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What's a haiku and what are some common season words? A guide for aspiring authors

(Mainichi/Yusuke Kori)

Haiku is a poetic form of Japanese origin now written worldwide, examples of which should contain a core of poetic truth, distilled from experience deeply felt and keenly perceived.

    In English, a haiku is a short poem, generally consisting of three lines, and as a poem it should be poetic through techniques such as rhythmical structuring, alliteration, assonance, imperfect rhyme, etc., though care must be taken that such artifices do not interfere with the reader's ability to "enter" the poem and experience it immediately themselves.

    Most successful examples are between 7 and 17 syllables in length, and natural in their use of language, shunning "Tonto-ism," where articles such as "a" or "the" are omitted purely for the sake of brevity. Successful haiku usually contain a reference to a seasonal or otherwise natural entity, are concrete, and often illuminate some aspect of the existence of one or more of the elements or entities within the poem.

    They are usually characterized by brevity, immediacy, and resonance, with many examples including the juxtaposition of two images.

    (By Dhugal Lindsay)

    -- Haiku in season

    Readers may have come across the term "kigo," which refers to a season word or phrase used in haiku and other forms of Japanese poetry. These words can hint at the time of the year and contribute to the brevity of the poem. The mention of cherry blossoms, for example, lets us know the season is spring, while cicadas are a sign of summer.

    To help readers study how haiku published on the Mainichi's Haiku in English page utilize season words, we have compiled a list below of some of the common "kigo" appearing in selections to date. Click the entries to see search results for haiku containing these words (and to avoid submitting haiku that are very similar to previous ones).

    Please note that we will keep haiku submitted through our haiku submission form in reserve for up to about three months for possible future publication, though some might be kept for up to about 10 months due to a seasonal element that prevents the haiku from being published earlier.


    -- Spring

    buds / cherry blossoms / dandelion(s) / melting snow / plum / swallow(s) / wisteria

    -- Summer

    cicada / drought / firefly(fireflies) / fireworks / fly / heat / mosquito / wind chime(s)

    -- Autumn

    dragonfly / full moon / grapes / harvest / Milky Way / scarecrow

    -- Winter

    frost / icicles / snow / snowflake(s) / snowman


    To search for additional terms, please use our website's search function by entering "haiku" and another word of your choice at

    (The Mainichi Editorial Team)


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