Intro-5 A snapshot TANKA vs HAIKU(俳句)

■Introduction of real TANKA(短歌):PART-V■★A snapshot TANKA

(AUDIO/VISUAL TUTORIAL)★A snapshot TANKA… an example of Japanese TANKA(短歌) expressing human feelings inspired by natural scenery (in contrast to HAIKU), whose English translation can compose a poem but will often fall short of 5-7-5-7-7 format


■Introduction of real TANKA(短歌) : Part V■

★A snapshot TANKA… an example of Japanese TANKA(短歌) expressing human feelings inspired by natural scenery, whose English translation can compose a poem but will often fall short of 5-7-5-7-7 format

(in 5-7-5-7-7 Japanese syllables)

《Urayamashi tomoni chiru chiru sakurabana hanami owareba chirijiri no hito》








…How enviable!


うらやま【裏山】〔名〕<NOUN:a mountain behind human residence>


…In the mountains behind



ちる【散る】〔自ラ四〕<VERB:fall, leave trees>

ちる【散る】〔自ラ四〕<VERB:fall, leave trees>

さくらばな【桜花】〔名〕<NOUN:a cherry tree, cherry blossom>

…All together will cherry flowers leave trees



はな【花】〔名〕<NOUN:flowers, blossom>

みる【見る】〔他マ上一〕(み=連用形)<VERB:see, view, watch>

をはる【終はる】〔自ラ四〕(をはれ=已然形)<VERB:finish, be through with>


…After watching flowers


はなみ【花見】〔名〕<NOUN:a feast under cherry blossom>

をはる【終はる】〔自ラ四〕(をはれ=已然形)<VERB:finish, be through with>


…When the cherry-viewing party is over


ちりぢり【散り散り】〔形動ナリ〕(ちりぢり=語幹)<ADJECTIVE:apart, asunder, by twos and threes>

の【の】〔格助〕<POSTPOSITIONAL PARTICLE(MANNER):like, as, the way>

ひと【人】〔名〕<NOUN:human beings, people>

…People will leave trees by twos and threes

(in 5-7-5-7, not 5-7-5-7-7 English words)

How I envy cherry blossom!

Together they’ll be gone away from trees.

When the party is over,

We leave trees by twos and threes.

●A quirk of fancy is a good spice in TANKA(短歌)

 The most notable feature of the TANKA(短歌) above is an unexpected turn of fancy: to be more precise, two unusual turns of fancy. There have been countless Japanese poems made on the theme of cherry blossom in Spring, one pattern of which rejoices over its beauty, the other laments over its passing. This poem, on the other hand, envies cherry flowers not for their beauty in their prime but for their combined destiny in their decline. Together they flourish, together they perish; they are all the more beautiful for thriving at the same time, and their demise is the less tragic for passing away all together. This strange viewpoint of envy cast on falling flowers is unique enough, but the poem does not end there; it then turns its eye from falling flowers to parting viewers ― the former leave trees together, the latter by twos and threes. The idea that human viewers of cherry blossom are all alone makes the scene of falling flowers all the more forlorn.

●Contrasting imagery in 5-7-5-7-7 TANKA(短歌) is hard to express in a compact 5-7-5 HAIKU(俳句)

 Some people might feel that the essence of the 5-7-5-7-7 letters of TANKA(短歌) above could be more acutely compacted into 5-7-5 letters of HAIKU(俳句), but this author(Jaugo Noto) doubts it: the 17-letter world of HAIKU(俳句) is too small to express contrasted imagery which is the life force of the original TANKA(短歌) of 31 letters. Let’s see how it changes and loses its original charm:

(in 5-7-5 Japanese syllables of HAIKU:俳句)

《Edanami ni e saki chiraji na hanamikyaku》




えだ【枝】〔名〕<NOUN:branches, boughs>

なみに【並みに】〔副〕<ADVERB:likewise, all together>

…Likewise on the same branch

え【え】〔副〕<ADVERB(NEGATIVE):cannot possibly>

さく【咲く】〔自カ四〕(さき=連用形)<VERB:bloom, come out>

ちる【散る】〔自ラ四〕(ちら=未然形)<VERB:fall down, leave trees>

じ【じ】〔助動特殊型〕打消推量(じ=終止形)<AUXILIARY VERB(NEGATIVE SUPPOSITION):will not>


…They couldn’t possibly see their prime or wane together

はなみきゃく【花見客】〔名〕<NOUN:participants in a flower-viewing party>

…[Unlike cherry flowers] flower-viewing audiences [couldn’t]

(in 7-7, not 5-7-5 English words)

O that we viewers like cherry flowers

Could flourish or perish altogether, not alone

 Well, what do you feel about the HAIKU-version and its still shorter English translation? Nicely compacted?… maybe, but it’s too cramp to feel poetically comfortable. And the conceptual focus of the HAIKU is constantly on “HANAMI-KYAKU(花見客:cherry flower viewers)”; “cherry flowers” only appear as a minor guest in English translation, and there is no space in the Japanese HAIKU-version for “SAKURA-BANA(桜花)” which plays the primary role in the original TANKA.

 The idea that cherry flowers bloom and fall together (“edanami ni saki chiru:えだなみにさきちる”) and that human beings could not rise and fall together (“edanami ni e saki chiraji:えだなみにえさきちらじ”) are compressed together into a single complicated stream in 17 letters of “Edanami ni e saki chiraji na <hanamikyaku>”. As a result, the HAIKU-version does not envy the cherry flowers for their combined destiny in their decline, nor does it lament over the solitary destiny of human beings who would only live, thrive and die alone… it simply points it out as an objective fact.

 To sum up, there is only observation and no passion involved in the HAIKU-version: the lack of the original phrase “うらやまし(urayamashi = How enviable)” in the HAIKU-version says it all ― the 17-letter poem precludes emotional phrases. Emotion is something not to be expressed in words but to be indirectly evoked by the scenery depicted in HAIKU. Verbally unseen yet lurking in scene is the ideal style of emotional expression in any type of poetry, but HAIKU is indubitably the only style of poetry in the world that absolutely denies direct emotional expression.

 It is possible to make a directly emotional HAIKU like “かなしいななつのおはりのせみのこゑ:Kanashii na natsu no owari no semi no koe・・・悲しいな(How sad)夏の終りの(at the end of Summer)蝉の声(cicadas’ voice)” but no self-respecting poet would earnestly listen to it, for it simply wastes way the precious 5 letters which would otherwise suggest something more. In order to sound like a HAIKU, it should instead be something like “しみじみとなつもおはりのせみのこゑ:Shimijimi to natsu mo owari no semi no koe・・・しみじみと(It sinks deep into my heart)夏も終りの(Summer is coming to its end, too)蝉の声(cicadas’ voice already on the wane)”. In authentic Haiku(俳句), emotions must exist behind the scenes, never in words.

 These example poems of mine were meant to show you the fundamental difference between a 31-letter TANKA(短歌) and a 17-letter HAIKU(俳句): the latter is not merely a shorter version of the former; they are essentially different in their attitude toward emotional expression. You could expand a 17-letter HAIKU into a 31-letter TANKA, but never should you try to compress the latter into the former; you’ll only end up saying nothing, or something utterly different from the original.