Suzuki Masajo

[ . BACK to Worldkigo TOP . ]

Suzuki Masajo (1906-2003)

鈴木真砂女 (すずきまさじょ)

明治39年-平成15年) 平成15年3月14日

Masajo Suzuki

. Reference .

Suzuki Masajo, author of
Love Haiku: Masajo Suzuki's Lifetime of Love,
has died.

Emiko Miyashita, a well-known haiku poet and a translator of Suzuki Masajo, wrote:

"I went to Masajo's wake this evening.. The wake was held in Gokokuji Temple in Tokyo from 6:00 p.m.This is her alter. All the attendants offered a white chrysanthemumn to this extraordinary lady who had lived her life so fully...."
source : www.hsa-haiku.org


Last Farewells to Masajo
-- A Life of Love and Haiku

Susumu Takiguchi, Oxford, England

One of the most distinguished and best loved haiku poets, Suzuki Masajo (1906-2003), has passed away. She was 96. She died a natural death peacefully at a retirement home in Tokyo
on Friday 14 March 2003. Her life was one of love and haiku, which is chronicled in her own unforgettable poems and essays.

Masajo was a successful business woman and restaurateur, beside being a poet. She ran the famous watering place in Ginza, Tokyo, called "Unami", of which she took personal charge every day until she was 90. Born nearly a century ago into an old family of hoteliers in Chiba, dating back to the Edo Era (1603-1867), she lived a life comparable to those of heroines in operas such as La Traviata or Tosca. Her first husband "disappeared". Her elder sister, who inherited the inn business, suddenly died. Masajo took over the family business and married the sister's husband. They had a troubled married life from which she "walked out" to start her own new life in Tokyo at 50.

She opened Unami and then her business and career as a haijin went from strength to strength, blooming and flowering even more beautifully every passing year. She made friends with some of the most famous writers and celebrities, was adored by them and became the heroin of at least two best-selling novels, one by Niwa Fumio and the other by Setouchi Jakucho. Incredibly, she never lost her humility and personality to put other people's interest first.

Her haiku teachers included Kubota Mantaro and Anju Atsushi. They must have had an easy time as she was a born poet and a natural haijin and above all her life itself was poetry. Copies of her anthologies such as "Yu-botaru" (evening fireflies, 1976) and "Shi-Mokuren" (purple magnolia, 1999) are treasured by her ever-increasing fans as something more than haiku books.

Her haiku poems follow traditional Japanese lines in form, style and themes. However, these are mere stage sets. The content, impact and originality have come from her life itself. She was one of the best "actresses of life", where poetry, nature, human existence and events were all one. This is partly because she lived through one of the most dramatic times in Japanese history. As such, her haiku poems are rich and deep, ranging from despair and sadness to the rupture of sensual pleasure, from macabre tales to the lightest touch of humour.

haku-to ni hito sasu gotoku ha wo ire-te

pushing the knife
into white peach's flesh
as if to stab someone

kon-jo no ima ga shiawase kinu-katsugi

this life of mine
now is my happiness --
boiling taro

Her love poems are too numerous to quote. Having been born and brought up along a coast, the sea was her "home" and waves were one of her frequently favoured themes, whether they were waves of the sea or waves of the vicissitudes of life. The name of her small restaurant, "Unami", means summer waves. Masajo of course knew that one was born and died but she also believed in the eternity of things. The transitory and the permanent lived happily together within her. As someone who is fortunate enough to have been given a tiny sliver of friendship by this most generous of the generous hearts, I humbly wish to offer the following to Masajo, people's eternal love:

izuku nite kurasu mo natsu no nami-gashira

one happens to live --
summer white horses

Life, Love and Poetry of Suzuki Masajo
Susumu Takiguchi

Part Two got lost with the WHR archives ...


firefly light:
I step off the path
of woman's virtue

Masajo Suzuki followed her own path. She is not just a love poet in the sense of writing about her lover, but a love poet in the larger sense of loving life and living it fully.

"Inspired by a love story we heard at the Haiku North America conference at Evanston, Illinois in the summer of 1999, we began translating Masajo's haiku. This book contains 150 love haiku selected from the 2,576 haiku in her seven haiku books published between 1955 and 1998. We hope they will touch your hearts as they have touched ours."

ume aoshi onna no moteru warudakumi

plums so green
a woman embracing
a malicious design

Lee Gurga & Emiko Miyashita
Lincoln, IL (USA) & Kawasaki, Japan

© 2004 Randy Brooks

- Haiga by Nakamura Sakuo -


shunjin ya Tookyoo wa waga shinidokoro  

spring dust -
Tokyo is the place
of my death

Tr. Gabi Greve


人は盗めど ものは盗まず 簾巻く
hito wa nusumedo mono wa nusumazu sudare maku

I may have stolen men,
but I have never stolen a thing
winding up the rattan blind

1973, Masajo (Tr. Susumu Takiguchi)


I have stolen a man
but never a thing of value
I roll up the bamboo blind

Tr. Lee Gurga and Miyashita Emiko
"The British Museum Haiku" edited by David Cobb
(the British Museum Press, London, 2006)


"Rolling up the bamboo blind"
may suggest the aftermath of a night of love. A court lady rolling up a bamboo blind on a snowy landscape is a classic subject going back to a poem by Po Chu-i.

Bamboo blinds also figure prominently in The Tale of Genji and The Pillow Book of Lady Sei Shonagon. Suzuki Masajo may be making an allusion to classic Japanese literature.

Larry Bole, Translating Haiku


shiratama ya aisu hito ni mo uso tsuite

sweet rice dumplings---
even to my love
a little white lie
Tr. Lee and Emiko

Shiratama, white dumplings


Introducing Japanese Haiku Poets


No comments: