News from the Waseda Neighborhood
 
 

The Museum of Haiku Literature,
Operated by the Association of Haiku Poets

The only library in all of Japan specializing in works of haiku

 
     
 

As of the end of February 2009, there was a total of 52,282 poetry anthologies/saijiki (almanacs of seasonal words) in the stacks as well as approximately 312,949 haiku periodicals. It would be hard to imagine any other place containing this many materials relating to haiku. According to Chairman of the Association of Haiku Poets and head librarian Mr. Nichio Okada, a number of people looking for materials are referred to this library by the National Diet Library and National Institute of Japanese Literature.

The Museum of Haiku Literature, the only library in all of Japan specializing in works of haiku, was opened in 1976 (Showa 51) thanks to the effort of the Association of Haiku Poets. Although short forms of literary work such as haiku are readily written in many geographical regions by a variety of different groups, and even though periodicals and other related materials may be regularly published, they tend to become scattered and eventually disappear. The library was originally founded in order to satisfy the demands of parties that sought a specialized facility to house these materials. In addition to offering the ability to browse through and copy materials, the Association of Haiku Poets also holds a haiku course within the facility.

Works from overseas also abound!
The library's collection predominantly consists of modern/contemporary periodicals and books starting at the time of Shiki Masaoka. In fact, every issue of the "Hototogisu" (the Cuckoo), a haiku journal published by Shiki and Kyoshi Takahama and in which Soseki Natsume published one of his novels, is housed within the stacks (partly comprised of reprinted versions). In the reading rooms, visitors can freely read the most recent releases of approximately 300 monthly periodicals.

What particularly stands out among all of these valuable resources is the nearly 3,000 available haiku-related materials from foreign countries. Works in English, Chinese, French, German and other languages from all around the world are crammed together on the shelves. Mr. Okada explained the amazing power of this facility to amass haiku-related materials of all languages, saying "We once had a Romanian visitor who was surprised to find some of his own works written in his own language in the library. Apparently his wife had contributed them without his knowing." He went on to explain that foreign exchange students and researchers from overseas were not uncommon as visitors, stating, "A researcher from overseas once frequented the library for a month as he was writing his doctoral thesis."

Once you get caught up in haiku, it's impossible to stop!!
In the exhibit room, colored paper and poem cards containing original writings by Shiki, Kyoshi, Hekigoto Kawahigashi, and other well-known haiku artists are available for viewing upon application at the front desk. It must be pretty overwhelming as someone not too well versed in haiku to find an exhibit that doesn't display a single author you haven't heard of.

The Museum of Haiku Literature is without a doubt a treasure trove of resources. The question of whether this mountain of treasure is put to good use or whether it goes to waste, however, is entirely up to its users. According to Okada-san, the number of people who settle with a single phone call and don't actually come to browse materials has risen recently. "Research doesn't mean anything if you don't actually come and look through the materials. We have so many resources that it's essential to actually look through the source material yourself," he said forcefully.

When he was a first year high school student, Mr. Okada attended a lecture given by Kyoshi where he was shaken by the statement, "I believe that the essence of haiku lies within the pursuit of beauty itself." Ever since, he's been infatuated by haiku. "Once you take it in, it's all over. One might even call it 'poison' rather than poetry," he said, smiling. Perhaps they should rename the "Museum of Haiku Literature" to the "Museum of Poison."

■Admission
【Opening hours】11:00~16:00
【Closed】Wednesdays and Thursdays
【Entry fee】100 yen
10 minutes from Nishi Waseda Campus

Mr Okada
Shelf of valuable overseas haiku-related resources. The gentleman to the right is Mr. Okada.

Takahama Kyoshi
Kyoshi Takahama "Bush clover branches, raining down upon the ground, first autumn winds" (On display)

Hisajo Sugita
Hisajo Sugita "Voice echoing, the mountain cuckoo, does as it pleases" (On display)

 
From 2009 May 21st Issue