Japanese Culture

The individual nature of the haiku reflects the singular culture of Japan. The geographical isolation of the Japanese archipelago has created an incredibly rich and unique culture that thrives on its difference to the rest of the world.

The literary culture of Japan is thought to be rooted in the Imperial Court, a system that was imported from China. At this time the poetic forms of waka and tanka were popular within the Imperial Court, which was the centre of Japanese culture. These styles of poetry later formed the basis for Haiku. You can read about the history of the haiku here

The aesthetic attitude of the Haiku is reflected in other elements of Japanese Culture that are very meticulous over the appearances of things. Some examples of these are:

The Tea Ceremony

The Tea Ceremony is more than just the drinking of tea. It is a highly ritualized sequence of movements that forms a religious expression. As well as being a social function, the tea ceremony also has a philosophical element.

Like the other rituals described, the Tea Ceremony is performed meditatively with a quiet dignity. Great attention is paid to the actions themselves, which are ideally performed with a corresponding state of meditative awareness.

Flower Arrangement

There are various different schools of Japanese flower arrangement. They have been developed as a formalized expression of the beauty of nature.

Also known as Ikebana, this gentle art involves the aesthetic arrangement of flowers. Different flowers and natural materials are arranged into the three different elements of Sky, Earth and Mankind. These three elements are arranged in a way that reflects a balanced relationship between them.

Calligraphy and Painting

The aesthetic conceptions of haiku permeate through traditional Japanese culture. The paintings and artistic endeavors of this culture are often characterized by minimalism, distinct polarities, and the presence of nature.

The simple, striking Zen aesthetic can also be seen in lots of Japanese art.

Alot of the aesthetics of these individual practices, reflect the over-arching ideas of simple attention to detail. This is a focus that comes as part of an accompanying spiritual tradition. Infact, Haiku is very much related to Zen and Zen Buddhism, and alot of haiku poetry reflects this philosophy.

A world of dew,

and within every dewdrop

a world of struggle

- Issa

Several of the most famous haiku haiku poets, including Matsuo Basho and Kobayashi Issa, were trained in Zen. Their poetry often reflects the central buddhist theme of impermanence, and also touches on themes of compassion, ignorance and enlightenment.

the Aha! Moment of many haiku, where a realisation is provoked through the intricacies of the poetry, often reflects a sense of sudden enlightenment.

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For info on the great Haiku Masters of Japanese Culture, Click Here

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