< Basic Conditions of Japanese Language Haiku >

It is very important that you feel free to Write a haiku your way.
But there are certain basic conditions which you as a haiku poet are supposed to observe. .

In Japan and the world perhaps, there may not be such a short yet profound form of poetry as a haiku. The short poem, namely haiku, consists of 5-7-5 syllables. This is the first condition.

Picture an iceberg floating on a cold sea. It shows only a small part above the sea while the majority is hidden beneath the water. Like an iceberg haiku shows a very small part in the 5-7-5 syllables while it leaves the poet's sentiment and unspoken messages hidden under the water. If you try to cram too much in a haiku that affords only a snail number of words, your messages will be spread too thin to be meaningful. So it is better, like an iceberg, to reveal a part only and omit or leave hidden as much as possible under the water for the reader's imagination.

kakekon de
namini tsumazuki
oyogu koyo
dashing in
stumbling over the waves
swimming children
@<"Season-Words handbook"("Saijiki"), edited by Kyoshi>

You can readily see that this haiku was made on the seashore, and not at the poolside. The expression "stumbling over the waves" conveys to you a vivid image of children who spur themselves into the sea, struggle against the resisting waves, and swim for the deeper water. The children's "desire to lose no time and swim" is not explicitly expressed in words but well implied in the close and descriptive observation of them as in "dashing in and stumbling over the waves." The children's implied desire corresponds to the hidden part of an iceberg which develops the reader's world of imagination.

I am afraid that the concept of hidden messages or omissions may sound rahter unfamiliar to my young readers. We will come back to this point for further explanation. Let's now move on to the next condition of haiku.

Haiku is a poem born from a "season word." Haiku appreciates nature and our daily life by means of season words. From the time you wake up till you say "good night" and retire in bed, your daily life at home and at school is filled with pleasant and unpleasant events, things you want to do, affairs with your friends or family members. Your life further includes a comfortable night, or sleepless hours as it is too cold or too hot. Have you ever stopped to think that all these routine affairs keep you closely related to all the vicissitudes on earth that follow the change of seasons?

Have you ever been aware of what nature has in store for your unbiased eyes and heart? Season words symbolize the nature-man relations. Haiku is a poetry that expresses itself through season words: this is the second condition of haiku.