Grave (haka)


Grave (haka)

***** Location: Japan, Worldwide
***** Season: Non-seasonal Topic, kigo see below
***** Category: Humanity


A place where we all end up eventually. With many cultural diversifications.

GRAVE, graves itself is not a kigo, but it comes in various words related to the Bon Festival in early Autumn

graveyard, cemetery

funeral 葬式 sooshiki, 葬儀 soogi,
告別式 soobetsushiki;葬列 sooretsu

. sooshiki 葬式 soshiki - funeral service in Edo .
hayaokeya, hayaoke ya 早桶屋 "fast coffin maker" , undertaker
soogiya 葬儀屋 / saihooya 西方 / koshiya 輿屋 = undertaker


observance kigo for autumn

visiting the ancestor's graves, visiting the graves
... hakamairi, haka mairi 墓参 (はかまいり)

bonsan 盆参 (ぼさん) visiting the ancestor's graves in preparation for O-Bon
grave visiting
..... haka moode, hakamoode 墓詣(はかもうで)

cleaning the grave, especially the weeds

....tenboo 展墓 (てんぼ)
scrubbing off the moss from the graves, sootai 掃苔 (そうたい)
cleaning the graves, haka sooji 墓掃除 (はかそうじ)
washing the grave stones, haka arau 墓洗う (はかあらう)

O-Bon Festival in Japan お盆 


observance kigo for the New Year

juurokunichi sai 十六日祭 (じゅうろくにちさい)
festival of the 16th day

mii juukokunichi 新十六日(みいじゅうろくにち)
new 16th day
koodooroo 香燈籠(こうどうろう)fragrant lanterns

This refers to a custom of Okinawa.
Families which had a death in the past year wait until the 16th day of the New Year to visit the graves of their ancesters. They offer ricecakes and food and partake of it themselves later in a family feast. They also burn paper money and offer fragrant lanterns.
These lanterns may be round or with four or more corners. They have auspicious patterns and are placed under sprial incense coils to become fragrant. They are placed on the grave and let there to their fate in wind and rain, as an expression of the aware of human life.


Worldwide use

List of Famous Graves



Yesterday, I had a day off and cycled to have a look at the cemetery belonging to the commune of Saint-Josse, the part of Brussels where I live. The Brussels cemeteries are all quite famous and pride themselves on their fine buildings, parks and graves. That of Saint-Josse is among the less-known ones, and indeed the commune of Saint-Josse itself is the smallest of Brussels.

The very first thing I saw after entering the gates of the cemetery, was a wide expanse of war graves to my left -- something I had not expected at all. I had come with my haiku book and my camera, in the warm sunshine (itself also unexpected!), and settled down to take some pictures. As I decided on which angle to use, the sun
disappeared behind a large cloud.

war cemetery --
waiting for the sunshine
to return

That was the moment -- and that was also the deeper feeling.

Here are some photos, in case anyone is interested :

We are very lucky in Europe to have seen no more war since these graves were created... As someone who has lived during most of the years of European construction and the creation of European unity, I am thankful for the work put in by so many.

Isabelle Prondzynski August 2008



Pyramids, the Graves of the Pharaos



Grab, Friedhof, Beerdigung



. The burning ghats - Benares, Varanasi  

The best season to visit there is autumn.

Things found on the way

Graveyard for Haiku Poets : Haijin Bochi
竜が丘俳人墓地 (たつがおかはいじんぼち)

at Tatsugaoka in Shiga prefecture

CLICK for more photos

Graves and haiku memorial stones of 17 haiku poets.

Mizuta Masahide 水田 正秀

Naito Joso 内藤丈草

Choo Mu 蝶 夢
Hajoo 巴静
Moriya Yuushoo 森谷祐昌


funeral parade -
black robes wandering
through the white snow

Gabi Greve

For Grandmother Stonefield
and the rural funeral rites of Japan


...................................... Some haiku by Gabi Greve

graves of the unknown -
pilgrims faces faded
into stone

Pilgrims in Shikoku

ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo

秋彼岸 あそこの墓も花のなき
aki higan asoko no haka mo hana no naki

autumn equinox -
so many gravestones
without flowers

I have written a bit more on the rural Japanese family graves here:
Lonely Graves in Morning Mist

ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo

lonely graves
spooking away the ghosts -
Summer in Japan

Ghost Stories, by Gabi Greve


- - - - - Matsuo Basho - - - - - 

uri no kawa muita tokoro ya Rendaino

we had just peeled
the skin of the melons -
Rendaino cemetery

Rendaino was a famous graveyard in Kyoto, near Mount Funaokayama 船岡山.
The word is also used for graveyards elsewhere.
The haikai meeting of Basho and his companions was probably held there, the topic for the event was "a famous place for melons". After spending some time and eating all the melons, Basho was stuck in the present situation - back here at the cemetery.

Written in the summer of 1694 元禄7年夏.

蓮台 is a pedestal in the form of a lotos, which Kannon Bosatsu carries to welcome the souls of the dead in the Buddhist paradise.

. Matsuo Basho 松尾芭蕉 - Archives of the WKD .

. WKD : hasu 蓮 renge 蓮華 .


- - - - - Kobayashi Issa 一茶

source : pochi21.exblog.jp

ware shinaba hakamori to nare kirigirisu

when I die
guard my grave

Tr. David Lanoue

when I am gone
guard my gravestone,

Tr. Michael Haldane

- - - - -

haka no ki no kageboshi fumanu sumoo kana

the sumo wrestler
steps around the shadow
of the tree by the grave

Kobayashi Issa 一茶

Comment by Chris Drake:

Normally people get out of the way when a large, muscular sumo wrestler walks by, but Issa shows how timid one wrestler is. The long shadow of a tree near a grave falls across part of the road, and when the wrestler reaches the spot he avoids stepping on the shadow as carefully as he would avoid stepping on another person or animal. He seems to believe stepping on the shadow would be as bad as stepping on the grave itself, and, apparently feeling a mixture of fear of ghostly retribution and respect for the dead person, he walks around the shadow without stepping on it.

I found several references to a folk belief according to which it is considered unlucky if a large tree is growing near a grave and therefore that graves should be placed some distance from the nearest big tree. (This belief is not universal, but it is common.) This may be because trees, especially pines and willows, were and sometimes still are associated with ghosts and spirits returning from the other world. This may be partly linked to the tendency in Japanese (and Siberian) shamanism to regard trees as symbols of the "ladders" shamans climb when they go into a trance and are believed to visit other worlds. The pine tree depicted on one wall of noh stages expresses this belief, and in Japanese the counter suffix for gods is -hashira, "pillar" or "pole," so two gods are literally "two god-poles" (futa-hashira no kami), and thee poles is used for three gods, etc. So the sumo wrestler may consider the tree to be a possible link or connection point between the grave and the other world, and he wants to avoid being haunted or bothered by any ghosts or spectral presences, especially the soul of the buried person.

One other possibility, less likely, is that ki or "tree; wood" here refers to the wooden pole, carved like a small stupa at the top, that often stood by a commoner's grave in place of a gravestone, especially in the countryside. It is a custom that no longer seems to be followed in Japan.


asazamu ya hitori bozen ni uzukumaru

cold morning -
alone I stay bent
in front of a grave

Masaoka Shiki 正岡子規


In Memoriam Erika Schwalm, 17 December 2005

Let thousand ikebana
decorate your grave
and a haiku-string.

Judit Vihar (Hungary)

visiting the dog's grave
then away!

David G. Lanoue(USA)


tempslibres : Mot-clé / Keyword : mort / death

Mother's Day;
the smell of roses
near a grave.

Fête des mères;
le parfum des roses
près d'une tombe.

Ann Krischus , USA 

new gravesite
the persistent taps
of a woodpecker

nouveau cimetière
les coups persistants
d'un pic-vert

Cindy Tebo , USA

grandfather's grave
just another stone
for the dragonfly

la tombe de grand-père
juste une autre pierre
pour la libellule

Cindy Tebo , USA

kiri saite
suterare mura ni
haka nokoru

Paulownia flowering
in the forgotten village
only graves are left

im verlassenen Dorf
nur noch Graeber

Paulownia en fleurs
dans le village oublié
seules les tombes sont restées

Gabi Greve , Japan

fading light -
a red leaf bouquet
at the smallest grave

la lumière décline --
un bouquet de feuilles rouges
sur la plus petite tombe

Mary King , USA

I light on again
the candle on her grave
extuinguished by wind

j'allume à nouveau
sur sa tombe la bougie
éteinte par le vent

Tomislav Maretic/ , Croatia

tempslibres : Mot-clé / Keyword : mort / death


rise up
from the grave, bonifacio...
summer is near

robert wilson
Bonifacio Day, Philippines World Kigo Database


staro groblje -
miris majčine dušice
u lahoru

old graveyard -
a scent of wild thyme
on the breeze

Norman Darlington
"First published in Daily Yomiuri 2004"


the new graveyard
slowly the cleared field
regains its stones

published in "Modern Haiku," Vol. X, No. 3, p. 7

(This was written on a trip to Ireland, as my wife and I bicycled past the place mentioned, near the town of Dingle.)

Larry Bole


usumono ni kaze atsumarite so owaru

a breeze is gathering
in our thin kimonos -
the funeral is over

Hasegawa Sogyo (Hasegawa Soogyo)
長谷川双魚 (1897 - 1987)


Mount Auburn
teenagers giggling
by somebody's tomb

[Mount Auburn, founded in 1831, was the first landscaped cemetery in America. It has served as a model for cemeteries ever since and is a major tourist attraction, appealing especially to birders and fall foliage lovers.
Dignitaries interred there include Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Winslow Homer, Amy Lowell, Bernard Malamud, Robert Creeley and Buckminster Fuller.]

Bill Kenney, USA, January 2008


drum beats and songs
of the Salvation Army choir--
marching to the grave

Read the account of Caleb Mutua about the burial of his grandmother,
Ocotber 2010, in Kenya

(1914 TO 2010)


her lips quiver
without making a sound---
funeral song

- Shared by Kash Poet
Joys of Japan, March 2012

Related words

***** WKD: O-Bon Festival

***** WKD: Mortality (shi ni yuku)

***** WKD: Spider Lily (higanbana), growing at Japanese graves

***** Toribeno and Adashino -
Famous Graveyards in Kyoto, Japan


. sooshiki 葬式 soshiki - funeral service in Edo .
- Introduction -

. Grave marker (sotoba 卒塔婆)  

Graveyard warden (onboo 隠坊 (おんぼう)

. Dead Body (hotoke 仏)
..... shisha 死者
..... corpse, shitai 死体
..... kabane かばね(屍/尸), skeleton





Anonymous said...

Dear Gabi,

If you like, feel free to include this haiku of mine that was published in "Modern Haiku," Vol. X, No. 3, p. 7:

the new graveyard
slowly the cleared field
regains its stones

(This was written on a trip to Ireland, as my wife and I bicycled past the place mentioned, near the town of Dingle.)

Larry Bole

. Gabi Greve said...

. Grave Markers (sotoba 卒塔婆 そとば .


. Gabi Greve said...

Cemetery Sunday in Ireland
KIGO in Europa Saijiki


. Gabi Greve said...

the cemetery guard
dries his loincloth...
lotus blossoms...

omboo no mutsuki hoshitari hasu no hana


by Issa, 1814

The person in question (omboo) is either a cemetery guard or a worker at a crematorium.

Tr. David Lanoue


. Gabi Greve said...

even after death
each one is different --
leaning headstones

—Myron Lysenko, Melbourne, Australia

published at tinywords, August 2006



Anonymous said...


agetsuchi no ika ni mo haru no hi nari keri

even below
the grave mound
a fine spring day


koke wa are hana no saki keri umare-zuka

moss provides
the blooming flowers...
grave mound


inazuma ya ura no otoko no kuyôzuka

lightning flash--
a seaside man's
grave mound

Kuyôzuka is an unknown person's grave mound.

© 2000-2006 by David G. Lanoue

. Gabi Greve said...



kimi ga yo ya
nushi nashi tsuka mo
kazari matsu

Great Japan!
even an ownerless grave
decorated with pine

by Issa, 1818

"Great Japan" is my translation of kimi ga yo, a phrase that refers to the emperor's reign and begins the Japanese national anthem. Someone has placed a New Year's pine-and-bamboo decoration on the grave.

Tr. David Lanoue


. Gabi Greve said...

higan walk -
the smell of incense
from many graves

Look at them HERE !

Gabi Greve, September 2006

Japan Times said...

April 15, 2008, Japan Times

Kyodo Bochi

Dear Alice, On a recent train trip to Nikko, I spotted several small cemeteries in the middle of rice fields. I've also seen this from a taxi window on the way to the airport in Kanazawa. I'm guessing these little groups of graves are family plots, but why the heck are they located in the middle of rice paddies? Our taxi driver suggested it's a matter of convenience: Since the farmers are in the fields every day anyway, it's easy to visit the deceased on the way to or from work. True?
Doc O., Machida, Tokyo


Dear Doc,
After a bit of digging, I decided to take your question to Hajime Himonya, managing editor of SOGI, The Magazine for Funeral Service (Sogi is a relatively formal word for "funeral.") Himonya said what you saw were probably kyodo bochi (common graveyards) that are shared by a small rural community.

Although such cemeteries exist in many parts of Japan, they are particularly prevalent in the Hokuriku region, which includes Fukui, Toyama and Ishikawa prefectures, so he wasn't at all surprised that you had spotted one near Kanazawa.

"Although the disposition of human remains is now regulated, until after the war, people were free to erect graves pretty much wherever they wanted," Himonya explained.
"Family plots might be placed very close to the home, but if a graveyard was to be used by an entire village, it was usually situated in a place that was convenient and meaningful for the community.

"The rice fields were where people came together to work and grow their sustenance, so that would be a logical place for their graves."

When I wondered if that wasn't a little too close for comfort, Himonya pointed out that Japanese people used to have a much closer relationship with death.

"In earlier times, death was more clearly regarded as a part of life," he said. "Graves weren't scary, particularly for people in rural areas, because you would know everyone who was in there."

Some of these small cemeteries are still in use, and local people, or those with family connections to the graveyard, can arrange to have their remains added to the common grave. In other cases, the communities themselves have died out as younger residents moved away to the cities.

As an aside, you might be interested to know that nearly all human remains in Japan are now cremated (the figure recently hit 99.9 percent). People often assume that the custom of burning bodies came to Japan with Buddhism in the eighth century, but archaeologists working near Osaka have uncovered burned human remains that date back several centuries earlier.

Yet, despite this long history of cremation, burial was also a common practice in many parts of the country until fairly recent times. Bodies were bound into a sitting position, which saved on both burial space and wood for the coffin in which the body was placed before burial. The same position used to be common for cremation (kaso) too, perhaps to use fuel efficiently.

These days, it is usually only Muslims who are buried in Japan (because Islam prohibits cremation), and very few cemeteries are set up to accommodate burials. Japanese Christians are almost always cremated, even though the Vatican didn't sanction cremation until 1963, well before that many Catholics in Japan found that the lack of burial space and the local preference for cremation made it necessary to cremate their dead.

Before I departed, I asked Himonya about new trends in the funereal industry. A relatively new practice, he said, is sankotsu — scattering the ashes of the deceased in places of natural beauty.

Although the relevant laws don't specifically mention scattering, regulators have determined that it's not illegal as long as the remains are finely ground (not the norm in Japan, where bones are picked out of the cremated remains as a standard part of funerals), and scattered in such a way as not to cause trouble for anyone. There are even commercial services that will scatter Japanese remains in California or New Zealand.

Another new development is jumokuso (funerals in the trees), in which temples and other providers of grave space offer a final resting place among woods and wildflowers.

A temple in Iwate Prefecture that claims to have been the first in Japan to offer this service, in 1999, accepts cremated remains for ¥500,000, a fraction of the cost of a regular grave in Japan. Grave stones are not allowed, and only flowers or trees can be used to mark the grave site.


Gabi Greve / O-Bon hakamairi said...

ie wa mina tsue ni shiragami no hakamairi

all family members
with canes and white hair
visiting graves

Matsuo Basho 松尾芭蕉, 1656 明暦2
at the local shrine of his village at Iga Ueno

The whole family--
All with white hair and canes
visiting graves
Tr. Jane Reichhold

Iris said...

over my parents' grave
the aureole

my haiga with this haiku was published in Daily Haiga at

Irena Szewczyk

Iris said...

fresh flowers
from her garden
for her grave


my above haiku won Honorable Mention (selected by Toshio Kimura) in 14th HIA HAIKU CONTEST

Irena Szewczyk

Gabi Greve - Basho archives said...

tamuke - offering at a grave

Matsuo Basho

- Matsuo Basho wrote this at the death of the father of Sanpu,
Sugiyama Senpuu 杉山仙風 Sugiyama Senpu

tamuke keri imo wa hachisu ni nitaru tote

here is my offering -
the flowers of yam
look almost like lotus


Gabi Greve - news said...

Services allow for virtual grave visits
For people living far from the graves of their ancestors, paying respects no longer has to involve a long journey, with subscribers to an online service able to conduct virtual cemetery visits from their computer screens.

Japan Times

Gabi Greve said...

banka - funeral song, elegy
originating in China
sung by the bearers of the coffin.


挽歌 - 中国で葬送の時、柩を挽く者が歌った歌。転じて、悲しみを歌った詩・歌・楽曲のこと。
挽歌(和歌) - in the Manyo-Shu 万葉集で、soomon 相聞(そうもん)・zooka 雑歌(ぞうか)とともに三大部立ての一。

エレジー - 悲しみを歌った詩・歌・楽曲。- elegy
ラメント - 嘆き、遺憾、哀悼を表した詩・歌・楽曲。- lament