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.

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.[1] The following translations with Japanese originals are a selection from each contributing member.[2] 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.[3] The second day of celebration was a ginko 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.[4]

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.[5] 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.[6] 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.


Spring

藤垂れて紫の風白の風 ベネット富士子

fuji tarete murasaki no kaze shiro no kaze Fujiko Benett


the white breeze

becomes a purple breeze—

hanging wisteria


夕暮れてなほあざやかに桜咲き 五島ゆきこ

yūgurete nao azayakani sakura saki Yukiko Goto


at dusk

still brightly blooming

cherry blossoms


自転車の少女の会釈風かをる 木本サク子

jitensha no shōjo no eshaku kaze kaoru Sakuko Kimoto


young girl on bicycle

bowing slightly as she passed—

fragrant wind


装ひは真珠ひとつぶ復活祭 酒井光代

yosooi wa shinju hitotsubu Fukkatsusai Mitsuyo Sakai


single pearl

for dressing up

Easter morning


白樺に春の雪降る露天風呂 高村笙子

shirakaba ni haru no yuki furu rotenburo Shōshi Takamura


hot spring visit—

a late snow falling

through the white birches


花びらを敷きつめ雨の散歩道 山崎みよこ

hanabira wo shikitsume ame no sanpomichi Miyoko Yamasaki


all over

the walking path

a blanket of cherry blossoms


Summer

追いかけし子に低く飛び夏の蝶 青山サエ子

oikakeshi ko ni hikuku tobi natsu no chō Saeko Aoyama


flying low

for a child chasing after it

summer butterfly


花びらの息ずくごとし白牡丹 久間照子

hanabira no ikizuku gotoshi hakubotan Teruko Kyūma


as if

its petals are breathing

white peony


ハンカチの刺繍を見てはまたしまふ ミラーこうし

hankachi no shishū wo mite wa mata shimau Kōshi Miller


embroidery on handkerchief

so pretty

save it for a special occasion


まなうらに廃墟の町や原爆忌 寺田英子

manaura ni haikyo no machi ya Genbakuki Hideko Terada


city ruins

behind my eyelids

Hiroshima Day


山ゆりの炎帝こばむ白さかな 得野京子

yamayuri no Entei kobamu shirosa kana Kyoko Tokuno


in all its whiteness

the wild lily denies

the blaze of summer


蒼天の青を競ふや矢車草 吉原くりすてい光風

sōten no ao wo kisou ya yagurumasō Kōfū Christie Yoshihara


the cornflowers

as if competing with

the sky's blueness


菜園の茄子の葉陰に小さき実 吉本芙美

saien no nasu no hakage ni chiisaki mi Fumi Yoshimoto


in my vegetable garden

eggplant leaves

hiding tiny fruits


Autumn

月光の窓の形に降り注ぎ 秋吉美幸

gekkō no mado no katachi ni furisosogi Miyuki Akiyoshi


moonlight

pouring in

with a window shape


空真青街の一角カンナ燃ゆ エリックソン清美

sora masao machi no ikkaku kanna moyu Kiyomi Erickson


bluest sky—

canna flaming

in a corner of the town


客去つて不意の静けさ夕月夜 マクマハン百合子

kyaku satte fui no shizukesa yūzukiyo Yuriko McMahan


the silence returns

after the last guests—

evening moon


秋深し踏切向かふに友の顔 根岸幸子

aki fukashi fumikiri mukou ni tomo no kao Sachiko Negishi


deep autumn—

the face of a friend

across the tracks


新米を研ぐ手が母に似てきたり さかもと明子

shinmai wo togu te ga haha ni nitekitari Akiko Sakamoto


washing this year’s rice—

my hands look

more like mother’s


秋風に願ひかなへと流れ星 山城厚実

akikaze ni negai knae to nagareboshi Atsumi Yamashiro


autumn wind—

the wish I make

on a shooting star


Winter

捨てがたし古き暦の思ひ出を 江頭スマ子

sutegatashi furuki koyomi no omoide wo Sumako Egarashi


hard to discard

the old calendar

and all its memories


初氷踏み割る音の乾きをり 茂木ひさを

hatsugōri fumiwaru oto no kawakiwori Hisao Mogi


first freeze—

the crackle of ice

underfoot


母の声思い出しつつ年用意 中田美津子

haha no koe omoidashitsutsu toshiyōi Mitsuko Nakata


as I prepare

for the New Year

an echo of my late mother’s voice


玄関に夫あるごとく冬帽子 大内憂華

genkan ni tsuma aru gotoku fuyu bōshi Yūge Ōuchi


hanging at the entrance

as if my husband’s still here

winter hat


月明り雪の白さを青に染め 汀泉信子

tsukiakari yuki no shirosa wo ao ni some Nobuko Thiesen


under moonlight

the snow’s whiteness

dyed blue


[1] Shakunage vol. 1 was published in 1986.

[2] 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.

[3] 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.

[4] Banjin Koike, Shūkaku (harvest) no. 5, 1938. Cited in Kumei, “One Century of Haiku in North America, with Special Reference to Rainier Haiku Society.”

[5] Teruko Kumei, “A Study on Japanese Immigrant Haiku Collections in WRA Camps in the US.”

[6] 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.