kikansha toubu mazu tsuki ase-no kikanshu tsuku
the front of the steam train
arrives first and afterwards
the sweat-covered driver
Tohta Kaneko (1919- ): Translated and commented on by Dhugal J. Lindsay
This haiku conjures up a concrete image in the first line where our attention is zoomed in to the front of a steam locomotive. Movement brings the haiku to life as the train arrives and this verb also sets the scene. Without actually concretely stating the place where the action is happening, "arrives" infers that the scene is at a station. "First" gives us a sense of anticipation directed at the latter part of the poem, where we are again given a concrete image, zoomed in, where we can see the beads of sweat on the driver's forehead. "Sweat" is the season word or "kigo" that locates the poem within the seasonal cycle -- in summer, again giving concreteness to the poem to allow readers to virtually place themselves at the scene of the action. Behind this concrete image of a train arriving at the station in the summer heat we can also read between the lines and realize that although the train arrived first and "won," it only came first because of the efforts of the driver, who arrived thereafter. Let us not forget those who help us on our endeavors also!