Withered fields (kareno)


Withered fields (kareno), withered plants/weeds

***** Location: Japan
***** Season: All winter / others see below
***** Category: earth / plants


A time when the voices of the autumn insects are heared no more, the leaves change color and dry, first frost can be seen.
These lonely landscape has been subject to poetry since the most olden times in Japan.

withered fields, kareno 枯野 かれの
a desolate [wintry] field
dürres Feld; ödes Feld; Einöde; Wildnis.

In Edo, this word referred to the road from Horiuchi 堀内 to Zooshigaya 雑司が谷.

withered plain, withered plains, karehara 枯原 (かれはら)
This can also refer to withered mountain slopes, in the sense of "withered open spaces".

karenohara 枯野原 a desolate field

person in a withered field, kareno bito 枯野人 (かれのびと)
inn in the withered fields, kareno yado 枯野宿 (かれのやど)
path in the withered fields, kareno michi 枯野道 (かれのみち)

. . . . .

The Japanese kareno 枯野 is sometimes translated as "withered moors"
withered "moors", karehara 枯原 (かれはら)


The English word "moor" (Moor in German) has a very special meaning:
a moor, a bog or peat bog, a fen.

moor, moreland,
A bog, quagmire or mire is a wetland that accumulates acidic peat, a deposit of dead plant material—often mosses or, in Arctic climates, lichens.
© More in the WIKIPEDIA !

There are no "moors" in that biological sense in Japan.
It would be rendered in Japanese as

shitsugenchi, shitsugen 湿原地
areno, arechi 荒野, 荒れ地, wasteland, wilderness
numa 沼 marsh, swamp,
deitan numachi 泥炭沼地 peat bog


dry and withered fields of the Kudara plain, kudara no
朽野 (くだらの, くだら野)

This expression has already been used in the Manyoshu Collction of Japanese poetry.
百済野 is another use of the kanji. Kudara was a placename of the plains north of the old capital of Nara (Osaka Plain), where many people from Kudara in Korea had settled.

kare ashiwara 枯蘆原(かれあしわら) withered reeds in the marsh

More see below.


fields in winter, fuyuno 冬野 (ふゆの)
fuyu no no 冬の野(ふゆのの)
fuyu no hara 冬の原(ふゆのはら)plain in winter
path in the winter fields, fuyu-no michi 冬野道(ふゆのみち)


kigo for late autumn

color of withered fields, kareno iro 枯野の色 (かれののいろ)

uragare, "dying of the little twigs and branches"
Withered tips, withered scene

uragareru うらがれる - 末枯れる

uragareno 末枯野(うらがれの)
no no uragare 野の末枯(ののうらがれ)
uragare no hara 末枯の原(うらがれのはら)
uragare no nobe 末枯の野辺(うらがれののべ)

uragare no noyama 末枯の野山(うらがれののやま)
fields and mountains are withered

Worldwide use

Things found on the way


tooyama ni hi no ataritaru kareno kana

Takahama Kyoshi 高浜虚子

tooyama ni hi-no atari-taru kareno kana
distant-hills on sun's basking withered-moor kana

On distand hills
the rays of the sun fall...
a withered moor.

Tr. Makoto Ueda

... ...

withered field...
distant mountains
lit by the sun

This haiku normally comes at the bottom of the popularity chart when shown to Western haiku poets. They simply do not think it is a good haiku. So much so that I have long wondered if they really understand haiku at all, or if Westerners will ever understand Japanese literary perceptions and sensibility in real terms.

Their belief that they are right is so strong that nothing can ever persuade them otherwise. It is indeed historically important to recognize that one of the masterpieces of Kyoshi has been so derided in the West.

Read more of this discussion !
© Susumu Takiguchi, July 2007

distant mountains
caught in the sun --
over the withered field

by Susumu Takiguchi, Floating Stone, 2003

Quote from
"Kyoshi, a Haiku Master"
by Susumu Takiguchi, World Haiku Review

"Toward the end of his life, Kyoshi reflected on his own haiku and mentioned that the winter scene depicted there had always been "keshiki" (landscape) which he saw "in his heart."........ the sun shining on the far mountains is the symbol of the optimistic side of life which Kyoshi never failed to mention as a counter-balancing force against its pessimistic side which Kyoshi was mature and resigned enough to accept."

... ... ...

the mountains afar
lit by sunshine -
and withered fields

From some Japanese online sources, I see that Kyoshi, who was 27 when he composed this haiku, leads us from the far background of the impressive Shikoku Mountain range with the majestic sacred mountain Ishizuchiyama in the sunshine to the foreground, within the season of winter. There is nothing artificial, contrived or mystical in this haiku, it is all real in front of his eyes ... and yet!
So the translation should reflect this order of seeing the landscape.

I think the mountain range in this scene is best expressed in plural, so are the withered fields. Having seen this landscape in Shikoku myself (although quite a few years after Kyoshi), I guess meadow in not appropriate for the scene here, neither is moor .
(And today, it might even be "withering suburbs", but that is a different matter.)


Here is a similar simple mountain haiku by Kyoshi:

natsuyama ya yoku kumo kakari yoku haruru

summer mountains -
sometimes in the clouds
sometimes in sunshine

WKD - Summer mountain

Many have asked me about this haiku and
What am I missing ?

Please feel free to add your translation version or thoughts about this haiku as a comment !

... ... ...

More translations

distant mountain
in the sun
beyond deserted field

Tr. Inaoka Michiko & Inaoka Tadayuki

... ... ...

The withered moor;
The sun shines
On the distant mountains.

Tr. Blyth

... ... ...

In the distant hills
A patch where sunlight touches
The withered meadows.

Tr. Donald Keene

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

Written on November 25, 1900 at Kyoshi-An

Stepping out of his home, he could see the Shikoku mountains behind Dogo Hot Spring in Matsuyama Town. When the last sunshine hit these mountains, he felt some sort of comfort and security in his life. This is all he wanted to express in this haiku.
He did not want interpret this haiku as a talk about the change of seasons, the change of the human heart or anything personalized in this haiku, as his son tried to interpret it.

"No need to interpret it in the lines of "jinsei kan", an outlook of human life, or a generalization about the human condition. If you do that, it will only be "tsukinami", a mediocre haiku.
I only wrote about what was in front of my eyes!"

Artwork from Angelee Deodhar, India, 2013

This statement by Kyshi sounds like ultimate meaning of
SHASEI, sketching from nature, to me.


Quote ..
Compiled by Larry Bole:
Read more translation versions HERE !

According to Nagayama Aya:

The radiant sun
Illuminates far off mountains ---
Oh, this withered field

"This haiku was written in 1900(Meiji 33) when Kyoshi was 26 years old.

This is one of Kyoshi's most famous masterpieces. It is considerd as a pivotal piece in which he established the haiku world of his own.

It is not difficult to understand this haiku. Far off mountains are seen across a withered field. The mountains are lit by the glow of the late afternoon sun whereas in the forground the winter field lies bleak and desolate.

This haiku deeply moves all who read it. Why this heartfelt reactions? Perhaps it is because the scene is so plainly described.
We, the readers, can clealy visualize what Kyoshi saw , and superimpose this image over our own memories.

The sun-lit mountains at the end of the bleak winter field may give hope and comfort to us, who are all travelers of life."

And Donald Keene says:
"Many critics consider [this haiku to be] Kyoshi's finest haiku... .
Yamamoto Kenkichi wrote of this poem, 'It is an astonishing verse that defies paraphrase. The language is quite ordinary, with nothing that call attention to itself, but the reader senses something of incalculable importance in this commonplace landscape. The combination of 'withered meadows' and 'distant hills' is not especially memorable in itself; the critical factor is the words 'a patch where sunlight touches' linking the nouns. This line, though not in the least extraordinary in itelf, makes both 'distant hills' and 'withered meadows' come alive.' "

Another thought by Larry:

Takiguchi does quote Kyoshi as saying he saw the landscape (keshiki) "in his heart...", so it wasn't only just what was "in front of [his] eyes!" although poets, like all of us, can contradictthemselves.

And poets aren't always aware of the unconscious meaning they may put into something they write; a meaning that others, being further away from the situation, are capable of seeing.

We have to ask, why did that particular landscape, on that particular day, resonate enough with Kyoshi to make him write a haiku about it, as opposed to other days he might have seen a similar landscape, and let it pass. What emotional and spirtual state was he in on that particular day?

I can understand Kyoshi not wanting to endorse any particular interpretation of the haiku, but are the interpretations this haiku has engendered too farfetched or too deep for this haiku to support? I don't think so.

In the same way, although Basho may never have intended the meanings his old pond/frog haiku has acquired from commentators, can the haiku support those meanings? I think it can, at least the simpler ones.

Larry Bole


WKD: Takahama Kyoshi

More Japanese reference

Discussion of this haiku with members only.


The famous Death Haiku of Matsuo Basho 1694

tabi ni yande yume wa kareno o kakemeguru

falling ill while travelling -
in my dreams I am wandering
over withered fields

(Tr. Gabi Greve)

Read more translation verisons

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


Issa and the Withered Fields
Tr. David Lanoue

enpô ya kareno no-goya no hi no miyuru

distant sight--
in withered fields
a little house's lamp

kakurega ni hi no hoka-hoka to kareno kana

on a secluded house
the warm sun...
withered fields

kata sode ni kaze fuki-tôsu kareno kana

through one sleeve
the wind passes...
withered fields


. Yosa Buson 与謝蕪村 in Edo .

shoojoo to shite ishi ni hi no iru kare no kana

Quietly, weakly,
into a rock the sunlight comes
in a withered field. 

Tr.Sawa & Shiffert

Bleak and lonely
the sun penetrates the rocks
in a withered field.

Tr. Addiss

so lost and lonely,
these rocks at sunset
in the withered fields . . .

Tr. Gabi Greve

Trying to interpret "ishi ni hi no iru" in a different angle.
The cut marker KANA is at the end of line 3.


石に日の入: 「石に日が入る」
© kuuon.fya.jp/BUSON/
(further discussion in the comments)


. daitoko no kuso hiri-owasu kareno kana .

Buson observes a high priest shitting in a withered field.


yama o kosu hito ni wakarete kareno kana

I part with a man
crossing the mountains
in the withered fields . . .  

The cut marker KANA is at the end of line 3.











sato-inu ya kareno no ato o kagi-ariki

a town dog
goes around the withered field
sniffing away

© Shiimoto Saimaro


kareno yuku mottomo tôki hi ni hikare

journeying over
the withered moor,
drawn by the furthest light

Crossing barren fields
captivated by a light
far far away

© Takaha Shugyo
Tr. Hoshino Tsunehiko & Adrian Pinnington


uma shikaru koe mo kareno no arashi kana

The voice shouting at the horse
Is part of the storm
Of the withered moor.

Tr. Blyth


- - - - - Masaoka Shiki 正岡子規 - - - - -

taiboku no kumo ni sobiyuru kareno kana

A great tree
That rises up into the clouds,
On the withered moor.

tokorodokoro nabatake touki kareno kana

Here and there in the distance,
Fields of vegetables
On the withered moor.

tabibito no mikan kuiyuku kareno kana
Meiji 26

The traveller walks
Over the withered moor,
Eating an orange.

Tr. Blyth

. - Masaoka Shiki 正岡子規 - .


Kudarano ya nakunaru tokoro o tamukegusa

© www6.airnet.ne.jp/manyo

Now only the temple Daian-Ji 大安寺 is left in the village of Kooryoo-Choo 広陵町. The temple used to be called Kudara-Ji 百済寺 in memory of the Korean ancestors.



hiyu morotomo shinkoo kiete kareno no hi

The metaphors are
gone, and so is my faith . . .
sun over a moor.

Nakamura Kusatao

Metaphors and Haiku

Related words

***** Withering in winter 冬枯れ fuyugare
kareyama 枯山(かれやま)withered mountain
karesono 枯園 (かれその) withered garden
..... kareniwa 枯庭(かれにわ)
niwa karuru 庭枯るる(にわかるる)garden is withering

kareki oroshi 枯木卸し(かれきおろし)cutting off withered branches

karezakura 枯桜(かれざくら) withered cherry tree
kareyamabuki 枯山吹 (かれやまぶき) withered kerria (yamabuki)
karefuyoo 枯芙蓉 (かれふよう) withered cotton rose
..... fuyoo karu 芙蓉枯る(ふようかる) cotton rose is withering

kareha 枯葉 (かれは) withered leaves
Les feuilles mortes

kusagare 草枯 (くさがれ) witherend plants/weeds
kusa karu 草枯る(くさかる)plants are withering
..... karekusa 枯草(かれくさ)

kareki koboku 枯木 withered trees


na no kusa karu 名の草枯る (なのくさかる)
withering plants/weeds with a name

..... nagusa karu 名草枯る(なぐさかる)
migusa karu 水草枯る(みぐさかる)withering water plants

karekeitoo, kare keitoo 枯鶏頭(かれけいとう)
withered cockscomb

kareazami, kare azami 枯薊(かれあざみ)
withered thistles

karerindoo, kare rindoo 枯龍胆(かれりんどう)
withered gentian

karekaya, kare kaya 枯萱(かれかや)
withered rushes and reeds

bush clover withered (karehagi, kare hagi)
cotton rose withered (kare fuyoo)
fern withering (kare shida)
lawn is withered (kareshiba, kare shiba)
pampas grass withering (kare susuki, kare obana)
weeping fern withered (kare shinobu)
wild rice withered (kare makomo)
yellow mountain rose withered (kare yamabuki)

Plants in winter . . Kigo List


***** Withered trees (kareki 枯木)...
bare branches (kare eda) and more

more kigo with KARE 枯

***** Rice paddies and related kigo

*****  Withered fields in the summer heat or drought
..... hiderida 旱田

kigo for late summer


MORE KIGO about the wild fields, plains, moors (no, nohara)

. SAIJIKI ... category EARTH




Anonymous said...

withered field...
distant mountains
lit by the sun

I am crawling out on a limb here but I think it is excellent and exemplifies "haiku".

It has the feel of a Japanese master. Is it a translation of Japanese? Is it an English imitation?

I also think it might never make it in an English language publication.

Probably a classic in Japanese and a flop in English.
How can that be?

English language haiku seem to need more innovation - more bells and whistles. I know I am guilty of this. The above haiku at first
makes me think "so what?"

But letting the haiku "wash over" me, I am filled with a nostalgia, or in portugues "saudade" perhaps...
there are so many meanings, I am overwhelmed.

If I "skimmed" through a collection, I might not have the experience of this haiku. If I slow down and take my time, I think it is brilliant.

My conclusion just from writing this brief response is that I read haiku too quickly. And it reflects how I live my life.

Perhaps until I slow down, I will never master haiku the way the Japanese intended. On the other hand, perhaps the form must change for other cultures.

In conclusion, it is not a western haiku to me. It IS an eastern haiku.

But should we call what we are doing in the west "haiku"? At what point does the term "haiku" not apply?

It is an interesting debate I have within myself.

- hortensia

Anonymous said...


Larry Bole :

I wonder if the availability of color photography and "picture postcard" nature photography like this in the Twentieth Century has inured us somewhat to a sense of a deeper poetry in images of this kind. But then again, Japanese haiku poets have had access to this kind of imagery in person long before photography existed. Why did no one else write a haiku about this kind of landscape prior to Kyoshi?

Most of the "withered field" haiku I quoted, as well as others I've read that I didn't include, stay WITHIN the withered field, rarely including it and at the same time including something beyond it (except, occasionally, the moon, or some other celestial phenomenon).

Part of the problem for Westerners is that we don't have any equivalent to kigo in Western poetry. Even without kigo, we don't have a lot of poems written on the topic of "withered fields/moors." The only image even remotely similar that springs to my mind in English poetry is from Keats' "La Belle Dame Sans Merci," where he describes a scene in which
"The sedge has withered from the lake,
And no birds sing."

Looking through Japanese landscape haiku, for example in Stephen Addiss' book "Haiku Landscapes," there aren't a lot that depict a broad expanse of land, although there are a few. So it seems to me that Kyoshi's haiku is somewhat original/fresh in this regard. For some reason it puts me in mind of Basho's famous "Sado Isle" haiku in terms of looking out over a large landscape.

In this haiku, Kyoshi's mountains are nameless. There are a lot of Japanese haiku about mountains, but it seems most of them are about named mountains that have cultural significance of some sort. Writing about nameless mountains is unusual enough that even Basho played with this notion in a haiku:

haru nare ya na mo naki yama no usugasumi

it is spring!
a hill without a name
in thin haze

Basho, trans. Ueda

So, to sum up: not only do we in the West not have a strong sense of the poetic qualities of withered fields, but the depicted scene that in this haiku may seem merely pretty to us, and pretty in an expected, almost conventional way, very likely seemed fresh and original in the context of Japanese haiku tradition and practice at the time it was written.

Anonymous said...

Larry Bole

I think also that English-language haiku poets have a taste for haiku which have more "punch" to them. Such as:

teratera to ishi hi ni no teru kareno kana

how bright the glare!
the sun shining on the rocks
of the withered moor

Buson, trans. Ueda


shojo to-shite ishi ni hi no iru kare no kana

Quietly, weakly,
into a rock the sunlight comes
in a withered field.

Buson, trans. Sawa & Shiffert


(no romaji available--I don't know whether this is a third separate variation on a theme, or another version of one of the above)

Bleak and lonely
the sun penetrates the rocks
in a withered field.

Buson, trans. Stephen Addiss

Kyoshi's haiku seems more objective than the above haiku by Buson, yet Kyoshi's mountains are almost personified..."basking" in the sun.
Whereas althugh Buson's several rocks-in-withered-field haiku, with sunlight glaring, and sunlight penetrating, with quietness and weakness, and bleakness and loneliness, would seem much more subjective than Kyoshi's haiku, but in fact they seem to me to be actually MORE objective than Kyoshi's haiku.

Anonymous said...

Might it be safe to say that all (written) verse is at least partially subjective? The writer's lens is his own, and no matter how hard we try we'll never be able to look at what anyone wrote in EXACTLY the same way they perceived it.

withered field ...
one blade of dried grass
trampled on by so many

Perhaps we look too deeply and start imagining things which aren't there. The field's already withered; let's not burn it. Instead, let's enjoy it the way the old poets did.

Ella Wagemakers :>)

Anonymous said...

miru mono no naki kareno nite ware wa miru

in a withered field
with nothing much to look at
I start to see

Susumu Takiguchi


Anonymous said...

billowing clouds--
the mountains in the rain
all black

kumo no mine toyama wa ame ni kuromu kana


by Issa, 1794

Or: "the mountain..."
Toyama (often translated as "foothills") refers to any mountain located near a village; see Kogo dai jiten (Shogakukan 1983) 1185.
Issa paints a striking vista: billowing white clouds, so dense that the mountains below are black.

Tr. David Lanoue