Terebess Asia Online (TAO)





Zen Haiku by Santōka Taneda

Translated and introduced by John Stevens


Yama areba yama o miru

ame no hi ame o kiku

haru natsu aki fuyu

ashita mo yoroshi

yūbe mo yoroshi


If there are mountains, I look at the mountains;

On rainy days I listen to the rain.

Spring, summer, autumn, winter.

Tomorrow too will be good.

Tonight too is good.





Recently, a remarkable interest in the life and poetry of the mendicant Zen priest Santōka Taneda (1882-1940) has developed in Japan. Collections of Santōka's haiku and accounts of his life are being published regularly. At present, more books on Santōka are available than perhaps on any other Japanese poet, ancient or modern. In addition, he is considered to be a great Zen master much like Ikkyū, Hakuin, and Ryōkan. How is it that such an eccentric, drink-loving haiku poet came to be so highly regarded?


From a literary standpoint, Santōka's poems are generally admired for their unadorned style, representative of the "new haiku movement," but this does not explain his great popularity with all types of people, not only poets and scholars. Whatever the literary merit of his work, far more important are the special Zen qualities of simplicity (wabi), solitude (sabi), and impermanence (mujō) conveyed in a modern setting by his haiku. Poetry has often been nothing more than a pastime for many in China and Japan, so that portrayals of "Poverty," "solitude," "meditation," and so on were mere conventions. In Santōka's case, however, such themes were absolute; no one was poorer, more alone, or more anguished. Hence his poems are alive, cutting to the marrow of existence. There is no dichotomy between poetry and poet, life and emotion.


Santōka's life embodies the Zen spirit in three ways. First, since his life and poetry were one, he represents the ideal of "no duplicity." In any art or discipline it is essential to unify thought, speech, and action. Second, he did not mimic anyone else. This is rare in any society. In Japan, the life of a wandering poet is considered the most impermanent, irregular, and individualistic of all occupations. It is a life of freedom from everything: material possessions, mental concepts, social norms. Third is Santōka's simplicity of expression. In his verses there is nothing extra, no pretense, no artificiality. They can be understood at once without analysis. Sharp and direct, Santōka's haiku epitomize Zen writing: pure experience, free of intellectual coloring.


Santōka's appeal is not limited to Japan. Haiku and Zen practice are established throughout the world. As a man of the twentieth century, Santōka is close to us in thought and temperament. Fortunately, his haiku lose little in translation, so with the publication of this collection of his poems, people of all countries will now be able to share in his unique "journey into the depths of the human heart."




Shōichi Taneda--now better known as Santōka--was born in the village of Sabare in the Hōfu district of Yamaguchi Prefecture on December 3, 1882. His father, a large and impressive figure, was a landowner and active in local politics but not very good at running his business or personal affairs. Shōichi was the second child, first boy, and one more sister and two more brothers were born in the next few years.


Shōichi was good at his studies and displayed an interest in literature as early as elementary school. Unfortunately, his father was a dissolute womanizer who carried on with several mistresses at a time. When he wasn't playing with the ladies he was politicking, so he was rarely home. While he was vacationing in the mountains with one of his mistresses, his wife committed suicide by throwing herself into a well on the family property. She was thirty-three years old. Shōichi, just eleven at the time, never completely recovered from the shock of seeing his mother's lifeless body being lifted from the well, and this tragic event affected him throughout his life. Afterwards he was raised by his grandmother.


In 1896 he entered middle school and began to write traditional-style haiku. In 1902 he enrolled in the literature department of Waseda University in Tokyo. There, following the custom, he took a pen name; from then on he called himself Santōka ("Burning Mountain Peak"). He began to drink heavily, suffered a nervous breakdown, and was unable to complete the first-year requirements. In addition, his father was in financial straits and could no longer afford the tuition, so Santōka had to return home.


Santōka arrived in his home town in July 1904 at the beginning of the Russo-Japanese War. His father sold off some of the family land and purchased a sakè brewery that he opened with Santōka in 1907. Two years later, at the insistence of his father, who thought a wife might help cut down Santōka's drinking, an arranged marriage took place with Sakino Satō, a pretty girl from a neighboring village. However, the union was troubled right from the beginning, and Santōka never adjusted to married life. The following year their only child, Ken, was born.


In 1911 Santōka came under the influence of Seisensui Ogiwara ( 1884-1976), the founder of thejiyūritsu, or freestyle, school of haiku. Following the death of Shiki ( 18671903), who had revitalized and revolutionized the world of haiku, there were two main streams in the haiku world: one working in a more or less traditional form using modern themes, and the other, the shinkeikō, or new-development, movement, which abandoned the standard 5-7-5 syllable pattern and the obligatory use of a word to indicate the season, or kigo. In April 1911 Seisensui established the magazine Sōun to expound the theory that it is necessary for a poet to express what is in his heart in his own language without regard to any fixed form. Seisensui felt that haiku should be an impression of one's inner experiences; individual symbolism is most important. Seisensui stressed jiyū (freedom), jiko (self), and shizen (nature), together with the elements of chikara (strength) and hikari (brightness), for his new haiku. Seisensui was influenced by European literature, especially Goethe and Schiller, and his poetry was essentially a combination of Japanese sensitivity and Western expressionism. However, it was neither agnostic nor scientific like much of the other new haiku. Haiku is a "way" rather than mere literature or art. Such a highly individualistic and subjective theory was criticized by many traditionalists, but it greatly appealed toSantōka. Beginning in 1913, Santōka became one of the main contributors to Sōun and the free-style school.


Seven of Santōka's verses were printed in 1913, and the following year Santōka met Seisensui for the first time at a poetry meeting. Santōka was active composing poetry and essays for the next few years and became an editor of Sōun in 1916. In the meantime, however, the sakè brewery was turning into a disaster. The father continued to run around with women, and the son kept drinking up what little profit they occasionally made. More and more family property was sold off to prop up the brewery. In 1915 the entire stock spoiled, and in April the next year the brewery went bankrupt and the Taneda family lost everything. The father fled one night with one of his mistresses, while Santōka and his family moved to Kumamoto City, where one of his friends offered to help him.


Santōka originally planned to open a secondhand bookstore, but that failed to work out, so his wife took over and started a store specializing in picture frames. Santōka continued his heavy drinking, and the marriage deteriorated. In 1918 his younger brother Jirō committed suicide (his other brother had died in infancy), another shock for the high-strung poet.


Santōka and his wife drifted apart, and in 1919 he decided to go to Tokyo to seek work. His first job was a part-time position with a cement firm. Later he found a temporary position as a clerk in the Hitotsubashi municipal library. Santōka and his wife were legally divorced in 1920. Sakino continued to operate the store and raise their son. The following year Santōka's father died. Santōka was offered a permanent position at the library and he accepted. Unfortunately, he proved no better at this job than at making sakè. He suffered another nervous breakdown and was forced to retire a year and a half after he began. On September 1, 1923, the Great Kantō Earthquake struck Tokyo and destroyed much of the city. Santōkaescaped injury, but his boardinghouse was reduced to rubble. He decided to return to Kumamoto, where he helped his former wife with the store.


Near the end of December 1924, Santōka, drunk and apparently intent on committing suicide, stood in the middle of some railroad tracks facing an oncoming train. The train screeched to a halt just in time, and Santōka was pulled out of the way. He was taken to a nearby Zen temple called Hōon-ji. The head priest there, Gian Mochizuki Oshō, did not reprimand or question Santōka: he didn't even ask his name. The monk fed Santōka and told him he could stay at the temple as long as he wished.


Santōka had long been interested in Zen. He had attended several lectures of the famous Zen master Kōdō Sawaki Rōshi in Kumamoto and had spent most of his spare time at the library in Tokyo reading books on Buddhism. Under Gian's direction Santōka sat in Zen meditation, chanted sutras, and worked around the temple. In 1925, at the age of forty-two, Santōka was ordained a Zen priest under the name Kōho after a Chinese Zen priest also named Taneda (Chung-t'ien in Chinese pronunciation) who was famous for cultivating a small rice field to raise enough food to support himself. Gian explained that Kōho Taneda is one who plows and cultivates the field of his heart.


Santōka's ex-wife Sakino joined the Methodist Church and became an active member soon afterSantōka entered the temple. She never remarried, and Santōka continued to visit her and help with the store from time to time for the rest of his life.


After Santōka was ordained, Gian arranged for him to stay at Mitori Kannon-dō, a small temple on the outskirts of Kumamoto. Santōka supported himself by begging in the neighborhood, occasionally making longer trips to visit his friends in nearby towns. After a year of living alone in the temple, Santōka decided to make a pilgrimage. His first intention was to train at Eihei-ji, the head temple of the Sōtō Zen school, but he apparently realized it would be difficult for him as a forty-three-year-old man to practice with a group of priests in their early twenties, most of whom were putting in the required time in order to someday inherit their family temples. Santōka's monastery turned out to be the back roads and mountain paths of the countryside.


In April 1926 he started out on his first pilgrimage. His only possessions were his black priest's robe, his begging bowl, and his kasa, a large woven straw hat worn by traveling monks to shield them from the sun and rain. For the next four years Santōka was on a continual journey throughout southern Honshu, Kyushu, and Shikoku. He prayed at innumerable shrines and temples, visited famous sites, met with his friends, and attended poetry meetings. After a lapse of almost five years his poems began to appear in Sōun again.


In December 1930 he returned to Kumamoto and rented a small room. With the help of some friends who were publishers, he put out three issues of a little magazine called Sambaku, named after his boardinghouse. Six months after moving into Sambakukyo he was taken into custody for public drunkenness. (This requires some effort, since Japanese are very tolerant of drunkards.) He stayed at the picture-frame shop for a few months and then began another series of trips. In 1932, his friends found a small cottage for him in the mountain village of Ogōri in Yamaguchi Prefecture. Santōka called it Gochū-an after a verse in the Lotus Sutra. * The cottage was rather dilapidated yet spacious, with three rooms, a well, and a tiny field surrounded by many fruit trees. He posted this sign:





 This verse refers to one member of a large group telling the others to call on the name of Kanzeon Bosatsu, the goddess of compassion; then all will be saved from calamities.



--If you bring your favorite sweet or sour food with you

--And dance and sing unreservedly with the gentleness of the spring wind and autumn streams

--Without putting on airs or being downhearted, all will share great happiness.


This year also marked the publication of his first collection of haiku, Hachi no Ko (The Begging Bowl), produced by a friend's small publishing house.


From 1932 to 1938 Santōka divided his time between Gochū-an and traveling. He made trips to Hiroshima, Kobe, Kyoto, and Nagoya. In 1934 he fell ill and returned to his hermitage, Gochū-an. Sick and penniless, he contemplated suicide for a time but abandoned the idea after regaining his health, and began an eight-month journey to northern Honshu, retracing much of the route taken by the famous haiku-poet Bashō ( 1644-94) as described in Oku no Hosomichi (Narrow Road to the Deep North). During this period he published more issues of his journal Sambaku, in addition to putting out four more collections of his poetry: Sōmokutō (Grass and Tree Stupa, 1933), Sangyō Suigyō (Flowing with Mountains and Rivers, 1935), Zassō Fūkei (Weedscapes, 1936), and Kaki no Ha (Persimmon Leaves, 1938).


When he was staying at Gochū-an, he often had visitors from all parts of the country. Occasionally poetry meetings were held there. However, in 1938 Gochū-an literally collapsed and Santōka moved to a small hut in Yuda Hot Springs about eight miles away. He remained there a few months, set out on another trip, returned briefly, and then was off again. In December 1939 he settled down in Matsuyama City, Ehime Prefecture, in a little cottage that he named Issō-an, One Blade of Grass Hut.


In 1940 an expanded version of Sōmokutō was published containing selections from his previous works, including a sixth collection entitled Kōkan (Isolation) and published in 1939. His seventh and final collection, Karasu (Crows), was brought out in 1940 a few months afterSōmokutō.


Early in October 1940 a poetry meeting was held at Issō-an. The members of the group gathered at Issō-an, but found Santōka quite intoxicated, so they moved to a nearby member's house. They looked in on Santōka before they left and found him sleeping soundly. Uneasy, the wife of one of his friends went to see Santōka the next morning and discovered that he had departed on his final journey during the early morning hours of October 11, 1940.




Santōka is said to have walked more than BEGGAR twenty-eight thousand miles during his travels as a wandering monk. His initial trips, especially the first one to Shikoku to visit the eightyeight shrines and temples associated with the Buddhist saint Kōbō Daishi ( Kūkai; 774-835), were pilgrimages to pray for the repose of his mother's troubled spirit. Later on, however, many of his trips were made without any particular destination.


Sate dochira e ikō kaze ga fuku

Well, which way should I go?

The wind blows.


Renouncing the world, drifting here and there, living close to nature, settling now and then in a hermitage, and dying alone is a type of spirituality especially appreciated by the Japanese. Many of their favorite poets, priests, and artists were wanderers--Saigyō, Ippen Shōnin, Bashō, Sesshū, Enkū, to name a few. A life of travel is an abandoning of all that seems permanent or stable; life is reduced to absolute essentials, in the present moment, free of ordinary restrictions or constraints.


Whenever Santōka attempted to settle down, he was unable to do so for more than a few months. He wrote: "Too much contact with people brings conflict, hatred, and attachment. To rid myself of inner conflicts and hatred I must walk."


Nigoreru mizu no nagaretsutsu sumu

As muddy water flows

It becomes clear.


Walking through the mountains and along the seacoast accompanied by butterflies and dragonflies, he had a rhythm in his stride that made poetry writing easier--one breath, one step, one verse. In another sense, traveling is a continuous search for our real home, the furusato Santōka so often speaks of in his poems.


Santōka was seeking freedom: "To do what I want, and not to do what I don't--this is why I entered such a life." Japan was gearing toward the tragedy of World War II, and the government demanded conformity from all its citizens. Santōka passively resisted by letting his body and mind wander freely.


Once a reporter was interviewing one of Santōka's poet friends when Santōka happened to arrive unannounced. The reporter told Santōka: "If everyone lived like you, society would be in big trouble." Santōka smiled and said: "I'm one of society's warts, it's true. A big black wart on the face is hideous, but a small one is no problem. Sometimes people even have affection for their little blemishes. Please think of me like that."


Like Bashō, Santōka noted that "when you travel you truly come to understand human beings, poetry, and nature." Santōka was more extreme than Bashō, completely giving himself to mujō (impermanence) and sabi (solitude). Santōka was a beggar-monk who always traveled alone, flowing with the clouds and water.


He would generally beg for about three hours every day. Stopping to chant in front of a house, more often than not he would be chased away and verbally, and sometimes physically, abused. Usually he had to visit from fifteen to twenty homes (as the depression deepened he had to make thirty or more stops) before he had received enough for a day. As soon as he had received just enough rice and money for one day's food and lodging, he would stop immediately and go to the cheapest inn he could find. He never provided for the next day. "How can you be a beggar if you have extra money?" he asked.


Santōka would gratefully accept whatever was placed in his bowl, regardless of the quantity or quality. "Begging with a heart full of gratitude and respect, I hope to find the world of unlimited life and light. My pilgrimage is into the depths of the human heart. Begging is mutual gratitude and charity, the basis of society." Once an old woman mistakenly put a five-sen coin, a fairly large amount in those days, inSantōka's bowl. Later, after leaving the village, Santōka discovered the error; he walked back to the village, found the old woman, and returned the coin.


However, Santōka's begging was rather different from that of Ryōkan Oshō ( 1758-1831), the famous beggar-monk-poet of Echigo, who frequently left his begging bowl by the side of the road while he tossed a ball with the village children, played marbles with the local geishas, or picked flowers. When someone mentioned this contrast to Santōka, he replied: "My passions are too deep to do such a thing. If I don't have a begging bowl, I can't live. Therefore, I never forget my bowl."


It is rather remarkable that Santōka never fell seriously ill during his begging trips. When he did get sick, he recovered in one of two ways. Once when he developed a high fever, he was forced to lie down on the ground. An old woman came over to him and said: "I'll give you an offering if you recite the Shushōgi (excerpts from the writings of Dōgen Zenji) and the Kannon Sutra." Santōka staggered to his feet and began chanting. Totally absorbed in the words, he forgot about the old woman, his sickness, and the offering. After finishing forty minutes later, he felt completely recovered from his fever.


Another time in freezing weather he drank a great deal of sakè to keep warm and suddenly became violently ill, suffering from liver trouble. He was taken to a hospital and placed on a strict regimen of bitter medicine and no sakè. Santōka did not care for that, so he escaped from the hospital, went to the nearest shop, drank two cups of sakè, ate some yudōfu (boiled soybean cake), and was restored.


On his trips Santōka rose at 4:30, bathed, chanted the morning service, ate a tiny breakfast, and started out on a begging trip. When he had received enough, he would either return to the inn or move on to the next place, depending on his mood. He might even stay as long as a month if he liked the area and if the food and lodging were cheap.


Santōka usually received about thirty-five sen from his begging. The charge for a room at an inn ranged from twentyfive to thirty-five sen. Anything extra went for sakè, small amounts of tobacco, or post cards to send to his friends. He often shared his meager take with other beggars. Santōka described one of his favorite places like this: "The food is very cheap here, the salvation of this old hobo. Raw fish is five sen a plate, tempura five sen, yudoōfu two sen. Even a drunkard like me can become a Buddha in this very body for thirty sen." He described his greatest happiness as "one room, one person, one light, one desk, one bath, and one cup of sakè."


Every evening he recorded in his journal the name of the inn, the sights he had seen, the money received from begging, his expenses for that day, and then the haiku he had written, together with his reflections. His journal was his self-portrait. In his travels he "touched this and that and recorded the mind's changing impressions." He poured his life into his haiku and journals, writing down his most intimate thoughts and arguing with himself. Occasionally he felt too attached to his journals; then he would burn them or throw them away. (Similarly, before he left Gochū-an he burned the few possessions he had accumulated.)


In his last journals we find these two entries that sum up his life: "This is the path I must follow--there is no other road for me to walk on. It is a path containing both pleasure and pain. It is far off yet definite. It is very narrow and steep. However, it is also a white path [of purity], full of amazing and wonderful things. It is not a cold and lifeless way.


"I am nothing other than a beggar-monk. There is nothing you can say about me except that I am a foolish pilgrim who spent his entire life wandering, like the drifting water plants that float from shore to shore. It appears pitiful, but I find happiness in this destitute, quiet life. Water flows, clouds move, never stopping or settling down. When the wind blows, the leaves fall. Like the fish swimming or the birds flying, I walk and walk, going on and on."


The day before his death Santōka went to visit a friend and told him: "After the poetry meeting tomorrow I'll be starting out on a journey. I want to throw myself into nature one last time. I haven't got long to live, and I want to be like the sparrows or wild elephants who die alone quietly in the fields."




Days I don't enjoy:

Any day I don't walk.

Any day I don't drink sakè.

Any day I don't compose haiku.


Sakè, Zen, and haiku were the three main elements of Santōka's life; they were always present together, often inter-changeable and sometimes indistinguishable.


Santōka's Zen was not the sitting Zen (zazen) of Dōgen or the kōan Zen of Rinzai. It was "walking Zen." Santōka was very much like the Chinese monks of old who practiced walking rather than sitting meditation, gaining realization through contact with nature on long pilgrimages from one mountain temple to another. Such monks were solitary figures, attached to no institution or master. Walking was their zazen:


Without anger, without speaking,

Without covetousness,

Walk slowly, walk steadily!


while begging was the discipline of killing selfish desires:


Pierce the poverty of the poorest man,

Throw yourself into the most foolish foolishness.

Rather than imitate anyone else

Use the nature you were born with.


In his travels Santōka attempted to accept everything that came his way without clinging to ideas of self and others, true or false, good or bad, life or death. This was not easy. "Adherence to things material and spiritual prevents me from being as free as the wind or flowing water."


Sutekirenai nimotsu no omosa mae ushiro

Baggage I cannot throw off,

So heavy front and back.


Although Gian was a priest of the Sōtō Zen school, which emphasizes zazen and careful attention to detail, he understood Santōka's character and did not try to direct him into any established routine or practice. He gave Santōka a copy of the Mumonkan, a collection of kōans from Chinese Zen masters, to study on his travels. As it turned out, Santōka did meet many people (including the old woman that made him chant sutras when he was ill) who confronted him with various questions about Buddhism. One such dialogue went:


"Where is the Way?" a fellow traveler demanded.

"Under your feet. Straight ahead.

You are standing on it right now," Santōka replied.

"Where is the mind?"

"Everyday mind is the Way. When tea
 is offered, drink it; when rice is
served, eat it. Respect your parents
and look after your children. Mind is
not inside or outside."


Santōka made the following list, which might be entitled "My Religion":


My Three Precepts:

Do not waste anything.

Do not get angry.

Do not complain.


My Three Vows:

Do not attempt the impossible.

Do not feel regret for the past.

Do not berate oneself.


My Three Joys:





The one traditional Zen practice that Santōka was very careful about was being satisfied with any amount and not wasting anything. There are two well-known stories about Santōka living by this precept told by Sumita Ōyama, Santōka's close friend, editor, and biographer.


The first time Ōyama saw some of Santōka's poems in Sōun he immediately wanted to meet him. However, Ōyama knew that Santōka was continually on the road and difficult to contact. When Ōyama heard that Santōka was staying at Gochū-an, he wrote to him and arranged for a visit.


Soon after Ōyama arrived at Gochū-an, Santōka said to him: "You must be hungry. Here, I've made some lunch for you." He gave Ōyama a bowl of boiled rice and one hot pepper for seasoning. Santōka told Ōyama to please begin eating. When Ōyama suggested they eat together, Santōka said: "I have only one bowl."


After Ōyama finished his meal, Santōka took the bowl and ate the remainder of the rice and hot pepper. He then rinsed out the bowl in a bucket of water, took the water to wash off the floor and entranceway, and then went out to the garden with the remaining water. He called out: "Onions! Spinach! It's been a long time since you had some good food. Here's some special fertilizer for you."


Another time Ōyama had to spend the night at Gochū-an. There was naturally only one sleeping quilt, and Santōka insisted: "You are my guest. You use the quilt. I'll stay up." The quilt was little more than a ragged piece of cloth that would barely cover a child, let alone a full-grown man. As the winter wind blew in through the many holes in the walls and ceilings, Ōyama became colder and colder and was unable to sleep. Santōka put his priest's robe, his summer kimono, and several other pieces of cloth on top of Ōyama, but he was still cold. Finally, Santōka piled all his old magazines and even his little desk on top of his shivering friend. The next morning when Ōyama awoke, Santōkawas still sitting in zazen.


Santōka was used to sharing anything he had. One night, as Santōka prepared for another dinnerless evening, a large dog came to his door carrying a big rice cake in its mouth. Santōka had no idea where the dog or the rice cake had come from. He took the rice cake, split it in two and gave half to the dog, who then ran off into the darkness. As soon as the dog was gone a little cat came up to Santōka and begged for some of the rice cake. Santōka split it again.


Aki noyo ya inu kara morattari neko ni ataetari

Autumn night--

I received it from the dog

And gave it to the cat.


These two gathas (Buddhist poems written in Chinese) describe Santōka's Zen:


Spring wind, autumn rain;

Flowers bloom, grass withers.

Self-nature is self-foolishness.

Walking on and on in the Buddha Land.


Intoxication has come as I lie on a stone pillow;

The sound of the valley stream never ceases.

Everything within the sakè, completely used up:

No self, no Buddha!


Sakè was Santōka's kōan. He said that "to comprehend the true taste of sakè will give me satori." He attempted to completely efface himself through drinking, a practice not unknown among certain types of Zen monks. Sitting for hours in zazen in a monastery is difficult but perhaps not as difficult as wandering through distant villages without money or food. Casting off body and mind through sitting and solving kōans is arduous training but so is truly using up everything within the sakè: "When I drink sakè I do so with all my heart. I throw myself recklessly into sakè drinking."


There is no point in romanticizing Santōka's alcoholism, however. He himself struggled with this problem for many years and never solved his greatest kōan. On several occasions he was even arrested for public drunkenness and vagrancy. He owed all of his friends money. Yet despite this and all his other weaknesses, we still can find a profundity and clarity in his poems that speak of a certain measure of enlightenment. He had little self-pride, the last and greatest obstacle to satori.


Santōka admitted that he could do only three things: walk, drink sakè, and make haiku. Sakè and haiku were almost identical:


Sakè for the body, haiku for the heart;

Sakè is the haiku of the body,

Haiku is the sakè of the heart.


Furthermore, haiku for Santōka was written Zen--spontaneous, sharp, clear, simple, direct. There must be nothing extra, no artifice, no straining. Haiku is like a kiai, the sudden resonant shout of a swordsman.* Since haiku flows from the depths of one's being, how can we be overly concerned with predetermined structure or theme? The most important element in Santōka's haiku is self-expression: "Haiku is not a shriek, a howl, a sigh, or a yawn; rather, it is the deep breath of life. In poetry we constantly examine life, occasionally shouting but never groaning. Sometimes tears fall, other times sweat flows; at all times we must savor each experience and move on without being obstructed by circumstances.


"Real haiku is the soul of poetry. Anything that is not actually present in one's heart is not haiku. The moon glows, flowers bloom, insects cry, water flows. There is no place we cannot find flowers or think of the moon. This is the essence of haiku. Go beyond the restrictions of your era, forget about purpose or meaning, separate yourself from historical limitations--there you'll find the essence of true art, religion, and science."


We can see from the above that while others maintained haiku to be literature or art, Santōka felt that haiku was life itself. He carved himself into each verse; creating haiku was his samadhi, a transcendent state of total absorption in his surroundings. "Sometimes clear, sometimes cloudy. Clear or cloudy I compose each verse in a state of body and mind cast off (shinjindatsuraku)."


Just before his death he wrote: "Every day I find myself in great difficulty. I don't know if I'll eat today or not. Death is approaching. The only thing I am able to do is to make poetry. Even if I don't eat or drink I cannot stop writing haiku. For me, to live is to make haiku. Haiku is my life".





 When composing a verse let there not be a hair's breadth separating your mind from what you write; composition of a poem must be done in an instant, like a woodcutter felling a huge tree or a swordsman leaping at a dangerous enemy."--Bashō






More than ten percent of Santōka's haiku concern water--being drenched with it, flowing with it, bathing in it, listening to it, drinking it. Japan is a wet, humid country surrounded by the sea and full of hot springs. Rain is the constant companion of Japanese travelers. Many of Santōka's verses describe the various possibilities of being soaked. Snowfall is rare in southern Japan, where Santōka spent most of his life, but winter rain is perhaps more chilling.


The water (in those days) was pure, good tasting, and abundant. Santōka's greatest joy was drinking cold water at the end of a day's journey and warm sakè at night. For a time he thought he even preferred water to sakè. His diet--water, rice, sakè, umeboshi (pickled plum), takuan (pickled radish), yudōfu--consisted of the simplest, most common, and least expensive Japanese foods; yet when properly savored they are the most delicious and nourishing foods there are.


Water was a symbol of his life and poetry--ever-flowing, plain, simple, uncomplicated.


Hyōhyō to shite mizu o ajiwau

Aimlessly, buoyantly,

Drifting here and there,

Tasting the pure water.


Santōka's next favorite theme was weeds and wild grasses. He often compared himself (and human beings in general) to weeds. "Sprouting, growing, blooming, seeding, and withering, just as weeds, nothing more--that is good." Weeds are everywhere, uncultivated, living with all their might, until they wither away, die, and are reborn again the following spring.


Shinde shimaeba zassō ame furu

When I die:

Weeds, falling rain.


If weeds represent human existence, mountains are the world of Buddha--vast, remote, sublime. Water and weeds are close to us, touchable, comprehensible; mountains appear mysterious, difficult to grasp.


Wake itte mo wake itte mo aoi yama

Going deeper

And still deeper--

The green mountains.


Although mountains seem to be impenetrably high and wide, Santōka threw himself into their depth. "Westerners like to conquer mountains; Orientals like to contemplate them. As for me, I like to taste the mountains."





"Today my path was wonderful. I wanted to shout out to the mountains, the sea, and the sky. The sound of the waves, the birds, the pure water--I'm grateful for everything. The sun shone brightly and the number of pilgrims increases daily. The memorials, the bridges, the shrines, and the cliffs were so beautiful. My rice was like food from heaven."


Santōka centered his life on the things directly in front of him. "Truth is seeing the new in the ordinary. Settle in this world. There are hidden treasures in the present moment." In his poetry he concerned himself with the simplest and most commonplace materials, for he understood that while "rice won't make you drunk, the essence of the rice will."


For Santōka any subject was suitable for poetry. Consequently, we find poems on almost every conceivable theme-nature, society, life and death, weeds, sex, the human body and its functions, the taste of water, sakè, and rice. Everything but history: "Do not be attached to the past or wait for the future. Be grateful for each day, that is enough. I do not believe in a future world. I deny the past. I believe entirely in the present. Employ your entire body and mind in the eternal now."





Perhaps the most attractive aspect of Santōka's haiku is the utter simplicity of his verses. Since he never uses literary or historical allusions, or refined expressions, and keeps to everyday language, the words of his haiku are easy to understand. Naturally, the inner meaning of his poems is more subtle, but it is never convoluted or involved. Hence most of his haiku can be translated more or less directly into plain conversational English.


Unfortunately, the beautiful rhythm, assonance, and onomatopoeia of many of the poems cannot be satisfactorily reproduced in English. Therefore I have included romanizations of the Japanese originals. Santōka's poems, and haiku in general, are printed in one line with the reader supplying the pauses. Following that custom, the Japanese originals appear in one line without punctuation. Although Santōka's haiku were written in an extremely free style with regard to the 5-7-5-syllable pattern, many seem to fall into a two-line pattern, which I have reproduced, occasionally using three lines where I felt it was warranted either by the Japanese original or the English translation. At all times, my basic criterion for translating has been, "How would Santōka say this in English?" My purpose has been to recreate Santōka's feelings in a good free-style English haiku that can stand by itself as a valid poem. Absolutely no effort has been made to analyze the poems from a literary or any other standpoint.


The poems are not arranged in any order, although some poems are grouped under a single theme. Haiku have been taken both from Santōka's published collections and from his journals.








Kono michi shika nai hitori de aruku.

No path but this one-- / I walk alone.




Enten o itadaite koiaruku.

Begging: I accept / The blazing sun.




Matsu wa mina eda tarete namu Kanzeon.

The pine branches hang down / Heavy with the chant: / Hail to the Bodhisattva of Compassion!

This was written in Santōka's first hermitage on the grounds of Mitori Kannon-dō, a temple dedicated to Kanzeon (Kannon) Bosatsu (Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva).




Matsu kaze ni ake kure no kane tsuite.

The wind in the pines / Morning and evening / Carries the sound of the temple bell.

One of Santōka's duties at Mitori was to strike the small temple bell every day at 6 A.M. and 6 P. M.




Ame o tamete baketsu ippai no kyo wa kototaru.

The bucket full of rain: / It's enough for today.




Asa tsuyu shittori ikitai hō e iku.

Wet with morning dew, / I go in the direction I want.




Nami no oto shigurete kurashi.

Darkness, / Wet with / The sound of the waves.




Ochikakaru tsuki o mite iru ni hitori.

Alone I watch the moon / Sink behind the mountains.   




Damatte kyō no waraji haku.

Silently, I put on / Today's straw sandals.

Straw sandals wear out quickly, and pilgrims generally carry several pairs with them. Santōka pondered various kōans as he walked along, and on this particular occasion he felt especially resolute as he put on a fresh pair of sandals.




Massugu na michi de samishii.

This straight road, / Full of loneliness.




Nagedashite mada hi no aru ashi.

Stretching out my feet; / Some daylight still remains.




Ate mo naku fumiaruku kusa wa mina karetari.

Aimlessly, / I walk through the withered grass.




Shumpa no hachi no ko hitotsu.

In the spring wind, / One small begging bowl.

Begging bowls are often made of iron rather than wood so that they will be more durable. Santōka's was a large one holding one shō (1.8 liters) of sakè or water when not being used to carry rice or receive money. Generally, people in the towns give small coins, while those in the country give rice.




Teppatsu chirikuru ha o uketa.

My begging bowl / Accepts the fallen leaves.




Aki atsui teppatsu de okome ga ippai.

Autumn heat-- / My begging bowl / Is full of rice.




Teppatsu no naka e mo arare.

Hailstones, too, / Enter my begging bowl.




Haru wa yuku hachi no ko motte doko made mo.

Spring-- / Walking with my begging bowl / Until the end.




Wake itte mo wake itte mo aoi yama.

Going deeper-- / And still deeper. / The green mountains.

This was written in early summer in the mountains of Kumamoto Prefecture and is perhaps Santoka's best-known poem. Deeper and deeper into the human heart without being able to fathom its depth.




Dō shiyō mo nai watashi ga aruite iru.

There is nothing else I can do; / I walk on and on.




Horohoro yōte ko no ha furu.

Slightly tipsy; / The leaves fall / One by one.

A kasa is a large woven straw hat worn by traveling monks to shield them from the sun and rain.




Mattaku kumo ga nai kasa o nugi.

Not a cloud anywhere; / I take off my kasa.




Yama o miru kyō ichinichi wa kasa o kaburazu.

Looking at the mountains; / All day no need / To put on my kasa.




Kasa ni tombo o tomarasete aruku.

The dragonflies / Perch on my kasa / As I walk along.




Yama shizukanareba kasa o nugu.

If the mountains are peaceful, / I remove my kasa.




Kasa e pottori tsubaki datta.

Oh! A big camellia / Bounced off my kasa.




Kasa mo moridashita ka.

Has my kasa / Also begun to leak?




Ushiro sugata no shigurete yuku ka.

From the back, / Walking away soaking wet?

Santōka has said goodbye to his friends who have come to see him off. He turns and begins to walk away in the pouring rain wondering to himself: "What a sight I must be."




Yakisutete nikki no hai no kore dake ka.

These few ashes / Are all that remain / Of my diary?



The following three poems were written one night when Santōka was staying at a small inn. There wasn't enough space for all the travelers, and Santōka was put up in a tiny room with four other men.




Minna nete shimatte yoi tsukiyo ka na.

Everyone else is sound asleep; / A bright moonlit night.




Gekkō amaneku hoshii mama naru mushi noyoru da.

Just as I hoped: / Moonlight everywhere, / A night for insects.




Nobashita ashi ni fureta tonari wa Shikoku no hito.

Stretching out my feet, / They touch the man from Shikoku.

Santōka was staying at a small inn. There wasn't enough space for all the travelers, and Santōka was put up in a tiny room with four other men.




Mono kou ie mo naku nari yama ni wa kumo.

No more houses to beg from; / The clouds cover the mountains.




Ie o motanai aki ga fukō natta.

I have no home; / Autumn deepens.




Kuchite mainichi hokorobiru tabi no hōe da.

Daily torn and tattered, / Turning to shreds: / My robe for traveling.




Daishō mo watakushi mo inu mo shiguretsutsu.

The giant camphor tree, I, / And the dog / Are soaked through.




Kabe o hedatete yu no naka no danjo sazamekiau.

Separated by a screen: / Murmuring voices / Of men and women bathing.




Mizu oto to issho ni sato e orite kita.

Flowing with the water / I walked down to the village.




Soritate no atama ni zombun hi no hikari.

The sunlight freely reflects off / My freshly shaven head.




Shōji no naka no yuki furishikiru.

Within life and death / Snow falls ceaselessly.




Kaze no meian o tadoru.

I walk in the wind's / Brightness and darkness.




Yama suso atataka na hi ni narabu haka sukoshi ka na.

At the foot of a mountain, / Several graves stand together / In the warm sunlight.




Akatsuki no yu ga watakushi hitori atatamete kuru.

Daybreak: alone, I warm myself / In the waters of the hot spring.




Tsubame tobikau tabi kara tabi e waraji o haku.

Swallows fly away-- / From today, more and more travels; / I tie on my straw sandals.



Santōka once fell ill in a remote village. He recorded the following three haiku in his diary.




Daichi hiebie to shite netsu no aru karada o makasu.

I laid out my feverish body / On the frozen earth.




Kono mama shinde shimau ka mo shirenai tsuchi ni neru.

Perhaps I'll die like this: / Lying on the cold earth.




Netsu aru karada o naganaga to nobasu tsuchi.

Feverish--I stretch out / My body along the ground.




Issho ni bisshori ase kaite ushi ga hito ga.

(Spring planting:)

Farmers and oxen / Both covered with sweat.




Minna issho ni kaki o mogitsutsu kaki o tabetsutsu.

All together / We pick the persimmons, / We eat the persimmons.




Taberu mono mo naku natta kyō no asayake.

Nothing left to eat; / Today's sunrise.




Tereba naite kumoreba naite yagi ippiki.

If it shines, it bleats; / If it is cloudy, it bleats-- / The single goat.




Ware ima koko ni umi no aosa no kagiri nashi.

Now I stand here, / Where the ocean's blueness / Is without limit.




Ochiba atatakaku kamishimeru gohan no hikari.

Warm fallen leaves; / I savor the rice's whiteness.




Hirune samete dochira o mite mo yama.

Waking from a nap, / Either way I look: mountains.




Yoi michi ga yoi tatemono e yakiba desu.

Nice road / Leading to a nice building. / It's a crematorium.




Boro kite suzushii hitori ga aruku.

Wearing rags, / In the coolness / I walk alone.




Sate dochira e ikō kaze ga fuku.

Well, which way should I go? / The wind blows.




Futon nagaku yoru mo nagaku nesete itadaite.

For once, both the futon and the night / Were long enough: deep sleep.

A futon is a sleeping quilt stored in a closet during the day and taken out at night.




Futon fūwari furusato no yume.

Sleeping on a soft futon, / I dream of my native village.



After a long absence Santōka returned to his home town of Sabare. He went to visit his younger married sister, whom he hadn't seen in years. The children in the neighborhood tried to chase him away, shouting: "Beggar, Beggar." His sister was not glad to see him, and he was an unwelcome guest that night. Very early the next morning she asked him to leave before the neighbors saw him. She took him to the gate and silently put fifty sen in his little bag.




Furusato no kotoba to natta machi ni kita.

I've come to a village / Where they use / The dialect of my home town.




Nagai hashi sore o watareba furusato no machi de.

The long bridge-- / If I cross it / I'll be in my native village.




Hōtaru koi koi furusato ni kita.

Fireflies everywhere; / I've returned to my native village.




Umareta ie wa atokata mo nai hotaru.

Nothing remains / Of the house I was born in-- / Fireflies.




Ame furu furusato wa hadashi de aruku.

Rain falls; / I walk in my home town, / Barefoot.




Furusato wa atsukurushii haka dake wa nokotte iru.

My home town--sweltering heat, / Nothing left but tombstones.




Furusato no mizu o nomi mizu o abi.

Water of my native village! / I drink it, / I wash with it.




Aitai ga aenai oba no ie ga aoba-gakure.

I want to meet her but I can't-- / My aunt's house is hidden in the green leaves.




Furusato no kotoba no naka ni suwaru.

I sit in the midst / Of my native dialect.




Nami oto no taezu shite furusato tōshi.

Incessant sound of waves-- / My native place / Is more and more remote.




Shigururu ya minna nurete iru.

Winter rain-- / Everyone is drenched!




Yuki yuki taoreru made no michi no kusa.

Pressing on and on, / Until finally falling down; / The grass along the roadside.




Arau to sono mama kawara no ishi ni hosu.

After washing up / I dry myself / On a nearby rock.

This was written at a roten-burol, an outdoor bath. Santoka was very fond of hot springs.




Mata ōta Shina no ojisan konnichi wa.

Oh! There is that friendly merchant / From China--Konnichi wa!

Santōka often met the same people again and again in his travels. Since he stayed at the least expensive inns, he sometimes shared a room with poor merchants from China and Korea. "Konnichi wa" is the usual daytime greeting in Japan.




Obotsukanai Nihongo de ame ga yō ureru.

In broken Japanese / (The Korean) / Sells the candy.




Sunao ni saite shiroi hana nari.

Obediently blooming, / Becoming white flowers.




Tabete iru obentō mo shigurete.

Eating my bentō-- / It, too, is rain-soaked.

A bentō is a small box lunch usually containing, in Santoka's time, rice and one umeboshi (pickled plum). These days they are more elaborate.




Nanto atataka na shirami o toru.

Oh! This louse / I've caught / Is so warm!




Imogayu no atsusa umasa mo aki to natta.

Potato gruel-- / Its warmth! Its good taste! / Autumn is here.




Ikinokoru hae ga watashi o oboete iru.

The few flies that remain / Seem to remember me.




Hitori atatamatte hitori de neru.

(My favorite hot spring--)

Bathing alone, / Sleeping alone.




Hito no tame ni shigurete Hotoke-sama.

The small Buddha statue: / Rained on for the sake of human beings.




Kurete nao tagayasu hito no kage koku.

Sunset--the plowman's shadow / Grows deeper.




Yama no ichinichi ari mo aruite iru.

In the mountain all day, / The ants too are marching.




Hyōhyō to shite mizu o ajiwau.

Aimlessly, buoyantly, / Drifting here and there, / Tasting the pure water.




Sutekirenai nimotsu no omosa mae ushiro.
Baggage I cannot throw off, / So heavy front and back.



Kaze no naka koe hariagete namu Kanzeon.
Raising my voice above the wind: / Hail to the Bodhisattva of Compassion!



The following verse was written by Seisensui when he visited Santōka's hermitage, Gochū-an.




Kore de cha wa tariru to iu cha no ki.

So this is what / He calls his tea grove-- / A single bush!




Asayake ame furu daikon makō.

In the early morning rain, / I sow the daikon seeds.




Shigururu ya hito no nasake ni namidagumu.

Winter rain-- / People have been so kind / My eyes fill with tears.




Netai dake neta karada yu ni nobasu.

I slept soundly; / I stretch out my body / In the hot water.




Doko ni mo mizu ga nai kareta ase shite hataraku.

No water anywhere; / Working in the dry rice field / The farmer sweats.




Azami azayaka na asa no ame agari.

The thistles-- / Bright and fresh, / Just after the morning rain.




Kokoro shizuka ni yama no okifushi.

Peace for the heart: / Life in the mountains.




Itadaite tarite hitori no hashi o oku.

I received them / And they served my needs; / I put down my chopsticks.




Ichinichi mono iwazu nami oto.

All day I said nothing-- / The sound of waves.




Okyō todokanai jyazu no sōon.

(In this neighborhood)

Chanting the sutras / Cannot drown out the jazz music.




Fukete bakuchi utsu koe.

Late at night: / The harsh sound of gambling.




Nageataerareta issen no hikari da.

The reflection of a one-sen coin / Thrown my way.




Uma ga fuminijiru kusa wa hanazakari.

In the grass trampled by the horse: / Flowers in full bloom.




Yama e sora e Makahannya Haramitta Shingyō.

To the mountains, / To the sky: / The Heart Sutra.

The one-page Heart Sutra (Makahannya Haramitta Shingyo), shortest of all Buddhist scriptures, is chanted from memory by Zen monks. Its central theme is "form is emptiness, emptiness is form." Emptiness (Kū) also means sky (sora). Santōka constantly chanted this sutra.




Ichinichi ni oni to Hotoke ni ai ni keri.

Each day we meet / Both demons and Buddhas.




Kurokami no nagasa o shiokaze ni makashi.

The long black hair of the courtesans, / Disheveled by the salty breeze.




Shiwasu no yukiki no shiranai kao bakari.

Coming and going / In the twelfth month, / Nothing but strange faces.

Shiwasu, the twelfth month of the lunar calendar, is the busiest time of the year with everyone trying to settle their accounts and making preparations for the New Year.




Surume kamishimete wa mukashi o hanasu.

(Together with an old friend)

Eating dried cuttlefish / And talking of the past.




Wakarete kita nimotsu no omoi koto.

We've separated; / My backpack is heavy.




Gorori to kusa ni fundoshi kawaita.

Lying in the grass / I dry my fundoshi.

A fundoshi is a loincloth worn by men.




Kore dake nokotte iru oihai o ogamu.

I offer incense / To the Taneda mortuary tablet-- / It is all that remains of my family.

An ihai is a small memorial tablet with the family name on it, usually kept in a special altar at one's home or temple. Santōka carried his family's ihai with him since the land, ancestral home, and all the family's belongings were dissipated by Santoka's father.




Fuyu ame no ishidan o noboru Santa Maria.

I climb up the stone stairs / Covered with winter rain: / Santa Maria.

This was written at Santa Maria Church in Nagasaki, a city that is the site of many Christian churches and shrines.




Furu mama nureru mama de aruku.

Just as it is-- / It rains, I get wet, I walk.




Sukkari hagete Hotei wa waraitsuzukeru.

All the paint / Is worn off the Hotei statue, / But he continues to smile.

Potbellied statues of Hotei, a semi-mythical Chinese Zen monk who carries an enormous sack, are very common in Japan. Hotei is said to bring prosperity, and worshipers often rub his image for good luck.




Nemuri fukai mura o mioroshi shito shite iru.

Urinating, / I look down / On the sleeping village.




Shitodo ni nurete kore wa michishirube no ishi.

Completely drenched-- / This stone / Marks the way.




Sakura saite sakura chitte odoru odoru.

Cherry blossoms blooming, / Cherry blossoms falling, / People dancing, dancing.




Hōe konna niyaburete kusa no mi.

My monk's robe / Looks even more tattered, / Covered with grass seeds.




Dare ni mo awanai michi ga dekoboko.

I haven't met a soul; / The road is bumpy.




Otoko onna to sono kage mo odoru.

Men, women, / And their shadows / Dancing.




Shigurete kaki no ha no iyoiyo utsukushiku.

The rain-soaked persimmon leaves / Become even more beautiful.




Haru samui shima kara shima e watasareru.

Spring cold-- / I cross / From island to island.




Futatabi koko de shiraga o soru.

Here again, / I shave off my white hair.




Aru ga mama zassō to shite me o fuku.

As they are, / The weeds / Sprout new buds.




Ureshii koto mo kanashii koto mo kusa shigeru.

In happiness / Or sadness, / Weeds grow and grow.




Itsu demo shineru kusa ga saitari minottari.

Weeds that may die / Any time-- / Blooming and seeding.




Kareyuku kusa no utsukushisa ni suwaru.

I sit in the withered beauty / Of the wild grasses.




Yappari hitori wa samishii karegusa.

After all / It's sad to be alone-- / The withered grasses.




Yappari hitori ga yoroshii zassō.

After all / It's good to be alone-- / The wild grasses.




Arukeba kusa no mi suwareba kusa no mi.

When I walk, weed seeds; / When I sit, weed seeds.




Tsuyu mo ochiba mo minna hakiyoseru.

Dew and / Fallen leaves, / Swept up together.




Kaze no naka kome morai ni iku.

Walking in the wind / To receive some rice.




Nande konna ni sabishii kaze fuku.

Why is such / A plaintive wind blowing?




Samishii yoru no amarimono no taberu nado.

A lonely night; / Eating the leftover food, / And . . .




Sukkari karete mame to natte iru.

Completely dried up, / They've become beans.




Asu wa kaerō sakura chiru chitte kuru.

Tomorrow I will depart; / Cherry blossoms / Falling, falling.



Yūbe no samishisa wa mata hatake o utsu.
In the evening loneliness, / Again tilling the field.




Haru no yuki furu onna wa makoto utsukushii.

In spring snow / Women are so beautiful.




Hitotsu areba kototaru nabe no kome o togu.

One pot is enough; / I wash the rice.




Kumo no yukiki mo eiga no ato no mizu hikaru.

The drifting clouds / And the temple's splendor / Reflect off the water.




Uraraka na kane o tsukō yo.

Let's strike / The big temple bell!




Nombiri shito suru kusa no me darake.

Nonchalantly urinating / By the road, / Soaking the young weeds.



Nokosareta futatsu mittsu ga jukushi to naru kumo no yukiki.
Several ripe persimmons / Left on the branches; / Gray clouds come and go.




Koko made o koshi mizu nonde saru.

I've made it this far; / I drink the pure water and go.




Araumi e ashi nagedashite tabi no atosaki.

Thrusting my feet / Into the rough sea-- / My life as a traveler.




Sakya ni uzukumari kyō mo Sado wa mienai.

Squatting down on a sand dune-- / Today again, / Sado Island cannot be seen.

Sado is a very beautiful island in the Japan Sea off the coast of Niigata Prefecture in northern Honshu.




Aoba wake yuku Ryōkan-sama mo ikashitaro.

I enter the green forest / Thinking of Ryōkan, / Who also passed this way.

Written on Mount Kugami near the site of Ryōkan's hermitage. Ryōkan (1758-1831) was an eccentric hermit-monk who spent much of his time playing with the local children, drinking sakè with the farmers, and composing wonderful poems in a unique freestyle calligraphy.




Kokoro munashiku aranami no yosete wa kaeshi.

My heart is empty; / The violent waves come and go.




Kusa no shigeruya soseki tokorodokoro no tamari mizu.

In the thick grass, / Puddles scattered / Among the temple ruins.




Hotto tsuki ga aru Tōkyō ni kite iru.

At last! The moon and I / Arrive in Tokyo.




Wakarete kara no mainichi yuki furu.

Since we parted, / Every day snow falls.



The following poems, remarkable for their time and content, are taken from a series written during the Japan-China war, which broke out on July 7, 1937. No one in Japan was permitted to oppose this conflict, and all poets were expected to support the war effort in their works. Santōka, a beggarmonk without a job, land, or a gun, nevertheless expressed his true feeling in these poems.




Suzushiku teppatsu sasagetsutsu gozen roku-ji no sairen.

I present my cool begging bowl as arms / At the six-o'clock siren.




Futatabi wa fumumai tsuchi o fumishimete iku.

Marching together / On the ground / They will never step on again.




Minna dete iku yama wa aosa no iyoiyo aoku.

Young men march away-- / The mountain greenness / Is at its peak.




Shigurete kumo no chigireyuku Shina o omou.

Winter rain clouds-- / Thinking: Going to China / To be torn to pieces.




Kore ga saigo no Nihon no gohan o tabete iru ase.

Eating this, / The last Japanese meal, / They sweat.



Tsuki no akarusa wa doko o bakugeki shite iru koto ka.

The moon's brightness-- / Does it know / Where the bombing will be?




Ashi wa te wa Shina ni nokoshite futatabi Nihon ni.

Leaving hands and feet / Behind in China, / The soldiers return to Japan.




Mokumoku to shite shigururu shiroi hako o mae ni.

We move silently / In the cold rain / Carrying the white boxes in front.

The white boxes contain the ashes of the fallen soldiers.




Machi wa omatsuri ohone to natte kaerareta ka.

Will the town / Throw a festival / For those brought back as bones?




Shiguretsutsu shizuka ni mo roppyaku gojū hashira.

Soaking wet, / Quietly returning / The remains of six hundred fifty.




Isamashiku mo kanashiku mo shiroi hako.

Brave, yes; / Sorrowful yes-- / The white boxes.



Poroporo shitataru ase ga mashiro na hako ni.

Sweat trickles down / The white boxes.




Ohone koe naku mizu no ue o yuku.

The bones, / Silently this time, / Returned across the ocean.




Kūshū keihō ruirui to shite kaki akashi.

The air-raid alarm / Screaming, screaming; / Red persimmons.




Hiru shizuka na yakinasu no yaketa nioi.

Noon quiet-- / Cooking the eggplant, / Its burnt smell.




Hisashiburi ni haku kakine no hana ga saite iru.

I sweep the garden / After a long absence; / The flowers in the hedge are blooming.




Kabe ga kuzurete soko kara tsuru kusa.

Where the walls of my hut have crumbled / Vines and grass grow.




Udon sonaete haha yo watakushi mo itadakimasuru.

Mother! I am sharing / The white noodles / Offered for your memorial day.




Chimpoko mo ososo mo waite afureru yu.

Pricks and pussies, / Boiling together / In the overcrowded bath.



These three verses were composed at Eihei-ji in Fukui Prefecture, the head temple of the Sōtō Zen school. Santōka spent six days training there. The day before he arrived he gave his robe and bowl to one of his friends and came dressed as a layman.




Chōchō hirahira iraka o koeta.

The butterfly-- / Floating, fluttering / Above the temple roof.




Mizuoto no taezu shire Mihotoke to ari.

In the ceaseless sound / Of the water / There is Buddha.



Hattō ake hanatsu ake hanarete iru.

The Dharma Hall gates / Are opened; / It becomes light.




Subette koronde yama ga hissori.

I slipped and fell-- / The mountains are still.




Tabi no kakioki kakikaete oku.

Notes written before my trip, / Rewritten and put down.




Ichiwa kite nakanai tori de aru.

A single bird comes, / But does not sing.




Sore de yoroshii ochiba o haku.

It's enough; / I sweep up the fallen leaves.



Eda o sashinobete iru fuyuki.
Stretching out their branches-- / The winter trees.




Shimoyo no nedoko ga doko ka ni arō.

The frosty night-- / Where am I going to sleep?




Ishi o makura ni kumo no yuku e o.

Using a stone for a pillow, / I drift toward the clouds.




Yama no kewashisa nagarekuru mizu no reirō.

Flowing down the mountain steepness: / The bright water.




Naite karasu no tonde karasu no ochitsuku tokoro ga nai.

The cawing crows, / The flying crows, / Have no place to settle down.




Karada nagedashite shigururu yama.

Throwing myself / Into the drenched mountains.




Ochiba fumiwake hodo yoi noguso de.

Making my way through the fallen leaves, / I have a good shit in the fields.




Enten no reeru massugu.

In the blazing sun: / Railroad tracks, / Perfectly straight.




Tomete kurenai orikara no tsuki ga yukute ni.

No inn to spend the night-- / The moon leads the way.




Kurete mo yado ga nai mozudori ga naku.

It may be sunset, / But still there is no inn; / Shrikes sing.




Karete karekitte ishikoro gorogoro.

The dry, parched stones / Roll and roll.



Ichiaku no kome o itadaki itadaite mainichi no tabi.
A handful of rice, / Received and eaten: / My daily travel.



Ato ni nari saki ni nari ohenrosan no tarekare.
Behind, in front, / Who can all these pilgrims be?




Tanjitsu kurekakaru oi no omosa yo.

The days are short, / Evening comes quickly; / My backpack is so heavy.




Izu wa atatakaku nojuku ni yoroshii nami oto mo.

Izu is warm now: / I can sleep in the fields / And listen to the sound of the waves.




Hinata mabushiku meshi bakari no meshi o.

Shining brightly / In the sunshine: / My meal of boiled rice.




Ame no torira wa taberu mono ga nai.

Birds in the rain-- / They have nothing to eat.




Shigurete sono ji ga yomenai michishirube.

Soaking wet-- / I can't read the letters / On the signpost.




Hitori de ka ni kuwarete iru.

Sitting by myself; / The mosquitoes / Won't leave me alone.




Kyō made wa ikasareta ashi o nobasu.

Today, still alive; / I stretch out my feet.




Ikinokotta karada kaite iru.

Some life remains; / I scratch my body.




Yama no shizukasa e shizukanaru ame.

The mountain stillness / Makes the rain still.



Ippai yaritai yūyake-zora.

The sky at sunset-- / A cup of sakè / Would taste so good!




Tsukarete modoru tsuki bakari no ozora.

Wearily I return (to my hut) / The moon fills the sky.




Koiaruku mizu oto no doko made mo.

I walk along, begging; / The sound of water everywhere.




Yūdachi hareta tomato-batake ni dete taberu.

The evening shower clears up; / I go into the tomato field to eat.




Sore wa watakushi no kao datta kagami tsumetaku.

That was my face / In the cold mirror.




Iwa ga ōki na iwa ga ichimen no tsuta kōyō.

Rocks and large cliffs, / Covered with crimson leaves.




Yoru no nagasa yodōhi inu ni hoerarete.

The long night-- / Made longer / By a dog's barking.



Nete mo samete mo yoru ga nagai se no oto.
Asleep or awake, / The night is long-- / The sound of the rapids.




Yūyake no utsukushisa wa oi o nageku demo naku.

The beauty of the sunset / Grieves not for old age.




Mokumoku kaya no uchi hitori meshi kū.

Sitting alone, / Silently, in the mosquito net, / Eating my rice.




Hataraite mo hataraite mo susukippo.

Working, / And working harder; / Still the pampas grass grows.



Karuyori horu yori maite iru.
More cutting, / More digging, / Planting.




Hitori tagayaseba utau nari.

If only one plows the fields, / You'll soon hear a song.




Minna de hataraku karita hirobiro.

Everyone has worked: / The harvested rice fields / Extend on and on.




Hitori Shōgatsu no mochi mo sake mo ari soshite.

Alone on New Year's Day-- / There is mochi and sakè / And . . .

New Year's Day is the primary holiday of the year in Japan. The custom is for all the members of a family to gather together and enjoy eating mochi (rice cakes), drinking sakè, and playing traditional New Year's games.




Karada no mawari katazukete tōku yama nami no yuki.

Settling down again; / The distant mountains / Covered with snow.




Asayu noyoroshisa mokumoku to shite jumban o matsu.

The fresh morning bath: / Silently we wait in line.




Umarete ureshiku tanagokoro o nigittari hiraitari.

So happy to be born, / The baby opens / And closes his hands.




Koete yuku yama mata yama wa fuyu no yama.

Passing over the mountains, / Again mountains, winter mountains.




Nagete kudasatta issen dōka no samui oto datta.

The cold sound / Of a one-sen copper coin / Thrown my way.




Ureshii tayori mo kanashii tayori mo haru no yuki furu.

Good news, / Bad news; / Spring snow falls.




Kono michi shika nai haru no yuki furu.

No road but this one; / Spring snow falls.




Ama no kawa mayonaka no yoidore wa odoru.

Beneath the River of Heaven / The drunkard dances all night.

The River of Heaven is the Milky Way.




Fukeru to suzushii tsuki ga biru no aida kara.

The deep, cool moon / Appears between the buildings.




Hadaka de hanashi ga hazumimasu.

Naked (in the bath house)-- / The conversation / Grows more lively.




Boro kite kibukurete omedetai kao de.

(New Year's Day--self-portrait)

Bundled up in rags, / A face full of New Year's greetings.




Tsuki yo yama yo watashi wa tabi de yande iru.

Moon! Mountains! / On this trip / I've fallen ill.




Sukoshi netsu ga aru kaze no naka o isogu.

I've got a slight fever; / Hurrying in the wind.




Ochiba furu oku fukaku Mihotoke o miru.

Fallen leaves / Deep in the forest / I see a Buddha.




Samuzora tōku yume ga chigirete tobu yō ni.

Winter sky-- / Distant dreams / Shattered and flown away.




Kaeri wa hitori no tsuki ga aru ippon michi.

Returning to my hut, / One man's moon / Along the straight road.




Haru ga kita watakushi no kuriya yutaka ni too.

Spring is here / Even my kitchen / Will be well stocked.




Yatto harete watakushi mo kyō wa osentaku.

At last it's cleared up; / Today I too will do the wash.




Yatto shotai ga motete atarashii baketsu.

At last the newlyweds' home is complete: / A new bucket.




Hate mo nai tabi de ase kusai koto.

My endless journey / The smell of sweat.




Okyō agete okome morōte mozu naite.

Chanting the sutras, / I receive the rice; / The shrikes sing.




Furikaeranai michi o isogu.

Hurrying along the road, / I can't look back.




Arashi no ato no shizukesa no hae de.

In the stillness / After the storm-- flies.




Mado akete mado ippai no haru.

I open the window / Full of spring.




Asayake yūyake taberu mono ga nai.

Sunrise, sunset; / Nothing to eat.



Tonde ippiki akagaeru.
Jumping: / One / Red frog.




Dandan nite kuru kuse no chichi wa mō inai.

Gradually I take on the vices / Of my dead father.




Yama kurete yama no koe o kiku.

The mountain becomes dark, / I listen to its voice.




Mushiatsuku ikimono ga ikimono no naka ni.

Summer heat / Soaks into / Every living thing.



Heso ga ase tamete iru.

Sweat, gathered up / In my navel.




Na mo nai kusa no ichihayaku saite murasaki.

The nameless weed / Blooms all at once-- purple.




Kyō no ohiru wa mizu bakari.

Today's lunch: / Only water.




Sake ga yamerarenai ki no me kusa no me.

I can't give up sakè; / The budding trees, / The budding grasses.




Ishi ni tombo wa mahiru no yume miru.

A dragonfly on the rock; / Midday dreams.




Haru wa utsuro na ibukuro o mochiaruku.

Spring--with an empty stomach / I walk along.




Atarashii hōe ippai no hi ga atatakai.

My new robe: / Full of sunlight and warmth.




Nasu kyūri kyūri nasu bakari taberu suzushisa.

Eggplants, cucumbers; / Cucumbers, eggplants: / That's all I eat--the coolness.




Hiru fukaku kusa fukaku hebi ni nomareru kaeru no koe.

High noon--in the deep grass / The cry of a frog / Being swallowed by a snake.




Tsunde kite na wa shiranu hana o Mihotoke ni.

Picking the nameless flower, / I offer it to Buddha.




Mushi mo taberu mono ga nai hon o tabeta ka.

The cockroaches also / Have no food; / Did they eat my books?



Kokoro aratamete shimo no daikon o nuku.
My mind is clear; / I pick the frost-covered daikon.




Uso o itta sabishii tsuki no dete iru.

I told a lie; / A lonely moon appears.




Taberu mono tabetsukushi zassō hanazakari.

All the food completely eaten; / The weeds in full bloom.




Tamatama hige soreba nanto fukai shiwa.

(After recovering)
I shave off my beard-- / What deep wrinkles!




Utsute o kanjite machi no hae umaku nigeta.

They could feel my hand; / The village flies escaped easily.




Tsuki e kumiageru mizu no akarusa.

Scooping up the water, / Lifting it towards the moon, / Full of light.




Irihi o matomo ni kane karite modoru kawakaze.

Sunset full in my face; / After borrowing money / I return in the river wind.



Santōka sent this telegram to his teacher, Seisensui, on his fiftieth birthday.




Akizora haruka ni ureshigaru. Santōka.

The autumn sky-- / Far away / I share your joy.




Shichigusa hitotsu dashitari iretari shite aki.

Autumn--one thing to pawn; / Taking it in, redeeming it.




Kyō kara tokei o motanai yūbe ga shigureru.

From today / I've no watch; / Evening rain.




Jūbun yasunda me ga aite haru.

Fully rested, / I open my eyes-- spring.




Utouto sureba Ken ga mimōte kureta yume.

Dozing off, / (My son) Ken visits me / In my dreams.




Ikite iru koto ga ureshii mizu o kumu.

Glad to be alive, / I scoop up the water.




Konna ni yasete kuru te o awasete mo.

My hands, so thin / Even held together.




Dō suru koto mo dekinai mujun o kaze fuku.

I can't do anything / (My life of) contradictions / Blown by the wind.




Yuki no akarusa ga ie ippai no shizukesa.

The brightness of the snow / Fills the house with calm.




Taberu mono wa atte you mono mo atte zassō no ame.

I've something to eat / And something to make me drunk; / Rain in the weeds.




Nanika taranai mono ga aru ochiba suru.

Is there anything I lack? / The leaves fall.




Kare eda pokipoki omou koto naku.

Breaking the dead branches, / Thinking of nothing.



Yatto yūbin ga kite sorekara jukushi no ochiru dake.
At last / The mail has come! / Soon the ripe persimmons will fall.

Since Santōka was almost continuously on the move, he would send his friends post cards informing them of his destination or the sights he had seen, or containing several of his poems, and so on. Generally they would send back issues of poetry journals, news, and sometimes money that he would pick up at one of his stops.




Hito o miokuri hitori de kaeru nukarumi.

Seeing off my friend, / I return alone / Trudging through the mud.



Kyō mo yūbin ga konai tombo tobutobu.

Today again no mail; / Dragonflies here and there.




Toboshii kurashi no yane no yuki tokete shitataru.

Destitute--melting snow / Drips slowly from the roof.




Hizakari no O-Jizō-sama no kao ga nikoniko.

In the sunlight / Jizō's face / Smiles brightly.
Stone statues of Jizō Bosatsu are often placed at crossroads or other places frequented by travelers. Jizō (Ksitigarbha) is the patron of children and travelers and is usually shown standing, holding a pilgrim's staff in his right hand and a pearl in his left. His head is shaven, and he has a compassionate smile.




Shōshō to furu mizu o kumu.
Rain falls silently; / I scoop up the water.




Kusa no aosa yo hadashi de modoru.

The green grass! / I return barefoot.




Yabu kara nabe e takenoko ippon.

From the thicket / To the pot: / One bamboo shoot.




Enten kakusu tokoro naku mizu no nagarekuru.

No place to hide from the blazing sun; / The water flows by.




Morōte modoru atataka na mizu no koboruru o.

The warm water / I brought back / Drops and spills.



Ame o ukete oke ippai no utsukushii mizu.
The rain-filled bucket / Brimming with beautiful water.




Taberu mono ga nakereba nai de suzushii mizu.

There is still something to eat: / The cool water.




Haku hodo ni chiru hodo ni aki fukaku.

Sweeping, falling, / Sweeping, falling: / Late autumn.




Ochiba suru kore kara mizu ga umaku naru.

The leaves fall; / From now on, / Water will taste even better.




Iwa kage masashiku mizu ga waite iru.

From the shadow / Of the rocks / Water wells up.




Sake wa nai tsuki shimijimi mite ori.

No sakè; / I stare at the moon.




Konna ni umai mizu ga afurete iru.

Such delicious water / Overflows from the spring.




Yōte kōrogi to nete ita yo.

Drunk, I slept / With the crickets.




Yoi yado de dochira mo yama de mae wa sakaya de.

What a splendid inn! / Mountains in both directions / And a sakè shop in front.




Tomato o tanagokoro ni Mihotoke no mae ni chichi haha no mae ni.
Holding a tomato as an offering, / I place it before Buddha, / Before my mother and father.




Narande ohaka no shimijimi shizuka.

Tombstones in a row-- / Penetrating silence.



Yanagi chiru soko kara koihajimeru.

The willow leaves are falling; / From there I'll begin begging.




Otete koboreru sono hitotsubu hitotsubu o itadaku.

From the child's full hands / I receive each grain of rice, / One by one.




Kaze no naka onore o semetsutsu aruku.
Walking in the freezing wind, / Bitterly reproaching myself.

Once Santōka accidentally wandered into a red-light district on one of his begging trips and unexpectedly received money from several prostitutes. He used that money to buy the services of one of the girls in a nearby quarter.




Sora takaku bentō itadaku hikari amaneku gohan shiroku.

The sky above, / The bentō in my hands, / Sunlight all around, / The rice's whiteness.




Arukitsuzukeru higanbana sakitsuzukeru.
Walking on and on / Among the endless / Blooming higan flowers.

Higan flowers (cluster amaryllis, Lycoris radiata) bloom during the autumn equinox, when Buddhist services are held for the dead.




Nomitai mizu ga oto tatete ita.

Thirsty for a drink of water-- / The sound of a waterfall.




Aruiwa kou koto o yame yama o mite iru.

Sometimes I stop begging / And gaze at the mountains.




Tōku tōku tori wataru yamayama no yuki.
Far, far away, / A bird crosses over / The snow-covered mountains.

In Japan one's soul is said to ascend to heaven in the form of a bird.




Enzan no yuki mo wakarete shimatta hito mo.

The distant snow-covered mountains-- / Completely cut off from the world of men.




Shibito torimaku hitobito ni kumo mo naki sora ya.

People gather around the dead man; / No clouds in the sky.




Tabemono atatakaku te kara te e.

The warmth of the food / Passes from hand to hand.




Nurete nimotsu no sara ni omotaku tabi.

Already the wet baggage / Feels heavy--another pilgrimage.



Anshu wa orusu no mokugyo o tataku.
The hermit is away; / In his absence / I strike his mokugyo.

A mokugyo is a wooden drum used to accompany sutra chanting.




Yotsuyu shittori nemutte ita.

Wet with evening dew, / I slept.



Boro utte sake kōte samishiku mo aru ka.

If I sell my rags / And buy some sakè / Will there still be loneliness?




Rempei mo kyō wa oyasumi no hibari saezuru.

The military parade grounds / Also have the day off-- / The skylarks twitter.




Kurashi chiguhagu na hige o tatetari otoshitari.

(My beard's theme song:)

An uneven life, / Standing and falling.




Hizakari naite mo warōte mo hitori.

In the heat of the day / Crying or laughing-- / Only one.




Gohan ga atte hon ga atte soshite tabako mo atte.
I've rice, / Books, / And tobacco.




Arukitai dake aruite zudabukuro fukureta yūzuki.

Only wishing to walk, / I walk with my full sack-- / The evening moon.




Kanashii tegami o posuto ni otosu oto no yūyami.

Twilight--the sound / Of the sad letter dropping / Into the postbox.




Ishi o makura ni shite shinjitsu nete iru kojiki.

Using a stone for a pillow, / Truly sleeping: this beggar.




Ichinichi mono iwazu nemurenai tsukiyo to naru.

All day I said nothing; / Unable to sleep-- / The moonlit night.




Sakana yaku tote te o yaku koto mo hitori-gurashi no.

Frying fish, / Sometimes frying your hand-- / Life alone.




Hinata e tsukue o nagai nagai tegami o kaku.

In the sunlight on my desk / I write a long, long letter.




Nantonaku aruite haka to haka to no aida.

Without any destination / I walk between the tombstones.




Massao sumu mizu urara teru waga kage kanashii.

The deep, clear blue water / Shines brightly-- / My sad shadow.




Enten no machi no mannaka namari ni yu.

In the boiling sun / (The construction workers) / Heat lead.




Yama kara shiroi hana o tsukue ni.

From the mountains: / White wildflowers / On the desk.




Biru to biru no sukima kara miete yama no aosa yo.
In the space between the buildings-- / Look at the mountain's greenness!




Samui kumo ga isogu.

Cold / Clouds / Hurrying.




Mizu ni kage aru tabibito de aru.

The reflection in the water: / It's a traveler.




Bochi o tonari ni yoi haru ga kita.

A beautiful spring has arrived / Next to the cemetery.




Manatsu mahiru no sora no shita nite akago naku.

Beneath the midsummer sky / At midday / A baby cries.



Hoshizora saete kuru kangyō no taiko uchidashita.
The clear, cold, starry sky-- / The mountain ascetics beat their drums.
Kangyō is a thirty-day period in the coldest part of winter set aside for special austerities by certain religious groups, especially yamabushi, priests who combine both Shinto and Buddhist esoteric practices. At night they walk through the mountains and nearby towns virtually naked, beating large drums and chanting the name of Buddha.




Fuyu ga kite iru kigire takegire.

Winter has set in-- / Pieces of wood, pieces of bamboo.




Tsuki ga nobotte nani o matsu demo naku.

The moon rises-- / I'm not waiting for anything.




Ano kumo ga otoshita ame ni nurete iru.

The rain from that cloud / Made me wet.




Aki to natta zassō ni suwaru.

It's fall-- / I sit in the wild grasses.




Tabibito tabibito to wakare yuku.

Travelers, / Travelers, / Coming together, parting.




Hara ippai mizu nonde kite neru.

A stomach full of water; / I sleep soundly.




Toshitotta kao to kao to de damatte iru.

(Meeting an old friend:)

Two old faces-- / Silence.




Asa no hikari e maite oite tabidatsu.

I sow the seeds / In the morning sunlight / Before departing on a journey.




Sakura mankai ni shire keimusho.

Cherry blossoms / In full bloom-- / The prison.




Gochū yuki furu hitori toshite hi o taku.

Snow falls--in my hut / I kindle a fire for one.




Yuki e yuki furu shizukesa ni oru.

Snow falls / On the snowfall / Silently.




Yuki moyoi yuki ni naranai kōjō chitai no kemuri.

Even snow cannot be good snow; / The smoke from the factories.




Asu wa kuru to iu ame no fuki o nite oku.

(To a friend)

Tomorrow I'll come. / Cooking wild vegetables / For your visit.




Minna uso ni shire haru wa nigete shimatta.

Everyone is telling lies; / Spring has been chased away.




Futatabi wa wataranai hashi no nagai nagai kaze.

I'll never be crossing / This bridge again; / The wind blows long and hard.




Makoto yamaguni no yama bakari naru tsuki no.

Truly a mountainous country! / Only mountains, more mountains, / And the bright moon.




Shimijimi shizuka na tsukue no chiri.

(Returning home)

In the deep stillness-- / The dust on the desk.




Kizu ga sono mama akagire to nari fuyu komoru.

The cut, without healing, / Becomes cold and chapped. / Winter confinement.




Uete naki yoru neko ni ataeru mono ga nai.

The starving cat cries; / I have nothing to give him.




Omou koto naku kareki o hiroi arukitsutsu.

Thinking of nothing, / I walk among / A forest of withered trees.



Nigirishimeru te ni te no akagire.

(Meeting again)
We clasp each other's / Chapped hands.




Nami oto tōku nari chikaku nari yomei ikubuku zo.

The sound of the waves-- / Now distant, now close: / How much of my life remains?




Iwabashiru mizu ga tataeshi aosa misogi suru.
I purify myself / In the blue water / Rushing over the rocks.

Misogi is an ascetic practice to purify one's body and mind. Prayers or sutras are recited while the devotee stands under a waterfall or in a river, usually during the coldest time of the year.




Tsuki no hikari no sukihara fukaku shimitōru nari.

The moonlight / Pierces / My empty stomach.




Toboshii kurashi no mizu no nagaruru.

I lack the barest essentials; / The water flows.




Nani o motomeru kaze no nakayuku.

Searching for what? / I walk in the wind.




Hae o uchi ka o uchi ware o utsu.

Slapping at the flies, / Slapping at the mosquitoes / Slapping at myself.




Amadare no oto mo toshitotta.

Even the sound of the raindrops / Has grown older.




Mamayo hōe wa aka de kuchita.
It can't be helped; / My old robe / Is rotting away.




Kuzureru ie no hisoka ni kuzureru higurashi.

Hidden away in / A broken-down hut, / My broken-down life.




Dare mo konai tōgarashi akō naru.

No one has come; / The cayenne peppers / Have turned bright red.




Yama kara kaze ga fūrin e ikite itai to omou.

The breeze from the mountains / In the wind bell / Makes me want to live.




Horohoro horobiyuku watakushi no aki.

Slowly, slowly / Falling into ruin-- / My final autumn.




Moto no kojiki ni natte taoru ga ichimai.
I've become a real beggar; / One towel.
Near the end of his life Santōka was ashamed of his behavior and told his friends he wanted to stop pretending to be a Zen priest. He gave away his bowl and priest's robe; all he had left was a tattered kimono and one towel to wrap around his waist.




Kyō mo nurete shiranai michi o yuku.

Today again, soaking wet, / I walk on an unknown road.




Akai shito shite itsu made tabi o tsuzukeru koto ka.

Red urine-- / How long will I be able / To continue this journey?




Seki ga yamanai senaka o tataku te ga nai.
I can't stop coughing-- / There is no one to slap my back.




Zeni ga nai mono ga nai ha ga nai hitori.

No money, no things, / No teeth-- / All alone.




Kokoro tsukarete yama ga umi ga utsukushisugiru.

My heart is weary-- / The mountains, the sea / Are too beautiful.




Itsu shinuru ki no mi wa maite oku.

When will I die? / I plant the seedlings.



Mata miru koto mo nai yama ga tōzakaru.
Mountains I'll never see again / Fade in the distance.




Shinu yori hoka nai yama ga kasunde iru.

Nothing left but to die; / Mountains lost in mist.




Shi o mae ni suzushii kaze.


Death is before me; / The cool breeze.




Ochitsuite shinesō na kusa karuru.

Settling down to die-- / Withered grasses.




Ochitsuite shinesō na kusa moyuru.

Settling down to die-- / Sprouting grasses.




Shi o hishito tōgarashi makka na.

I cling to death; / The pepper is bright red.




Shi no shizukesa wa harete ha no nai ki.

The quietness of death: / A clear sky, leafless trees.




Shinde shimaeba zassō ame furu.

When I die: / Weeds, falling rain.