Inoue Seigetsu (井上井月)

Seigetsu INOUE (c. 1822 - March 10, 1887) was a haiku poet during the end of the Edo period and the early Meiji period. Some say his real name was Katsuzo INOUE. Another name was Seigetsu YANAGINOYA. He was active mainly in the southern part of the Shinshu region and continued to make haiku whose subjects were wandering and roaming. His work influenced other later poets and novelists such as Ryunosuke AKUTAGAWA, Santoka TANEDA and Yoshiharu TSUGE.

The wandering haiku poet, Seigetsu.

It is estimated he was born in 1822 in the Echigo-Nagaoka Domain, Echigo Province. It remains unknown what he was doing from his boyhood to his mid-thirties, but rumor has it that he once went to Edo in 1839. His haiku 'Kawakumamonaku akikurenu tsuyunosode' (In fall, darkness comes quickly after sunset, so, the laundry does not dry completely)' appeared in a memorial collection tribute to Mokuga YOSHIMURA's mother published in 1852 in Nagano. Also, in 1853, his haiku 'Inazumaya aminikotaeshi sakananokage' (Lightening flashed on a net in which fish was caught) appeared in "Kisewata," a haiku collection compiled by Mokuga YOSHIMURA and published in Nagano. Therefore, it is presumed that he was active as a haiku poet around this time.

Around 1858, he visited the southern part of Nagano Prefecture in his late thirties. Since then, he had been wandering around Kamiina region until he died. In that place where 'some local people had a love of learning and embraced an elegant and sophisticated atmosphere', people in the upper class in Inadani welcomed Seigetsu as a haiku instructor. In this way, he taught these people how to write haiku, held some meetings where people made a series of haiku together, and composed poems or passages. In turn, he received sake (Japanese alcohol), meals, accommodation and some money, and with this treatment, he was able to wander around the whole area of the southern part of the Shinshu region.

He loved drinking sake like 'a typical man who experiences transcendent ecstasy in drink.'
Therefore, Inadani was an attractive place for Seigetsu, who had little money and no savings and was entertained with sake for free, because local residents in Inadani were so easygoing and carefree that 'they offered sake to anybody.'
He became lousy, easily drank himself into a stupor and wet his bed, so, local women and children hated him and kept him away, calling him 'a beggar Seigetsu.'
However, wealthy men who liked to write haiku gave favorable treatment to him and some of them had Seigetsu as their teacher.

In May, 1863, he met the then chief retainer of the Takato Domain, Kikuso OKAMURA and asked him to write a foreword to a collection of haiku, "Echigo shishi." "Echigo shishi"was a collection of hokku that Seigetsu selected from various haiku made by haiku poets across from Japan such as Kyoto, Edo and Osaka, and compiled them and then, Kikuso gave it a title. This foreword was the first record which showed that Seigetsu said he was from Nagaoka.

In 1864, he visited Baito of Hosho-in of Zenko-ji Temple, stayed there for around 100 days and compiled "Ietsuto shu."

In 1869, he wrote honogaku (votive tablet) with a brush for Hie-jinja Shrine in Tomigata-mura (present-day Ina City). The next year, he wrote honogaku with brush for Gosha-jinja Shrine in Higashi haruchika-mura and for Jizodo in Nishi haruchika-mura. After writing these two honogaku, he often wrote other honogaku for temples and shrines. In September, 1872, 'Yanaginoya soubetsu shoga tenrankai' (Yanaginoya farewell calligraphy and paintings exhibition) was held in Ina-mura and 113 people came to see it. In 1874, he collaborated with Gyokusai HASHIZUME coming from Misuzu-mura (present-day Ina City) on haiku and paintings. In September, 1876, he wrote 'Kiku eishujo', while he was taken care of by Kikuen KARAKI in Ina-cho.

In March, 1879, he wrote 'Haikai seifukito,' when he was being taken care of by Seisai KUBOTA in Kamiminochi-gun (present-day Nakajyo-mura). His letter sent to KUBOTA showed that he tried to build a thatched cottage and settle there around this time. In this letter, he also said that he needed to have a family register in Nagaoka in order to move to the new cottage, which shows other evidence for his birthplace. However, there were some problems about the necessary procedures, so, he gave up settling and went back to the southern part of the Shinshu region.

Around the autumn in 1885, he published a collection of haiku, "Nagori no mizuguki." This was a collection of haiku compiled by Seigetsu who selected hokku made by various haiku poets. Then, his disciple, Baiseki SHIOBARA (his real name was Setsuji) coming from Misuzu-mura published this collection of haiku.
As a postscript, he made haiku, 'Ochigurino zawosadamuruya kubodamari' (I was like a rolling chestnut, because I didn't settle down in one place, but now, I'm trying to settle in Otakubo), which was considered as one of his most famous haiku with his signature, 'Yanagino ya.'
In the same year, he was entered into Baikan SHIOBARA's family register through an arrangement of Baikan who was worried about Seigetsu's health and then, he called himself Seisuke.

Around the end of December, 1886, he was found falling on the street because of sickness in Ina-mura. He was carried to and attended by the Shiobara family, but the next year, on February 16, 1887, he died at the age of sixty-six. In 1920, a memorial service for the thirty-third anniversary of his death was held by the Shiobara family and a stone tablet inscribed with haiku was built.

Place of Origin

There are various views about his place of origin, but it remains unknown. If you count the year of his death backward, the year of his birth will be 1822. He told the chief retainer of the Takato Domain, Kikuso OKAMURA that his real name was Katsuzo INOUE and he was born in the Echigo-Nagaoka Domain, but it has not been determined because it was not mentioned in any document of the Nagaoka Domain. Additionally, there was his signature, 'Katsuzo INOUE' in a letter sent to a sake shop where he was under care. Also, after he entered in the Shiobara's family register, he left his signature, 'Suehiro Saburaibito Seigetsu INOUE' in verbal note which was designated to help his daughter-in -law find a husband who was able to be adopted by her family.

Moreover, some argue there is evidence that he was born in the Echigo region, because in some part of his work, the 'i sound' and 'e sound' were mixed, which was distinctive characteristics in the Echigo region dialect.

Personality and Characteristics of Haiku

He often used some unique words and the most famous pet phrase of his was 'senryo, senryo' (money, money).
It is said 'he could make do with the phrase, "senryo, senryo" in any occasions ranging from gratitude, admiration, congratulation, exclamation to greetings such as hello and good-by.'
There are a lot of anecdotes that have been handed down for generations that he repeated 'Senryo, senryo' beaming his face with a smile when he was invited to a banquet.

At that time, everybody in the whole area of Inadani knew that he really loved sake. As a matter of course, there are a lot of haiku left relating to his great appetite for sake. He wrote haiku relating to sake for every season such as 'Oyawan ni tsugikoboshitari kotoshino sake' (I pour this year's sake into oyawan, which was a bowl designated to be filled with rice offered to the deceased, till it overflowed) for new sake in fall and 'Wakarehashi no kigemunaoshiya tamagozake' (Get into a better temper by drinking sake with an egg in it when we say goodbye) which was made on a snowy day. He also wrote haiku relating to 'sakabayashi' meaning sake shop sugitama (a large ornamental ball made with cedar leaves), which announced that new sake had been made. Yudan naku zanshomimaiya sakabayashi' (Take care in the lingering summer heat, sakabayashi) and 'asazamu no umawomataseta sakabayashi' (I kept a horse waiting in the cold morning, sakabayashi) were haiku that showed some views of Inadani from the last days of the Tokugawa shogunate to the early Meiji period.

He recorded details of food and drink with which he was entertained and all these records including his existing diary shows the look of his life as a boarder in Inadani for one and a half years from December, 1883 to April, 1885.
These records show that he loved nigori-zake made by each family which he called 'hand-made.'
On the other hand, in case he was treated badly because the host of a family was out or he was got rid of as a nuisance, he wrote down details in his diary about his treatment such as 'tasteless,' 'shabby,' or 'no sake,' 'no bath,' which shows his finicky character.

Local people in the upper class of Inadani valued not only his haiku but also his ink writings and calligraphy. His writings are elegant and they even remind people of unique and outstanding work done by Basho MATSUO and Koetsu HONAMI' (comment done by Isao SHIMOJIMA). He especially memorized "Genjuan no ki" (about 1300 words) written by Basho MATSUO. It is said that he wrote more than 1000 words of it on four pieces of paper made from hemp or mulberry without any copybook while drinking at a dyer's.
Ryunosuke AKUTAGAWA, who saw Seigetsu's writings of "Genjuan no ki," said, 'No one denies he has divine skill.'


He respected Basho MATSUO so deeply that he made a haiku tribute to him at the memorial ceremony of the anniversary of his death, 'Wagamichi no kamitomoogame okina no hi' (Everybody should join their hands in prayer for Basho as a god on the anniversary of his death).

Basho's haiku
Sakikataya ameni seishiga nebunohana (Here, Sakikata is an entrancing beautiful place and silk flowers getting wet in the rain are like the Chinese beautiful woman, Seishi.)
Horohoroto yamabukichiruka taki no oto (You hear the roar of the waterfall crashing into rocks and see Japanese roses scattering without the wind.)
Omoshiroute yagatekanashiki ubune kana (You can enjoy seeing cormorant catch fish, but soon you will feel sad as the flame on the boat is dying out.)

Seigetsu's haiku
Sakikatano amenaharashiso nemu no hana (In an entrancing beautiful place, Sakikata, silk flowers are waiting until the rain lets up.)
Yamabukini nawoyobuhodono takimogana
Sukumuuni mokuzuoruru kagarinari

As the mentioned above, Seigetsu created a lot of haiku relating to Basho's, which suggested that he adored Basho passionately. Regarding these haiku Seigetsu wrote, it can be said that he tried to reevaluate Shomon (Basho's school) from the last days of the Tokugawa shogunate to the early Meiji period during which mediocre haiku were prevalent. However, as 'u' haiku suggested, it is pointed out that while Basho wrote haiku based upon his broad view of things, Seigetsu wrote haiku based on his narrow view of things.

He inked writings, 'haikaigazoku-den' with brush in 1875, but this was the copy of important phrases written by Manman HAYAKAWA, who was a poet in Koshu Province, showing that Seigetsu was influenced by Shofu haikai (a concept of haiku completed by Basho MATSUO).

Also, he is usually compared with Issa KOBAYASHI, who was a haiku poet in the last days of the Tokugawa shogunate (when Issa died at the age of sixty-five, he was five). Especially, it is noteworthy that Issa wrote haiku relating to winter, 'Tomokakumo anatamakaseno toshinokure' (After doing your best, in the end, you should put everything into the hands of Buddha) and haiku relating to a new year, 'Medetasamo chukurainari oragaharu' (A new year has come and people are very happy about it, but I do not feel like celebrating New Year's like them), and responding to these Issa's haiku, Seigetsu made 'Medetasamo hitomakasenari harunotabi' (A new year has come and people are happy about it, but I do not care about it, I'm just enjoying my travels). Given the comparison between Issa's and Seigetsu's haiku, it is pointed out that Issa was under influence of the thought of the Jodoshin Sect and viewed life as transitory, on the other hand, Seigetsu had an optimistic and realistic way of thinking.

Seigetsu wrote not only hokku (the first line of a waka poem), but also renku (a series of haiku). There is a series of sixty-four renku in "Seigetsu zenshu" (the collection of Seigetsu's haiku).

Influence for the future generations

He did not leave his own collection of haiku, but left hokku in various areas of Inadani. Isao SHIMOJIMA (another name as a poet was Kukoku), who was a doctor from Inadani and knew Seigetsu during his boyhood, came up with the idea of collecting Seigetsu's work and asked his real brother Goro SHIMOJIMA, who lived in Inadani, to research it. Then, in 1921, he published "Seigetsu no ku-shu" (the collection of Seigetsu's haiku). The collection of haiku opened with haiku that Kyoshi TAKAHAMA presented, 'Taketakaki otokonariken kogarashini'. This haiku was created based upon the hokku of Basho MATSUO's "Nozarashi kiko," 'Kyoku kogarashinomiwa Chikusai ni nitaruya' (I'm wandering around making haiku, so I am like crazy Chikusai, a hero of a story), which indicates that Kyoshi compared Seigetsu with Basho.

Additionally, SHIMOJIMA was Ryunosuke AKUTAGAWA's doctor, so, AKUTAGAWA wrote a postscript to "the collection of Seigetsu's haiku." AKUTAGAWA praised Seigetsu for his policy that while he tried to catch up with the times, he never forgot the basics of haiku. He also praised him for his haiku, 'Saitanowa ugoiteiruya hasunohana' as his best haiku, but ironically, after AKUTAGAWA died, it turned out that this haiku was created by Sanshu HASHIZUME, who was a poet and a friend of Seigetsu.

In October, 1930, "The collected complete haiku of Seigetsu" compiled by Isao SHIMOJIMA and Saijiro TAKATSU was published. Seigetsu san' haiku made by Kyoshi and printed in "the collection of Seigetsu's haiku" and the postscript written by AKUTAGAWA were reprinted in this collected complete haiku of Seigetsu, which played an important role in receiving good reviews. This complete collection also includes his diary he left.

In 1938, East Kamiina-gun Education Board published "Seigetsu-san" as a supplementary Japanese textbook.

In 1956, Jun ISHIKAWA, a composer, visited Ina City and collected information about Seigetsu. He wrote 'Shinshu no kuni mushuku furai haijin Seigetsu' (Seigetsu, a haiku poet wandering around Shinano Province without settling) as a piece of his serial story, "Shokoku kijin den" (stories of unique people in various provinces) which he was writing at that time in 'Bungei shunju' (magazine).

In November, 1974, "The complete collection of haiku created by Seigetsu INOUE" was published by the Ina Mainichi newspaper company as an enlarged and reprinted edition of "The collected complete haiku of Seigetsu" and it has been considered a definitive edition.

In 1987, making the centennial of his death, '100th anniversary of Seigetsu' was held. The festival was celebrated by several events such as erecting three stone tablets inscribed with a haiku, republishing related books and holding a commemorative haiku convention.

Influence on Santoka TANEDA

One of haiku poets who came under the influence of Seigetsu was Santoka TANEDA who made haiku without fixed pattern.

The Diary of Santoka in the article of 'August 2, 1930' described as follows;
I read the book, "The complete collection of haiku created by Seigetsu" that Kiaki-ani lent me and I found it very interesting.'
This is the book I should have read up to the present.'
I like his grave and his writings are really great.'

As this article suggests, he repeatedly read Seigetsu's haiku and he was growing a deep attachment to it. In March 1934, Santoka at the age of 52 was determined to visit Saigetsu's grave, so, he headed northeast from Yamaguchi City to Inadani. However, the ground around Seinaiji toge (ridge) was covered with deep snow, and when he came to Ida City, Shinshu Province in April, he developed pneumonia.

He was immediately hospitalized for two weeks, therefore, he had to give up visiting Seigetsu's grave.

Four years later, on March 31, 1939, he left Yamaguchi again and on May 3, he arrived at Tenryukyo Station by train. After that, he headed for Inadani and visited Jakusui MAEDA who was a haiku poet and a teacher in Ina yayoigaoka high school, and then, he could finally visited Seigetsu's grave under Jakusui's guidance. In the article of May 3 of Santoka's 'Furaikyo Nikki' (the Diary of Furaikyo), he wrote some 100 sentences about how he paid tribute to Seigetsu in front of his grave, including four haiku he improvised there.

In front of Seigetsu's grave

・Ohaka shitashiku osakewo sosogu (Like a close friend, I pour sake on his grave.)

・Ohakanade sasuritsutsu harubarumairimashita (While I softly touched the grave, I talked to him, ' I came here all the way.')

・Komaganewomaeni itsumo hitorideshitane (You were always alone seeing the Komagane mountain range lying in front of you.)

・Sonaeru monototewa nonokiurino futaeda mineda (My offereings are a few branches of mube tree [stauntonia hexaphylla Decne.])

In his diary, he wrote as the following.
I do not think about Basho and Issa, rather, I am always thinking about Rotsu and Seigetsu.'
I am thinking how much they liked sake and how they ended their lives.'
In this way, it is presumed that Santoka came under the influence of Seigetsu's lifestyle and work. Coupled with Rotsu YASOMURA, who was a begging monk and poet belonging to the Basho school, his lifestyle can be traced back to these wandering haiku poets.

Influence on Yoshiharu TSUGE

Yoshiharu TSUGE, a cartoonist, depicted Seigetsu in detail in the last sixth episode, 'Johatsu' (mysterious disappearance) of his cartoon, "Muno no hito" or incompetence people (first published in December 1986, 'COMIC baku'). The leading character who sells stones in a riverside reads a book, "The complete collection of haiku of Seigetsu, a wandering haiku poet," which he was forcibly lent by YAMAI (a pun on a word of Yamai which means disease), the owner of a secondhand bookstore, who pretends to be a sick person, walks unsteadily and idles away his time. While reading, he imagines half of Seigetsu's life till his death, sees his and YAMAI's reflections in it and was buried in thoughts, which is the outline of the story.
In the last scene, he says to himself, 'Both Seigetsu and YAMAI are enormously stupid….'

Some of the haiku given below were quoted in "Johatsu."

Furutomade hitoniwamisete hanagumori
Sekisho ya itsunoyoyorino ishinohada
Dokoyarani tsurunokoekiku kasumikana

[Original Japanese]