Awano Seiho


Awano Seiho 阿波野青畝


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Obituary: Awano Seiho


Awano Seiho, poet, born Kansai Japan 10 February 1899,
died Nishinomiya Japan 22 December 1992.

AWANO SEIHO was the oldest of the better-known haiku poets who at the beginning of the Showa Era exerted a considerable influence on the art of haiku in Japan.

Seiho belonged to a group that came to be known as 'the four S's' because their first names (the ones haiku poets are usually known by) began with 'S' - the three others being Yamaguchi Seishi, Mizuhara Shuoshi and Takano Soju.

Modern haiku starts with the 'sketch' form in fairly free style by Masaoka Shiki, who handed down his artistic theories to Takahama Kyoshi, whose literary disciple Awano Seiho became. Generally speaking, the aim of these new poets was to depict the ordinary things and events of daily life in an impressionistic rather than a formal way.
A typical example by Seiho from his 1986 collection Joya ('New Year's Eve') is:

Sucking a persimmon
a seed suddenly popped
into my mouth.

which has something of the quality of the Zen experience known as satori, or spiritual illumination, often brought on by some incongruous happening or association of images.

Seiho wrote simply and directly, without pretentious philosophising or anguished soul-searchings, though he often used images taken from Buddhism, presented in a characteristic matter-of-fact way. He wrote as the ordinary man in the street writes haiku. Always he adopted a low, humble stance towards the art he devoted his whole life to. It was typical of the modesty of the man that he would accept offers to judge the many haiku contests sponsored by such organisations as different as funeral parlours, cake companies, tea merchants and Japan Air Lines, who have done so much to promote an interest in haiku.

Another famous haiku poet, Yamaguchi Seison, claimed that Seiho often read the dictionary in order to find inspiration in new, unusual or simply beautiful words which he would then incorporate in a haiku. Seiho is represented in Gendai Haiku ('Modern Haiku') and his work often appeared in magazines and newspapers. A series of brief studies of his poems has been appearing during the past year in the Nagoya international haiku magazine Ko, edited by the haiku poet Koko Kato.
One of these refers to a haiku trip Seiho made to Shanghai four years ago, in which he writes about the humble rice dumplings known as getsu-pei, or in Japanese the tsukimi or rice dumplings eaten during autumn moon-viewing:

Cramming my mouth with
getsu-pei, Lake Sei
remains unruffled.

This was composed at a celebrated beauty spot, the lake in Hang Zhou in China. For the last 14 years, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper has been printing, right in the middle of its first page, not the latest financial deals and squabbles, but a poetry column of haiku and tanka (the 31-syllable poetic form), something no other newspaper in the world would dare do. It was in such an atmosphere favourable to the popular passion for poetry that old poets such as Awano Seiho, and a growing number of younger haiku poets, made their name.

source : www.independent.co.uk
15 January 1993


WKD : The Four S Poets and Shasei

yama mata yama yamazakura mata yamazakura

mountain after mountain
mountain cherry trees
after mountain cherry trees


botan hyaku nihyaku sambyaku mon hitotsu

one hundred peonies
two hundred, three hundred ...
and only one gate

Maybe he is visiting one of the famous peony temples of Japan.

. WKD : Numbers used in Haiku


mutsugoroo mutsujuuroo no doro shiai

mudskipper five
and mudskipper ten
fight in the mud

und Mutsujuro
machen eine Schlammschlacht

This is a play of words with the name of Mutsugoro. Five and ten, a small one and a big one are fighting for a female.

WKD : Mutsugoro dishes from Saga Prefecture


hooshi dete kirawaruru nari utagaruta

the priest-poet came up
I hate it, I hate it, this
poetry trump

The priest-poet here is Shune Hooshi (Shun-e Hoshi) 俊恵法師
of the 100 poetry cards (hyakunin isshu 百人一首)
He is number 85 in the collection.

His top verse reads
夜もすがら 物思ふころは 明けやらで

his bottom verse reads
閨のひまさへ つれなかりけり

All through the never-ending night
I lie awake and think;
In vain I look to try and see
The daybreak's feeble blink
Peep through the shutter's chink.


In the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu card game, there are quite a few hooshi 法師 priests.
Sometimes a special game is played, the "boozu meguri 坊主めくり". If you draw the card of one of the priests, you have to perform some spacial tricks or have your face painted black with ink. That is why the hooshi - boozu card is not well liked.

WKD : Karuta ... poetry trump cards and hanafuda


misao tsuku shirahari oikeri Mifune sai

the old boatsman
pushes with the long rod -
Mifune festival

. Mifune Festival in Kyoto .


konna ka ga Myooe shoonin o sashi ni kemu

this mosquito
comes all the way to bite
Saint Myo-E

. Myoe Shonin 明恵上人 (1173-1232) .


mizu sumite Kinkaku no kin sashi ni keri

clear water (of autumn)
the gold of Golden Pavillion
shines so bright

WKD : The Golden Pavillion
and Higashiyama Culture, Kyoto

Haiku about temple Byodo-In 平等院 in Uji
. Phoenix Hall 鳳凰堂 .


samidare no amadare bakari Ukimi Doo

only falling rain
of the rainy season -
the Floating Hall

WKD : The Floating Hall and Lake Biwa


sukima kaze juuni shinshoo mina okoru

wind through the cracks -
the twelve heavenly generals
look so angry

WKD : The 12 Heavenly Generals and Haiku

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hi ni kachite kemushi Idaten-bashiri kana

trying to win against the fire
the hairy caterpiller runs
like Idaten

WKD : The deity Idaten (Skanda) and Haiku


Japanese Reference

. . 阿波野青畝

Related words

***** Introducing Japanese Haiku Poets 



Gabi Greve said...

Larry Bole on facebook contributed:

kakure ya ni tsuyu ippai no akaza kana

A retired dwelling
Among the pig-weeds
Full of dew.
--trans. Blyth

natsukashi no jokuse no ame ya nehanzoo

The Nirvana Picture;
The rain of this world falls,--
How dear it is to us!
--trans. Blyth

Nirvana -- how dear
through rain
of this troubled world.
--trans. Stryk

katsuragi no yama futokoro ni ne shaka kana

Buddha lying down,
In the bosom
Of Mount Katsuragi.
--trans. Blyth

ichi no ji ni toome ni nehan shi tamaeru

The Buddha lies,
His eyes in a straight line,
Looking into infinity.
--trans. Blyth

nigiwashiki yukige shizuku no garan kana

The drops of water of the snow melting
From the great temple,---
How animated!
--trans. Blyth

Samidareno amada rebakari ukimido

early summer rain
from every eave of the temple
--trans. Isamu Hashimoto
(from Mainichi Daily News, 6/6/01, #624)

Blyth writes that Kyoshi, comparing Seishi and Seiho, wrote of Seishi,
"He is the captive on the frontier," and of Seiho, "He sits at ease in the seat of the King of the Country of Haiku."
(from A History of Haiku: Volume Two)

Gabi Greve said...

Comment by Larry Bole :
Wiiliam J. Higginson, in his book "The Haiku Seasons: Poetry of the Natural World" (Tokyo, Kodansha International, Ltd., 1996), mentions Seiho in relation to writing renku (pp. 60, 72):

"When Blyth wrote of Shiki's condemnation of renku and its supposed demise he was writing during or shortly after World War II and could hardly have anticipated the resurgence of interest in and practice of Renku in Japan today. But even in 1946, the respected haiku poet Seiho Awano ... and members of his group were writing renku." [p. 60]

"The 'spirit of greeting' may be taken as the most important undrlying characteristic of hokku. Junping from Issa and Kikusha of the eighteenth century to the twentieth century, we may see it in the opening stanza of a renku by Seiho Awano (1899-1992):

hookan no gotoku ni karuru susuki kana

In a crown's
likeness, this withered
pampas grass

"Here Seiho transforms the wintry image of dried-out vegetation into laudatory compliment to both beauty and power in the comparison with a crown. The tall silvery fronds of pampas grass provide one of the more attractive autumnal images..." [p. 72]