Fading into the mist ~ Haiku of Japan

in #haiku2 months ago


かへり見れば行きあひし人霞みけり
kaerimireba yuki-aishi hito kasumi keri


When I turned my head
the person I just passed
disappeared into the mist
—Shiki


(trans. David LaSpina[1])

(Print by Takahashi Shotei)

It's always slightly eerie when the mist is thick and you are walking through it, feeling that isolation as you are surrounded by nothing but white. The eeriness goes up several degrees when you pass someone someone but then they quickly disappear behind you. It's not especially spooky per se, at least not during the day, but it does feel a bit... strange.

Some have suggested Shiki is also making a spiritual comment here. I don't think so. As a product of Japanese culture of course he was influenced by Buddhist ideas, but he was also an atheist and generally disliked hidden meaning of that nature. Rather, this poem is a perfect example of Shiki's idea of shasei, or sketches from life, which was his vision for haiku. And a great example it is. If we close our eyes, we can see and feel this exact scene that he is describing in the verse.


Hi thereDavid LaSpina is an American photographer and translator lost in Japan, trying to capture the beauty of this country one photo at a time and searching for the perfect haiku.

  1. That is, me! If you like this translation, feel free to use it. Just credit me. Also link here if you can.

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