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Autumn 2005, vol 3 no 3


Nine Haiku by Tateo Fukutomi
Translated by David Dutcher

monsoon patch of sun—
            a fuzzy, cottony dish
                        comes to the table
                                                                          tsuyu-bare ya
                                                                                     momen-ji no sara wo
                                                                                                  taku-jo ni

Against the background of a clear day in the middle of the monsoon season, a “cotton-cloth dish” is brought to the table by a disembodied agency. It has to do with the effect on the sensibilities of the long rains.


in spring nesting holes
            the great tit has no choice:
                        only one size fits
                                                                          haru no suana
                                                                                     yamu ni yamarenu

my unawake brain—
            through emerald transparence,
                        a cicada emerges
                                                                          samenu nori
                                                                                     midori ni suite
                                                                                                  semi no uka

can’t steal the colors from
            a thousand paper cranes;
                        set them on fire!
                                                                          Iro nusumeneba
                                                                                     senba no tsuru ni
                                                                                                  hi wo hanachi

Atomic Dome,
            its yawning transparence,
                        morning in summer
                                                                                     garan to suite
                                                                                                  natsu no asa

The break, or kire, in this haiku is between the yawning transparence (garan to suite) and the season words. The oxidized iron bones of the dome frame a transparent emptiness.

on that summer day,
            lapped about in
                        my mama’s waters
                                                                          natsu no ano hi
                                                                                     haha no yosui ni

looking like I don’t belong
            I go and say a prayer
                        at my hometown shrine
                                                                          tanin no kao de
                                                                                     furusato no
                                                                                                  miya-mode kana

Miya-mode is the event of going to pay one’s respects at the shrine of the deities that protect a place.

crows are cawing
            in the empty fishing town—
                        summer vacation
                                                                          garan to gyoko
                                                                                     karasu ga naite

summer seashore—
            an octopus writhing,
                        a barefooted child
                                                                          natsu no hama
                                                                                     tako kunya kunya to
                                                                                                  hadashi no ko


Tateo Fukutomi is a member of the haiku contributions jury for the Miyazaki Edition of the Mainichi Daily News. He is also a lecturer on haiku at the NHK Culture Center, a member of the Modern Haiku Association, and the Japanese Agricultural Exchange Council.Tateo Fukutomi was born in Miyazaki Prefecture, Japan in 1936.

He began to compose haiku in 1963, studying under Tohta Kaneko. 

He was a farm trainee in California, USA, for one year (1965-1966). He studied American Culture under Taro Yashima (illustrator of children's books) in Los Angeles at that time.

Currently he is a lecturer on haiku at NHK Miyazaki Culture Center. He is a member of the Modern Haiku Association.

Publications include collections of original haiku: Straw Hat (1979), Kappa, River Sprite (1989), The Sound of Waves (1997), Straw Hat: English edition (2000), as well as the essays: Trial and Error in a Foreign Land (1974), and Kappa's Notebook (1985).

David P. Dutcher
Translator, editor of dictionaries. Born in 1944 in New York, USA. Received B.A. and M.A. degrees from the University of Hawaii. Studied for a doctoral degree in classical Japanese literature at Harvard University. He is an editor of several English-Japanese and Japanese-English dictionaries, including The Kenkyusha Dictionary of English Collocations, and has done translations from both classical and modern Japanese. His English version of the CD-ROM GADGET was widely acclaimed in the U.S. He has lived some thirty years in Japan since first arriving in 1966.

Copyright 2005: Simply Haiku