A Drop

From Buson’s Collected Haiku #676:


first rain of the season

down the headgear onto the eyebrow 

a drop

烏帽子, or eboshi, literally “raven’s cap,” now worn almost exclusively by Shinto priests during ritual ceremonies, it was originally donned by young men at their coming of age ceremonies.









It evolved into a heavily lacquered headdress sometime in the late Heian period.











In this haiku, Buson is poking fun at the seriousness of the Shinto priest who is most likely performing his rituals at a small outdoor shrine. It starts to rain — the first cold rain of the season. A drop hangs from the lip of his headdress before falling onto his eyebrow. His dignity and reserve won’t allow him to do anything but “ganbaru” — to hang on; to persevere — until the ritual is over.

To see more of Buson’s haiku please follow him on Instagram @turnipdiary.


Kannushi and miko at the Meiji Shrine, Tokyo” by mrhayataShinto Priest. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

By Samuraiantiqueworld (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

What’s a Bagworm? and What Did a Raincoat Look Like in Japan in 1760?

So there’s this haiku by Buson:


like a bagworm   I’m all right   first winter rain

Another pretty good poet, Bashō, had written this:


first winter rain   the monkey too  wants a little raincoat

And Kikaku, Bashō’s disciple, wrote this:


donning a raincoat     this heron advances      evening winter rain

What all three of these haiku have in common is the central image of the traveler out of doors in late autumn or early winter, with the first, cold rain of the season starting to fall. Raincoats at the time were not much — bunches of straw woven together to hold off the rain.


But the image, in all three cases, equates the man in the straw raincoat with the animal.

Basho — macaque:


Kikaku — heron:


Buson — bagworm:


I’ll be sharing more of Buson’s haiku on Instagram: @turnipdiary. See you there!

photo credit: Jigokudani Yaen-Koen 2008-01-12 138 via photopin (license)

photo credit: Heron 2 via photopin (license)

photo credit: Man in traditional straw raincoat, Japan via photopin (license)