle phrase, "Shoulders his whiskers"; A History of Haiku (Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1964) 1.370. This odd image of a bearded insect makes me wonder if Issa meant to write, hige ni katsugite, in which case the meaning would shift:

carried in his beard
the katydid
is singing

A katydid (kirigirisu) is a green or light brown insect, a cousin of crickets and grasshoppers. The males possess special organs on the wings with which they produce shrill calls. Although katydid is the closest English equivalent, many translators (such as R. H. Blyth)use the more familiar "grasshopper" and "cricket." See Haiku (Tokyo:
Hokuseido, 1949-1952; rpt. 1981-1982/reset paperback edition) 4.1068-69.

[end of excerpt]

So in the haiku which originated this discussion, maybe Issa made a
Japanese 'typo', as Lanoue speculates about the haiku immediately above, and the cricket is bragging about the beard in which it is hitching a ride.

Larry Bole

Anonymous said...

seaside temple--
the room in the mist
grows faint

iso-dera ya zashiki no kiri mo tae-dae ni


by Issa, 1818

Tr. David Lanoue

tae-dae たえ‐だえ【絶え絶え】


Anonymous said...

they flap and flap...
paper fans

yuki-atari-battari-batari uchiwa kana
by Issa, 1816

A difficult haiku to translate. Yuki-atari-battari signifies "haphazard" or "happy-go-lucky."
I picture a scene of several people, fanning themselves on a warm summer day with all sorts of different speeds and rhythms.
Tr. David Lanoue

Anonymous said...

on the ground
we stick and sit...
evening cool

tsuchi beta ni betari-betari yu^suzumi


by Issa, 1815

Issa's punning is lost in translation. Shinji Ogawa explains: he (and perhaps others) sits on the "the ground's surface" (tsuchi beta) so that they are betari-betari, "directly contacted" or "attached" to it. In this context, betari-betari means "sitting around."

Issa's repetition of beta vanishes in English. My "stick and sit" is an attempt to evoke at least some of the poem's play with words.

Tr. David Lanoue

Anonymous said...

on leaves of bamboo
flickers, flickers

sasa no ha ni inazuma sarari-sarari kana


by Issa, 1825

I follow R. H. Blyth in translating sarari as "flicker"; Haiku (Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1949-1952; rpt. 1981-1982/reset paperback edition) 1.324.
Issa writes six years earlier, in 1819:

ishi-gawa wa garari inazuma sarari kana

across the dried river
the bolt of lightning

Shinji Ogawa pictures the leaves of the bamboo grass "fluttering." He adds, "Issa seems interested in the sound sa" in this haiku. Sasa can mean "bamboo grass" or "dwarf bamboo." The latter seems to fit here.

Tr. David Lanoue

Anonymous said...

plum blossom scent--
I tell you spring
is a night thing

ume ga ka ya somo-somo haru wa yoru no koto


by Issa, 1809

Somo-somo is an expression used when one is beginning to explain something. English equivalents include, "well," "to begin," and "in the first place...";
see Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 953.

David Lanoue

Anonymous said...

bara yabu ni kami no bura-bura hi naga kana

in a thorn patch
some paper, to and fro...
a long day

Tr. David Lanoue

bura bura

Anonymous said...

tabi-tabi ni baka nen irete shigure kana


time and again
foolishly persistent...
the winter rain

Kobayashi Issa
(Tr. David Lanoue)

tabitabi ni


Anonymous said...

they flap and flap...
paper fans

yuki-atari battari-batari uchiwa kana


by Issa, 1816
Tr. David Lanoue

Gabi Greve said...

suki-zuki ya kono toshiyori o yobu ko tori

a matter of taste--
the little bird calls
this old man

Kobayashi Issa
(Tr. David Lanoue)

Anonymous said...

kogarashi ni kusu-kusu buta no netari keri

in winter wind
the pig giggles
in his sleep

Kobayashi Issa
(Tr. David Lanoue)

Anonymous said...

choochin mo chirari horari ya hatsu karasu

a smattering of lanterns
here and there...
the year's first crow

Kobayashi Issa
(Tr. David Lanoue)

Anonymous said...

sewazuki ya fushoo-bushoo ni fuyugomori

the do-gooder -
reluctantly he begins
his winter seclusion

Kobayashi Issa

"sewazuki" can also mean "busybody", or someone who likes to help people in need.

Gabi Greve said...

chin to / kichin to : neatly, smug

na no hana ni chin to kawazu no suwari-keri

among the rapeseed blossoms
there he sits all smug -
this frog

Kobayashi Issa
(Tr. Gabi Greve)

Anonymous said...


six feet of curtain
the snow is melting!

roku shaku no noren hita-hita yukige kana


by Issa, 1818
(Tr. David Lanoue)


Anonymous said...

kites of Edo
from morning on, heads
shaking, shaking

Edo tako no asa kara kaburi-kaburi kana

Tr. David Lanoue

Anonymous said...

in the darkness
swishing, swishing...
paper fan

kuragari ni hirari-hirari to oogi kana


by Issa, 1815

Or: "my paper fan" or "his (her) paper fan."
All of these images are possible. In my first translation, I ended with, "my paper fan." I felt that this is a haiku of loneliness: Issa is lying awake, fanning himself, no one speaking to him other than the fan's swish-swishing.
Shinji Ogawa suggests, "It will be better if the paper fan is undefined, leaving it to readers' imagination."

TR. David Lanoue

Anonymous said...

looking back, back
to her crying children
cormorant departs

ko no naku wo kaeri mii mii yuku u kana


by Issa, 1821

Japanese fishermen use cormorants. Tied to a tether, these sea birds dive for fish that they are forced to disgorge.
Tr. David Lanoue

Anonymous said...

I hear father and mother
singing plovers

chichi haha no kogoto kiki-kiki chidori kana


by Issa, 1813

In my first translation, I pictured a baby bird listening to its parents nagging: listening to father and mother nag...
the plover Shinji Ogawa believes that Issa, listening the garble of plovers, remembers his childhood adn the sound of his own parents nagging. I rewrote my translation with this in mind.

Tr. David Lanoue

Anonymous said...

oh cool cool
the month's last day

oo suzushi oo suzushi yo mo misoka kana

by Issa, 1813
Tr. David Lanoue

Anonymous said...

fuku kaze ni koe mo kareno no karasu kana

voices in the wind
the withered field's


Or: "a crow." Shinji Ogawa noes that Issa is playing with words in this haiku:
(1) He uses several K-words (kaze, koe, kareno, karasu, kana), and
(2) he puns with kareno ("withered field") and kare koe ("hoarse voice"--of the crows).
David Lanoue

Anonymous said...

raku-raku to ahiru no rusu no yanagi kana

the ducks have gone--
peace and quiet
for the willow

Kobayashi Issa
(tr. David Lanoue)

Edo said...

hakidame no edo e edo e to hototogisu

"I'm off to that rubbish heap
Edo! Edo!"
the cuckoo

Kobayashi Issa
(tr. David Lanoue)
to Edo, to Edo

Gabi Greve said...

kuru mo kuru mo heta uguisu yo mado no ume

one by one they come
off-key nightingales
to the plum blossom window

Kobayashi Issa
(tr. David Lanoue)

Gabi Greve said...


sake hiyasu choro-choro kawa no mukuge kana

a babbling brook
chills the sake...
roses of Sharon

Kobayashi Issa
(tr. David Lanoue)

Gabi Greve / yamabuki said...

horohoro / horo horo

horo horo to yamabuki chiru ka taki no oto

Petals of the mountain rose
Fall now and then,
To the sound of the waterfall


Gabi Greve said...

shin-shin to yuri no saki keri naku hibari

quietly the lilies
have bloomed...
a skylark sings

Kobayashi Issa (Tr. Lanoue)

shinshin, shin shin ...

Gabi Greve - Issa said...

sara sara, sarasara, sara-sara:

Kobayashi Issa

fuku kaze no sara-sara uchiwa uchiwa kana

soft breezes
rustling, rustling, round, round
fan, fan

Read the comment by Chris Drake:

Gabi Greve - WKD said...

funaryoori sarasarasara to mizu no oto

eating on board -
sara sara sara
the sound of water

Maeda Goken 前田伍健

Gabi Greve said...

botsubotsu, botsu-botsu

Kobayashi ISSA

yase tsuchi ni botsu-botsu kiku no saki ni keri

Botsu-botsu (also hotsu-hotsu) can mean "little by little"; Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1489. Whether intentional or not, this haiku portrays Issa: a poor man from a poor province who, despite all odds, bloomed as a poet.

Tr. and comment: David Lanoue

sometimes also
bochibochi, bochi-bochi ぼち‐ぼち

Gabi Greve - Issa said...

yochi-yochi - yochiyochi

Kobayashi Issa


harusame ya ahiru yochi-yochi kado aruki

spring rain--
ducks waddle-waddle
to the gate

Tr. David Lanoue

Gabi Greve - Issa said...

Kobayashi Issa - horo-horo

gosun kugi matsu mo horo-horo namida kana

a nail of five sun -
even the pine
is weeping

about straw dolls for cursing people with a five-sun nail

Gabi Greve - Issa said...

hokari-hokari ほかりほかり

Kobayashi Issa

yake ato ya hokari-hokari to nomi sawagu

yake-tsuchi no hokari-hokari ya nomi sawagu

Gabi Greve - Issa said...

Kobayashi Issa - repetition

asu araba araba to omou sakura kana

if we're here,
still here tomorrow
cherry blossoms
(tr. Chris Drake)

Gabi Greve - Issa said...

atafuta あたふた
hurriedly, hastily

atafuta ni choo no deru hi ya kane no ban

Kobayashi Issa
(Tr. David Lanoue)

Gabi Greve said...

pachi-pachi ぱちぱち // ばちばち (bachi-bachi)

Kobayashi Issa

pachi-pachi wa kuri to shiraruru amayo kana

night rain
clattering down, yes
the chestnuts!

This hokku is from the ninth month (October) of 1821, when Issa was living in his hometown. The hokku seems to evoke Issa or Issa and a group of people walking at night through a grove of trees or sitting in a house near a grove. Perhaps a breeze begins to blow, and Issa hears the sounds of very loud isolated raindrops. They clatter onto lower limbs and leaves and then onto the ground and sometimes, perhaps, onto Issa's wide rush hat.
Very soon, however, the smacking and thudding sounds make Issa realize (shiraruru) the rain is actually ripe clusters of chestnuts in splitting cupules falling from their limbs. There is no break after the second line or measure of the hokku. The second line directly modifies the night rain in the third line, so it's clear the rain is actually chestnut rain.
-- Chris Drake

the pitter-patter
of falling chestnuts...
a rainy night

The reader is free to decide: Is the sound of falling chestnuts mingling with that of the rain, or is there no "rain" other than the falling chestnuts?
Personally, I think the second image is funnier and more Issa-like.
-- David Lanoue

Gabi Greve said...

Kobayashi Issa

mi ni naranu yuudachi horori horori kana

taking the cloudburst's
just teardrops

(Tr. David Lanoue)
After the burst of summer rain, the sky now only drips scattered drops like tears (horori horori).
the cut marker KANA is at the end of line 3.

Gabi Greve said...

fuwari-fuwari ふはりふはり

Kobayashi Issa

chiri no mi no fuwari-fuwari mo hana no haru

this body of dust
softly, softly...
blossoming spring

Tr, David Lanoue

Gabi Greve said...

- somosomo

Kobayashi Issa

koromogae somo-somo yabu no chooja nari

new summer robes--
the thicket's become

Somo-somo is an expression used when one is beginning to explain something. English equivalents include, "well," "to begin," and "in the first place..."; see Kogo dai jiten(Shogakukan 1983) 953. In this light, the middle phrase could be translated, "well, the thicket's become..." I've left out the "well" because it seems unnecessary in the English version.
David Lanoue