Masaoka Shiki and his haiku poems in English and Japanese

Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902) put effort into poetry activities to bring about innovation in the haiku from the Edo period. In the seven years of his later years, he kept making haiku while suffering from tuberculosis.

In 1867, Masaoka Shiki was born in Iyo Province (today’s Ehime Prefecture). He was a son of the lower-class samurai who died 40 years old in 1872. With the support of his mother, he entered the Iyo clan school Jobankai. He began to learn haiku when he was 18. But Shiki got the illness which he suffered from ever since. Tuberculosis was fatal disease at that time and 21 years young haiku poet vomited blood for the first time. Shiki (子規, hototogisu) means little cuckoo in Japanese. He named own pen name after the bird because a little cuckoo was described as a bird sing so much that it vomit blood. 

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He entered Tokyo Imperial University (today’s Tokyo University) in 1900 and gave the lessons of haiku for Kawahigashi Hekigoto (1873-1937) and Takahama Kyoshi (1874-1959). Shiki gave up to graduate from Tokyo Imperial University and started to work at Nippon Shinbun Newspaper. While working as a journalist, he continued to publish haiku poems. During the Sino‐Japanese War (1894‐95) he went to the front. But that made worse of tuberculosis and Shiki went home. He had been in ill bed and suffered in his later years but he composed the jolly and creative haiku poems.

Other famous Japanese poets


醉ふて寐て 夢に泣きけり 山櫻

Yote nete/ Yume ni naki keri/ Yamazakura


I got drunk, a sleep.

And wept on the dream.

A wild cherry blossoms.





ひらひらと 風に流れて 蝶一つ

Hira hira to/ Kaze ni nagarete/ Chou hitotsu



Floating in the breeze,

A single butterfly.




奈良の町の 昔くさしや 朧月

Nara no machi no/ Mukashi-kusashi ya/ Obor-zuki


The town of Nara is

Really old-fashioned.

The hazy moon.

Nara temples as World Heritage Site




The spring haiku poem examples by Japanese famous poets


汽車見る見る 山を上るや 青嵐

Kisha miru-miru/ Yama wo noboru ya/ Aoarashi


The steam train very quickly

Climb the mountain.

The wind blow through fresh verdura.




中をふむ 人や青田の 水車

Chu wo fumu/ Hito ya aota no/ Mizuguruma


People step in the air.

The water wheel

At the green paddy fields.




夏の月 提灯多き ちまた哉

Natsu no tsuki/ Chochin ooki/ Chimata kana


The summer moon.

There are a lot of paper lanterns

On the street.




The summer haiku poem examples by Japanese famous poets



柿くへば 鐘が鳴るなり 法隆寺

Kaki kueba/ Kane ga naru nari/ Horyuji


When I ate a persimmon,

The bell rung.

The Horyuji temple.




*Learn about Horyuji temple






赤とんぼ 筑波に雲も なかりけり

Akatonbo/ Tsukuba ni kumo mo/ Nakari keri


The red dragonfly.

At the Tsukuba, no cloud

Is seen.





白萩の しきりに露を こぼしけり

Shirahagi no/ Shikirini tsuyu wo/ Koboshi keri


The white bush clovers

Drop the dewdrops






橘や 風ふるくさき 長谷の里

Tachibana ya/ Kaze fukukusaki/ Hase no sato


The tachibana trees.

The wind is old-fashioned

At Hase villege.


tachibana:Inedible green citrus fruit native to Japan




松山や 秋より高し 天守閣

Matsuyama ya/ Aki yori takashi/ Tenshukaku


Oh, Matsuyama.

Higher than autumn,

The castle tower.


*Matsuyama:Matsuyama city, Ehime Province. Matsuyama Castle is famous sightseeing spot.



The autumn haiku poem examples by Japanese famous poets




寒さうに 母の寝給う 布団哉

Samusou ni/ Haha no netamou/ Futon kana


It seems as cold,

My mother has a sleep

In the futon.



面白や かさなりあふて 雪の傘

Omoshiro ya/ Kasanari oute/ Yuki no kasa


It’s interesting.

Lied one upon another

The unbrellas in the snow.




いくたびも 雪の深さを 尋ねけり

Ikutabi mo/ Yuki no fukasa wo/ Tazune keri



How is the snow depth?

I asked.


*Masaoka Shiki had been ill in bed of spinal caries by tuberculosis and died of it. He couldn’t see the snowy vew of his garden and asked mother or sister the amount.





土ともに 崩るる崕の 霜柱

Tsuchi tomoni/ Kuzururu gake no/ Shimo-bashira


With the mad,

Collapsed on the scarp,

The frost columns.


The winter haiku poem examples by Japanese famous poets



Books about Masaoka Shiki


Other famous Japanese poets

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