Kigo is a term used in traditional Japanese poetry, particularly in haiku and tanka, to refer to seasonal words or phrases. These words capture the essence of a specific season or time of year, allowing the poet to evoke a vivid sense of nature and the passing of time in a concise manner. The inclusion of kigo in poetry not only adds depth and atmosphere but also connects the reader to the natural world and the changing rhythms of life. By incorporating these seasonal references, poets honor the rich tradition of nature-oriented Japanese poetry and celebrate the beauty and transience of each passing season.
Examples of Kigo:
Cherry blossoms fall—
In the temple garden,
a monk sweeps alone.
In this haiku by Matsuo Bashō, the mention of “cherry blossoms” immediately conjures images of spring. Spring is the season known for the beauty and fleeting nature of these delicate flowers.
Rice field reflections shimmer,
This haiku, attributed to Issa, contains multiple kigo associated with summer. The “summer moon” evokes warm evenings, and “rice field reflections” and “fireflies” are characteristic elements of the season.
A scarecrow stands alone,
harvest moon rises.
In this haiku by Yosa Buson, the “autumn wind” and the mention of a “scarecrow” represent the fall season. Additionally, the “harvest moon” signifies a specific celestial event during that time of year.