Arts & Culture

Haikus: Japanese Poetry


“The primary purpose of reading and writing haiku is sharing moments of our lives that have moved us, pieces of experience and perception that we offer or receive as gifts…” —William J. Higginson


Haiku poems are a quick and easy way to express an experience of our lives or the beauty of God’s creation.  First written by Japanese poet Matsuo Bashō, haiku poems have become extremely popular all throughout the world.  It was inspired by another Japanese style of poetry called renga.  A renga poem usually has one-hundred stanzas, written by two or more people.  Each stanza in a renga can have the same syllable pattern as a haiku—5 syllables for the first line, then 7 syllables, then 5 again. (If you want to learn more about renga and other forms of Japanese poetry, check out Rachel Shey’s September article for Poetry & Art!)  One very common mistake is using a direct form of speech.  Never use the pronoun “you”.  It pulls away from the experience, and it is distracting from the image the writer is trying to convey.  Most of the time haikus are on something from nature, or a scene.  Here is a haiku by an influential Japanese poet:


Toward those short trees

We saw a hawk descending

On a day in spring.

— Masaoka Shiki


His poem speaks of a hawk on a spring day, flying down to the trees.  While it paints a picture, it leaves room for speculation.  We can ask questions such as: where is the speaker?  Is he near a forest?  He also uses the pronoun “we,” which causes us to question who he is with.  As you can see, haiku poems aren’t intended to give lots of details.  The poem only needs to paint a quick picture and leave us with a moment of happiness.


The kitten saunters

her paws gentle as leaf-buds

tail lofty with pride.

—Emma Grob


Above is a poem I wrote myself!  I was inspired by one of my own kittens while writing this for a school project, and I was hoping to capture brief moment of beauty.



when they strike the bell

these gingko leaves are falling –

Temple Kencho-ji

—Natsume Soseki



This poem by Natsume Soseki is very inspiring to me.  His Japanese heritage really shines through, and in every line he speaks of another part of a Japanese day such as the beautiful Asian ginkgo trees, and the Zen Temple Kenchoji.

Temple Kenchoji in Japan


I leave you with a poem about a snowstorm I wrote myself.  I hope you have enjoyed exploring examples of Japanese haikus and the opportunities they offer us to experience the magnificence of God’s creation as well as a fun way to experience other parts of the world and other cultures!


Boreas whispered

his freezing, wintery voice

making forests shake.

Japanese painting of a monkey reaching for reflection of the moon


“Masaoka Shiki”.  Poetry Foundation. Sep. 17, 2018.

“Kenchoji Temple”. Accessed Sep. 17, 2018.

“Famous Natsume Soseki Poems”.  Best Poems. Accessed Sep. 17, 2018.

Mark Blasini.  “The Don’t’s of Writing Haiku”.  The Way of Haiku. Accessed Sep. 17, 2018.

Walkup, Nancy and Stephens, Pam.  “Haiku.” Sep. 17, 2018.

“Famous Haiku.” Haiku Poetry., Accessed Sep. 17, 2018.




Japanese Cranes-long life and prosperity.

Shoson, Ohara.  Monkey and Moon. Sep. 20, 2018.

8 Yamanouchi, Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture 247-8525, Japan.ō-ji  Accessed Sep. 20, 2018.



  1. I never thought much about the depth of a haiku – great explanation! I love your haikus!!