October 2003, Volume 1, Number 4

Interview with Dr. Akito Arima by Emiko Miyashita & Robert Wilson

"A member of the House of Councillors, Japan's equivalent to the U.S. Senate, Dr. Arima continues to serve both science and Japan's rising international consciousness by bringing the knowledge gained in his years of scientific and poetic work to bear on the problems of the new century. He understands the necessity for international unity in the face of dwindling natural resources and increased environmental destruction, growing human population and energy demands, the need for global sustainability, and the continuing threat of nuclear weapons. He stands at the forefront of those attempting to build an international consensus aimed at securing the future of humanity and the very life of the planet.While Dr. Arima was pursuing his dual career as a world-class nuclear physicist and internationally recognized educational administrator, he also became an outstanding leader among Japan's haiku poets and a great supporter of haiku worldwide. His haiku mentor was Seison Yamaguchi (1892-1988), one of the important disciples of Kyoshi Takahama who helped carry the tradition of haiku into the modern world. Seison's dual life as professor of engineering and haiku master may have provided a role model for the younger poet-scientist."

— William J. Higginson (from the introduction to Dr. Arima's book of haiku,"Einstein's Century")

Q) What, besides the obvious, is haiku?

A) Haiku is a dialogue.

Q) Why are kigo words important?

A) Because human beings and the whole of nature have been living together.

Q) An educated European couple talking with a friend of mine recently, had this to say about haiku:
"I'm sorry to say that haiku doesn't do very much for us. They are nothing more then mere nature observations..."
What is your response?

A) It sounds like what people who do not know the depth of the nature would say.

Q) How is haiku more accessible to the general populace than longer, occidental style poetry?

A) We might be able to say that in many cases the subjects of the occidental style poems are human love or philosophy. While such subjects require a longer form, haiku, which captures the depth or the beauty of nature through one's intuition, can remain short. This shortness is the distinctive feature of haiku. A short form is also less intimidating to compose.

There are about one million haiku poets in Japan. Haiku has become popular outside Japan, too. In addition to the fact that we all live with and in nature, I think its shortness is the key to the accessibility of haiku among the general public.

Q) What do you look for when writing a haiku?

A) I try to capture the feelings of "The Fours": in a year--the four seasons; in a month--the four stages of the waxing and waning of the moon; in a day--morning, afternoon, evening, and night.

Q) What is the most invaluable lesson learned while studying under your mentor, the late Seison Yamaguichi?

A) To honor truth, virtue, and beauty.

Q) What advice do you have for those who are new to the writing of haiku?

A) Love nature and love people.

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