Season Word Archive


Moon 月

In Japanese haiku, moon or 月 (tsuki), is a season word for autumn. It is in autumn that the air becomes cooler and the sky clearer and the moon seems to shine more brightly on man and beast. Here is a haiku by Basho: without oil for the lantern/retiring for the night/the moon in the window  水あぶらなくて寝る夜や窓の月  mizu abura nakute neru yo ya mado no tsuki

Here is another “moon haiku” by Natsume Soseki:

酒なくて詩なくて月の静かさよ       sake nakute shi nakute tsuki no shizukasa yo

without saké/without poetry/the silence of the moon


Morning glory    朝顔

Morning glory, written in Japanese as “morning face”, is a season word for early autumn.  Here is an example haiku by Omine Akira (大峰あきら).  The contrast between the new blooms of the morning glory and the writer’s old desk creates inspirational energy which has a beneficial effect upon the writer’s work. 朝顔や仕事はかどる古机 asagao ya shigoto hakadoru furu tsukue   morning glory/at the old desk/work goes well

Autumn leaves     紅葉

Autumn leaves, written as “crimson leaves” in Japanese, are surely among the most dramatic indications of the changing seasons and indeed transience itself. While we tend to have a single concept of transience, this haiku by Natsume Soseki/夏目漱石 draws our attention to the different types or speeds of transience that we can find in nature: 雲来たり雲去る瀑の紅葉かな  kumo kitari kumo saru taki no koyo kana   clouds come, clouds go/at the grand waterfall/ autumn leaves

Lightning       稲妻

Lightning, 稲妻/inazuma in Japanese, is a season word for autumn. When a flash of lightning illuminates the night for an instant, the brain at times interprets our perceptions in intriguing ways.  Here is a haiku by Ikeda Norio/池田のり, which illustrates this point nicely: 稲妻や地平の樹々の立ち上がり/inazuma ya chihei no kigi no tachiagari/a flash of lightning- the trees on the horizon stand up

Night work      夜業

Night work or working into the night is an autumnal reference in Japanese haiku. Artisans and craftspeople of old whose work had been hampered by the sweltering heat of summer, took advantage of the cool autumn nights to catch up on time lost. In modern haiku, “night work” can refer to office workers doing overtime until after dark. Here is a wonderfully visual haiku by Yugawa Hiroko/湯川紘子:ビルの窓クロスワ-ドに夜業の灯 biru no mado kurosuwado ni yagyo no hi   office block windows/a crossword/night work


First snow         初雪/新雪

The first snowfall in a particular winter is referred to as 初雪 hatsu yuki or 新雪 shin setsu, first snow or new snow in English. Here is a haiku by 今井聖 Imai Sho, skillfully depicting the spilled contents of a schoolbag upon freshly fallen snow: 新雪に散乱ランドセルの中身 shin setsu ni sanran randoseru no nakami/scattered on new snow the contents of a schoolbag

Cold    寒さ

If we are blessed enough to be luxuriating in a piping hot bathtub, it is not too difficult to emerge after a while, even if the surrounding air is chilly.  Natsume Soseki (夏目漱石)however, found himself in a hot spring bath, the water of which was decidedly tepid: 温泉をぬるみ出るに出られぬ寒さ哉 onsen o nurumi deru ni derarenu samusa kana / hot spring tepid unable to get out into the cold

Fire    火事

Compared to other seasons, the air in winter is exceedingly dry, so fires have always been a very real hazard in Japan, all the more so because traditional housing is constructed of wood and paper. Hence, in haiku, the word “fire” is a season word for winter. Here is an example haiku by Ikeda Kinsenjo/池田琴線女:遠火事を見てをり猫を抱きしまま enkaji o mite ori neko o daki shi mama    watching/ a distant fire/cuddling/the cat

Hot saké  熱燗

While it is indeed possible to heat saké all the year round, in haiku, hot saké or atsukan/熱燗 in Japanese, is a season word for winter. In particularly cold weather, hot saké can provide warmth to the body and comfort to the soul. It is similar perhaps to a hot toddy in Scotland. Here is an example haiku by Ima Sanichi / 今桟一 : they say lonely hot saké should be extra hot/さびしさの熱燗さらに熱くといふ/sabishisa no atsukan sarani atsuku to iu

Knitting 毛糸編む

In Japanese haiku, “knitting” is a season word for winter. Whether you are knitting yourself or watching someone else knit, the atmosphere created by the craft of knitting can be comforting, even therapeutic on long winter nights. Here are two “knitting” haiku. The first is by 戸川稲村/Togawa Toson: silence similar to prayer knitting/祈りにも似し静けさや毛糸編む/inori ni mo nishi shizukesa ya keito amu

The second is by 山口無愛/Yamaguchi Muai: knitting there is the possibility that this is unrequited love/毛糸編むひょっと致すと片想ひ/keito amu hyotto itasu to kataomoi

Buying a diary 日記買う

Buying a diary for the coming year is surely an occasion which lends itself well to the composition of a haiku. Indeed, 日記買う/nikki kau/buying a diary is a season word for winter in Japanese haiku. What frame of mind are you in when you buy your new diary this winter? Here is an example of a haiku by Mikiko Tanaka 田中幹子: buying a diary prepared for a lengthy fight with illness/闘病も永き覚悟の日記買ふ/tobyo mo nagaki kakugo no nikki kau

The temple bells of New Year’s Eve    除夜の鐘

As midnight approaches on New Year’s Eve, temple bells begin to reverberate throughout Japan. The bells are struck 108 times to represent the number of earthly desires in our human hearts. Each time the bells are struck, one of our earthly desires is eliminated. We can face the new year with a purified heart. An example haiku by Fukami Kenji/深見けん二 :locking the door I stand up straight nearby the temple bells of New Year’s Eve/戸を閉めに立てば近くの除夜の鐘/to o shime ni tateba chikaku no joya no kane

New Year

First sunrise       初日の出

The first sunrise of the new year is surely an auspicious occasion in any culture. Here is a haiku by Arima Akito (有馬朗人)in which the rising sun is expressed as the hearth of Neptune, the god of the sea: 海神の爐の沸々と初日の出 watatsumi no ro no futsufutsu to hatsu hi no de / Neptune’s hearth burning briskly first sunrise

First tea of the year                    初釜

One’s first bowl of green tea in the new year is an occasion to be savoured. What kind of bowl will your frothy green tea be served in? What kind of confectionery will accompany the tea? What will be conveyed to you artistically? Perhaps you will be inspired to write a haiku. In Japanese, kama (釜) signifies the iron cauldron used in tea ceremony, and hatsu kama (初釜) means the first time the cauldron is used in the new year. Here is a haiku by Mizuho Nakamura(中村みづ穂): 初釜や茶筅にのこるうすみどり/hatsu kama ya chasen ni nokoru usumidori/faint green remaining on the bamboo whisk first tea of the year


Water in spring/Meltwater          春の水

Thanks to spring rain and melting snow and ice, the volume of water in streams and rivers increases.  Add to this, the bright spring sunshine, and we are treated to countless stirring impressions of ‘water in spring’.  Below is an example haiku by Natsume Soseki (夏目漱石).  The English version,  effectively incorporating the visual element of parentheses, was suggested by Edinburgh Haiku Circle member Becky Dwyer.

春の水岩を抱いて流れけり/haru no mizu iwa o daite nagarekeri

meltwater (embraces a rock) flowing away

Violets              菫

Violets, sumire (菫) in Japanese, are surely one of spring’s exquisite gifts. Have you ever been torn between the desire to pick yourself a posy of violets to adorn your home and the feeling of guilt at depriving these little works of nature of their right to remain in the nurturing soil? The following haiku is anonymous, but thought to have been written in the era of Matsuo Basho (mid to late 17th century). 摘むも惜し摘まぬも惜しき菫かな tsumu mo oshi tsumanu mo oshiki sumire kana  / a shame to pick / a shame not to pick / violets

Butterfly                蝶

In Japanese haiku, “butterfly” (蝶/cho) is a season word for spring. The expression “first butterfly” (初蝶/hatsu cho) signifies the first butterfly encountered by the haiku poet that spring. Is the butterfly in the following haiku (by Kubota Akira/窪田明) joyful or bewildered?

初蝶に一枚の田の広さかな      hatsu cho ni ichi mai no ta no hirosa kana




for the first butterfly


Birdsong                    囀り

One of the first signs of spring must surely be the twittering of birds in the early morning, which can easily rouse us from slumber. It might start hesitantly and then gradually escalate before growing gentle again. Birdsong, 囀り(saezuri), is a season word for spring in haiku. Here is an example from the famous haiku poet Suzuki Masajo (鈴木真砂女): またよりをもどせし仲や囀れり/mata yori wo modoseshi naka ya saezureri/the two back on good terms again – birds twittering

Skylark                 雲雀

The twittering of a skylark or the sight of a skylark on a fine morning, rising in flight, up, up, and still twittering, can be both inspiring and exhilarating for us on the ground. Skylark or lark, 雲雀/hibari in Japanese, is a season word for spring. Here is a Japanese haiku, born from a work of Robert Burns, “Lament Of Mary, Queen Of Scots, On The Approach Of Spring”: 女王我の独房窓に揚雲雀/jo-o ware no dokubo mado ni age hibari/a mounting lark in the window of my prison cell – I, The Queen
(Japanese haiku and its English translation by Catherine Urquhart)

Dandelions          たんぽぽ

In Japan, as in countless other countries, dandelions can be relied upon to pop up every spring, although they might not get as warm a welcome as other spring flowers. Small children however, are free from prejudice, floral or other, as this haiku by Yoshida Katsumi (吉田克美) illustrates: たんぽぽをぽぽぽ・ぽぽぽと摘む男の子/tanpopo o popopo popopo to tsumu otoko no ko / “dandy, dandy, dandy…” small boy plucking dandelions

Cherry Blossoms      桜

Cherry blossoms, as a symbol of life, beauty and transience, have long been featured in Japanese literature. The following haiku by Hayase Chizuko(早瀬千鶴子) is effective in conveying the feeling of having waited a whole year to see the cherry blossoms again, and the anticipation one feels before an outing to view the blossoms: 鍵二つ閉めて桜に逢ひにゆく/kagi futatsu shimete sakura ni ai ni yuku/locking up with both keys-off to see the cherry blossoms


Fan      扇子  団扇

Needless to say, the fan is a summer season word in haiku. There are two types of fan, the folding fan (扇子/sensu) and the circular fan (団扇/uchiwa). The circular fan is more casual than the folding fan, and is often used  in the home, to cool oneself down after a hot bath for instance.  In the following haiku, Natsume Soseki uses his circular fan to cool himself after praying at the Buddhist altar/alcove in his house:  仏壇に尻を向けて団扇かな  butsudan ni shiri o mukete uchiwa kana/  turning my bum to the Buddhist altar fan in hand

Grass          草

In Japanese haiku, grass (as opposed to young grass, which is a season word for spring) is a season word for early summer. The lushness of grass in this season adds enjoyment to our outdoor activities and boosts our feeling of goodwill. Here is an example haiku by Sekimori Katsuo/関森勝夫: 負け馬に拍手惜しまず草競馬/make uma ni hakushu oshimazu kusa keiba/hearty applause even for the defeated horse- grassy racecourse

Rainbow     虹

It is often said that a good haiku is like a photograph, capturing a single moment in the eternal flow of  life and nature. The following haiku, by Inoue Yoko (井上美子), is like a black and white photo with a single element of colour – a rainbow, which is a season word for summer. 通学の黒服黒傘今朝の虹/tsugaku no kurofuku kurokasa kesa no niji: going to school/black uniforms, black brollies/this morning’s rainbow

Heat             暑

Natsume Soseki/夏目漱石 (1867-1916) is best known as a novelist whose works include “I am a Cat” and “Kokoro”. He also wrote about 2400 haiku in his lifetime, having a haiku pen name, Gudabutsu/愚陀仏. Here is one haiku of considerable scale and weight, featuring the season word “heat”.  日は落ちて海の底より暑かな – hi wa ochite umi no soko yori atsusa kana – the sun sinks/from the bottom of the sea/heat