Simply Haiku: A Quarterly Journal of Haiku and Related Forms
Spring 2005, vol 3 no 1


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Zenga by

Susumu Takiguchi

The World Haiku Club



Susumu TakiguchiZenga and haiga must not be mixed up any more than Zen should be confused with haiku. Though Zenga has influenced haiga, it is not vice versa. Haiga is a form of art. Zenga is not. Haiga is light-hearted. Zenga is not, meaning it is light-hearted and it isn’t at the same time. With all its seeming easiness, simplicity and lightness, Zenga is a serious business, indeed.

For those lucky enough to have managed to attain the elusive ‘satori’ (Zen enlightenment), nothing is any longer necessary, such as koan or books on Zen or Zenga. The same goes with those who, having still not experienced satori yet, nevertheless know instinctively that they should not clutter their mind with inessentials, which are most, or all, of the things in this world. It is for the rest that all sorts of devices are needed to assist their quest for satori, if that is the aim at all. And this is the arena where Zenga lives in the purest form.

Zenga emerged in China as one of such tools. For the student of Zen, it is a way to help him/herself to come to satori. For the Zen master, it is a way to help teach the student in his/her search for satori. When Zen was imported to Japan, Zenga came with it and has developed, like many other things coming from the Continent, in a very Japanese way.

So, what on earth am I doing here creating Zenga, let alone showing them to others when I am neither a master nor student of Zen? This is more so as I do not have the futile and illusory wish to reach satori? It just does not make sense. It is illogical. It is against reason. In short, it amounts to nothing from the common sense viewpoint. However, it is precisely this lack of sense, logic or reason that is driving me to create Zenga. Essentially, I do Zenga simply because I love doing it and I feel driven to do it. I don’t really ask myself why, which is the last thing I want to do as far as my Zenga is concerned. Most interestingly, I feel singularly comfortable and exceptionally free when doing Zenga, precisely because it amounts to nothing.

This does not mean, however, that it is easy for me to create Zenga—quite the opposite. Numerous reasons can be thought of for this puzzle. First and foremost, none of the requirements or skills needed for an artist does, and more significantly, should, apply to Zenga. For instance, to draw well or colour skilfully is not part of Zenga, as such a conscious will or intention is contrary to the quest in Zen. This is why many Zenga demonstrate appalling poverty in artistic skills. Secondly, there is no obvious theme, such as the beauty of flowers or likeness in the portrait painting. The lack of theme is one of the strange characteristics of Zenga. Thirdly, many things which are part of creating paintings are redundant in Zenga. For instance, a professional artist paints in order to sell. I don’t create Zenga in order to sell, though of course ironically they may be just the sort of things which do sell. We paint in order to show. I am showing some of my Zenga here, but the act of showing is really not part of Zenga and therefore I am violating Zen’s way. In fact, in Zenga anything and everything is redundant, including the very act of creating it. However, if it’s nothing, then even if I created Zenga it would still be nothing and therefore it should not matter. That is where I am. And that is the only reason, if any, why I do Zenga. When what one does means nothing or is worth nothing, one gets a peculiar sense of being liberated.

—Susumu Takiguchi
Chairman, The World Haiku Club

For Susumu Takiguchi's biography, art gallery, and writings, visit .

Copyright 2005: Simply Haiku