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haikaiTALKS: a saturday gathering! 28th october - toriawase

Updated: Oct 31, 2023

haikaiTALKS: Japanese aesthetics - toriawase - a saturday gathering_under the banyan tree


host: Kala Ramesh

28th October 2023


Japanese aesthetics: Toriawase or combination?!

Another exciting week is ahead!!


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Some important views and reviews regarding Susumu's point of view:


Kala Ramesh:

Keiko, is Susumu wrong in his explanation of toriawase?


Keiko Izawa

He is right in translating the term toriawase as a combination not as juxtaposition, because they are different in the methods.


Kala Ramesh

I understand what you and Lev have said, but from what Susumu says, it looks like there is nothing like juxtaposition in haiku.

It's just toriawase—a combination—that is employed in haiku, which, according to Susumu is wrongly termed juxtaposition.

Is juxtaposition then a term the Westerners created when trying to understand toriawase?

This is my question, Keiko.


Keiko Izawa:

Yes, I think the term juxtaposition was wrongly created by some westerner trying to build their own haiku style in the absence/scarcity of kigo, rather than understanding the right meaning of toriawase. Japanese haiku basically do not need such juxtaposition technique; we just write it based on our observations and sensitivities. In addition, we have plenty of beautiful and rich words to color our haiku.


This is very interesting. I recall a few years ago on Facebook, being surprised at an outburst by Ban’ya Natauishi dismissing the concept of juxtaposition in haiku as an EL (probably American) invention, there being no such thing in Japanese haiku. The conversations here are helping me understand what he meant.


I smiled when I read what Susumu said, “Haiku teachers avoid correcting this mistake because the ‘juxtaposition theory’ is something they have long preached and cannot disown it now.”.


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Now, please read Susumu's essay:

Toriawase by Susumu Takiguchi


'Combination' would have been a better English word to choose as toriawase means mixing or joining two or more things together to form a single whole, while juxtaposition (juxta- meaning near or aside) tends to be used in haiku as meaning placing or arranging two things (seldom more than two) side by side for contrast ...


Juxtaposition:

This convention, which is the best of poor translations of the Japanese ‘toriawase’, seems to have done slightly more harm than good. In particular, it is fair to say that it has contributed greatly to the contagion of vagueness in haiku. ‘Combination’ would have been a better English word to choose as toriawase means mixing or joining two or more things together to form a single whole, while juxtaposition (juxta- meaning near or aside) tends to be used in haiku as meaning placing or arranging two things (seldom more than two) side by side for contrast (i.e. difference rather than similarity).


The word toriawase is still used in modern Japanese, especially in cooking where it means for the cook to work out the best combination of ingredients to produce the most delicious food, or of different bits of food (fish, meat, vegetables or garnish) to do the moritsuke (serving) of a dish of food. It may therefore be that the quickest way for non-Japanese haijin to learn what toriawase means is to visit a Japanese restaurant for the next meal.


Juxtaposition as an English word may not restrict the number of things juxtaposed, but the going haiku convention means that only two things are used in a single haiku most of the time, perhaps for the simple reason that physically, the brevity of haiku will not allow for more than two. More plausibly, people tend to prefer the ‘contrast effect’ to the ‘harmony effect’ of toriawase, and putting two things side by side would normally give greater contrast than three or more which would lose focus, while the Japanese haijin tends to try to achieve the ‘harmony effect’ in the final product.


‘Awase’ in toriawase means to put things together for congruous harmony. And these things are normally related things,'related' for wide-ranging reasons.


To achieve contrast, non-Japanese poets tend to choose ‘unrelated’ things. I see too many haiku poems with two components that are not only unrelated but have nothing to do with each other whatsoever. As a result, they become too vague at best and too unintelligible at worst to be called haiku, or anything, for that matter. Haiku teachers avoid correcting this mistake because the ‘juxtaposition theory’ is something they have long preached and cannot disown it now. All I can say is, “Everybody, students and teachers alike, be brave!”


Toriawase is an old notion in Japanese haikai. Its most famous and staunch advocate is Morikawa Kyoriku (1656-1715). As a leading disciple of Basho, he emphasised the importance of toriawase after the master’s death. He made the most of Basho’s own poems and quotations which other disciples attributed to the master to prove his point. Among them is the one about spring rain and a wasps’ nest:


春雨や蜂の巣伝ふ屋根の漏

harusame ya/hachi no su tsutou/yane no mori


spring rain… through a wasps’ nest a leak in the roof


(English version by Susumu Takiguchi)

Kyoriku asserts that the spring rain and the wasps’ nest are good example of toriawase, which brings ‘life’ into this hokku. Without proper context, they are unrelated but in Basho’s capable hands, they get connected by the rainwater, which thus connects nature (heaven) and Basho himself (a human). Basho recommended good toriawase but cautioned against thoughtless and wanton indulgence in this device. Kyoriku and his followers used toriawase excessively and uncritically, making poems thus composed rather monotonous and boring, which is a cautionary tale for haiku poets of today who merrily indulge in careless and excessive use of juxtaposition.


We should all learn some lessons from Kyoriku’s experience. I cannot stress this point enough here because a significant part of the haiku submissions I go through are those by people who have swallowed the juxtaposition teaching hook, line and sinker (or by these teachers themselves).


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First post: You search and find a haiku that has toriawase.

You'll give your reason/s why you think it has this aesthetic nuance. Second post: This will be your first haiku with toriawase


Third post: This will be your second haiku with toriawase

Please give your feedback on others' commentary and poems too. _()_

Have fun! Keep writing and commenting!

498 views145 comments

145 commenti


Disha Upadhyay
Disha Upadhyay
06 nov 2023

Wow, this is an enlightening conversation! I read it, and now I am letting it sit for a while.

Mi piace

lakshmi iyer
lakshmi iyer
02 nov 2023

#2, revised. 3/11


winter fireplace

the dung cakes illuminate

their bony handprints


Lakshmi Iyer, India


original

with edits, 2/11


winter fireplace . . .

the dung cakes light up

their bony imprints


Lakshmi Iyer, India

feedback please

original


the arthritis imprints

on the dung cakes light up

. . . onset of winter


Mi piace
lakshmi iyer
lakshmi iyer
03 nov 2023
Risposta a

I deleted the previous one.

Mi piace

OFF TOPIC but relevant: This morning Jacob Salzer’s Haiku Poet Interviews released a nice interview with Kala:


https://haikupoetinterviews.wordpress.com/2023/11/01/kala-ramesh/


Mi piace
lakshmi iyer
lakshmi iyer
02 nov 2023
Risposta a

Thanks so much!

Mi piace

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.
01 nov 2023

Third post:


autumn evening

leaves rattle over

leaves


Lev Hart, Canada

Feedback welcome.

Mi piace
Keiko Izawa
Keiko Izawa
04 nov 2023
Risposta a

As above-mentioned, it suggests a deepening autumn evening and approaching winter with “rattling leaves”, and toriawase is perfect.

Mi piace

Keiko Izawa
Keiko Izawa
01 nov 2023

#2


autumn balminess

an orange balloon

crosses the street


Keiko Izawa, Japan

autumn balminess (aki urara) is a kigo

feedback appreciated.

Mi piace
Keiko Izawa
Keiko Izawa
01 nov 2023
Risposta a

Thank you, Linda, for validating it. Living & learning haiku for many years in Japan, Gabi’s data are so accurate. The orange ballon in my poem was a Halloween balloon. There was a Halloween event in my town a few days ago, and the staff was handing it out to kids. Kid cosplayers are always cute👻

Mi piace
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