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Kobayashi Issa

Kobayashi Issa (June 15, 1763 - January 5, 1828) was a Japanese poet and Buddhist priest. He is best known for his haiku poetry and his journals. He is regarded worldwide as one of the four haiku masters alonside Bashō, Buson, and Shiki.

He is best known as simply Issa, which means "Cup of tea."

Short Biography

Issa was born as Kobayashi Nobuyuki and raised as Kobayashi Yatarō in Kashiwabara (now Nagano Prefecture). He lost his mother at the age of three. He had a lonely and moody childhood.

After the death of his father, he fought legal battles with his step-mother and received half of his father's land. He returned to his village at the age of 49 and married a woman named Kiku.

Much of his life was filled with loss: his mother at age 3, his grandmother and step-brother at 14, his father at 38, three of his children at young ages, and then his wife, and finally his house by fire.

Issa died in his native village.

Haiku by Issa

  • In my old home
  • which I forsook, the cherries
  • are in bloom.
  • A giant firefly:
  • that way, this way, that way, this -
  • and it passes by.
  • Right at my feet -
  • and when did you get here,
  • snail?
  • My grumbling wife -
  • if only she were here!
  • This moon tonight...
  • A lovely thing to see:
  • through the paper window's hole,
  • the Galaxy.
  • A man, just one -
  • also a fly, just one -
  • in the huge drawing room.
  • A sudden shower falls -
  • and naked I am riding
  • on a naked horse!

Next: Kato, Shuson