Haiku by Issa

Were my father here,
At dawn we would gaze,
Over the green fields

chichi arite akebono mitashi aotabara

12 1/4″ W x 43″ H Japanese Scroll
by Master Japanese Calligrapher Eri Takase


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H3024 Haiku by Issa – Were my father here …
by Master Japanese Calligrapher Eri Takase

Were my father here
At dawn we would gaze
Over the green fields

chichi arite
akebono mitashi
issa 一茶

This beautiful haiku was written by Issa after the death of his father. [1]

Issa wrote in “The Journal of My Father’s Last Days” (chichi no shuuen nikki, 1807), “Dejected, I threw up my hands in despair. The suffering, the grief in my heart as I could do nothing but wait for his final moments … Even the gods showed no mercy. The night moved brightly into dawn, and about six o’clock, as though he had fallen into a deep sleep, Father breathed his last.” [2]

David G. Lanoue writes in his excellent website Haiku of Kobayashi Issa, “Hiroshi Kobori comments: it is before sunrise and the sky is gradually changing to brighter transparence. ‘Still dark on the surface of the earth, Issa recognizes the rice field to be green. His consciousness focuses on the future of himself faced with his father’s death.'” [3]

Asiatic Society of Japan suggests the translation:

Oh, that father was here to watch with
me the dawn o’er the wide green rice-fields.

David G. Lanoue suggests the translation:

if my father were here–
dawn colors
over green fields

Calligraphy Notes:

1) From a visual perspective this poem is great as it is mostly kana with the last line all in kanji. This gives an interesting balance to the design.

2) Other sources write the haiku 父ありて明ぼの見たし青田原 with the reading chichi arite akebono mitashi aotahara. Using “aotahara” rather than “aotabara” or “aodabara“. [6]

Translation Notes:

1) (chichi) meaning “father”.

2) ありて (arite) meaning “exist; be present”. This is from the verb ある (aru) meaning “to be; to exist; to live”.

3) あけぼの (akebono) meaning “dawn.” This is also commonly written with the kanji 曙.

4) みたし (mitashi) meaning “to watch; to see”. From the verb 見る (miru) with the same meaning. The ending tashi indicates “wanting to watch; wanting to see”.

5) 青田原 (aotabara though several sources use the reading aodabara). This is composed of 青田 (aota) meaning “green (rice) paddy” and (hara) meaning “field”.


[1] Blyth, R. H. (1963). 410.

[2] 938.

[3] Lanoue, David G. (1991-2009). Haiku of Kobayashi Issa. [Note, we have not been able to trace the source of the Hiroshi Kobori quote that Mr. Lanoue references]

[4] Asiatic Society of Japan. (1932) Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan By Asiatic Society of Japan ser.2 v.9. University of California. 117.

[5] Lanoue, David G. (1991-2009). Haiku of Kobayashi Issa.

[6] 栗山理一 (1983) 蕪村集一茶集. 小学館. 日本. 278.