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Masaoka Shiki

Masaoka Shiki (October 14, 1867-September 19, 1902) was a Japanese poet, author, and critic during the Meiji period. He is regarded as one of the major figures in the development of modern haiku poetry. He is considered to be one of the great four haiku masters along with Matsuo Bashō, Yosa Buson, and Kobayashi Issa. He published under the pen name Masaoka Noboru.

Short Biography

Masaoka Shiki was born as Tsunenori in Matsuyama city in Iyo province to a samurai class family. As a child, he was called Tokoronosuke, but his name was changed as an adolescent to Noboru.

In 1883, his maternal uncle arranged for him to move to Tokyo. There, he enrolled into Kyōritsu Middle School and then Daigaku Yobimon where he befriended Natsume Sōseki.

In 1890, he entered Imperial University, but failed his final examinations in his second year due to being too engrossed in haiku writing.

Shiki suffered from tuberculosis. By 1889, he had began coughing up blood. This is where his pen name came from: Shiki comes from the Japanese word "hototogisu" which means "cuckoo." It was believed that a cuckoo coughs up blood as it sings.

In 1895, he was a war correspondent in the First Sino-Japanese war. There, his tuberculosis worsened and he was soon discharged. He returned to his home town and took on disciples and began promoting haiku which emphasized inspiration from personal experiences of nature.

Sick from TB, he was bedridden by 1897. His disease worsened as he developed Pott's disease. He died in 1902 due to tuberculosis.

Haiku by Shiki

  • I want to sleep
  • Swat the flies
  • Softly, please.
  • After killing
  • a spider, how lonely I feel
  • in the cold of night!
  • For love and for hate
  • I swat a fly and offer it
  • to an ant.
  • A mountain village
  • under the pilled-up snow
  • the sound of water.
  • Night; and once again,
  • the while I wait for you, cold wind
  • turns into rain.
  • The summer river:
  • although there is a bridge, my horse
  • goes through the water.
  • A lightning flash:
  • between the forest trees
  • I have seen water.

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