Hakyo

by Yagi Kametaro

Hakyo was born March 18, 1913, the second son of a farm family named Ishida who lived in the village of Habu, now part of the city of Matsuyama. His given name was Tetsuta; Hakyo was his haiku pseudonym. He became interested in haiku while he was still a youngster, perhaps because he lived next door to Murakami Seigetsu. Seigetsu was two or three years younger than Shiki but he preceded Shiki in studying Buson. ln Hakyo's later career Seigetsu's influence was tremendous.

Another well-known haikuist, Ikazaki Kokyo, lived in Yogo, a village adjoining Habu. Kokyo took Hakyo as a disciple, and so the boy was lucky enough to have two teachers. Yet, in school he seems to have been an undistinguished student. My brother-in-low was his classmate in middle school; he has told me that Hakyo was then unimpressive and that no one imagined he would have a bright career as a haiku master. Much of Hakyo's grounding in the principles of haiku seems to have come from Kokyo. Kokyo also introduced Hakyo to Mizuhara Shuoshi, who was then and still is publishing the monthly "Ashibi", one of the best of the nationally-circulated haiku magazines. Hakyo's talent and diligence earned him a reputation, and soon he was made an associate on Ashibi's staff. This took him to Tokyo, where he entered the literature department of Meiji University in order to deepen his knowledge of haiku and its traditions.

In 1937 he began to publish a haiku magazine of his own, "Tsuru (crane)", and later he published a collection of his haiku under the same title. ln 1943 he was drafted into the army and sent to northern China. On the front he contracted lung disease and was invalided home. For the rest of his life he suffered from that illness. ln 1948, when his condition was most critical, he had several chest operations and narrowly escaped death. ln l950 he published "shaku-myo" (A life deplored), 502 haiku he had composed as prayers during his four years of painful hospitalization when death seemed always imminent. ln 196l, in collaboration with Ono Rinka and others, he formed a new haiku society called The Haiku Association. His complete works were published in 1964 and drew high praise. The Yomiuri,one of Japan's biggest nationwide newspapers, awarded him its Yomiuri Cultural Prize for his contributions to haiku. He died in1969 at the age of fifty-six.

A few years ago a haiku stone in his memory was erected on the grounds of the primary school he attended. The haiku carved on the stone, from his collection "Tsuru", exemplifies his style and his views on haiku.

        Aki iku-tose
           Ishizuchi wo mizu
           haha wo mizu

"Aki", autumn; "iku", how many; "tose", years, "Ishizuchi", at about 6500 feet (1981 meters) is the highest peak in Ehime Prefecture. A deity is enshrined at its peak and it is considered a sacred mountain, held in great affection by those who live within sight of it, as Hakyo did. "Mizu" is the negative of "miru", to see; "haha", mother.

My tentative translation:

       For many an autumn,
           (I) haven't seen lshizuchi,
           (I) haven't seen mother.

Written when he was hospitalized, far from home, this haiku bares his longing to see lshizuchi and his mother, who was too frail to travel to his bedside. This is a haiku that is humanly beautiful. This humanistic attitude is intrinsic in his view of haiku. Hakyo's haiku are invariably human, life-bound and life involving. Basho's primary principle was that the haiku should be based on sincerity, the sincerity that gives pith and moment to the objective approach. Shiki emphasized the importance of "Shasei", sketching from life. Objectivity in haiku has been advocated so strongly that such terms as "directness of expression" or "grasp things as they are" have become cliches. Herein lies danger. A sheer objective truth as in natural science does not make a haiku; it is just the opposite of whatis essential. Shiki's theory od "Shasei" is by no means based on such non-human objectivity; on the contrary, what he stressed was the objectivity attained by the consummation of our subjective self. One can say the same thing about Basho's sincerity. "Thing as it is'' has diverse stages of comprehension, from the low and vulgar to the high and sublime. Only the latter stage will serve to make a good haiku.

The haiku has two aspects, objective and subjective. Hakyo, in collaboration with Nakamura Kusatao and others, launched a new movement by standing up for humanism in haiku. However, what he intended was not to negate tradition but simply to emphasize one element of the fundamental principle set forth by the old masters, including Shiki.

Because a single haiku cannot give an understanding of Hakyo's aims, here is another, one that the author was pleased with. He wrote: " This is a haiku in which I can take mental shelter."

      Izumi e no
      michi okure yuku
      yasukesa yo

"lzumi", a spring; "e", to; "no", a possessive particle, here a connective; "michi", a path, a way, or a road; "okure", to be behind, to be late; "yasukesa", ease, peace of mind, restfulness; "yo" is a particle of emphasis.

A translation:

      Along the path to the spring
      how restful it is
      to walk behind others

A Japanese haikuist will recognize that this haiku refers to a summer scene, because "izumi", a spring, is a season-word for summer. It was written in 1952 on an excursion to Karuizawa, a favorite summer resort for Tokyo people. Hakyo went there, with the Ashibi group to spend a few days at the cool summer villa of Hoshiguchi Seimin, one of the members. Because of his chronic lung illness, Hakyo had difficulty breathing and could not walk as fast as the others. He did not try to catch up with them, but deliberately lagged behind, enjoying his slow, restful pace. The haiku suggests that in life, too, one need not hurry, need not try to get ahead of others, that in a state of resignation one can find the joy of a tranquil mind. This haiku is from Shun-ran (Spring Storm), the second volume of his collected works.

(January 1977)