Kuroda Momoko


Kuroda Momoko 黒田杏子

born 1938  in Tochigi perfecture.
Became a haiku student of Yamaguchi Seishi in 1970.
Received various prizes as a haiku poet.
Leader of the group "Aoi Haiku Kai"  藍生(あおい)俳句会 in Tokyo.
黒田桃子 くろだももこ
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藍生俳句会 in Japanese only


Quotes from Larry Bole :

I have just started reading a book,
"The Haiku Apprentice: Memoirs of Writing Poetry in Japan," by Abigail Friedman (Stone Bridge Press, Berkeley, CA, USA, 2006).

I am copying out exerpts by hand for "educational purposes."
I encourage people to support the author by purchasing her book, or getting their local library to purchase it.

Ms. Friedman first came to Japan with her husband, an English teacher, because he had dreamed from childhood of experiencing Japan. She gave up a fledgling law practice to go with him. While there, she decided to apply to the U.S. Foreign Service, having already passed the exam. After becoming a diplomat with postings in different parts of the world, including Japan, she ended up back in Japan, with the North Korea portfolio.

Ms. Friedman explains how she got involved with writing haiku. Giving a speech, she was introduced as someone who wrote haiku. She didn't at that time, but she had memorized (!) several haiku from reading Blyth's books, and so she recited them extemporaneously.

She was then invited to join a haiku group, for which the sensei is Momoko Kuroda. I have just read the part of the book where she attends her first meeting, held at Goyootei, a summer retreat donated to the public by the Imperial Family after WWII.

Momoko Kuroda is one of the women haijin featured in Makoto Ueda's book, "Far Beyond the Field: Haiku by Japanese Women." In fact, it is a haiku by Ms. Kuroda which provides the title of Ueda's book:

inazuma no ryokushuu o abu no no hate ni

a lightning flash
soaked in green glaze
far beyond the field

Kuroda, trans. Ueda

Ms. Friedman quotes much good advice from Ms. Kuroda about writing haiku, which I will relay here, if no one minds, as future time permits.

For now, here is some advice from Ms. Kuroda which Ueda relays in his introduction to her in his book:

"Compose many haiku and throw away many" is Kuroda Momoko's advice to beginners. "In the process, you will discover the true state of your mind. If you start writing haiku, compose a lot of them"--as many as five a day. Make your first haiku the starting point for the others. Then you can be the first to choose which one comes closest to what you want to express. The rest can be thrown away without reluctance.
[end of exerpt]

[The quotes are from Kuroda's book, "Kyoo kara hajimeru haiku," 132.]

In the text of the book, the remarks attributed to Momoko Kuroda are in italics. I'm not sure if this represents an actual record of what she said, or if it is a paraphrase based on notes and memory. But I assume they were approved by Ms. Kuroda as they appear in the book.

When Abigail Friedman first meets Mokoto Kuroda in a large room at Gyootei, she is struck by Ms. Kuroda's appearance. She describes Ms. Kuroda as "an exotic woman in her sixties... Her salt-and-pepper hair was cropped like a schoolgirl's--bangs straight across her forehead and then falling in an even cut about an inch above her shoulders, framing a deeply wrinkled, peaceful face. She smiled at us as she entered, and more deep creases broke forth around her eyes.

She wore an unusual outfit, which appeared to be a modern variation on the traditional Japanese 'samue 作務衣(さむえ) '-- a cotton wraparound blouse with loose, matching, calf-length pants. Our haiku master's version of the 'samue' was deep indigo, with white stitching in traditional Japanese geometric patterns. I have never seen anyone in Japan dress like her, before or since."
CLICK to look at Samu-E !

Then Momoko gives some advice to the first-timers in the group.

"If this is your first time, do not worry, I am sure you will do just fine. The most important thing for you today is not to think about whether your haiku is 'good enough.'

"Don't try to write a haiku that is 'like Basho's' or 'like Issa's.'

"Work on developing a haiku that truly reflects you. If you can write a haiku that expresses you, then you are writing a good haiku.

"My job is not to judge whether you have written well or poorly, but to help you write a haiku that is true to yourself.

"We can each write haiku because we each have a soul. Every soul is equal in a haiku group, and there is room in a haiku group for every soul.

"By listening to the haiku of others, you will learn about yourself and your haiku. And others in turn will learn about themselves through your haiku."

At the close of the meeting, Ms. Kuroda made a final comment.

"It is wonderful to write haiku alone, to contemplate it, to read and reread it, and to polish it in private. We can learn a lot about our writing doing this. Yet joining with others and sharing haiku is an essential part of the haiku experience. Think about what a haiku represents.
This small chalice of only seventeen sounds is, in truth, an expression of the nature of your heart and soul. There is something magical about sharing this piece of yourself with friends who have gathered together to read haiku aloud."

However, it's worth pointing out that of the approximately 150 haiku the group produced at the meeting (most participants actually brought haiku they had prepared in advance), "Momoko read [aloud], commented on, and praised about 40 of them." So it seems some haiku are, after all, more equal than others.

ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo

About KIGO

Here is one exchange from the book about kigo. Ms. Friedman starts out by writing:

In flipping through her (Kuroda's) pocket seasonal dictionary [saijiki], I noticed that some animals were listed and others were not. Frog was listed as a spring seasonal word, and rabbit was listed as a winter seasonal word. But rat was not listed. I asked Momoko what I should do if a word is not in the 'saijiki'.

"Well of course you can still write a haiku about an animal that is not listed-- just use another word in the haiku as the season word," she answered. ...

"And what if you are in Hokkaido in the middle of a snowstorm but the season is actually fall?" I asked. Momoko seemed not bothered in the least by all my questions.

"Your question makes sense. There are regional variations. For example, cherry blossom is a spring season word but in Okinawa to the south, cherry trees bloom before spring. In Hokkaido to the north, cherry trees might not bloom until June or July!"

Momoko explained that during the Edo period, from the mid-seventeenth through the mid-nineteenth centuries, 'saijiki' were based on the seasons, foods, and customs of Kyoto. Later 'saijiki' began to reflect the seasons as they appear in Tokyo. Momoko told me there was a movement underway to decentralize and create regional and local 'saijiki', precisely because of the problem I had pointed out.

"There are other challenges in deciding what season a word might fall under," she continued. "A tomato is a summer kigo, but nowadays tomatoes are grown in greenhouses or flown in from other parts of the world year round. Should tomato remain a summer seasonal word? Should it be dropped from the 'saijiki'?" Momoko said the consensus among haiku poets was that the summer tomato tastes best and is the archetype, so it has been retained as a summer kigo.


"Do you know the true power of a seasonal word? [Momoko continued]
These words do not belong to the author of the poem, they do not belong to Basho or Issa or Kyorai. They belong to us.

Seasonal words are our (Japanese) national treasures.
They are like jewels, polished and made more precious by time.
Some seasonal words have been in use since the Edo period.
When we pick up one of these jewels and use it in a haiku, it is rich with history.
They are the shared consciousness of our (Japanese) people.
They capture the essence of Japanese life."

Momoko was bringing it back to national identity and history. She took the pad of paper and wrote:

kirishigure fuji o minu hi zo omoshiroki

a misty shower
I can't see Mount Fuji
delightful days!

Basho [trans. Friedman]

"Basho uses the term 'kirishigure' [autumn: mist (kiri*)], or 'misty shower', as five sounds of his seventeen-sound haiku. Even so, this term is not considered his alone. We are all welcome to use this phrase. When you write a poem using the seasonal word 'misty shower', you are connecting yourself back hundreds of years to the era of Basho. His spirit comes alive again in your haiku. Seasonal words unify people, not only in the present but also with the past."
[end of exerpt]

* I am using the seasonal word reference for the Basho haiku which is found in David Landis Barnhill's book, "Basho's Haiku." In a glossary note for 'kiri', Barnhill writes:

kiri: mist. Traditionally mist ('kiri') is associated with autumn,
while haze ('kasumi', 'usugasumi'...) is a spring phenomenon.
[emphasis added]


Momoko Sensei about TENSAKU, polishing and correcting haiku


鑑真忌 青葉に沁みる 朝の鐘
Ganjin ki aoba ni shimiru asa no kane

Ganjin Memorial Day -
the morning bells reverberate
in the green leaves
(Tr. Gabi Greve)

Ganjin Memorial Day, Ganjin Ki 鑑真忌 and Haiku


noomen no / kudakete tsuki no / minato kana

Shattered Noh mask
the moon-filled harbor

Shironegi no / hikari no boh wo / ima kizamu

Now cutting
its brightness
a white leek

Nakagawa no / kotoshi wa samuki / ayu no kao

This summer,
cold the Naka River
cold the faces of ayu fish

Kanbotan / dai-ohjoh no /ashita kana

This morning
the winter peonies
die a peaceful death

  -Anthology of Contemporary Japanese Haiku-
Published by the Modern HAIKU Association

Momoko Kuroda :
Haiku in English, German and Italian


kono kuraki uminari no machi nikki kau

this dark town
where the sea roars so loud -
I buy a diary 

. Diary (nikki) and Haiku   


English Reference

Japanese Reference

Related words

SENSEI, Japanese Haiku Teachers

***** Introducing Japanese Haiku Poets 



Anonymous said...

Postings like these teach a lot. Thanks, Larry ... and Gabi!

And, Gabi, all the more reason to maintain your database. We can see how diverse kigo can be! And if the Japanese can recognize this, we should be able to as well.

Somehow, I am reminded of how we often quote Shakespeare. By using the expressions he himself used, we transport ourselves back to his time, and recognize the universality of ideas and expressions through the centuries. We realize that what he meant to say in his time can still be applied to how we want to say things today.


Anonymous said...

One of the most beautiful, thought-full entries I've read, on a blog filled with fine beauty and fine thought.


Karma Tenzing Wangchuk
Port Townsend, Cascadia, Turtle Island

Gabi Greve said...

Thanks for stopping by, Tenzing!
Much appreciated.

Gabi Greve - WKD said...

shinguu no imibi hachigatsu juuni nichi

the taboo day
for Shingu shrine is August
the twelfth

Kuroda Momoko 黒田杏子 .

MORE about imi - ritual taboo

Gabi Greve - WKD said...

hachigatsu no hikari Shinguu ni afururu

the sunlight
of August is overflowing
at shrine Shingu

shinguu no kugatsu no yakuru posuto kana

the burning heat
of the mailbox in September
at Shingu shrine . . .

Kuroda Momoko 黒田杏子 .

about Shingu shrines

Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

nehanzu o afururu tsuki no hikari kana

suffused in moonlight ––
image of the Buddha
entering Nirvana 

Tr. Abigail Freeman

MORE about this kigo