Masaoka Shiki

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Masaoka Shiki
Masaoka Shiki.jpg
Masaoka Shiki
BornOctober 14, 1867[1]
Matsuyama, Ehime, Japan[1]
DiedSeptember 19, 1902 (age 34)
Tokyo, Japan
Occupationwriter, journalist
Parent(s)Masaoka Tsunenao

Masaoka Shiki (正岡 子規, October 14, 1867 – September 19, 1902), pen-name of Masaoka Noboru (正岡 升),[2] was a Japanese poet, author, and literary critic in Meiji period Japan. Shiki is regarded as a major figure in the development of modern haiku poetry.[3] He also wrote on reform of tanka poetry.[4]

Some consider Shiki to be one of the four great haiku masters, the others being Matsuo Bashō, Yosa Buson, and Kobayashi Issa.[5]

Early life[edit]

Shiki, or rather Tsunenori (常規) as he was originally named,[6] was born in Matsuyama City in Iyo Province (present day Ehime Prefecture) to a samurai class family of modest means.[1] As a child, he was called Tokoronosuke (処之助); in adolescence, his name was changed to Noboru (升).[citation needed]

His father, Tsunenao (正岡常尚),[7][8] was an alcoholic who died when Shiki was five years of age.[1] His mother, Yae,[9] was a daughter of Ōhara Kanzan, a Confucian scholar.[1] Kanzan was the first of Shiki's extra-school tutors; at the age of 7 the boy began reading Mencius under his tutelage.[10] Shiki later confessed to being a less-than-diligent student.[10]

At age 15 Shiki became something of a political radical, attaching himself to the then-waning Freedom and People's Rights Movement and getting himself banned from public speaking by the principal of Matsuyama Middle School, which he was attending.[11] Around this time he developed an interest in moving to Tokyo and did so in 1883.[12]


The young Shiki first attended his hometown Matsuyama Middle School, where Kusama Tokiyoshi, a leader of the discredited Freedom and People's Rights Movement, had recently served as principal.[11] In 1883, a maternal uncle arranged for him to come to Tokyo.[12] Shiki was first enrolled in Kyōritsu Middle School and later matriculated into University Preparatory School.[13] (Daigaku Yobimon) affiliated with Imperial University (Teikoku Daigaku).[14] While studying here, the teenage Shiki enjoyed playing baseball[15] and befriended fellow student Natsume Sōseki, who would go on to become a famous novelist.[16]

He entered Tokyo Imperial University in 1890.[17] But by 1892 Shiki, by his own account too engrossed in haiku writing, failed his final examinations, left the Hongō dormitory that had been provided to him by a scholarship, and dropped out of college.[17] Others say tuberculosis, an illness that dogged his later life, was the reason he left school.[18]

Literary career[edit]

While Shiki is best known as a haiku poet,[19] he wrote other genres of poetry,[20] prose criticism of poetry,[21] autobiographical prose,[21] and was a short prose essayist.[9] (His earliest surviving work is a school essay, Yōken Setsu ("On Western Dogs"), where he praises the varied utility of western dogs as opposed to Japanese ones, which "only help in hunting and scare away burglars."[22])

Contemporary to Shiki was the idea that traditional Japanese poetic short forms, such as the haiku and tanka, were waning due to their incongruity in the modern Meiji period.[13] Shiki, at times, expressed similar sentiments.[23] There were no great living practitioners although these forms of poetry retained some popularity.[24]

Despite an atmosphere of decline, only a year or so after his 1883 arrival in Tokyo, Shiki began writing haiku.[17] In 1892, the same year he dropped out of university, Shiki published a serialized work advocating haiku reform, Dassai Shooku Haiwa or "Talks on Haiku from the Otter's Den".[19] A month after completion of this work, in November 1892, he was offered a position as haiku editor in the paper that had published it, Nippon, and maintained a close relationship with this journal throughout his life.[19] In 1895 another serial was published in the same paper, "A Text on Haikai for Beginners", Haikai Taiyō.[19] These were followed by other serials: Meiji Nijūkunen no Haikukai or "The Haiku World of 1896" where he praised works by disciples[25] Takahama Kyoshi and Kawahigashi Hekigotō,[26] Haijin Buson or "The Haiku Poet Buson" (1896–1897[26]) expressing Shiki's idea of this 18th-century poet whom he identifies with his school of haiku,[4] and Utayomi ni Atauru Sho or "Letters to a Tanka Poet" (1898) where he urged reform of the tanka poetry form.[4]

The above work, on tanka, is an example of Shiki's expanded focus during the last few years of his life. He died four years after taking up tanka as a topic.[27] Bedsore and morphine-addled, little more than a year before his death Shiki began writing sickbed diaries.[28] These three are Bokujū Itteki or "A Drop of Ink" (1901), Gyōga Manroku or "Stray Notes While Lying on My Back" (1901–1902), and Byōshō Rokushaku or "A Sixfoot Sickbed" (1902).[4]

Later life[edit]

Shiki suffered from tuberculosis (TB) much of his life. In 1888[29] or 1889[30] he began coughing up blood[13] and soon adopted the pen-name "Shiki" from the Japanese hototogisu—the Japanese name for lesser cuckoos.[30] The Japanese word hototogisu can be written with various combinations of Chinese characters, including 子規, which can alternatively be read as either "hototogisu" or "shiki". It is a Japanese conceit that this bird coughs blood as it sings,[30] which explains why the name "Shiki" was adopted.

Suffering from the early symptoms of TB, Shiki sought work as a war correspondent in the First Sino-Japanese War[30] and, while eventually obtaining his goal, he arrived in China after the April 17, 1895 signing of the Treaty of Shimonoseki.[31] Instead of reporting on the war, he spent an unpleasant time harassed by Japanese soldiers[32] in Dalian, Luangtao, and the Lüshunkou District, meeting on May 10, 1895[33] the famous novelist Mori Ōgai, who was at the time an army doctor.[31]

Living in filthy conditions in China apparently worsened his TB.[31] Shiki continued to cough blood throughout his return voyage to Japan and was hospitalized in Kobe.[31] After being discharged, he returned to his home town of Matsuyama city and convalesced in the home of the famed novelist Natsume Sōseki.[31] During this time he took on disciples and promulgated a style of haiku that emphasized gaining inspiration from personal experiences of nature.[31] Still in Matsuyama in 1897, a member of this group, Yanigihara Kyokudō, established a haiku magazine, Hototogisu,[4] an allusion to Shiki's pen name.[30] Operation of this magazine was quickly moved to Tokyo. Takahama Kyoshi, another disciple,[25] assumed control and the magazine's scope was extended to include prose work.[9]

Shiki came to Tokyo,[34] and his group of disciples there were known as the "Nippon school" after the paper where he had been haiku editor and that now published the group's work.[26]

Although bedridden by 1897,[4] Shiki's disease worsened further around 1901.[9] He developed Pott's disease and began using morphine as a painkiller.[9] By 1902 he may have been relying heavily on the drug.[35] During this time Shiki wrote three autobiographical works.[4] He died of tuberculosis in 1902 at age 34.[30]


A monument containing a haiku by Shiki, in front of Matsuyama Station

Shiki may be credited with salvaging traditional short-form Japanese poetry and carving out a niche for it in the modern Meiji period.[36] While he advocated reform of haiku, this reform was based on the idea that haiku was a legitimate literary genre.[37] He argued that haiku should be judged by the same yardstick that is used when measuring the value of other forms of literature — something that was contrary to views held by prior poets.[38] Shiki firmly placed haiku in the category of literature, and this was unique.[citation needed]

Some modern haiku deviate from the traditional 5–7–5 sound pattern and dispensing with the kigo ("season word"); Shiki's haiku reform advocated neither break with tradition.[5]

His particular style rejected "the puns or fantasies often relied on by the old school" in favor of "realistic observation of nature".[39] Shiki, like other Meiji period writers,[citation needed] borrowed a dedication to realism from Western literature. This is evident in his approach to both haiku[37] and tanka.[40]


Shiki played baseball as a teenager and was inducted into the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame in 2002.[15] A group of 1898 tanka by him mention the sport.[41]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Beichman, p. 2
  2. ^ Natsume Sōseki. Ten nights of dream, Hearing things, The heredity of taste. Tuttle, 1974. p. 11
  3. ^ Beichman, Preface, p. i
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Beichman, p. 26
  5. ^ a b Burton, Watson. Introduction. Masaoka Shiki: selected poems, p. 5
  6. ^ Frédéric, Louis. Japan encyclopedia. Harvard University Press, 2005. ISBN 978-0-674-01753-5. p. 613
  7. ^ Official website of the Shiki-an Archived June 24, 2013, at the Wayback Machine., Shiki's Tokyo residence, page "Shiki's Family" (子規の家族, Shiki no Kazoku) (in Japanese)
  8. ^ "Image Index: Matsuyama City, Ehime". Atelier Aterui. Retrieved January 5, 2014.
  9. ^ a b c d e Beichman, p. 27
  10. ^ a b Beichman, p. 4
  11. ^ a b Beichman, pp. 7–8
  12. ^ a b Beichman, pp. 8–9
  13. ^ a b c Beichman, p. 14
  14. ^ Beichman, p. 9
  15. ^ a b "Masaoka Shiki". Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame. Retrieved July 20, 2008.
  16. ^ Shively, Donald H., ed. (1971). Tradition and Modernization in Japanese Culture. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. p. 384. ISBN 0-691-03072-3.
  17. ^ a b c Beichman, pp. 15–16
  18. ^ Kato, Shuichi (1983). A History of Japanese Literature: The Modern Years. 3. Tokyo, New York, and San Francisco: Kodansha International. p. 133. ISBN 0-87011-569-3.
  19. ^ a b c d Beichman, pp. 18–19
  20. ^ Burton, Watson. Introduction. Masaoka Shiki: selected poems, p. 11
  21. ^ a b Beichman, p. 22
  22. ^ Beichman, p. 5
  23. ^ Keene, Donald (1978). Some Japanese Portraits. Tokyo, New York, and San Francisco: Kodansha International. p. 200. ISBN 0870112988.
  24. ^ Keene, pp. 195–198
  25. ^ a b Beichman, pp. 27–28
  26. ^ a b c Beichman, p. 25
  27. ^ Keene, p. 202
  28. ^ Beichman, pp. 26–29
  29. ^ Keene, p. 198
  30. ^ a b c d e f Beichman, p. 20
  31. ^ a b c d e f Beichman, p. 21
  32. ^ Rabson, Steve (1998). Righteous cause or tragic folly: changing views of war in modern Japanese poetry. Ann Arbor, MI: the Center for Japanese Studies, the University of Michigan. pp. 23–26. ISBN 0-939512-77-7.
  33. ^ Bowring, Richard John (1979). Mori Ōgai and the modernization of Japanese culture. University of Cambridge oriental publications. 28. London, New York, Melbourne: Cambridge University Press. p. 175. ISBN 0-521-21319-3.
  34. ^ Beichman, p. 23
  35. ^ Beichman, p. 28
  36. ^ Keene, p. 203
  37. ^ a b Beichman, p. 32
  38. ^ Kato, p. 134
  39. ^ Beichman, p. 45
  40. ^ Burton, Watson. Introduction. Masaoka Shiki: selected poems, p. 9
  41. ^ Beichman, pp. 89, 91

Further reading[edit]

  • Beichman, Janine (2002), Masaoka Shiki: his life and works (revised ed.), Cheng & Tsui, ISBN 0-88727-364-5
  • Masaoka, Shiki, Songs from a Bamboo Village: Selected Tanka from Take no Sato Uta, translated by Sanford Goldstein and Seishi Shinoda, Rutland, Vermont: Charles E. Tuttle Co. © 1998 ISBN 0-8048-2085-6 pbk [488 pp. 298 tanka]
  • Masako, Hirai, ed. Now, To Be! Shiki’s Haiku Moments for Us Today / Ima, ikiru! Shiki no sekai. U-Time Publishing, 2003, ISBN 4-86010-040-9
  • Shiki, Masaoka (1997). Masaoka Shiki: selected poems. Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-11090-1.

External links[edit]