Japan has a very rich history of poetry. When Chinese poetry was introduced to the Japanese many years ago, they slowly integrated it into their own culture. Japanese poems are known as wakas which literally means “Japanese poems.” Japanese poems are known for both their profound simplicity and the deep emotional connections to their readers. The history of Japanese poems stretches far back into history.
• Inspiration from Early Japanese Poetry
• Japanese Poetry Terms
• Japanese Poems: Wakas
One of the most famous poets is no Yasumaro, who composed poems in 712 AD and Nukata no kimi and Kakinomoto Hitomaro, whose work is mentioned in a 20-volume anthology known as Man'ysh. There were also Otomo no Tabito, Yamanoue no Okura, and Yamabe no Akahito who wrote during the Nara period (710-794). But perhaps the most well-known Japanese poet is the man known as Kobayashi Issa. Born on June 15, 1763, he was famous for his haikus. Issa was one of the four masters of haiku, the others being Shiki, Buson, and Basho. He wrote over 20,000 different haiku and helped write more than 250 renku poems.
• Haiku Examples
• Japan Culture and Heritage: Poetry
• Haiku of Kobayashi Issa
The most famous type of Japanese poem is the haiku. Today’s haiku are very short poems that consist of seventeen syllables. Interestingly, the original haiku were much longer where they used to be around 100 verses. The tanka is older than the haiku but not nearly as well-known. This format has been around for 1,300 years. Tanka used to be written after every major event in Japanese history and tended to be longer than the haiku. Tanka poems were written almost exclusively about feelings. And then there is the renga. This format was developed so that two poets could create a poem at the same time. The two poets write in alternating sections, combining them until the poem was complete. Writing renga poems was actually treated as a game.
• Japanese Poems: Tanka
• Tanka Examples
• What is a Tanka?
Then there is the jisei, the Japanese Death Poem. The Japanese believes that when a person reflects back on life near the moment of death, the mind will be able to form a clear, lucid, meaningful, observation about that existence. This observation becomes a poem and it is seen as a gift to the person’s friends and family. The tradition actually began with Zen monks but soon spread to everyone else. Jisei placed emphasis on symbols that the Japanese associated with death such as the western sky, the full moon, or even images of the season in which the composer died.
• Ogura Hyakunin Isshu: 100 Poems By 100 Poets
• Types of Japanese Poetry
• Japanese Poem Excerpts
Japanese poems are some of the most complex poems in the world and at the same time, they’re incredibly simple. Most poems focus on the world itself with themes like nature’s beauty, life and death, or things that are important to humans. They are meant to highlight the beauty of life.
• Opening Lines of the Heike monogatari
• Haiku Resources
• Japanese Poems: Haiku
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