Shiki's career

Shiki was born in Matsuyama on September 17, 1867. The next year was the first year of the Meiji period, so Shiki's age was the same as that of an era of modernization and great social change in Japan. His real name was Tsunenori, but as a child he was called Noboru. His father Tsunenao was a low-ranking samurai, and his mother Yae the eldest daughter Ohara Kanzan, a teacher at the feudal clan school. Shiki, who lost his father when he was five, was educated in the Chinese classics by the strict, conservative Kanzan and was also influenced by his uncle , Kato Takusen, who later served as a diplomat and the mayor of Matsuyama.

(the fifth child from the left in the front line is Shiki at the age of 4.)

(Shiki liked the baseball.)

Inspired by the Freedom and People's Right Movement, Shiki went to Tokyo in 1883 with the aim of becoming a politician. While studying at the Imperial University, his interest in politics and philosophy gave way to a growing fascination with literature. He began writing fiction, but he gradually concentrated on the study and composition of haiku.

When he was twenty-two, he began coughing up blood and adopted the pen name"Shiki", the name of a bird that,according to legend, coughs blood as it sings.He decided to devote himself to literature, withdrew from the university, and began working for the newspaper "Nippon".

(Shiki's English note)

("introduce himself as Shiki after coughing up blood" written by Shiki)

Shiki called for the reform of haiku and tanka, very brief forms of traditional poetry of seventeen and thirty-one syllables, respectively. Haiku , in particular, focus on nature and or simple occurrences of daily life, but the condensation required by the form can result in great expansiveness and depth. The traditional forms , however, had grown trite and formulaic over the years. Shiki recommended composition based on "Shasei" , or sketch from life, and interjected this principle of describing life just as it is into his prose writing, as well as his haiku and tanka. Until two days before his death, Shiki continued writing articles, including a series under the title "Byo-sho Rokusyaku"(A Sixfeet Sickbed), in spite of intense suffering from the spinal caries that had afflicted him since 1895. He died on September 19,1902. During his brief life, Shiki attracted a number of followers, who were influenced by and carried on his sketch-from-life theory of literature. Through them, as well as in his own right, he left his mark on the history of modern Japanease literature.


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