Haiku by Shiko

How enviable,
Turning beautiful then falling,
maple leaves

urayamashi utsukushuu natte chiru momiji

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


SKU: H3021SS Category: Tags: , , ,

H3021 Haiku by Shiko – How enviable, Turning beautiful then falling …
by Master Japanese Calligrapher Eri Takase

How enviable
Turning beautiful then falling
maple leaves.

utsukushuu natte
chiru momiji
shikou 支考

According to Miyamori, “The yamazakura or wild cherry, which scatters its flowers soon after they attain the zenith of their beauty, is considered a symbol of the spirit of the samurai who would prefer death to disgrace and faces death with heroism. Again we have the saying ‘Better be a jewel broken into pieces than a tile kept whole.’ These traditional ideas led the writer of this verse to admire the maple leaves which turn beautiful and then are scattered like the wild cherry." [2]

Japan Society of London suggests:

Envied by us all,
Turning to such loveliness
Red leaves that fall.

Asataro Miyamori suggests the translation:

How I envy maple foliage
Which turns beautiful and then falls!

Calligraphy Notes:

1) We have used the Japanese from Miyamori [2] though we do see different ways of writing this same poem. Specifically some write urayamashi in kanji as 羨まし美しうなりて散る紅葉. And there is another reading to the poem which uses narite in hiragana rather than natte in kanji. For example, うらやまし美しうなりて散る紅葉. We avoid this ambiguity by using 成て which can be read either narite or natte.

Translation Notes:

1) うらやまし urayamashi is today written 羨ましい (urayamashii) or うらやましい (urayamashii – note the extra i) and means “envious; jealous; enviable”.

2) 美しう成て is read utsukushuu natte but the actual romaji is utsukushiu natte. Today we would write 美しくなって or 美しく成って which is utsukushiku natte. 美しく (utsukushiku) is from 美しい (utsukushii) meaning “beautiful; lovely”. And 成って (natte) is from 成る (naru) meaning “to become; to change into; to be completed”.

3) 散る (chiru) means “to fall; to scatter;”. The implication is also “to die a noble death”, but the word by itself does not have this meaning.

4) 紅葉 (momiji) means “maple leaves; autumn colors; red leaves”. means “deep red; crimson” and means “leaf; leaves”. Notice this can be read kouyou meaning “autumn colors” or momiji referring more specifically to the maple leaf.


[1] Translation by Timothy L. Jackowski, Takase Studios, LLC.

[2] 308.

[3] Japan Society of London. (1912). Transactions and Proceedings of the Japan Society, London. 172.