Rainier Haiku Ginsha
First published in Modern Haiku 46:3, Autumn 2015 (except for the photo and caption). See also Rainier Haiku Ginsha Poems from 2010. For more information about the group, please contact Hisao Mogi.
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.
fuji tarete murasaki no kaze shiro no kaze Fujiko Benett
the white breeze
becomes a purple breeze—
yūgurete nao azayakani sakura saki Yukiko Goto
still brightly blooming
jitensha no shōjo no eshaku kaze kaoru Sakuko Kimoto
young girl on bicycle
bowing slightly as she passed—
yosooi wa shinju hitotsubu Fukkatsusai Mitsuyo Sakai
for dressing up
shirakaba ni haru no yuki furu rotenburo Shōshi Takamura
hot spring visit—
a late snow falling
through the white birches
hanabira wo shikitsume ame no sanpomichi Miyoko Yamasaki
the walking path
a blanket of cherry blossoms
oikakeshi ko ni hikuku tobi natsu no chō Saeko Aoyama
for a child chasing after it
hanabira no ikizuku gotoshi hakubotan Teruko Kyūma
its petals are breathing
hankachi no shishū wo mite wa mata shimau Kōshi Miller
embroidery on handkerchief
save it for a special occasion
manaura ni haikyo no machi ya Genbakuki Hideko Terada
behind my eyelids
yamayuri no Entei kobamu shirosa kana Kyoko Tokuno
in all its whiteness
the wild lily denies
the blaze of summer
sōten no ao wo kisou ya yagurumasō Kōfū Christie Yoshihara
as if competing with
the sky's blueness
saien no nasu no hakage ni chiisaki mi Fumi Yoshimoto
in my vegetable garden
hiding tiny fruits
gekkō no mado no katachi ni furisosogi Miyuki Akiyoshi
with a window shape
sora masao machi no ikkaku kanna moyu Kiyomi Erickson
in a corner of the town
kyaku satte fui no shizukesa yūzukiyo Yuriko McMahan
the silence returns
after the last guests—
aki fukashi fumikiri mukou ni tomo no kao Sachiko Negishi
the face of a friend
across the tracks
shinmai wo togu te ga haha ni nitekitari Akiko Sakamoto
washing this year’s rice—
my hands look
more like mother’s
akikaze ni negai knae to nagareboshi Atsumi Yamashiro
the wish I make
on a shooting star
sutegatashi furuki koyomi no omoide wo Sumako Egarashi
hard to discard
the old calendar
and all its memories
hatsugōri fumiwaru oto no kawakiwori Hisao Mogi
the crackle of ice
haha no koe omoidashitsutsu toshiyōi Mitsuko Nakata
as I prepare
for the New Year
an echo of my late mother’s voice
genkan ni tsuma aru gotoku fuyu bōshi Yūge Ōuchi
hanging at the entrance
as if my husband’s still here
tsukiakari yuki no shirosa wo ao ni some Nobuko Thiesen
the snow’s whiteness
 Shakunage vol. 1 was published in 1986.
 We would like to acknowledge Michael Dylan Welch’s assistance with the English translations. Ms. Loryn Paxton of Seattle also provided insightful comments on matters of translation between Japanese and English.
 Teruko Kumei, “One Century of Haiku in North America, with Special Reference to Rainier Haiku Society,” keynote speech for Renia Ginsha eightieth anniversary, August 23, 2014, Seattle, Washington; published with revision in Collected Papers on Language and Literature no. 15 (March 2015), pages 1–12, Center for Language and Literature Research, Shirayuri Women’s College. Also by Kumei, “A Study on Japanese Immigrant Haiku Collections in WRA Camps in the US,” Research Journal no. 9 (March 2014), pages 95–114, Yokohama: Japanese Overseas Migration Museum. Original sources are in Japanese.
 Banjin Koike, Shūkaku (harvest) no. 5, 1938. Cited in Kumei, “One Century of Haiku in North America, with Special Reference to Rainier Haiku Society.”
 Teruko Kumei, “A Study on Japanese Immigrant Haiku Collections in WRA Camps in the US.”
 Both Kyōu and Banjin were interned at Minidoka and Kyōu died there in November of 1944 at the age of seventy-seven.
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.