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ABSTRACT: The short, difficult life of Masaoka Shiki coincided with a turbulent period in Japanese political and cultural history. In the wake of the “opening” of Japan to the West, the country was flooded with new ideas from abroad that prompted the young Japanese artists and literati — Shiki squarely among them — to reconsider traditional genres of painting and poetry. Shiki’s best-known contribution to this cultural revolution at the turn of the 20th century was his study and revitalization of haiku and especially his theory of shasei, or “sketch from life.” This essay explores the aesthetic sources of shasei and traces the influences that Shiki’s ideas had on his followers in Japan and abroad.1



by Charles Trumbull


Masaoka Shiki was the right person in the right place at the right time. He was born just as Japan was being “opened” to the West. A country that had been culturally insular for centuries was being bombarded with radically new ideas.

The crosscurrent of influences from the West was both official and informal. The Japanese government enthusiastically embraced Western economic and social institutions, including even aspects of culture and literature. Individual artists and writers on their own initiative rushed to steep themselves in Western culture and aesthetics.

[I]n the Meiji period there was an initial calculated strategy to study Western representational methods for the larger purpose of bringing Japan to a perceived level of modernity. However, a small but influential group of painters became involved in a cross-cultural exchange that could not be controlled by government planning.2

Shiki’s cousin characterized the period and how it appeared to ambitious young men: “We reached adolescence just after the dissolution of the feudal system. All had been sown afresh. But while the old order had fallen, nothing new had yet been created in its place.3 Shiki was resolved to step into that cultural vacuum. He was so successful in providing a new framework for the old poetic genres of haiku and waka or tanka that his ideas — or reactions to them — dominated Japanese poetic theory for a century afterward. Though Shiki’s innovations are currently under something of a siege, they are still essential for an understanding of haiku as it developed in the 20th century in Japan and the West.

My focus in this paper is on that crucial crosscurrent in Japanese cultural history when West met East, on the man Masaoki Shiki and his works, and especially the aesthetic principles that he introduced to the composition of haiku, notably shasei. First we’ll talk a bit about the literary scene that Shiki was born into. We’ll briefly go over the life of Shiki and spend some time laying out his theories of aesthetics and poetics. We’ll focus in on shasei, his approach to art or literature that involves “sketching from life,” and present my theory about the deep origins of the concept. We will discuss the later permutations of shasei that Shiki came up with — that is, “selective realism,” in which the artist or poet may choose some aspects of a scene to use in his creation; and makoto, or “poetic truthfulness,” which allows the artist or poet to go further in subjectively portraying a scene. To wrap up, we’ll talk a bit about the status of shasei haiku today, specifically in the West. Throughout, we will be jumping back and forth between art history and literary history, because I think the arrival in Japan and impact of Western aesthetics in both art and literature were virtually simultaneous and equally significant.

State of Play at the Beginning of the Meiji Period (1868–1912)

Any discussion of Shiki’s impact on the direction of Japanese literature must be seen against the broader aesthetic currents of the time. After the opening of Japan and the restoration of the Meiji emperors in 1868, the country embarked on a campaign of rapid Westernization and was flooded by new ideas from the West. These affected all aspects of Japanese life, including art, literature, and poetry. A few visual examples from the world of painting will dramatically show the situation that Shiki and other Westernizers in Japan were faced with in the late 19th century.

I have prepared a number of slides to illustrate important points. These images are mostly works of art and are taken from museum websites.

First are two traditional Japanese paintings that represent the “state of the art in art,” if I may be permitted to say so, at the middle of the 19th century:

This first work, titled “Rough Waves,” was created by the artist Ogata Korin in 1704 – 9.

Rough Waves

It is a two-panel screen in ink and gold on gilded paper. The subject matter and presentation bring immediately to mind perhaps the most famous classical Japanese drawing, “The Great Wave at Kanagawa,” by Katsushika Hokusai.


These two paintings are divided in time by a century and a quarter, yet the subject matter and stylized presentation are remarkably similar. Images in this style would have been very familiar to all Japanese at the start of the Meiji Period.

Now let’s look at how Western painters were depicting the same subject matter, great waves, in the 19th century. We just want to make the point that it was this sort of thing that Shiki and his contemporaries were experiencing for the first time — something radically new, from the West. First J.M.W. Turner’s “A Disaster at Sea,” from about 1835,

A Disaster at Sea

and then “The Ninth Wave” by Russia’s most famous seascape painter, Ivan Ayvazovsky, from 1850:


Now one by Gustave Le Gray, a French painter, called “The Great Wave, Sète”:

The Great Wave, Sete

and one of many wave paintings by Gustave Courbet, also French: “La Vague” (The Stormy Seas) from 1869:


Now Claude Monet’s “A Stormy Sea” from 1884:


and finally, one by American Winslow Homer called “Prout’s Neck, Breaking Wave” from 1887:


In all of these paintings, the basic theme is the same: the huge power of Nature, specifically the sea. Hokusai depicts pathetically small boats and a miniature Mount Fuji cupped in the troughs between the waves; likewise Turner paints, but almost invisibly, wretched humans during the fiercest of storms at sea.

It would be fun to go deeper into art criticism now, pointing out the differences between the highly stylized, rarified Japanese works and the much more realistic and vernacular Western paintings, but we have, as they say, other fish to fry.

If painting in Japan had reached a point of stagnation and lack of innovation by the mid-19th century, the same was perhaps even more true of the literary arts. The great translator Burton Watson (1) gives an idea of the dead end that poetry in Japan had reached at the time:

[I]n their initial enthusiasm for things foreign, some [Japanese writers] went so far as to opine that traditional Japanese literary forms such as tanka and haiku poetry, hopelessly enmeshed as they were in the culture of the past, were now obsolete and before long would pass out of existence.4

Moreover, what we now think of as “literature” did not exist at all in Japan at the time. Shiki’s biographer Janine Beichman explains as follows:

During the Tokugawa period (1603–1867) there had existed no word that could translate the modern English “literature,” as a term to collectively denote any kind of poem, novel, short story, essay, drama, or sometimes even history and biography. Furthermore, there was no form of literature which was considered to have an intrinsic value in itself, a means of expressing truth.5

That is, the various forms of the written word were quite separate, such that a haiku poet wrote haiku, a playwright wrote drama, etc., and would not venture much beyond his own bailiwick. To make matters worse, most of these genres, including haiku and the novel, were not considered art forms at all, but rather were seen as popular entertainments and were held in low regard.

After the passing of the Tokugawa period and in the early years of the Meiji Era, roughly the 1870s and 1880s, the new social climate in Japan changed the ground on which haiku composition rested. Harold Isaacson, a translator of Shiki’s work, explains these changes as follows:

The haiku is a form of Japanese literature that had been perfected in Tokugawa days, and had produced many great masters then. However, like other Tokugawa forms, it proved impossible for people in the altered circumstances of Meiji times to continue it, and it was gradually sinking into decay.… No criticism is intended of Meiji haiku, whose haiku are of extreme power. But their adjustments of the haiku, valid and profoundly moving as they were, the Japanese public in general found almost incomprehensible. This incompetence to follow them produced a feeling of disinterest and of vague resentment. The haiku, always intended to be of the widest, of universal interest, was becoming possible only to a smaller and smaller group of people who wrote more and more just for one another to read. Shiki began to look for a simplified manner of haiku, one which would demand the great powers of mind required for the Tokugawa style, but which would somehow continue the essential character of the haiku itself.6

As we said at the outset, Masaoka Shiki was the right man at the right place at the right time. Some of the things that Shiki accomplished in his short life were to help work out a concept of literature for the Japanese, to reconsider and lay the groundwork for a revivification of both haiku and tanka, and to develop an aesthetic system for Japanese short poetry — shasei and its exfoliations — that permitted the composition of innovative new works in short-verse forms.

Let’s pause briefly and take a look at Shiki’s life.

Masaoka Shiki7

Two images of Shiki.
Two images of Shiki.

Biographical data

  • Born September 17, 1867 as Masaoka Tsunenori in Matsuyama on the southern island of Shikoku into a low-ranking samurai family (just as Bashō had been). A sister is born three years later.
  • His father, an alcoholic, dies in 1872 when Shiki is five.
  • The following year Shiki begins grade school and begins study of the Chinese classics with his grandfather, a stern teacher in the old-fashioned samurai mode. Shiki becomes quite proficient and knowledgeable in Chinese poetry under the eye of his grandfather and other teachers.
  • In 1880 he coughs blood for the first time and is diagnosed with tuberculosis. He takes the pen name “Shiki,” a name for the cuckoo that was believed to sing with such gusto and effort that it spits up blood doing so.
  • In 1883 Shiki leaves the middle school in Matsuyama, goes to Tokyo, and enrolls in school there.
  • In 1884 he passes the entrance exam for the University Preparatory School, a sort of high school.
  • The following year he fails his school exams. He also changes his career goals from radical politics to philosopher.
  • 1888, he discovers baseball and becomes a passionate player and fan. He also discovers the field of aesthetics and reads Herbert Spencer’s On Style.
  • In 1890 he graduates from the Higher Middle School and enters the Imperial University in the Japanese literature department. The last 10–12 years of his life are amazingly productive and volatile; Shiki changes directions frequently. In his last decade Shiki composes most of his more than 10,000 haiku, 2,000 tanka, and 2 journals.
  • In the spring of 1891 he skips his final examinations at the university and loses interest in philosophy.
  • In 1892 he continues writing literary criticism articles, undertakes a deep study of haiku and waka or tanka, and in 1893 turns his attention to his reform of haiku. He leaves the university and becomes haiku editor of Nippon. In that newspaper he publishes numerous editorial-type articles, including his famous criticism of Bashō’s work and praise of Buson’s. Development of the idea of shasei is dated to these years.
  • In 1895, with his typical impulsive enthusiasm, Shiki decides he must go to China, where Japan is waging war, as a correspondent. The war is soon over, however, and Shiki never reaches the front. He is shipped back home, suffers a lung hemorrhage from his tuberculosis, and is hospitalized in Kobe. He is not expected to live but somehow pulls through. He returns to his hometown of Matsuyama and stays with his friend Natsume Sōseki, a student of English literature and later a great novelist, who also wrote haiku influenced by Shiki.8
  • The journal Hototogisu begins publication in Matsuyama in 1897 under Shiki’s aegis. He cannot edit it himself because of his illness. For decades to come, under a sequence of editors, Hototogisu (another name for the cuckoo) is the preeminent haiku journal in Japan. Shiki moves to Tokyo and undergoes surgery for his tuberculosis.
  • His medical condition continues to worsen. Beichman writes:

    From 1897 Shiki was bedridden with tuberculosis of the spine, which caused him excruciating back pain. He also suffered from tubercular boils — essentially untreatable — that oozed pus over his hips and buttocks. His condition declined rather steadily thereafter. In 1901 he wrote: “Every day, endless to say, I run a fever. I can neither stand up nor sit down, and it has recently become difficult to even raise my head slightly. The pain also makes it impossible to turn freely in my bed, so I must lie still. When the pain is very bad, it hurts to turn to the right or the left, and even lying on my back I suffer as if I were in hell.”

  • Despite his condition — or perhaps because he feels driven to complete his life work even as he knows he has little time left to live — in 1898 Shiki undertakes his reform of tanka.
  • Meanwhile, the editorship of Hototogisu is passed to Takahama Kyoshi, who takes the publication from Matsuyama to Tokyo and turns it into a general literary journal, paralleling his own shift of interest away from haiku and onto novels. After 1913, however, Kyoshi returns to haiku. He continues to edit Hototogisu until his death in 1959.
  •  By 1901 Shiki requires constant medical care, which is provided by his sister and his mother.
  • On September 19, 1902 Shiki dies in Tokyo. Hours earlier he had managed to write in his own hand his three famous last haiku (Beichman translations):
Shiki. Facsimile of the manuscript of his three last haiku, 1902.
Shiki. Facsimile of the manuscript of his three last haiku, 1902.9
     hechima saite tan to tsumarishi hotoke kana

          the gourd flowers bloom,
          but look — here lies
          a phlegm-stuffed Buddha!

     tan itto hechima no mizu mo ma ni awazu

          a quart of phlegm —
          even gourd water
          couldn't mop it up

     ototoi no hechima no mizu mo torazariki

          they didn’t gather
          gourd water
          day before yesterday either

Influences on Shiki

It is difficult to pinpoint any specific influence on Shiki’s thinking about literature. His biographers make it clear that he was pretty much an intellectually restless man of self-generated ideas and was prone to precipitous action. He was not a scholar who dissected and pored over every idea that came his way. He was apparently an indifferent, or at least inconsistent, student and changed his career aspirations and intellectual focus several times — politician, writer, critic, aesthetician. He saw his great mission in life to reconcile philosophy, which was an honored and respected area of study in Japan, with various kinds of writing and literature, which Shiki loved but which were held in low intellectual esteem.

Shiki admired the work of the novelist and critic Tsubouchi Shōyō, who believed, as Shiki himself noted, “that the novel was an art and not to be held in contempt.”10; cited in Beichman 13.] Shōyō was keen to include the novel in his new category of Japanese literature, though, as Beichman points out, he specifically excluded haiku and tanka from that definition.

Shiki sought to rationalize philosophy and literature, which in Japanese thinking traditionally were diametrically opposed in status. Beichman quotes from Shiki’s Scribblings:11

Although I intended to study philosophy, I had a passion for poetry and felt I could not live without novels. It struck me as strange: how could I like such completely opposing and incompatible things as philosophy and literature at the same time? (The reasons I thought them opposed were that philosophers were serious men, not concerned with the trivia of literature; Buddhist priests did not write novels; and I had not yet discovered that Spencer wrote poetry.) I found it odd. But I could not decide on one over the other, so I declared that philosophy would be my vocation and poetry my avocation. meanwhile I kept asking myself how the two were related. Sometime later, I learned of the existence of aesthetics. The realization that one could discuss such arts as literature and painting in philosophical terms made me so happy I all but jumped for joy. Finally, I changed my aim to aesthetics.

Beichman sums up that “[Shiki] sought a justification for Japan’s traditional poetic forms (the haiku and the tanka) in Western ideas (Herbert Spencer’s), but did not feel free to pursue literature as a vocation until he could make it conform to the rationalism and scholarly approach of the Confucian tradition.”12

Major influences on Shiki’s aesthetic development came through the Western-style painter Nakamura Fusetsu. Shiki met him in 1894, while serving as editor of the newspaper Shōnippon, “and, under [Fusetsu’s] influence, began to clarify still more his ideas about haiku, borrowing certain concepts of realism from art and wedding these to what he had already received from [the novelist Tsubouchi] Shōyō.”13

Fusetsu was influenced by his teacher, Asai Chū, who in turn had been one of the students of Antonio Fontanesi (1818–1882). Fontanesi, a leading Italian landscape artist of the nineteenth century, had been invited to Japan by the government to teach at the Technical Art School and although there for only two years, influenced a generation of Japanese artists. According to lecture notes taken by his students, Fontanesi summed up his theory of painting in these terms: “The basic method of Western painting is first, correct form, second, balance of color, and third, to always imagine as you paint that you are looking at a beautiful scene through a window.” At the same time, however, he prized observation and the sketch from life greatly.14

This is the only image of Fusetsu’s I could find on the Web, “The Moon at Sodegaura in Shinagawa” from the series Six Views of Tokyo with the Curved-line Aesthetic (Kyokusenbi Toto rokkei), color woodblock. It is not dated.

Nakamura Fusetsu, “The Moon at Sodegaura in Shinagawa” from the series Six Views of Tokyo with the Curved-line Aesthetic (Kyokusenbi Toto rokkei), color woodblock. [Leonard A. Lauder Collection of Japanese Postcards, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)
Nakamura Fusetsu, “The Moon at Sodegaura in Shinagawa” from the series Six Views of Tokyo with the Curved-line Aesthetic (Kyokusenbi Toto rokkei), color woodblock. [Leonard A. Lauder Collection of Japanese Postcards, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston]
The Development of Shasei


So it was principally from Fusetsu — that is, from the field of painting — that Shiki derived the idea of shasei as applied to literature. Beichman writes (54): “It was under Fusetsu’s influence that Shiki added the term shasei, ‘the sketch from life,’ to the other terms he had used until then to denote realism, ari no mama ni utsusu, ‘to depict as it is,’ and shajitsu, ‘reality.’” In a later footnote (149) Beichman adds, “Shasei was originally used by artists to translate the English ‘sketch’ and French ‘dessin.’”

Another definition of shasei offered by the Shiki Project in Matsuyama is perhaps more revealing of what Shiki found in the painters’ term: “writing exactly what you see so the reader could also experience the scene and understand what had moved you.”15 One important caveat is that shasei in painting was more about the method of painting than the selection of the subject or objects to be painted. This carried over into Shiki’s vision of the term for haiku and tanka.

The roots of shasei

So where did the idea of shasei originate? Where did the Japanese Western-style painters get it? The simple answer is that the idea was rooted in the doctrine of realism that was being prescribed for fine art and architecture in England and France in the mid- to late-19th century and which came to Japanese painting shortly thereafter. Let’s trace shasei’s line backwards from the painters in Japan, before we pick up our forward momentum again.

Some students have searched for precedents to shasei in Asian traditions.16 The received wisdom, however, is that shasei was initially a thoroughly Western notion. Watson, for example, states unequivocally that shasei was an import:

Borrowing from the vocabulary of Western painting, he adopted the term shasei, or “sketch from life,” to describe the technique that underlies much of his own poetry and prose. The writer was to carry out minute observation of the scenes around him and to compose works based on what he saw there, conjuring up the mood or emotional tenor he desired through apt manipulation of the images found in real life. As Shiki advised poets in a piece called Zuimon suitō (Random Questions and Random Answers) written in 1899: “Take your materials from what is around you — if you see a dandelion, write about it; if it’s misty, write about the mist. The materials for poetry are all about you in profusion.”17

We have noted already that Shiki received inspiration indirectly from Western writers as well as painters. Western poetry began to become available in Japan in about 1882. Beichman records that in 1888 Shiki read Herbert Spencer’s On Style, in which the eminent Briton argued that clarity and lucidity are the hallmarks of good writing style and that economy of expression in turn promotes clarity. The more ornament and decoration an author includes, Spencer taught, the less likely the essence of the writing is to come through. Perhaps the one aspect of European writing that most impressed the Japanese was that the language of Western poetry was very close to everyday speech, which was certainly not the case for tanka and haiku diction. Understandably, all such thoughts would be likely to appeal greatly to a man like Shiki who was in the process of reevaluating the world’s tersest poetic forms!

Returning to the history of our painters, the Technical Fine Arts School [Kōbu Bijutsu Gakkō] was established in Tokyo in 1876 by the government as part of its internationalization program. Three Italian artists were hired to teach Western techniques. Most influential among them was the painter Antonio Fontanesi (1818–1881). Although he taught in Japan for only a year, Fontanesi proved enormously popular among his young students, who included Asai Chū (1856–1907), who later studied in Europe and became the leading Western-style painter of the Meiji period.18 Nakamura Fusetsu, whom we have already met, was yet another Japanese painter who worked in the Western style and who was a protégé of Asai Chū’s. Fusetsu brought some of his student paintings to Shiki at the Nippon newspaper. Shiki was quite impressed and continued to use Nakamura’s graphic work to illustrate his haiku column until a year before his death, when Nakamura left for study in Europe.

The cultural and stylistic gap that was being bridged by Asai, Nakamura, and the other Western-style painters was immense. In a word, that difference was “realism.” Realism was the mode of the day in Western Europe, especially Great Britain, and the prime mover of the realism movement was the art critic and, in later life, social reformer John Ruskin (1819–1900). In a series of essays and books that were enormously influential in the West, Ruskin sought to advance the work of contemporary landscape painters, especially J.M.W. Turner, over the painting of previous generations, particularly the Old Masters.

We have already seen one painting on a maritime theme by Turner. Here is another, “Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying — Typhoon Coming On (The Slave Ship),” from about 1840.


Although he was primarily concerned with painting and architecture, Ruskin’s writings — and certainly his influence — extended to literature and other genres as well. It is worthwhile to spend a little time looking into Ruskin’s ideas because we believe they are at the root of Shiki’s notion of shasei.

John Ruskin

John Ruskin (1819 – 1900) in 1845, about the time he wrote Volume III of Modern Painters.
John Ruskin (1819 – 1900) in 1845, about the time he wrote Volume III of Modern Painters.

I found what I believe to be the nub of Ruskin’s argument in Volume III of his masterwork, Modern Painters. He is evaluating and ranking painters by how they select and treat their subject matter:

So, then, we have the three ranks: the man who perceives rightly because he does not feel, and to whom the primrose is very accurately the primrose, because he does not love it. Then, secondly, the man who perceives wrongly, because he feels, and to whom the primrose is anything else than a primrose: a star, a sun, or a fairy’s shield, or a forsaken maiden. And then, lastly, there is the man who perceives rightly in spite of his feelings, and to whom the primrose is forever nothing else than itself — a little flower apprehended in the very plain and leafy fact of it whatever and how many soever the associations and passions may be that crowd around it.19

This is a terrific passage, full of useful ideas for the student of haiku aesthetics.

Ruskin is always quick to arrange painters or poets in hierarchical order, and he posits a qualitative hierarchy here as well. In doing so he presents a fourth rank, who would be a sort of superpoet.

And thus, in full, there are four classes: the men who feel nothing, and therefore see truly; the men who feel strongly, think weakly, and see untruly (second order of poets); the men who feel strongly, think strongly, and see truly (first order of poets; and the men who, strong as human creatures can be, are submitted to influences stronger than they, and see in a sort untruly, because what they see is inconceivably above them. This last is the usual condition of prophetic inspiration.

I would offer Ruskin’s schema as representing the underpinnings of Shiki’s haiku aesthetic structure. We’ll talk more about the higher stages of Shiki’s notion of shasei in a minute, but before we leave Ruskin let me point out a few other aspects of his thinking that would have endeared him to Shiki.

The essential aspect of realism for Ruskin was truth, whether in painting or literature. The fulcrum of Ruskin’s argument was essentially realism vs. imagination. Aesthetic excellence, for Ruskin, was based on

perfect knowledge of the properties of the object. Factual accuracy per se was not the artist’s highest end for Ruskin. . . . But he held “the representation of facts” to be “the foundation of all art,” insisting that “nothing can atone for the want of truth, not the most brilliant imagination.” Indeed, Ruskin . . . went so far as to declare that “material truth is indeed a perfect test of the relative rank of painters, though it does not in itself constitute that rank.20

For Ruskin there are four pillars of greatness of style: truth, beauty, sincerity, and invention. Truth is approached though beauty. Sincerity is self-evident. “Invention” is not the same thing as “imagination,” which is the re-presentation of something that is not present.

The inventive translation of reality into art still inevitably contains a degree of subjectivity, which Ruskin tries to lower with his emphasis on sincerity. The artist must attempt to do justice to the object he describes by the honest expression of his perceptions.21

One aspect of an overactive imagination is an excess of ornamentation, another point that can find resonance with haiku poets.

Ruskin praises the poet not who can construct the most impressive phrase, but who can affect the reader without impressive phrases. The skill lies not in effusiveness, but rather in a certain restraint.22

Ruskin is also credited with coining the term “pathetic fallacy” (the treatment of inanimate objects as if they had human feelings, thoughts, or sensations”23) — another term that will not be unknown to students of haiku. The pathetic fallacy is, for Ruskin, the epitome of unwelcome imagination in an aesthetic creation.

In the final analysis, Ruskin, who was the first to lay out a comprehensive and detailed definition of realism, returning to the importance of a faithful and sincere representation of an object in Nature:

The goal of Ruskinian realism is the creation of a responsible relationship between the viewer and the real by way of the art object. For Ruskin, representation is valuable because, whether it succeeds or fails, it teaches us a new relationship to the world.24]

Did Shiki Know Ruskin?

So we have painted a picture of a more or less linear progression from the Victorian ideals of John Ruskin to the Meiji-restoration aesthetics of Masaoki Shiki. I imagine in your mind’s eye you see Shiki in his yukata sprawled on the tatami mat reading Ruskin’s five-volume Modern Painters in the original English, having been tipped off to its existence by his good friend, the painter Nakamura Fusetsu. Nothing of the sort! I have to confess here that my theory of the deep origins of shasei, while original, I hope, is completely unproven and has holes in it only slightly smaller than Mount Fuji. Some of the problems in proving that Shiki derived shasei from Ruskin are:

  • Masami Kimura, the leading Japanese scholar on Ruskin and his influences on Japanese literature, sees no need to mention Shiki. True, Kimura focuses on later periods in Japanese literary history, but if Ruskin had had an effect on the first wave of Westernized Japanese writers, certainly it would have been worth a mention.
  • Shiki had little interest in reading formal works about aesthetics. In a note (1:4) Beichman mentions that Shiki was interested enough in the subject to own a copy of volume 2 of Eduard von Hartmann’s Aesthetik (1887), but even with the help of German-speaking friends and even after a translation appeared in Japan, Shiki was unable to make head or tail of the book. Beichman makes it clear that Shiki’s interest in aesthetics was not scholarly and says flatly that he never read a single work on the subject. [11, 12] Moreover, lists of the books in Shiki’s library and those of educational institutions in Matsuyama do not include anything by Ruskin.25
  • Although Shiki studied English and apparently achieved some level of proficiency, it is not clear that he could have read Ruskin in the original even if he were inclined to do so and the books had been available to him.
  • Ruskin was not translated into Japanese until 1896. Shiki, however, was working with the idea of shasei at least two years before that, as early as 1894. Further,

    In May 1900, Tenzui (Tikuji) Kubo (1875–1934), a young scholar of Chinese classics, published a book entitled Sansui Bi Ron [On beauty of mountains and water], which included nine chapters on the natural beauty of Japan, one of which specifically introduced in translation Ruskin’s discussion of clouds from his Modern Painters (Volume 1, Part 2, Section 3, Chapters 2–4).26

  • A poet who would certainly have known Shiki, Tōson (Haruki) Shimazaki, had been reading Ruskin for some years and published a “trial translation” of Volume II, Part 4, Chapter 13) of Modern Painters in 1896–97.27

It cannot be proven that Shiki knew of Ruskin directly, but it seems likely that Ruskin’s views were in the air and were part of the volatile mixture of Western ideas that the intellectuals in Meiji-Era Japan were discussing. It seems more than just likely that the essence of Ruskin’s ideas seeped through to Shiki in the last years of the century. It is not too fanciful, I think, to cite Ruskin’s realism and other ideas as the ultimate source for Shiki’s shasei.

Beyond Simple Shasei

Let’s now return to aesthetic developments in Japan, moving again forward in time.

Remember now that shasei was originally focused on the “sketch from life,” a refocusing of the poet’s energy away from the flights of fancy of the past poets to a new realistic portrayal of the object itself. It was not long after he began his haiku reform, however, that Shiki realized the limitations of a strict interpretation of shasei. While continuing to advocate the sketch from life for beginning haiku poets, he admitted the application of imagination and subjectivity to the composition of poetry. Not doing so, Shiki believed, could well lead to triteness in composition.

Drawing on Makoto Ueda’s work,28 Lee Gurga writes:29

Shiki recommended other ways of composing haiku for more advanced poets. Shiki did, in fact, support the use of imagination in haiku, but proposed that poets attempt to use it only after they had developed a sufficiently fine perception of the world and experience of truth. Only then could they be trusted to attempt to convey their personal vision to the reader through the distillation of imagination. Shiki’s suggested development of the poet—from “sketches of life” for the beginner to “selective realism” for the more advanced poet to makoto or “poetic truth” for the master is as valid today as it was one hundred years ago when he proposed it.

Selective realism

Let’s now examine these higher stages of Shiki’s shasei in some detail. The first of these is “selective realism.” Ueda (12–13) provides a clear explanation of the idea. Note that selective realism does not represent a sharp break with garden-variety shasei but is rather an organic outgrowth of it.

On its higher level, shasei is selective realism, the selection being made by the poet on the basis of his individual aesthetic sensibility. Each poet has his own taste, a personal predilection for a certain type of beauty. When he confronts a landscape, he should activate his aesthetic antenna and turn it toward the part of the landscape to which he is most attracted. A poem composed through this process will be more than a sketch from nature; it will be an externalization of the poet’s sensibility, an expression of his aesthetic feeling, for by selecting a focus he cuts out a specific part of the landscape and frames it. That part of nature then has a center, a foreground, a background, and so forth. It will begin to live its own life because the poets have given life to it. . . .

Also note Ueda’s image, again taken from the graphic arts, of the poet “framing” a scene in order to focus in on its most important elements. French philosopher Roland Barthes uses similar language:30

Every literary description is a view. It could be said that the speaker, before describing, stands at the window, not so much to see but to establish what he sees by its very frame: the window frame creates the scene.

Continuing our long citation from Ueda:

Shiki seems to have thought that a student who had mastered the art of selective realism could increase the amount of subjectivity in his poetry as he saw fit. “At times,” write Shiki, “the poet may even change the relative positions of things in an actual scene or subjectively replace a part of the scene by something that is not there. . . .” Shiki, who discouraged amateur versifiers from putting “makeup” on nature, here encouraged more advanced poets to do just that.

Perhaps the most famous instance of Shiki doing just that himself is his 1902 haiku (in Beichman’s translation):

     kaki kueba kane ga naru nari Hōryūji

          i bite into a persimmon
          and a bell resounds —

Beichman (53) points out that Shiki’s actual experience involved his biting into a persimmon, his favorite fruit, and hearing not the bell of Hōryūji but rather that of Tōdaiji, another temple. The following day, however, he visited Hōryūji and decided that temple would suit his haiku better because of its association with famous persimmon orchards. Shiki’s haiku is successful on many other levels as well, and Beichman notes (54) “This haiku may be said to be the first in which Shiki succeeded, through realistic description, in evoking complexity of meaning that goes beyond literal realism.”

The notion of humans rectifying Nature’s imperfections, it might be noted, is very much part of the Japanese aesthetic — viz. ikebana and bonsai, arts in which humans seek to rearrange Nature and improve upon it.


Beyond selective realism is the ultimate stage of Shiki’s shasei: makoto, or “truthfulness.” Ueda (17) characterizes it as follows:

Makoto . . . is shasei directed toward internal reality. It is based on the same principle of direct observation, except that the project to be observed is the poet’s own self. The poet is to experience his inner life as simply and sincerely as he is to observe nature, and he is to describe the experience in words as simple and direct as the ancient poets—so simple and direct that they seem ordinary.31

In a way, Shiki’s propounding of makoto took his literary theories full circle, allowing a full measure of subjectivity back into poetry as long as it had the characteristics of truthfulness and sincerity. Ueda points out (268), “Traditionally Japanese readers have had a distaste for artifice and have appreciated nature and the natural,” and suggests that Shiki’s makoto could be considered a modern-day manifestation of a traditional Japanese poetic value.

What Shiki — like Ruskin — was promoting was an essential fidelity of the poet to Nature, a truthfulness. What they were eschewing was empty imagination that was not rooted in the reality of a scene. They were trying to avoid in poetry what political satirist Stephen Colbert has termed “truthiness,” his term used “to describe things that a person claims to know intuitively or ‘from the gut’ without regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination, or facts”32 — in short, poetry written without reference to observable nature.

Shiki’s return to basic shasei

At the end of his life, in his final journal, A Six-foot Sickbed (1902), Shiki retrenched a bit and returned to a more objective view of shasei. Beichman translates (59–60):

The sketch from life is a vital element in both painting and descriptive writing: one might say that without it, the creation of either would be impossible. The sketch from life has been used in Western painting from early times; in olden times it was imperfect, but recently, it has progressed and become more precise. In Japan, however, the sketch from life has always been looked down on, so that the development of painting was hampered, and neither prose, poetry, nor anything else progressed. . . . Imagination is an expression of the human mind, so unless one is a genius it is only natural for mediocrity and unconscious imitation to be unavoidable. . . . The sketch from life, in contrast, copies nature, so the themes of prose and poetry based on it can change as nature does. When one looks at a work based on the sketch from life, it may seem a bit shallow; but the more one savors it, the more variety and depth it reveals. The sketch from life has defects of course . . . but not nearly as many as imagination.

     kaboocha yori nasu muzukashiki shasei kana

          Sketching from life —
          eggplants are harder to do
          than pumpkins

                    — trans. Burton Watson, Masaoki Shiki, Selected Poems #140

Shiki’s Legacy

In closing, I wanted to share a few thoughts about the status of shasei in Western haiku today. Sad to report, the term shasei has become one of some contempt, and in the past few years a number of authors have been outdoing themselves in trying to heap abuse on poor sick Shiki and his monumental work in haiku reform a hundred-plus years ago. This view is suggested by Akiko Sakaguchi in Blithe Spirit:

The way of shasei reinvigorated hokku which had become stereotyped at that time. So it can be said that there was a gap between hokku before Shiki and haiku after him. But now shasei-ku itself has become stereotyped, so many of us are looking for a fresh way of making haiku. The future will not appear suddenly without the past, it will evolve from the past. It is useful to stand back and take a long view of haiku in the world.33

The Australian Dhugal Lindsay, who lives and works in Japan and writes haiku in Japanese, provided a thoughtful insight into the problem in a 2003 interview with Robert Wilson in Simply Haiku:

The essence of haiku that I admire is the search for fundamental Truths. Many shasei-type haiku introduce facts but not Truths. I believe such Truths can even be found in the absence of facts, although they are much more readily found in our relationships with entities from the natural world. . . .
Although many excellent haiku written using the “shasei” (sketching-from-life) technique exist, more than often they fail. This is because they attempt to capture facts first, as concrete objects, and pin them down into the word-vessel that is haiku. The haiku that “work” are then preened from the rest, resulting in a large proportion of so-what haiku with only a few gems that have serendipitously managed to approach a Truth. This is of course a valid technique for writing quality haiku, provided that the poet possesses the where-with-all to filter out the successful haiku from the bad.34

Lindsay does not say so in this interview, but this process of selecting a subject, writing as many haiku about it as possible — dozens or hundreds — then culling the clunkers was exactly what Shiki advocated and often practiced himself! I would observe that Lindsay seems to be focusing on what we might call Stage I shasei, the earliest of Shiki’s ideas rather than the more developed “selective realism” and makoto, but he does articulate the notion of “truthiness.”

Typically, criticism of shasei collapses Shiki’s aesthetic schema into a photographic representation of Nature while bemoaning the absence of imagination and subjectivity — the human dimension. Reviewers and editors have started criticizing one or another haiku using phrases such as “this haiku is merely shasei” or “poet X rarely expands past shasei,” meaning that the verse in question is purely descriptive, flat, and lacking resonance or any particular interest. Shasei has become a dirt clod to be flung at ho-hum haiku.

Randy Brooks writes about the issue in his review in Modern Haiku 40.1 (Winter–Spring 2009) of Richard Gilbert’s Poems of Consciousness. Note his use of the flag phrases “merely shasei” and “mere snapshot”:

          out of the water ...
          out of itself.

                    — Nicholas Virgilio (1963)

One might claim that most American haiku are merely shasei haiku. Nicholas Virgilio’s “lily out of the water” haiku is just an observation about the way water lilies grow and bloom. Where else other than out of the water could a water lily grow and where else other than itself could it bloom? The significance is not in the shasei, but in the wordless part of the haiku — the pauses, the silences, the unspoken associations. In other words, using Shirane’s conception, one can misread haiku by assuming that the horizontal surface of perceptions evident in the images is all that is there in the haiku, ignoring the deeper significance found in the language, expression, syntax, cultural associations, implied social contexts, spaces, gaps, and the silences before, within, and after the words. So misreading can be abused in order merely to ridicule or seek a lack of significance, just as the art of reading calls for readers to expect more than a mere snapshot.

The pace of this criticism has recently picked up and Shiki and shasei, far from remaining shining examples for 20th-century haiku, are now being painted as the cause of its downfall.

Ken Jones, writing in Blithe Spirit,35 for example, comes to the gloomy conclusion, “The ‘sketches from life’ tradition is so deeply ingrained in poets, editors, reviewers and judges that it seems possible that English language haiku may have no literary future, and remain an eccentric, self-limiting byway on the poetry landscape.” Jones tips his hand a bit, revealing that he wishes haiku to come closer to and be accepted into mainstream poetry. In this he echoes Haruo Shirane in his address to Haiku North America 1999 in Evanston, Illinois, when he supports the use in haiku of poetic devices that we think of as Western: “Without the use of metaphor, allegory, and symbolism, haiku will have a hard time achieving the complexity and depth necessary to reach mainstream poetry audiences and to become the object of serious study and commentary.”36

Whether or not this fusion is possible or desirable is, it would seem to me, moot.

The same issue of Blithe Spirit carries the second part of Jim Kacian’s paper presented at International Haiku Poetry Conference and Festival at SUNY Plattsburgh in 2008.37 Kacian plays fast and loose with the facts and the chronology in this piece. He sums up the influence of Shiki and shasei on Western haiku in these words:

The West came to haiku at the only time in its long and estimable history when it had adopted an objectivist orientation. Never mind that objectivism is philosophically untenable, that there is no way to prove through language the existence of any sort of reality “out there.” Even more implausibly, the whole grounding of the traditional art of haiku, according to Shiki, was now to be based on an imported western construct. And haiku has suffered for it ever since.

We might point out that the use of the term “objectivist” is particularly curious here. It has associations in the West with the literary movement that in the 1930s grew out of Imagism or, even more unfortunately, the political theories of Ayn Rand. It is my understanding, moreover, that Objectivists do not try to prove the existence of a reality “out there” as much as seek to value the poem itself as an objective reality and focus — literally, as in an optical objective lens — on its creation. Rather, as we saw in the quote about Ruskin above, “The goal of Ruskinian realism is the creation of a responsible relationship between the viewer and the real by way of the art object.” I am not competent to interpret Japanese literary criticism, but to my knowledge, none of the Western scholars who have written about Shiki’s work — Keene, Ueda, Shirane, et al. — use such terminology. Finally, Shiki was trying, as we have discussed here, to reconcile traditional Japanese philosophy with popular literature. Clearly he was influenced in this quest by the ideas of Spencer and, I’m sure, Ruskin, but I have seen no evidence to support Kacian’s implication that Shiki pursued his reform agenda because it was an imported Western construct.

Another of these new critics of shasei is Scott Metz. In an extensive review of the anthology of gendai (modern) haiku, Haiku Universe for the 21st Century, Metz quotes the Shirane piece twice and Richard Gilbert once (“Gendai Haiku,” on troutswirl, The Haiku Foundation blog) in rapid succession to make the point.

The effects and resonance of this modernization can of course still be very much felt today, in both Japanese and English-language haiku. Shiki’s concept of expressing his feelings in a realistic sketch (shasei), “inspired, in part, by European realism . . . [which was] then . . . re-imported back to the West as something very Japanese,” became that of the mainstream, and it remains for the most part that way today, even though “the essential lifeblood of the haiku tradition has never had anything to do with realism. . . .” and that, in fact, interpreting and composing haiku in this way “is basically a modern view of haiku.”38

There is some slippage in this line of argument, however. In determining whether realism was an essential part of Tokugawa-period haiku, Shirane seems to want it both ways. First he writes (49) “Bashō . . . would not have made such a distinction between direct personal experience and the imaginary [i.e., ‘that haiku should be based on one’s own direct experience, that it must derive from one’s own observations, particularly of nature’], nor would he have placed higher value on fact over fiction.”

Later (52) however, talking about haikai — in this case meaning haikai no renga, or renga — he writes that “[Bashō] believed that haikai should describe the world “as it is.” He was in fact part of a larger movement that was a throwback to earlier orthodox linked verse or renga.” Shirane goes on to repeat that, while he was rebelling against the “nonsense haikai” that had come into fashion by the late 17th century, Bashō did not exclude “fiction,” i.e., less than realistic subject matter. We might call attention to the fact that this was, point by point, what Shiki did for haiku in the 1890s — rescue a literary genre that had degenerated into nonsense verse and fantasy, re-ground it in reality, then go on to admit into haiku composition elements of human emotion, imagination, and subjectivity.

The upshot of all this is, I think, that Shiki is getting a bad rap. He was nothing if not a protean critic and reformer. The last ten years of his life were an amazingly productive period. His ideas evolved and changed, and he frequently contradicted himself — which is certainly a hallmark of many great thinkers. The important thing to focus upon is that his idea of shasei was not static, but rather evolved over time and, through the increasing admission of subjectivity, morphed first into “selective realism” and later makoto or poetic truth. The constant factor here was the realism, not the subject matter.

Kawahigashi Hekigotō (1873 – 1937) and Takahama Kyoshi (1874 – 1959), respectively
Kawahigashi Hekigotō (1873 – 1937) and Takahama Kyoshi (1874 – 1959)

Now it is also true that shasei had a second life in Japanese haiku history, that after Shiki’s death some of his disciples picked up the idea of sketching from life and modified it in significant ways. I think it is likely that it is the later version that is what really bends these Western critics out of shape. Recall that Hototogisu was taken over, without much enthusiasm, by Takahama Kyoshi, the disciple to whom Shiki felt the closest, and, in accordance with Kyoshi’s own interests, soon made into a general literary journal rather than a haiku organ. Some ten years later, however, Kyoshi regained interest in haiku, and Hototogisu again became a haiku journal, in fact the leading — one could say mainstream — haiku journal for decades to come.

On the other hand, a second close associate of Shiki’s, Kawahigashi Hekigotō, laid the foundations for the wholesale introduction of subjectivity in haiku. Hekigotō took over from Shiki the editorship of the influential haiku column in Nippon. His interests remained with haiku but lay in a quite new direction. In the vacuum created by the exit of Kyoshi from the haiku reform scene, Hekigotō was soon busy founding the New Trend (Shin Keiko) movement:

The aims of the New Trend Movement were to go beyond Shiki’s idea of shasei, stress the importance of direct experience and immediacy of feelings, and encouraging a subjective approach to haiku. They sought to explore human psychology, and to do so they felt they had to liberate haiku from form and abandoned traditional rules, notably the need for season words and strict syllable count.39

A number of poets most admired in Japan and abroad adhered to the New Trend movement: Ogiwara Seisensui, Nakatsuka Ippekirō, Ozaki Hōsai, Ōsuga Otsuji, and Taneda Santōka.

Meanwhile, the idea of shasei was picked up by the far more conservative Kyoshi, who made it into a rather rigid doctrine in a variant he called kyakkan shasei, or “objective shasei.” Susumu Takiguchi, the author of the only book-length biography of Kyoshi yet to appear in English, describes kyakkan shasei as follows:

According to Kyoshi, the haiku student must first try to sketch what he sees, for example flowers or birds, and grasp some kind of perception emanating from their objective features, i.e., their colours, shapes or the way they blossom or sing, which is not part of the student’s subjectivity. He then has to turn the perception thus grasped into poetic expression which hopefully will become haiku.
However, with practice and also with keener observation and heightened sensitivity the student experiences new sympathy, or interaction even, between these objects, i.e. flowers and birds or anything else, and his “heart”. At that stage, the flowers and birds are no longer apart from the student but are “fused into his heart so that they feel as though the heart is moved by them”. The end result is that the student is depicting his own perception, namely himself, by depicting the flowers and birds in the advanced application of kyakkan shasei. Here, the student will have transcended the mundane distinction between the subjective and the objective.40

Parenthetically, in the same essay we examined earlier, Ruskin, too, professes impatience with the terms “objective” and “subjective” and seeks to dispense with them in order more expeditiously “to examine the point in question, — namely, the difference between the ordinary, proper, and true appearance of things to us; and the extraordinary, or false appearances, when we are under the influence of emotion, or contemplative fancy; false appearances, I say, as being entirely unconnected with any real power or character in the object, and only imputed to it by us.”41

In the late 1920s Kyoshi propounded the notion of kachō-fūgetsu or kachōfuei (“flower-bird-wind-moon”) as fit subject matter for haiku (this is, interestingly, a word that had resonance from painting — the traditional painting school of Japanese art was called kachōga, “flower-bird painting”). Kyoshi’s inventions rapidly became dogma for the Hototogisu group. In fact, as the years went on, Kyoshi became more and more of an autocrat, with the result that many poets in his fold fled Hototogisu to start or join new movements. The essay by Richard Gilbert’s colleague Itō Yūki, “New Rising Haiku: The Evolution of Modern Japanese Haiku and the Haiku Persecution Incident,”42 almost libelous in its limning of Kyoshi as a fascist and government stooge, nonetheless makes it clear that Kyoshi had a very malevolent influence on Japanese haiku.

Kyoshi’s teachings are quite different from Shiki’s, not to mention the precepts of the New Trend movement. It is easy to dislike his kyakkan shasei not only because of its shady provenance but also because as a dogma it could only lead to stultification and regression. I would like to suggest that it is Kyoshi’s brand of shasei, not Shiki’s, that is the source of such opprobrium in the West.


We have now wandered far afield again, however, and need to re-concentrate ourselves on “things as they are,” if you’ll excuse the expression! The thing that is, is that I have run out of space.

Today we have tried to paint the contours of the greatest crosscurrent to have affected haiku in the past century — and perhaps ever — the wave of Western realism that flooded literary Japan near the end of the 19th century and the aesthetic of shasei, Masaoka Shiki’s response to it. Eddies and ripples went to the very edge of our planet and are still rebounding today.



Stephen Addiss, one of the Juxta editors, writes as follows:

Trumbull states:

Beichman writes (54): “It was under Fusetsu’s influence that Shiki added the term shasei, ‘the sketch from life,’ to the other terms he had used until then to denote realism, ari no mama ni utsusu, ‘to depict as it is,’ and shajitsu, ‘reality.’” In a later footnote (149) Beichman adds, “Shasei was originally used by artists to translate the English ‘sketch’ and French ‘dessin.’”

. . .

The common wisdom, however, is that shasei was initially a thoroughly Western notion.

I’ve done a little research. More specifically, I found that the term was used in China by the late T’ang dynasty (9th century).

In traditional China, hsieh sheng (xue shong), 写生 Japanese shasei, to paint or copy + real life, meant to paint directly from life, primarily referring to bird-and-flower, animal, and insect painting. In contrast, hsieh-i (xue yi), 写意, Japanese sha-i, to paint or copy + mind/heart/idea, meant to paint the idea or inner nature of the subject. (See Benjamin March, Some Technical Terms of Chinese Painting [New York Paragon Book Reprint Corp., 1969], 18 and 22.)

The famous “Six Laws of Painting” written by Hsieh Ho (Xue He) around 500 AD begins with ch’i-yun sheng-tung (qiyun shengdong) “spirit resonance and life movement;” it is also translated “rhythmic vitality,” and “spiritual element, life’s motion.” The third law is depicting forms, and the sixth is copying models. The emphasis on life-movement over copying forms was taken up by literati painters who wrote extensively about xue yi and did not value exact representation. For example, the famous poet-artist-calligrapher Su Shi (1037–1101) wrote:

If anyone discusses a painting in terms of formal likeness,
his understanding is nearly that of a child.

In Japan, shasei was known since the Kamakura Period (1192–1333). During the Edo Period (1600–1868) it acquired several uses, including for Dutch medical illustrations and for Western art in general. It was also used to describe realistic sketches of nature made for study purposes, often in small hand scroll or album formats. Maruyama Ōkyo 円山応挙 (1733–1795) and his Maruyama Shijō school 円山四条派 are usually associated with shasei painting, having synthesized the older decorative yamato-e やまと絵 tradition with a realistic study of nature.
So it is clear that the term shasei had been used in Japan for some time, especially in the 18th and 19th centuries, and not only for Western for Western-inspired art. Whether Shiki was aware of this I don’t know.

Trumbull replies:

I appreciate Addiss’s interesting and germane comments and am certain he is right: the idea of sketching from nature was surely known in China and Japan from ancient times. I think it is also likely that Shiki knew that fact, steeped as he was in Chinese and Japanese aesthetics. Perhaps for Shiki the (re)discovery of shasei, whatever its origins, prompted him to think, “well, everyone else seems to be doing this in painting and poetry, maybe we should be doing so in haiku too!”

  1. Presented at Haiku North America 2009, Ottawa, Ont., August 8, 2009, under the title “Crosscurrents East and West: Masaoka Shiki and the Origins of Shasei
  2. James T. Ulak, “Japanese Visual Arts,” Encyclopædia Britannica, 17:735a.
  3. Janine Beichman, Masaoki Shiki: His Life and Works. Tokyo: Kodansha, 1986, 8, quoting Shiki’s cousin Ryō.
  4. Masaoka Shiki, Selected Poems, trans. Burton Watson (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997), 1.
  5. Beichman 12.
  6. Masaoka Shiki, Peonies Kana: Haiku by the Upasaka Shiki, trans. and ed. Harold J. Isaacson (New York: Theatre Arts Books, 1972), xii.
  7. Following Beichman’s chronology.
  8. Akiko Sakaguchi suggests: “Perhaps Shiki got his knowledge of English culture through Sōseki.” See her “Travelling Haiku,” Blithe Spirit 12:3 (September 2002), 50–51. Reprinted on the Poetry Library website, uk/magazine/record.asp?id=11901; Accessed 6/19/08.
  9. From Janine Beichman-Yamamoto, trans. “Masaoka Shiki’s A Drop of Ink.” 
Monumenta Nipponica 30:3 (1975), 303–15.
  10. Shiki,”Nihon no shōsetsu,” Scribblings [no pages given
  11. Shiki, Scribblings, X: 41-42, cited in Beichman 11.
  12. Beichman, “Preface” 2.
  13. Beichman 19.
  14. Beichman 54–55.
  15. Masaoka Shiki, If Someone Asks . . .: Masaoka Shiki’s Life and Haiku, trans. Shiki-Kinen Museum English Volunteers (Matsuyama, Japan: Matsuyama Municipal Shiki-kinen Museum, 2001), 2.
  16. Akiko Sakaguchi writes in Blithe Spirit, “In Chinese poetry there was an element ganzen (before one’s eyes), similar to shasei. So there might be also an unconscious influence of Chinese poetry. In Japan there was an element keiki (mood of a scene) from before Bashō’s period, but it was a little different from shasei.”
  17. Watson, 6–7. Shiki quote is from Beichman 46.
  18. Grove Dictionary of Art;
  19. John Ruskin, Modern Painters (New York: Knopf, 1987, reprint of the original five-volume work). This quote is on page 365 (Volume III, page 209, in the original).
  20. Lawrence Buell, The Environmental Imagination: Thoreau, Nature Writing, and the Formation of American Culture (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1995); excerpted online at Environmental books?id=Nnvoh8t2nOwC&pg=PA90&lpg=PA90&dq=ruskin+selective+realism&source=bl&ots=Qnt6WWG7an&sig=tBHymaq2ftv3XARFkfSMjRTM_0&hl=en&ei=RcJMSvuyPJGoMOKfjewD&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4.
  21. Luc Herman, Concepts of Realism (Columbia, S.C.: Camden House, 1996), 30; VeHhIf6q6dMC&pg=PA20&lpg=PA20&dq=ruskin+realism+truth&source=bl&ots=23mpDjoWnz&sig=IsAe1GLjISU9MPdoqYBAvz_728s&hl=en&ei=5cdMSq-bGIn-MK_SrfED&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=7>.
  22. David Goff, “Truth and Falsehood in Ruskin’s Modern Painters” (Course notes for English and History of Art 151, Pre-Raphaelites, Aesthetes, and Decadents, Brown University, 2009); /goff3.html.
  23. “Pathetic fallacy,” Wikipedia.
  24. This passage has been excerpted by Philip V. Allingham from Carol Levine’s The Serious Pleasures of Suspense: Victorian Realism & Narrative Doubt (London and Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2003), which is reviewed elsewhere in the Victorian Web [GPL
  25. A check of the holdings of Shiki’s personal library in the records of the Matsuyama Municipal Shiki-Kinen Museum was made for the author by Kimiyo Tanaka.
  26. Masami Kimura. “Japanese Interest in Ruskin: Some Historical Trends,” in Robert Rhodes and Del Ivan Janik, eds., Studies in Ruskin: Essays in Honor of Van Akin Burd (Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 215–44), quote on p. 220.
  27. Ibid., 220–21.
  28. Makoto Ueda, Modern Japanese Poets and the Nature of Literature (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1983).
  29. Lee Gurga, “Toward an Aesthetic for English-Language Haiku,” Modern Haiku 31.3 (Fall 2000), 62.
  30. Roland Barthes, S/Z, quoted in Mark Morris, “Buson and Shiki: Part Two,” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 45:1 (June 1985), 255–321.
  31. Ueda 17.
  32. “Truthiness,” Wikipedia;; accessed June 19, 2009.
  33. Akiko Sakaguchi, “Traveling Haiku,” Blithe Spirit 12:3 (September 2002), 50–51, reprinted on the Poetry Library website,; accessed June 19, 2009.
  34. Robert Wilson, “Interview with Dhugal Lindsay,” Simply Haiku 2:3, May–June 2003;; accessed July 19, 2009.
  35. Blithe Spirit 19:2 (June 2009), 30.
  36. Haruo Shirane, “Beyond the Haiku Moment: Bashō, Buson, and Modern Haiku Myths,” Modern Haiku 31.1 (Winter–Spring 2000), 55.
  37. Blithe Spirit 19:2 (June 2009), 31.
  38. Scott Metz, “Reboot,” Modern Haiku 40.3 (Autumn 2009), 104.
  39. Quote from a short sketch of Hekigotō’s life, source lost.
  40. Susumu Takiguchi, Kyoshi: A Haiku Master (Bicester, Oxfordshire: Ami-Net International Press), 1997.
  41. Ruskin 363.
  42. Available on the Simply Haiku Web journal at and published in 2007 in book form by Red Moon Press.
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