Rainier Haiku Ginsha
by Hisao Mogi and Kyoko Tokuno
The Rainier Haiku Society (Renia Ginsha) of Seattle, Washington, celebrated its eightieth anniversary in 2014 with the publication of the haiku anthology Shakunage vol. 2, consisting of current and late members’ work. The following translations with Japanese originals are a selection from each contributing member. The anniversary celebration was also marked by a two-day event on August 23rd and 24th. On the first day the group was fortunate to have Dr. Teruko Kumei from Shirayuri Women’s College in Tokyo as its keynote speaker. The group learned much about the heritage and history of the Rainier Haiku Society as well as other haiku groups formed by Japanese immigrants before and during WWII. Her keynote lecture and other related material are the basis of this brief introduction. The second day of celebration was a ginkō at a wildflower meadow at Mt. Rainier National Park that concluded with haiku presentations on the bus ride back to Seattle.
The Rainier Haiku Society was started by Kyōu Kawajiri (1868–1944) with the assistance of Banjin Koike (1878–1947) as a selection judge (senja) in 1934. Kyōu had come to Seattle in 1896 after a year in Vancouver. He was a journalist working as editor and publisher of newspapers for Japanese immigrants in Seattle, Portland, and Los Angeles, where he took an interest in haiku. He started the Rainier Haiku Society when he was the editor-in-chief of the Great North Daily Post (Daihoku Nippō) in Seattle and published members’ haiku in the paper. Banjin Koike arrived in Seattle from Japan in 1916. He was a physician by profession but was a well-known mountain photographer as well as an essayist on photography. There is no record of how he came to haiku, but he must have had enough experience before leaving Japan in order to serve as a selection judge for the society. That era in Japan corresponded with the dawn of modern haiku: Shiki Masaoka died in 1902; his student Kyoshi Takahama resumed his haiku career after a short hiatus and continued and expanded the legacy of Shiki’s “sketches” (shasei) as the principal method of composing haiku as well as the publication of the haiku magazine Hototogisu until his death in 1959. Banjin’s exposure to haiku while in Japan can be understood against the preceding general background.
The Rainier Haiku Society has followed the traditions of Hototogisu since the days of cofounder Banjin Koike, whose remarks capture the essence of “sketches” and his philosophy of haiku in America:
According to Hototogisu School, haiku is poetic composition of flowers and birds (kachō fūei). What is called “flowers and birds” refers not only to natural phenomena but it also includes human affairs. Objectivity represented in sketches may be the chief method; however, it does not ignore subjectivity of what lies [at] deeper level of [feelings or consciousness of the poet]. We follow the principle of sketches in a new environment that is America, and our work must naturally be reflective of the local color.
In other words, haiku can draw material from aspects of nature, traditional seasonal events, and daily life, wherever one happens to live.
It goes without saying that the continued existence of the Rainier Haiku Society over the past eighty years owes much to the passion and effort of the founders and generations of past members. Especially noteworthy is the fact that their passion did not diminish even under the difficult circumstances of the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII. There were ten relocation centers throughout the country and seven haiku anthologies by different groups have come to light thus far. It is speculated that there may be others that have yet to be discovered. The biggest of all haiku groups was the Minidoka Haiku Society (Minidoka Ginsha) with a membership of 158 that included Rainier Haiku Society members as core haiku authors. While in camp in 1945, Banjin edited and published 200 copies of Kusazutsumi (grassy bank) that included 1,139 haiku selected from over 10,000 pieces dating from October 1942 to April 1945. He hoped that the anthology would be indispensable material for future comparative studies of haiku in the United States and Japan. As soon as the war was over, Banjin restarted the Rainier Haiku Society in August of 1945 and led the group until his death in 1947.
Over the past eight decades, the Rainier Haiku Society has preserved the legacy of the founders Kyōu and Banjin and followed the principle of sketch of the Hototogisu School of Japanese haiku. We have had the privilege of receiving instructions and comments about our haiku twice a year by members of the Hototogisu School in Japan. Just to give a few names, they included the late Haruko Takagi and Chizuko Imai; Shōko Imai is the current advisor. There are generations of haiku poets who have been deeply involved with and committed to the teaching and spread of the traditional Hototogisu haiku method and philosophy. This unbroken link to Japanese haiku tradition is truly a privilege for all of us to learn while living outside Japan.
As of this writing, our group consists of twenty-five members who meet monthly to read each other’s haiku [in Japanese] and discuss ways to enhance our understanding of what haiku is all about. Membership also includes former members who now live in Japan or England and who submit their haiku via email. We publish selected haiku every month in local weekly newspapers: North American Post (Hokubei Hōchi; Japanese-English) and Soy Sauce (Japanese only). Publication through the popular media is a way of sharing our enthusiasm for haiku as well as informing the community about the presence of the Rainier Haiku Society so as to continue the legacy we inherited into the future.
The following selected haiku are listed in the traditional order of a saijiki (collection of seasonal references for haiku), beginning with spring. Within each season the haiku appear in alphabetical order by the last name of the poet.
 Shakunage vol. 1 was published in 1986.
Members of Rainier Haiku Ginsha at I Love Sushi on 23 August 2015, in celebration of the organization’s 80th anniversary. On the right side of the table are Shoshi Takamura (front) and Saeko Aoyama (back). On the left side of the table from left to right are Kyoko Tokuno, Prof. Kumei, Prof. Teruko Kumei (who gave keynote lecture at the conference earlier on the day), Yukiko Goto, and Mitsuyo Sakai. Standing from left to right are Mitsuko Nakata, Fumi Yoshimoto, Teruko Kyuma, Nobuko Thiesen, Miyoko Yamasaki, Hisao Mogi, Atsumi Yamashiro, and Koshi Miller.