Avant-guard poet Tota Kaneko, a leader in the postwar haiku world, passed away from acute respiratory distress syndrome at a hospital in Kumagaya, Saitama Prefecture, on Feb. 20, it has been learned. He was 98.
Born in Saitama Prefecture, Kaneko encountered haiku poetry in 1937 while attending Mito High School, and came to study under Shuson Kato. He graduated from Tokyo Imperial University at the height of the Pacific War in 1943, and while he joined the Bank of Japan (BOJ) upon graduation, he was soon sent to the Imperial Navy. He was stationed on the island of Chuuk in the South Pacific as a paymaster first lieutenant, and remained there until the end of World War II.
Kaneko remained a prisoner of war until he was repatriated in 1946, and resumed working at the BOJ. It was during this time that he began his run as a poet, contributing to haiku magazines "Kanrai" (cold lightning), published by Kato, and "Kaze" (wind), published by Kinichi Sawaki.
His works moved from being full of ideological themes and a consciousness of methodology to "societal" and "avant-garde" haiku, becoming the representative of a new current in the world of haiku. He also proposed a theory for constructing haiku poems and actively participated in debates in the field. He also influenced tanka poems of the time.
In 1956, Kaneko received the Modern Haiku Association Prize, and published the magazine "Kaitei" in 1962, later taking the helm of it. Kaneko became the chair of the Modern Haiku Association in 1983, and was involved in teaching the next generation of haiku poets. He became the honorary chair of the association in 2000.
His funeral will be held privately by his close relatives, and a wake will be held at a later date.