Global Haiku Tradition
Millikin University, Spring 2003

Xiu Ying Zheng

Yoshiko Yoshino

Xiu Ying Zheng

Xiu's Haiku



Yoshiko Yoshino’s Haiku
Loving the Earth

Yoshiko Yoshino, born 1915, exemplifies an extraordinary woman figure in modern haiku. She possess great talents in haiku writing, which in a way is no surprise based on her background. Yoshino learned and was exposed to haiku since childhood. Her father was a friend of Shiki, a haiku master that modernized haiku writing. Mother Yoshiko is not only active as a poet but also works hard to advance the internationalization of haiku by conducting regular international haiku salons in Matsuyama. At these salons, Yoshino encourages haiku writers to write pieces in their own native tongue, and there are no (or very few) other haiku masters who are using this visionary approach.

Examining her haiku collections from the Tsuru book published by Deep North Press, I have observed that she places a great emphasis on elements of the nature in her haiku works. She indicated in the preface of Sakura that

“Haiku is a literary art equipped with antennas for loving messages, from the whole creation on earth—plains, mountains, rivers, lakes, and oceans, and plants and animals including human kind . . . If people in the entire world became Haiku-minded and nurture Mother Nature, then it might be possible to sustain and retain the life on our planet for the benefit of our offspring . . . Until the end of my life. I ledge myself to the love of all living creatures having similar DNA to mine and I hail them with awe and admiration through the medium of Haiku.”

Lee Gurga, a famous American haiku writer, also observed the same nature theme in Yoshiko’s works. He commented in the preface of Tsuru, “As we have come to expect of the Japanese, Yoshiko lives a life that is touched by nature with which human life has a fundamental and reciprocal relationship. A nature that is always ready to give guidance to those who are willing to listen.”

In Haiku Mind, a paper written for the Global Haiku Festival in Decatur, Illionis, in April 2000, once again Yoshiko indicated her passion for the nature: “. . . since the essence of haiku is love of nature—of the whole creation—I sincerely hope this explosion of love will occur in the minds of millions of people and will be passed on and on until it covers the whole earth and enables the earth to fulfill its natural life span.”

Six excellent works of Yoshiko that focuses on natural elements has been chosen to be discussed in the following section.

One hundred cranes
like a billowing wave
when they take off

Tsuru p111

This haiku creates a very vivid picture of the nature scene she observed. For a person that has not had the opportunity to visit such countries as Japan to personally experience this scene, this haiku will paint a vivid picture for them. The “one hundred cranes” created an image of complete black and white. They were all standing and waiting for the leader to command take off. When they take off, the descriptive phrase of “like a billowing wave” created a very strong image of the effects when these amazing creatures all take off at the same time.

Cranes beat the air
like water streaming
through the heavens

Tsuru p113

This is another nature haiku with the presence of cranes. Yoshino does a great job using metaphors of what each scene looks like for feels like when observing these magnificent birds. For those who have never seen them before, the metaphor is extremely descriptive. For those that are fortunate to have experience the feeling themselves, this haiku just brings back memories vividly. It is especially effective when she described the cranes as water streaming. The last verse “through the heavens” could be seen as a descriptive phrase or it could also have a symbolic meaning. In Japan, cranes represent a traditional symbol of longevity and family devotion, thus the use of “heavens” fits very well with cranes.

Mountain cedar treetops,
moon passing from tip to tip:
cherry blossom chill

Tsuru p36

This haiku contains many natural elements: the mountain, a tree, the moon, and cherry blossoms. It provides a colorful and vivid under the shadow of the moonlight. Aside from the natural elements this haiku seem to also contain a snap shot of a story. It seems like she is waiting for someone at night. While pacing back and forth waiting for the other person, she observed that the moon was passing from tip to tip of the tree branches. Then the loneliness feeling creeps in when she indicates the cherry blossom chill. The cherry blossoms falling also seem to be a metaphor for the end of something beautiful . . . possibly a relationship.

Cherry blossoms gone—
translucent arrowroot pudding
at Mount Yoshino

Tsuru p42

This haiku, again, contains various natural elements; the cherry blossoms are indicated here once more. This piece is using natural elements to depict her sorrows in the heart. I picture a mountain with barren trees, where there use to be beautiful cherry blossom. But nothing stays the same all the time and cherry blossoms is not an exception. Now that the cherry blossoms are all gone, the beauty is gone, but the strong mountain is still there standing.

Born in the sea
born in the coral flowers:
the faint rainbow

Tsuru p47

This is a very descriptive haiku with nature elements. For those that have never seen a rainbow by the ocean before, this presented a very unique image. It is interesting of her word choice. She chose to associate the word “born” with the appearance of a rainbow. It is a very unique way to think of rainbows. Also, her descriptive word for the rainbow – faint – was very powerful too. That seems to be most appropriate word to describe a rainbow because their colors are so soft.

The moon in heaven
the moon in the crater lake
shine on each other

Tsuru p73

The image in this haiku is absolutely gorgeous. The moon that is in the sky and the moon that is reflected in the lake both shining on each other. This creates a picture of a full moon, pure and white, shining in the sky. The lake is calm and sparkling, depicting the image of the moon from the sky; it is almost like a mirrored reflection. The overall image is calm and peaceful and enjoyment of nature.

Simply from the selected works by Yoshino, one can easily identify her love for nature. She knows how to capture the best from a nature scene using the number of limited words in a haiku. She also likes to share her love for nature and haiku with others. As Lee Gurga indicated, “Yoshiko’s gift to the haiku world, and to world haiku, does not merely result form her talents as a poet. Through her teaching, and particularly her devotion to the internationalization of haiku, she is a true visionary.” Yoshiko is truly a master in haiku writing and plays an essential role in the international haiku movement.

Works Cited

Yoshino, Yoshiko. Tsuru. Illinois: Deep North Press, 2001.

Yoshino, Yoshiko. Haiku Sakura. Japan: Hoshi Publisher, 1994.

—Xiu Ying Zheng

©2003 Randy Brooks, Millikin University, Decatur, Illinois || all rights reserved for original authors