Straight Hole ~ Haiku of Japan

massuguna shōben ana ya kado no yuki

such a straight
piss hole!
in the snow by the gate

(trans. David LaSpina[1])

("Afternoon Snow" by Kawashima Tatsuo)

Good old Issa. You know, it may seem crude, but peeing was actually not an uncommon topic among those old haiku poets. Even the great Bashō featured it in a few of his haiku. Probably not as many as Issa though.

Haiku evolved from haikai no renga, which was a form of renga meant to break away from the poetry of the court with their elevated vocabulary and lofty themes. Instead, the aim of haikai (as it was often shortened to) was to feature everyday language and themes, in effect to be crude. Don't think of it as shock value: it was more like they viewed the poetry of the court as pretentious and out of touch and wanted something more real that the common people could relate to.

Many of these old haiku poets were actually composing hokku, the first verse of a haikai sequence. We usually just only share that first verse because it was the most important one, but there are often entire sequences of verses that follow. Hokku would later be renamed to haiku when Shiki came around and completely divorced them from haikai.

Anyway, once you get past the idea of writing a poem about peeing, you can enjoy the pleasure Issa is sharing here. He took joy in everything! We can feel his child-like glee in coming across this pee-hole outside. Such an amazing accomplishment!

The season word here is snow, which is a season word for late winter. According to the old way of reckoning the seasons we are only in early winter, but I thought you guys wouldn't mind the jump ahead.

Hi there! David LaSpina is an American photographer and translator lost in Japan, trying to capture the beauty of this country one photo at a time and searching for the perfect haiku.

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    1. That is, me! If you like this translation, feel free to use it. Just credit me. Also link here if you can.


    any man knows the simple joy of well controlled micturation, and Issa captures it well, especially in a situation where you may expect some shivering to be involved.