Winter Butterfly : itechoo

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Winter butterfly, freezing butterfly (fuyu no choo)

***** Location: Japan, other areas
***** Season: All Winter
***** Category: Animal


winter butterfly, winter's butterfly, fuyu no choo 冬の蝶
..... fuyuchoo 冬蝶

freezing butterfly, frozen butterfly, itechoo 凍蝶
...... choo izuru 蝶凍つる

"butterfly hibernating till next year", otsunen choo, otsunenchoo 越年蝶, オツネンチョウ
This is one of the first butterflies to show up after the New Year, but it does not hibernate as a butterfly, as the Japanese name would suggest.It comes out of its pupa.



The butterfly counts not months but moments,
and has time enough.

Rabindranath Tagore


This entry is mainly concerned with the translation of a famous haiku by Kyoshi.
See below.

Worldwide use


an old butterfly
the last refuge from cold
a solitary twig

Charan Gill
Joys of Japan, January 2012



In Ireland too, winter butterflies are common. They find nooks and crannies in our old farmhouse, and occasionally flutter about when they feel some warmth. Then, in springtime, they reappear, revived, and we let them fly out into the garden.

My mother was as intrigued about their habits as I was. She found that this was a particular butterfly (by far the most common one here), called Nymphalis urticae or Small Tortoiseshell (in German, Kleiner Fuchs). This seems to be one of very few species that can hibernate as butterflies and continue into another year when spring arrives.

I often carry them in my cupped hands from a heated room to a cold corridor in our old house :

winter butterfly --
the tickling sensation
in my hand

Isabelle Prondzynski, Ireland

Things found on the way

Translating the famous haiku by Kyoshi.

itechoo no onore ga tamashi oote tobu

[ A freezing butterfly’own self, pursuing its soul, flies.]

A butterfly's self -
it flies, freezing, pursuing
its own soul.

Hugh Bygott,June 16 2006, including a discussion

A butterfly's self,
body freezing, it flies pursuing
its own soul.

Hugh Bygott, June 21 2006

itechoo no onore ga tamashi oote tobu

......................................rendered in everyday Japanese

itechoo ga onore no tamashi o oote tobu

onore no tamashi, jibun no tamashi ... his/her/its soul

ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo




Thoughts on Haiku, by Paul MacNeil


the Soul, Spirit, tamashii 魂 

mahoo no yuuki
jiyuu no tamashii o

magics of bravery/courage
a free/unfettered soul
is what I long for

© Sylvia T. Leung

... ... ... ... ... ...

俳句魂の十年 Haiku-damashii, the soul of haiku

Kyoshi's "Freezing Butterfly", Metaphor in Haiku
Discussion by Hugh Bygott


Three SOUL-haiku by Issa, translated by David Lanoue

mi hitotsu mo onaji sewa nari hana no haru

for my soul too
help arrives...
spring blossoms

fugainai mi tona oboshiso hito wa haru

I'm called
a poor-spirited soul...
mankind's spring

make[nu] ki ni kuri no kawa muku ireba kana

an indomitable soul--
a chestnut husk
a false tooth


tsui-tsui to tsune shoogatsu ya yamome choo

widow butterfly --
how quickly she celebrates
a normal New Year's

Tr. Chris Drake

This hokku is from lunar 3/29 (May 2) in 1810, when Issa was in the area just east of the great city of Edo. The hokku may be a memory from what he saw at lunar New Year's in early February, or perhaps Issa is thinking in terms of butterfly time and butterfly New Year's. In any case, Issa has apparently been watching and keeping track of a pair of butterflies with distinctive wing colors and designs as they mate and fly around, and the male has suddenly disappeared, so he refers to the female as a widow. Among humans in Issa's age, it was normal for a widow who had just lost her husband to stay inside her house for fifty days without eating any fish or meat or drinking any alcohol or engaging in any lively or festive activities.

In addition, she was expected to wear dark-colored robes for thirteen or more months and in some cases to cut her hair short. During this period of mourning she could not play or listen to music, join in any festivals or celebrations (such as weddings), or make any pilgrimages to Shinto shrines, especially a joyous trip to a shrine at New Year's. Even today most Japanese who are in mourning do not send ordinary New Year's cards or celebrate New Year's in a festive way. Unlike human widows, however, the butterfly widow does not go into mourning and recovers rapidly from the disappearance of the male. She has no interest in staying inside, and in gorgeous colors she flies here and there outside in a vigorous and graceful way as if to celebrate the coming of the new year and a new stage in her life.

Chris Drake

. Kobayashi Issa 小林一茶 Issa in Edo .


itechoo no onore ga tamashi oote tobu

Takahama Kyoshi 高浜 虚子 (1874~1959)

pursuing its soul,
the freezing butterfly
flies and flies

(Tr. Gabi Greve)

freezing butterfly
the soul itself
with arms wide open flies

"chibi" (pen-name for Dennis M. Holmes)           

Through the freezing air
a butterfly, fluttering,
seeking its lost soul

Kroz ledni vazduh
leprša leptir tražeći
izgubljenu dušu

Translated by * Saša Važić


itecho o tsuranuku gotoku shimobashira

Masaoka Shiki

needles of frost -
piercing to the winter

literal translation is

frozen butterfly/through/piercing/as if/frost needles

frost needles... as if piercing through the frozen butterfly

Dhugal J. Lindsay.
Read a discussion in the SHIKI archives


Dream of a winter butterfly.
A drop of melted snow
In the Karakorams.

Kakio Tomizawa (1902 ~ 1962)


winter butterfly
leads me -
a shiny path

Etsuko Yanagibori, published in Simply Haiku


winter butterfly—
my first marriage
in the jewelry box

—Fay Aoyagi


dreaming to be
reborn in paradise ...
winter butterflies

Click for more photos of this HAIGA series !

  © Gabi Greve, 2007 With more photos.

Related words

***** World Kigo Database: Butterfly (choochoo)

Kigo for SPRING


Butterfly at O-Bon in Japan (August)

his soul is back -
a huge butterfly sips
grandfather's sake

I poored a small cup for the former owner of our home, and it seems he accepted the gift !

Gabi Greve, August 2006

***** Hibernating dragonfly, otsunen tonbo
WKD : Dragonfly (tonbo, tombo)

Kigo for All AUTUMN





Anonymous said...

bravo, gabi san!

robert wilson


Rita Odeh said...

Great Effort.
I enjoyed reading and learned a new fact: a butterfly can hibernate..!

sakuo said...

frozen butterfly

What a terrible word!!


. Gabi Greve said...


hidden in the loft
by our winter food --
a peacock butterfly

Tomas Maretic, 2007