First Spring (hatsu haru) New Year


First Spring (hatsu haru)

***** Location: Japan
***** Season: New Year
***** Category: Heaven


Literally, "First Spring" hatsu-haru, hatsuharu 初春

In the haiku context, according to the Asian Lunar Calendar, it means the season of the New Year.

Pronounced shoshun 初春, it can also refer to the first of the three months of spring, February.

***** . SPRING - the complete SAIJIKI

The Haiku Season of Spring starts officially on February 4, see Asian Lunar Calendar below.

Suzuki Kiitsu 鈴木 其一 (1796–1858)


There are many other ways to express this event in Japanese kigo, here are some more:

new spring, shinshun 新春
welcoming spring, geishun 迎春
These words are also used as greetings on the New Year's Cards in Japan.

"1000 generations in spring" chiyo no haru 千代の春
..... miyo no haru 御代の春
(wishing a long life of a thousand years, an old greeting for the new year)

"spring in the four directions", yomo no haru 四方の春
"spring of the flowers", hana no haru 花の春

dawn of spring, ake no haru 明の春
spring of this morning, kesa no haru 今朝の春
spring of today, kyoo no haru 今日の春
spring of this day, hi no haru 日の春

spring at the corner, kado no haru 門の春
"spring of this land", kuni no haru 国の春
"spring in this lodge", yado no haru 宿の春
"spring in my humble abode", iyo no haru 庵の春
"spring in our home", ie no haru 家の春

spring of this old man/woman, oi no haru 老の春
my own spring, ora ga haru おらが春
..... Issa used this expression.

Worldwide use

Things found on the way


The New Year in Edo

shoshun mazu sake ni ume uru nioi kana

New Year and first
sake and the fragrance of plum blossoms
being sold . . .

Tr. Gabi Greve

Written in 1687 貞亨2年
Nozarashi Kiko, at Katsuragi, Nara 奈良葛城.
He had stayed there in the year before too.
At that time he wrote the hokku
. wata yumi ya biwa ni nagusamu take no oku .

This is a greeting hokku to his host, who entertained him lavishly with sake.
The name of his host is not clear, though.

This hokku has the cut marker KANA at the end of line 3.

MORE hokku about sake by
. Matsuo Basho 松尾芭蕉 - Archives of the WKD .


hatsuharu no niji utsu shima no ryokan kana

the bell rings TWO
on the New Year's day
at the island's inn

(Tr. Gabi Greve)

WKD : Kawabata Bosha 川端茅舎


mochi mo suki sake mo suki nari kesa no haru

New Year's day -
I like rice cakes
I also like ricewine

(Tr. Gabi Greve)

Takahama Kyoshi 高浜虚子


hi no haru o sasuga ni tsuru no ayumi kana

New Year's Day -
the cranes pace around
so gracefully

(Tr. Gabi Greve)

Kikaku 榎本其角

I think one implication is the various New Year's ceremonies at the Imperial Court. The Emperor and Empress were greeted in style by courtiers, all moving oh-so elegantly.

Cristian Mocanu
More about Translating this Haiku

PHOTO Copyright 2001 OKAYAMA KORAKUEN All rights reserved.
See LINK given below.

Since cranes are a symbol for long life and a thousand generations of a family (chiyo 千代), feudal Lords (daimyoo) kept them in their parks and paraded them on a fine day during the first three days of the new year. This custom is still going on in the Korakuen park in Okayama, were they are paraded on January first and we can see their graceful flight on TV.

Look at more beautiful photos HERE !

Gabi Greve

... ... ...

That's like a crane,
walking composedly
on a day like today in early Spring.

© 2003 translated by Shigeki Matsumura (Sigmats)


ie nashi no kono mi mo haru ni au hi kana

for this homeless body
of mine, spring's
first day

A fire swept through Edo (old Tokyo) on New Year's Day, 1809, destroying Issa's house. In the old lunar calendar, New Year's Day was the first day of spring.

mida butsu o tanomi ni akete kesa no haru

in Amida Buddha
spring's first dawn

Kobayashi Issa (tr. David Lanoue)


Haiku by Issa, comment by Chris Drake

fugainai mi to na oboshi so hito wa haru

I'm no coward,
all you people who
have New Year's

This is an important New Year's poem Issa wrote very early in 1813. Since New Year's and the beginning of lunar spring usually coincided or nearly coincided, spring in haikai was often a synonym for New Year's. This year Issa is spending New Year's in his snow-covered hometown, but according to one of his haibun he spends it alone in a small back room in a house lent him by a "kind person" in his hometown. One of his students in a nearby town has lent Issa some bedding, and another has given him some thick paper, which he's put over gaps in the wall to keep out the cold wind. He has nowhere else to stay, because he hasn't been welcomed by his younger half-brother or his mother-in-law, who live in the house left behind by his dead father -- the house in which Issa was born. Issa plans to take part in the Buddhist requiem on 1/19 for his father's soul on the important 13th anniversary of his father's death, so he has to stay in this makeshift room not far from his natal home and the family temple. For Issa, there is no New Year's this year, since New Year's means celebrating the new year together with other people.

The hokku is a declaration to everyone -- especially to Issa's mother-in-law, his half-brother, the people in his hometown, and no doubt to himself -- that this year will be a year of change. Issa is tired of being excluded and treated as an outsider, and his mind is made up. Until now, Issa's mother-in-law, knowing Issa was gentle, has believed he was weak-willed and timid, and she has refused to honor Issa's father's will, which left half the property to Issa, but Issa is declaring that in this new year things will be different, because he is a legitimate member of his hometown and deserves his share of his father's legacy. Issa also seems to be implying that he's determined to settle down in his hometown as his base, from which he can travel around linking verses with various haijin living in the surrounding Shinano area.

A week after the requiem for his father on 1/19, the priest of Issa's family temple succeeded in negotiating a settlement with Issa's mother-in-law and brother that gave Issa most of his inheritance, though only after Issa had warned his brother that he wouldn't wait any longer and would file a formal claim in an Edo court if they didn't reach an agreement. The hokku also shows Issa's determination to develop a new rural-yet-urban style of haikai that is a bit different from the Edo style that has influenced him so far.

Chris Drake


chiru yuki mo gyoogi tadashi ya kesa no haru

even snowflakes
fall courteously --
New Year's morning

This hokku is from the 3rd month (April) of 1823, a month after Issa's wife fell very sick and two months before she died. Perhaps Issa is remembering a happier time they experienced at New Year's. In the hokku snowflakes seem to come down more gently than usual on the first morning of the new year, and to Issa the flakes almost seem to be feeling deep gratitude and showing respect for each other and for the humans who walk through the snow to the houses of their neighbors and relatives to wish them a happy new year and to reaffirm the importance of their relationships. Other people in the village may also be making appreciative remarks about the snow. This is one day on which heartfelt politeness, cooperation, and mutual respect take precedence over everything else, and the hokku seems to be an expression of thanks that people are so dedicated to being courteous and large-hearted to each other on this day that they can imagine snowflakes must feel the same way.

Chris Drake

. WKD : Kobayashi Issa 小林一茶 in Edo .

Related words

***** First sun, first sunrise, first day of the new year

***** New Year's Day (ganjitsu)

***** Spring starts (risshun) 立春 February 1.

***** Crane (tsuru)

***** The Asian Lunar Calendar ... REFERENCE

***** . SPRING
the complete SAIJIKI

. WKD ... Humanity Kigo for the NEW YEAR





Gabi Greve - Basho archives said...

hokku nari Matsuo Toosei yado no haru

this is a hokku -
Matsuo Tosei's
home on New Year
Tr. Gabi Greve

1679 延宝7年,, Basho age 36
On the first morning of the New Year.
In the year before he had put up his "shop sign" Tosei and become a professional Haikai Master.
This hokku shows his strong self-confidence in his new profession.

Toosei "Green Peach" was the nom de plume of Basho at that time.

Haseo 芭蕉(はせを)Basho

Gabi Greve - Edopedia said...

The First Lunar Month 一月 ichigatsu - 睦月 mutsuki -

in Edo

Gabi Greve said...

Kobayashi Issa - .... miyo no haru 御代の春

hi no moto ya kane mo ko o umu miyo no haru

land of sunrise
at New Year's -- in this realm
even money has children

This hokku is from the twelfth month of Bunsei 7 (Jan. 1825) and again from the first month of Bunsei 8 (Feb. 1825). Issa's first wife Kiku died in 1823, and his young third son died in early 1824, leaving him without a family. Later in 1824 Issa remarried, but his second wife soon divorced him and went back to her natal home. Alone again, Issa soon suffered a mild stroke and temporarily lost the ability to speak. After staying with various students for about four months, he returned to his empty house in his hometown in Jan. 1825. He wrote this hokku after he had returned home in preparation for lunar New Year's, and he then made a calligraphic copy of it for one of his students when he celebrated New Year's at the student's house in Feb. 1825.

The first line consists of an alternate way of pronouncing Nippon (日本), or Japan. 日の本 literally means the source or origin of the sun, a reference to the fact that the sun leaves the horizon and rises in Japan earlier than in any other land area in northeastern Asia (Siberian geography wasn't then known). Issa probably uses this ancient way to write 'Japan,' a phrase that is related to shamanic sun worship, in order to reflect the festive feeling at New Year's. In the last line he further mentions the present 'realm.' Originally the term referred to the reign of the present emperor, but in the Edo period the actual secular ruler was the shogun, so the term often referred to him or to the shogunate as a whole. Since this hokku is about money and the economy, I take it to be a reference to the shogunate and the Edo financial world. In Issa's time the power and authority of the shogunate and the samurai class as a whole was gradually declining, and there were many civil disturbances, while the shogunate and many daimyo great lords had fallen into debt. The merchants of Edo and Osaka, on the other hand, continued to gain wealth and influence, and bribery of samurai officials had become so common it was de facto legal except during periodic crackdowns.

Issa seems to be commenting on the monetization of almost everything in contemporary Edo, so his use of the ancient ritual term for Japan becomes ironic. In the second line Issa also riffs on a proverb, kane ga kane o umu,"Money gives birth to money," and thus suggests that the procreative power of money has become one of the main distinguishing features of the present age. Long ago only gods and living things gave birth to their young, but now even dead money has gained the ability to give birth to itself, expand vigorously, and control virtually the whole realm. In Japanese the most common word for interest on a loan was rishi or riko (利子), written with characters meaning 'profit' and 'child.' The etymology is actually complex, but Issa reads the characters literally. In addition to being a comment on the disappearance of traditional values in Japan, is Issa's black humor also related to his feeling of having been left behind by his own dead family and of having little hope of ever being a family member again? Actually Issa did remarry a year and a half later, but he died before his only surviving child, a daughter, was born.

Chris Drake