Voice of an Animal (xx no koe)

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Voice of an animal (marumaru no koe)

***** Location: Japan
***** Season: Non-seasonal Topic
***** Category: Animal mole


The voices of animals can be expressed in many ways and translating them is even more difficult. Here we will look at some problems of translating. Some of the animals are kigo, see the links to the WKD.

Biologically, the voice is produced through the cooperation of lungs, throat and mounth. So larger animals can be said to have a voice.
Insects usually use other parts of their body to produce a sound, so it is questionable if the literal translation for KOE in this case is correct.

the "voice" of an animal is nakigoe 鳴き声、鳴声.
the sound of an animal is expressed as naku 鳴く

Please add your haiku and haiku of the masters, as you find them, as a comment to this BLOG.
Gabi Greve, July 2006

The voices of the following animals are discussed, in the order as I found them

"voice of the cicada" semi no koe 蝉の声
"voices of the insects" mushi no koe 虫の声
"voice of the birds" tori no koe 鳥の声
"sparrow's voices" suzume no koe 雀の声、a problem
SPIDERS, kumo 蜘蛛
DUCKS, kamo 鴨
PHEASANT, kiji 雉子
COWS and Bulls, ushi 牛
DOG, inu 犬
CAT, neko 猫
DEER, shika 鹿
EARTHWORM, mimizu ミミズ 蚯蚓 みみず
CRICKET, kirigirisu きりぎりす

. turtle making a sound, crying, turtle chirps
kame naku 亀鳴く (かめなく)
"turtle reciting the sutras"
kame no kankin 亀の看経(かめのかんきん) 

FOX, kitsune 狐 ... gon gon, kon kon

. Yellow voice of uguisu 鶯や黄色な声 .
yguisu ya kiiro na koe de oya o yobu / Issa


"voice of the cicada" semi no koe 蝉の声

shizukasa ya iwa ni shimiiru semi no koe

oh in the quietude
seeping into the rock
the voices of cicadas

WKD : Cicada (semi)

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

さびしさや 岩にしみ込 蝉のこゑ
sabishisa ya iwa ni shimikomu semi no koe

On a lonely path
penetrating all the rocks
a cicada cry

Matsuo Basho

Memorial Stone of this haiku

© 俳聖 松尾芭蕉・みちのくの足跡

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

やがてしぬ けしきはみえず 蝉の声
yagate shinu keshiki wa miezu semi no koe

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

Soon to die
they show no sign of it:
the cries of cicadas

(© William J. Higginson)

Soon to die
but there's no sign of it
in the cicadas' song.
(© Thomas McAuley)

Dying cricket!
How he sings out his life.


There is nothing in the cry
of the cicada that suggests
it is about to die

Tr. Sam Hamill

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

撞鐘も ひびくやうなり 蝉の聲
tsuku kane mo hibiku yo nari semi no koe

Matsuo Basho

A tolling bell
resounding is
the cicadas' song.

(© Thomas McAuley)


yamaudo ya tamoto no naka no semi no koe

mountain hermit--
deep in his sleeve
singing, a cicada

Kobayashi Issa
Tr. David Lanoue

山人 - yamabito


CICADA : other translations

tremolo of cicadas (literally)
World Haiku Review

cicada’s song

cicadas singing

cicada voice

cicadas' cry
cries of the cicada

the locust cry
the locust-shrill

sound of a cicada


"Voices of the Insects" mushi no koe 虫の声
The various sounds of the crickets in autumn.

WKD : Insects (mushi) and their sounds

A sweet cake served for the tea ceremony in autumn,
called "Mushi no Koe"


ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo

"recital of the insects, mushi no gin 虫の吟
GIN is the poetry recital, we know it from the Haiku Walk, ginkoo 吟行.

fuyuniwa ya tsuki mo ito naru mushi no gin
fuyu-niwa ya fuyu niwa ya
Above a wintry garden
the moon thins to a thread:
insect's singing.
(Makoto Ueda 1970)

the winter garden -
thinning to a thread, the moon
and an insect's singing
(Makoto Ueda 1992)

Над зимним садом -
Луна тонка, словно нить.
Поют комары.

Copyright © 1998-2004, D. Smirnov, I. Yasuda

About the KIGO in this haiku:
is of course a winter kigo, but here it might mean the feeling of cool in the garden when the first voice of the insects (kigo for autumn) are finally heared after a long hot summer. After all, we are in the Edo period with no coolers or devices to cool a home. Even the sound of wind chimes (fuurin) was used to create a feeling of coolness in summer.

If the word WINTER is taken at face value, it will convey the feeling of a pleasant warm late autumn day, when the insects were still singing.





"voice of the birds" tori no koe 鳥の声

bird song, chirping

Some Thoughts by Narayanan :

I and N [ my disciple for music] were listening to Kumar Gandharva's Bhajans. It ended with "nirbhay nirgun ~~ " There was a profound silence around as a result of the song. Then he was about to play another cassette.

I said "fool stop it: there is no more human music possible after this!It is a closure. Only birds can sing better!"

We were sitting there for sometime and very soon dozens of different birds appeared in the garden around, singing in full gusto. I was ecstatic: It was as if they heard my compliment to their race.

I just indicated to N to listen and showed him how they were keeping Adi Taalam [the primordial rhythm] for their divine symphony. It was the only time i had seen so many birds at my window. In traditional Indian mysticism birds are divine beings. Even crows are considered anscestors coming to visit us. In other traditions they symbolize angels.

the sky is mu
the spring-light is mu
the bird-song is mu

© Narayanan Raghunathan
World Kigo Database : MU 


Kikinashi ききなし
(the expression of birdcalls in the Japanese language)

Many people find it quite difficult to learn how to recognize each species' particular way of singing. It's probably not as easy as remembering their physical characteristics.

The song of the cuckoo, which has been transcribed as "Tokyo-tokkyo-kyokakyoku" (which means Tokyo Patent Office) and that of the crowned willow warbler - "sho-chu-ippai-kuii" ("Drink the wine down in one gulp").

Please read the details HERE !


voice of a sparrow, suzume no koe 雀の声

yume mo mizu nete ita yo suzume no koe

not seeing a dream
slept the night
sparrow's voices

荻原井泉水 Ogiwara Seisensui

I wonder if the last line of this haiku is correct.
The kigo is quoted for spring, but then it should read "suzume no ko", baby sparrow.
Quoted from "The Haiku Handbook", Kodansha 1985, by William J. Higginson

Read more here:
Discussing kigo: "suzume no koe ??"

... ... ...

chuu chuu to suzume no koe ni mezametari

chirp chirp chirp -
I wake up to the
voice of the sparrows

Comment of the author:
This is a haiku without a kigo. Had I written "baby sparrows", this would have a kigo.

Worldwide use


Various Voices of Animals
Zhanna P. Rader  

Things found on the way



In English, the sound mosquitoes make when flying is commonly described as being a 'buzz', a 'hum', a 'drone' and sometimes a 'whine'.
In Japanese, the onomatopoetic 'bun-bun' can be used to discribe this sound.
A scientific study has shown that different species of mosquitoes buzz or hum at different sound frequencies to facilitate finding the right mate among the different mosquitoes 'voicing' around in a given area.
Larry Bole, Translating Haiku Forum

ka no koe no naka ni shisaku no ito o eshi

Through the mosquito's voice
I started a thread of poetic thought.
(Tr. Hugh Bygott)

Discussing this haiku
Hugh Bygott, Translating Haiku Forum

... ... ...

I can imagine her sitting in the mosquito net (I used to live in one in the first year of my stay at GokuRakuAn, with all the mosquitoes buzzing outside, trying to get my thoughts together while looking through the loops and threads ...), so here she sits trying to ponder ... I wonder which haiku was really formed in her mind in this situation !
With the idea of a mosquito net the idea of a thread is even more tempting to me as some sort of shasei ...

amid the buzz of mosquitoes
a thread of ideas is

(Tr. Gabi Greve)

in the mosquito's
buzz, a thread of thought
begins in my mind

(Tr. Ueda Makoto)


ka no koe no naka ni akai zo kusa no hana

Kobayashi Issa

amid the buzz of mosquitoes
a bit of red...

Tr. David Lanoue

WKD : Mosquito (ka)


ka no koe su nindoo no hana chiru goto ni

Mosquitoes humming
each time a honeysuckle flower
falls from the vine.

Tr. Sawa & Shiffert

. Honeysuckle (nindoo, suikazura) .

ka no koe no urotsuku gozoo roppu kana

. Kaneko Tohta, Kaneko Tota 金子兜太 .


SPIDERS, kumo 蜘蛛

蜘何と 音をなにと鳴 秋の風
Kumo nan to ne wo nani to naku aki no kaze

Spider, say again!
It’s so hard to hear your voice
in the autumn wind.

Spider, I say!
In what voice do you chirp?
An autumn wind

(Tr. Makoto Ueda)

Old spider! What is your
song? How do you cry
to the autumn wind

Tr. Sam Hamill

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

Discussing more translations of this haiku
Translating Haiku Forum, April 2010

WKD : Spider (kumo)  

© Photo by Gabi Greve, July 2006  


DUCKS, kamo 鴨

海くれて 鴨のこゑ ほのかに白し
Umi kurete kamo no koe honokani shiroshi

Ocean waves are dark,
only calls of ducks
faintly lighten in the sky

The sea darkens
and a wild duck’s call
is faintly white.
Makoto Ueda

Discussing the color WHITE -
. Matsuo Basho 松尾芭蕉 - Archives of the WKD .

WKD : Duck (kamo)  


PHEASANT, kiji 雉子

父母の しきりに戀し 雉子の声
chichi haha no shikiri ni koishi kiji no koe

Father, mother dear!
I hear as I mourn for you –
hear the pheasant's cry!

The voice of the pheasant;
how I longed
for my dead parents!

Tr. Blyth

Discussion is here :
. Matsuo Basho 松尾芭蕉 - Archives of the WKD .


kiji naku ya zatoo ga hashi o hau toki ni

a pheasant cries
just when the blind man
crawls across the bridge

Issa, 1818
Tr. David Lanoue

In this comic haiku the pheasant's outburst has come at a bad time. One hopes that the blind man isn't startled enough to lose his balance!


Mokubo Temple --
even at dusk the pheasant
still crying

mokuboji wa kurete mo kiji no naki ni keri

Issa and Temple Mokubo-Ji
Tr. David Lanoue

Pheasant (kiji) KIGO


Cows and Bulls, ushi 牛

haru kaze ya tsutsumi goshi naru ushi no koe

来山 Raizan

Vento de primavera —
Do outro lado do aterro,
O mugido da vaca.

spring breeze -
on the riverbank
the voices of cows

(tr. Gabi Greve)

WKD : Cow, Bull (ushi)


DOG, inu 犬
howling, unaru うなる

inu no koe kutsu no ne nagakiyo nari ni keri

a dog howling
sound of footsteps
longer night

Masaoka Shiki

... ... ...

inu no koe pattari yamite hasu no hana

the dog stops barking...
lotus blossoms!

Kobayashi Issa, Three more on this LINK
Tr. David Lanoue

ura mado ya shika no kidori ni inu no koe

back window--
the deer strikes a pose
the dog barks

hana chiru ya shoomyoo unaru tera no inu

cherry blossoms scatter--
growling Buddha's name
a temple dog

Issa (Tr. David Lanoue)

The temple dog is growling the nembutsu prayer:
"Namu Amida Butsu"--"All praise to Amida Buddha!"
This is appropriate for the situation, since the blossoms are dying and only Amida Buddha's intercession can bring salvation: rebirth in the Pure Land.
"Blossoms" (hana) can denote cherry blossoms in the shorthand of haiku.

Chanting only the name of Amida or other deities is especially common in the Sect of the Pure Land, to which Issa belonged.
称名 (しょうみょう): 仏や菩薩の名を称(とな)えること。

shoomyoo 声明 is the chanting of prayers accompanied by musical intstuments in other Buddhist sects.


CAT, neko 猫

sound/voice/call/ of a cat ... neko no koe 猫の声

hana ni hi no sashite cho kamu neko no koe

Hyakuchi (1757-1835)

sun-lit blossoms
a cat gurgles chewing
on a butterfly

robin d. gill

Read the discussion of this translation
Translating Haiku Forum


In the haiku by Issa, the subject is the love season of cats, neko no koi 猫の恋.

nora neko mo tsuma kou koe wa mochi ni keri

even the stray cat
for a wife!

ariake ya ie nashi neko mo koi wo naku

at dawn
the homeless cat, too
cries for love

neko naku ya naka nagaruru sumida-gawa

cats' love calls--
between them flows
Sumida River

ô neko yo hayaku ike ike tsuma ga naku

hey big cat
shake a leg!
the wife calls

amari naite ishi ni naru na yo neko no koi

such yowling
don't turn to stone!
lover cat

tsuri-gane no yôna koe shite neko no koi

with a voice
like a temple bell...
the lover cat

io no neko shagare koe nite ukare keri

my hut's cat
with a hoarse voice
goes carousing

baka neko ya shintai-giri no ukare koe

foolish cat--
putting his whole body
into his yowl

yane no koe mita bakari nari bushô neko

just a glance
at the yowler on the roof...
lazy cat

koi neko ya tate yoko mura wo naki-aruku

the lover cat
crisscrosses the village

shibararete ibiki kaku nari neko no koi

tethered now
how he snores...
the lover cat

Issa, Tr. by David Lanoue 


DEER, shika 鹿

shika no nakigoe 鹿の鳴声
Deer, Voice of the Deer: KIGO for Autumn  
!! Read this interesting discuccion HERE !!


. mimizu naku みみずなく mole-cricket singing
lit "earthworms singing", "earthworms's song"

mole cricket Gryllotalpa orientalis

kera naku 螻蛄鳴く (けらなく) mole cricket singing
jimushi naku 地虫鳴く (じむしなく)"earth insect singing"

kigo for all autumn  


CRICKET, kirigirisu きりぎりす

Cricket as KIGO for Autumn     

kirigirisu koe o karasu na asu mo aki

don't get hoarse
katydid! tomorrow is
autumn too

Issa, Tr. David Lanoue

A katydid (kirigirisu) is a green or light brown insect, a cousin of crickets and grasshoppers. The males possess special organs on the wings with which they produce shrill calls. Although katydid is the closest English equivalent, many translators (such as R. H. Blyth) use the more familiar "grasshopper" and "cricket." See Haiku (Tokyo: Hokuseido, 1949-1952; rpt. 1981-1982/reset paperback edition) 4.1068-69.


. mushi karuru 虫嗄るる(むしかるる)
insects singing with a hoarse voice

mushi tayuru 虫絶ゆる(むしたゆる) "voice is soon over"
mushi oyu 虫老ゆ(むしおゆ)insects getting old
fuyu no mushi 冬の虫 (ふゆのむし) insects in winter

kigo for early winter

Related words

***** Haiku Topics ..... (WKD): Sound of Water mizu no oto 水の音

***** Kaze no Oto, the Sound of Wind. Gabi Greve 風の音




John Daleiden said...

buzzing, buzzing
mosquito in my ear
I slap myself

John Daleiden

. Gabi Greve said...

matsukaze ni/sasowarete naku/semi hitotsu

a single cicada...
enticed by the wind in the pines,
begins to cry

Sojo Hino (1901-1956)
Translated and commented by Susumu Takiguchi  


sakuo said...

danke seher


. Gabi Greve said...


voice of a turtle, kame naku 亀鳴く
kigo for spring.

This is not so much about the physical voice of the animal but reflects the joy of spring and new life.


Gillena Cox said...

uma no kusa kurau oto shite tobu hotaru

sound of a horse
gobbling grass...
fireflies flitting

ISSA 1814

Anonymous said...


The comingling of sounds is a familiar theme in haiku, but none-the-worse-for-wear for being familiar.

Here are several by Basho, just to see how someone else has done it:

suzumeko to koe nakikawasu nezumi no su

squeaking in response
to the young sparrows:
mice in their nest

(spring: young sparrows ('suzume')

Basho, trans. Barnhill

hibari naku naka no hyooshi ya kiji no koe

a skylark's singing,
and keeping to its rhythm,
a pheasant's cry

(double spring kigo: skylark ('hibari') and pheasant ('kiji')

Basho, trans. Barnhill

ikauri no koe magirawashi hototgisu

a squid-seller's call:
indistinguishable from the

(double summer kigo: cuckoo ('hototogisu') and squid.

Basho, trans. Barnhill

How would be my version:

swung open
the gate's hinges sing along
with the lark

Larry Bole



Here are a couple of haiku about a dead animal:

dead cat
to the pouring rain

Michael McClintock, The Haiku Anthology

fuyukawa ni sutetaru inu no kabane kana

The body of a dog
Thrown away
in the winter river.

Shiki, trans. Blyth


and a shitting cat

nora-neko no fun shite iru ya fuyu no niwa

a stray cat
is shitting
in my winter garden

trans. Burton Watson


Kenya Saijiki Forum said...

dance in stagnant water-
cold september

Andrew Otinga, Kenya

Gabi Greve - Issa said...

Kobayashi Issa

kirigirisu tonari ni ite mo kikoekeri

cricket songs
still clear
next door

This hokku is from 8/28 (Oct. 1) in 1804, when Issa was visiting the house of a haikai poet named Gihei just east of Edo. A diary note for this day says, "Many insects in the mansion next door to Gihei," so there is probably a hedge or wooden wall between the house or mansion where Issa is staying and the mansion next door, and "next door" implies a certain amount of distance. The insects Issa can hear are black or dark brown crickets. In Basho's and Issa's time kirigirisu referred to crickets, but in modern Japanese the meaning of the word has shifted, and it now means katydid or grasshopper, while crickets are now called koorogi. Many similar semantic shifts also occurred during westernization.

In this hokku male crickets seem to be making one of their louder songs or "chirpings," either to attract females from a distance or to warm off other males, and they are now attracting humans at a medium distance as well. (Their intimate mating songs are quieter.)

Cricket songs seem rather musical to humans, and there are probably several different kinds of crickets in the next-door mansion garden, so it must be an expansive sonic experience for Issa and Kihei.

Chris Drake

Gabi Greve - Basho archives said...

Matsuo Basho

hototogisu koe yokotau ya mizu no ue

hito-koe no e ni yokotau ya hototogisu

hototogisu by Basho

Gabi Greve - Basho archives said...

Matsuo Basho

- semi 蝉 cicada / semi no koe 蝉の声 -