Red Kelpie Haiku Group #18

Having woken the cat and I with a huge sonic boom, the thunderstorm climaxed and passed in the wee hours of the morning on Sunday, 2nd December, the date of the RKHG’s summer meeting.  Although it was a cool morning with a forecast of “possible showers”, we were in luck: no rain.  Five members of the RKHG met at the Botanic Gardens and apologies were received from Robyn Cairns, Robbie Coburn and Marisa Fazio. Many plants were in flower, including the small yard of Flanders Poppies near the Shrine of Remembrance, the Southern Magnolia with its huge blossoms and the lovely, old-fashioned hydrangeas. The air was fresh after the night’s rain and we saw, unusually, a single shearwater (mutton bird) dozing in the sun. It had probably sought refuge there from the night’s storm.

Our topic for the day, led by Takanori Hayakawa  (Taka) was both challenging and interesting: ‘Kigo in Kyoto and Melbourne’. We were privileged to be guided through kigo culture “from the horse’s mouth”, so to speak.

1 Kigo Dec, 2018
Kigo in Kyoto and Melbourne – photo by Rob Scott

Taka had supplied us with extensive pre-reading material on kigo and its function in haiku and also on Melbourne’s seasonal patterns. He brought along several saijiki to show us, ‘dictionaries’ of kigo in Japanese which are illustrated by selected haiku, both “all Japan” (traditional ‘Kyoto-based’) saijiki and regional saijiki: for instance,an Okinawa volume. William Higginson’s Haiku World was also on hand. As well, Taka had prepared an extensive, illustrated handout for each of us to help us follow his points and to take home.

  1. Seasons: each Japanese season has a honni/ hon’i,a general, traditionally accepted meaning, for instance: “Spring: everything awakens from winter sleep.”
  2. There are 24 seasons in the traditional East Asian lunisolar calendars. In saijiki, spring, summer, autumn and winter are each divided into four sections, ‘the whole season’ plus early, middle and late. The New Year is a shorter season unto itself, making a fifth, or twenty-fifth, season.
  3. Japanese kigo come in seven categories:

jikoo 時候    Season, climate, time

tenmon 天文  Heaven, natural phenomena, astronomy

chiri 生活        Earth, geography

seikatsu 行事  Humanity, daily life, livelihood

gyooji 動物       Observances, seasonal events, rituals, ceremonies

doobutsu 植物  Animals, Zoology

shokubutsu 植物 Plants, Biology

  1. There are classical/ traditional kigo, e.g. snow, the moon, blossoms. There are kigo introduced in the Edo period,e.g. sumo and foot warmer. Many more kigo have been introduced since the end of the Edo period and into this century.

But how does a kigo become a kigo in the first place? How was it decided that ‘air conditioner’ is a kigo? Taka gave me the answer I hadn’t been able to squeeze out of anyone these past many years: a word or phrase becomes a kigo from the time it is included in a saijiki. A haiku containing a new seasonal reference may very well be published in a prominent Japanese journal or anthology but until a saijiki editor picks it up and includes it, it is classified as “miscellaneous”. These days, there are regional saijiki for many localities in Japan, from Hokkaido to Okinawa.

2 Taka Dec 2018
Takanori Hayakawa muses on Melbourne’s Seasons – photo by Rob Scott

Taka guided us through a quiz in which we guessed or intuited which images and words (in English translations) from the Kyoto-centred saijiki might be kigo and which not, which was good fun. Then he challenged us to come up with local seasonal indicators, which might become kigo if a regional saijiki for Melbourne were to be created. Taka emphasised that all kinds of human activity can indicate the season and be kigo.

Here are some of our Melbourne Region haiku:

Grand Final day —
every seat taken
on the couch

(early spring) – Rob Scott, Down to the Wire, Red Moon Press, 2016.

magpie swooping —
what would I protect
that much?

(early –mid spring) – Takanori Hayakawa

Melbourne Cup —
the roses bloom
for winners and losers

(late spring)  – Janet Howie

Melbourne Cup —
a silent tear
for the horses

(late spring) – Madhuri Pillai

tour balloons . . .
backyard after backyard

(early – mid autumn) – Lorin Ford, Echidna Tracks #1, 2018

3 group at table Dec 2018
Is Cat’s Cradle a kigo? What about dugong? – photo by Rob Scott

The rhythm of the seasons has been at the basis of human culture world-wide and our ancestors’ survival has depended on being familiar with it. It has always been that “To everything there is a purpose and a time to everything under the heaven”. Now, with Global Heating and its consequences more and more evident, it often seems that “the time is out of joint”, dislocated. It’s interesting that Taka pointed out that kigo/ ‘season words’are indicators of an awareness of how human culture is interwoven with the seasons, in whatever world region.

4 Taka group dec 2018
Left to right: Janet Howie, Lorin Ford, Takanori Hayakawa, Rob Scott, Madhuri Pillai.

The Red Kelpie Haiku Group meeting for autumn 2018 is scheduled to be held on Sunday March 10th (the second Sunday in March). Marisa Fazio will lead the meeting on the topic of “Experimental Haiku” We welcome guests and new members. Enquiries from haiku writers who might like to join our group or be invited along as guests should be directed to Lorin Ford by email: haikugourds at gmail dot com, with ‘Red Kelpie Haiku Group’ in the email subject bar.


Lorin Ford, Melbourne, December 2018




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