Issa's Spirit Alive Today in His Home Town

Mt. Myoko in Early Spring - Photo by Shuichi Fujita (1995)

Shinano Town, Nagano Prefecture, is located on the border of Niigata Prefecture famous for much snow in winter. It is near Lake Nojiri, with Mt. Myoko in the north, Mt. Kurohime in the west and Mt. Madarao in the west, about 20 km north of Nagano City, the capital of Nagano Prefecture, where the 1998 Winter Olympics Games will be held. In Shinano Town are:

For those who live in Shinshu, who were brought up in Shinshu, or who love his haiku poetry, Issa is alive today in our hearts.

In northern Nagano Prefecture where I spent my boyhood right after World War II, each 3rd grader was given before the winter holidays (from Dec. 20 through Jan. 10) a homework book, compiled by the Shinano Committee of Education, which contained Issa's haiku from which we had to make the "karuta" cards to play with.

In answer to the question from Ewa Tomaszewska, Poland: The "karuta" cards are 50 pairs of cards. On one card (Jifuda, the character card) is written the wording in Japanese characters, such as Issa's haiku, and on the other card (Efuda, the picture card) is drawn a picture presenting the scene of the wording. As the children start playing the cards, they gather around the picture cards spread on the floor, listen to the haiku as one of the children or an adult reads aloud the wording one card by one card, try to locate the corresponding picture card and touch it by hand. The child who touches the picture card first wins it.

The word "karuta" comes from the Portuguese word "carta," meaning the European playing cards (which, as I understand, had come there from India). Karuta probably became popular in the 16th century when the Portuguese came to Japan, but it is based on an old tradition of the Japanese playing cards used for learning the characters or poems, such as the "Ogura Hyakunin Isshu," Teika Fujiwara's seletion of 100 popular waka (5-7-5-7-7 syllable poems), from the 13th century, which is still played today by the adults. (September, 1996)

The Train on JR Iiyama Line Running
Through the Rice Paddy Fields (right)
Photo by Shuichi Fujita (1996)

Haiku is so popular in Northern Shinano that the Shinano Mainichi Shimbun, the most popular newspaper there, has the "Haiku This Morning" column on the first page, with one haiku contributed by a reader and its review. There are two haiku clubs in Shinano Town, Yamabiko (Echo) and Northern Shinano Club, which hold the open haiku meetings on Issa's anniversary, May 5.

Every year on the anniversary of Issa's death (Nov. 19), Shinano Town holds at Myosenji Temple "All Japan Kaiku Contest," to which thansands of haiku are contributed from all over Japan. In 1996, this contest was held on Sept. 21 and 22, a little earlier than usual; and in 1997 on Nov. 19.

Photos: Myosenji Temple, Kids' Kaiku Contest and the Kids Receiving Awards

Many comments have been sent to me from the people of the world. Some samples follow:

Mark Atwood Bird in Chicago, IL, U.S.A., wrote: "What a great tribute page to Issa! I am presenting him in the next meeting of the Chicago Haiku Society and I am very grateful to find a wealth of information and poetry on this page. Beautifully presented, too. Thanks!! (October, 1997)

Bob Gray in Bucks County, north of Philadelphia, PA, U.S.A., wrote: "Method #2....nice site, by the way!" (August, 1999)

a random kindness
that roadside patch
of tiger lilies

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The Start of the Japanese Part


早春の妙高山 写真:藤田秀一 (1995)





写真:藤田秀一 (1996)



写真: 明専寺、小中学生俳句大会、表彰状を受ける生徒たち


米国イリノイ州シカゴのマーク・バード(Mark Atwood Bird)さんから「一茶の大変いいホームページですね。私はシカゴ俳句会の次回ミーティングで一茶について話す予定ですが、ここで彼の多くの俳句と情報を得ることができ、感謝しています。画面もきれいでした。感謝! 」(1997年10月)

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The Issa's Spirit Alive Today in His Home Town page is designed in HTML 3.2. Its contents have been prepared by Yoshi Mikami (三上吉彦 in Japanese). Please send your comments to me at Created on Aug. 31, 1996, and update on Sept. 31, 1996. in Tokyo. Last update on Dec. 28, 1997, in Nagano.