Columns “Japanese emigrants to Brazil and Haiku”

Japanese emigrants to Brazil and Haiku

Although generally unknown in Japan, haiku composition has been very popular in the Japanese immigrant community in Brazil. It is easy to imagine that haiku and tanka, uniquely Japanese short form poetry, supported them to explore and make sense of their identities and encouraged them to live in another culture. Haiku alone composed maily by haiku poets in the early period (from the late 1920s until the 1930s) will be taken up in this article, but haiku and tanka composition is still very popular in Brazil today.

Haiku composed about what immigrants experienced


Looking up at a winter waterfall,
 Just arrive
  on the emigrant ship.

         Hyokotsu Uetsuka


This is haiku composed by Uetsuka Shuhei (haiku poetry pen name: Hyokotsu 1867-1935), supervising the first set of emigrants as a representative of the Kokoku Shokumin Kaisha (Kokoku Colonization Company), when he arrived at the port of Santos on board the ship Kasato-maru. It was said that this was the starting point of haiku composition by Japanese emigrants in Brazil, and the day of Hyokotsu's death has been a kigo, seasonal word used in haiku, "Hyokotsu ki" (the anniversary of Hyokotsu's death). It was said that Uetsuka conducted kukai, a haiku circle meeting with 4-5 emigrants on board the emigrant ship.

Some of the haiku of those involved in emigration business from Uetsuka onwards and consulates will be taken up. These haiku clearly express feelings of not fitting in and sorrows of immigrants.


Think of emigrants
 running away in the night,
  stars twinkle above a desert field.

         Hyokotsu Uetsuka

A Japanese exclusion speech
 made on the steet,
  a large sunshade.

         Hyokotsu

The child born
 on the emigrant ship
  has graduated.

         Ikubetsushun Miyasaka

In Yaminabe
 crops and happiness of the settlement
  are gathered.

         Ikubetsushin
(Note: Yaminabe is a soup or stew made from a collection of the ingredients which each member of a group randomly brought in without telling to other members what they were)

Having never played
 Hanetsuki,
  the child turned 12.

         Gyosetsu Ichige

Immigrants hide
 the rising sun flag
  in the bottom of their wicker basket.

         Dokuro Kayama


Kunihito Miyasaka (haiku poetry pen name: Ikubetsushun 1889-1977) was a member of the Toyo Imin Gaisha (Toyo Emigration Company), who worked as a representative of the comany in Peru from 1913 onwards, and was made managing director of the Kaigai Kogyo Kabushiki Kaisha (Overseas Enterprise Company Ltd) when the company was merged in 1919, and returned to Japan in 1930 and became executive director of the Federation of Overseas Emigration Cooperatives Associations. He emigrated to Brazil in 1931 as chief executive director of the Brazilian Colonization Company (Brrataku) and later became a founder of the Nanbei Ginko (Bank of South America). Kozo Ichige (haiku poetry pen name: Gyosetsu. 1884-1945) was the Consul General in São Paulo in the early Showa Era. He worked in Brazil for 9 years from 1926 onwards. Rokuro Kayama (haiku poetry pen name: Dokuro 1886-1926) helped Shuhei Uetsuka from the same prefecture with his work and emigated to Brazil in June 1908 with the first set of emigrants on the ship Kasato-maru and later became president of Seishu Shinpo (São Paulo Reporter).

Even afterwards, immigrants composed many haiku about their difficulties in life such as the above mentioned haiku, and you can say that this is one of the characteristics of haiku composed by immigrants. Many immigrants started to compose haiku poets after they emigrated to Brazil. Harue Meguro (born 1908, emigrated 1929) in the preface to her haiku collection "Kohi no Hana" (Coffee Flower), wrote :

"When I emigrated, many of my fellows died of endemic diseases and overwork, and I myself fell ill and hovered between life and death again and again. I started composing haiku around that time, and it was haiku that supported and saved me."


Faintly remember
 cutting working pants,
  prepare for winter.

         Harue Meguro

For permanent residence,
 I cannot give up the hope,
  burning a ridge.

         Harue


You can get a glimpse of hardships of our compatriots in remote and undeveloped places, Brazil through these haiku.

Reprentative haiku poets in the first stage of immigrant haiku

But immigrant haiku are not only those composed about hardships they experienced.

Hyokotsu later learned haiku from Keiseki Kimura, who emigrated in 1926, and Nenpuku Sato(1867-1938), who emigrated in 1927. Nenpuku belonged to the Hototogisu school, and received the haiku "Plowing in a field, you shall develop a country of haiku" as a parting gift from Kyoshi Takahama and emigrated to Brazil. He thought "objective sketch" and "properly composing hike about natural and human phenomena according to changing seasons" as his ideals that Kyoshi advocated and composed haiku sketching natural phenomenon, the natural phenomenon he composed about, however were not in Japan but in Brazil.


A flash lighting up,
 small flashes in every direction
  amid a sea of trees.

         Nenpuku Sato

A large spider
 roughly fences
  around its territory.

         Nenpuku

Down to the ground,
 back to a swig,
  birds mate with each other.

         Nenpuku


Nenpuku became the first judge for "Paurisuta Shimbun", a Japanese language newspaper after the war, and published the haiku magazine "Kokage" (Shade of trees) and contributed to creating the golden age of Haiku in the 1950s.

Together with Nenpuku and Kikuji Iwanami (a poet of the Araragi School), Keiseki Kimura formed "Okabokai", the first literary circle in the Japanese community in Brazil in 1927, and published its magazine, "Okabo". It was said that because Nenpuku pursued the ideal of "properly composing haiku about natural and human phenomena accrding to changing seasons" alone, he did not agree with Keiseki’s views on haiku. When Gyosetsu published a haiku magazine, "Minamijujisei" (Southern Cross), Nenpuku became its judge and also a judge for the haiku page published for the first time in "Nippaku Shimbun" (Nippaku(Japan-Brazil) Newspaper).


On a bright day,
 greatly up-and-down
  coffee fields.

         Keiseki Kimura

Away from the town,
 gaze at the moon
  in a train.

         Keiseki

Each student
 brings a lump to
  the Portuguese language evening class.

         Keiseki


Kigo, seasonal words used in haiku in Brazil

Composing about nature phenomenon in Brazil, you must note that the climate is different. Brazil is tropical and subtropical. In such a climate, what type of kigo seasonal words did those poets use?

According to the "Burajiru Kiyose", summer is defined as November to January, fall as February to April, winter as May to July, and spring as August to October. This is the exact opposite of the Japanese seasons, and New Year's Day falls in Brazilian summer. But as listed are in this book, for example,as an autumn seasonal word, chrysanthemum as well as orange (which means winter in Japan) and althea (which means summer in Japan), there are not clearly distinguished four seasons in Brazil as in Japan. "There is no clear distinction between spring, summer, fall and winter as in Japan, but rough distinctions between a rainy season and a dry season, so there is no sharp sense of the seasons as in Japan."(Ikushunbetsu Miyazaki, Burajiru no haiku (Haiku in Brazil) in "Hototogisu", vol. 55 no. 10, Oct. 1952)

In terms of this, in the afterword to "Kokage Zatsuei-shu" (Shade of trees miscellaneous poems collection) Nenpuku wrote :
"Even in Brazil, which is said that there are no four seasons, if you live here for three or five years, you can find that, although naturally not clearly distinguished as in Japan, there are the seasons (spring, summer, autumn and winter) to change. ….(omitted)….. Japanese people are so sensitive to the seasons to change that they can not help feeling any emotions when they sense them. In that moment haiku will be made."

He said that an ability to keenly sensing the four seasons to change should constitute a part of the Japanese ethnical identity. In addition, when you saw natural phenomenon in Brazil with the senses that you had as a Japanese, you might reconstruct a feelings complex towards the place you had not get accustomed to living in.

The following haiku contain examples of the uniquely Brazilian seasonal words. ("Burajiru Kiyose").


Saint John vines hang
 down to the earthen wall,
  the street becomes narrower.

         Gyofu Miyauchi

A radio sounds loudly,
 out or pretended to be out,
  mango flowers.

         Taki Katsuya

Caught in a whirlpool,
 an alligator
  floating.

         Hatsuo Ishibashi

The Amazon River
 leads to the pepper village
  through its branch.

         Hitoshi Imade

Malaria is prevalent,
 the roadside trees are
  cut down.

         Sanchin Sakane


*Saint John vine is a plant of the family Bignonias family. Manga means mangos. Arigator, Amazon and malaria are a seasonal word.

Kyoshi said in his later years haiku were the "manifestation of the universe" and the "literature of paradise". "Plants grow down into the soil, come into bud, flower, bear fruit and die according to the movements of the universe. Man is born, grows, ages and dies according to the movements of the universe as well". "Even though you suffer greatly from pain and illness, only if you concentrate your attention on natural and human phenomena according to changing seasons, you could forget hardships in life and enter the realm of Nirvana even for an instant". He said that if you united yourself with nature through haiku, you could understand that you were a part of the universe, and forget their pain and illness and hardships in life for an instant.

Does the dependence on this power of haiku overlap with the wish for success as an immigrant? When they had overcome their difficulties in life and settled themselves in the foreign country, they wished their business’ success and their descendants’ prosperity. They thought that they would keenly regret if they died in reclaimed farmland when they had not yet accomplished anything they wished in life. If you compose haiku, however, you could find the four seasons and the infinite Universe in the seasons changing. Even if died when they had not yet accomplished anything they wished in life, you can feel relieved by understanding that life will eternally continue to exist in Brazilian nature.

Haiku composed by Japanese immigrants in Brazil strike a profound chord, whether it was properly composed about natural and human phenomena according to changing seasons, or not. The Haiku that will be taken up in this article is composed by Hoen Ishikawa (borned in 1893, emigrated in 1930). "She has never talked about what she did in Japan and for what and with whom she came to Brazil. Someone told me that she studied medicine, and then married a man in the same profession and came to Brazil together, but her husband returned to Japan a long time ago. It is known she came to São Paulo City to live as a housekeeper with a foreigner’s family and had stayed there until moving to a nursing home some years ago." (Nansenshi Watanabe, Harukaze (spring wind): Haiku collection)


Spring breezes blow,
 step through the gate,
  I’m no longer a servant.

         Hoen Ishikawa