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The Japanese Haiku Topical Dictionary and Its Sources
How to Navigate the Topical Dictionary
How to Search for Words in the Dictionary
Basic Arrangement of the Brief Entries, Full Entries, and Images
Brief Entries
Full Entries
Sound Files
How to Use Unicode
Sources Consulted

The Japanese Haiku Topical Dictionary and Its Sources

     This topical dictionary is a work-in-progress based on the Nyūmon Saijiki edited by the Museum of Haiku Literature in Tokyo. Like other Japanese saijiki, the Nyūmon Saijiki is a compilation of the major kidai (seasonal topics) and kigo (seasonal words) in traditional and modern Japanese haiku. In turn, haiku are the traditional Japanese poetic form characterized by 17 sound symbols in metrical units of 5, 7, and 5.

     The Nyūmon Saijiki includes approximately 800 kidai, or headwords, and 2,100 kigo, or subtopics. An example of a kidai for the season of spring is risshun (beginning of spring). Kigo under the headword risshun are haru tatsu (spring begins) and haru kuru (spring comes). For each kidai the saijiki includes a prose discussion of the meaning and usage of the kidai, together with examples of Japanese haiku that make use of the kidai and/or kigo.

     The Japanese haiku topical dictionary includes the kidai and kigo from the Nyūmon Saijiki with English definitions. In addition, it includes a sample of the complete entries, with translations of the prose explanations and of the haiku. Work is in progress on the dictionary. As of September, 2002, approximately 70% of the kidai and kigo are translated. A sample of around a hundred of the full entries is completed. The kidai and kigo are in the section called "Brief Entries," and the complete entries are in the section called "Full Entries."

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How to Navigate the Topical Dictionary

     If you are interested in finding haiku topics for a particular season, go to the Brief Entries and look at the main divisions under each season. For example, if you want to see a list of plants associated with summer in Japanese haiku, click on Plants under Summer in Brief Entries. You will get a list of the main topics and subheads for summer plants. Brief entries for which there are also full entries include links to the full entry. For example, under Summer Plants find botan (tree peony). There is a link to the full entry for botan.

     You can also search for particular words in the brief entries, full entries, or in the texts of haiku in the full entries. For searching. click on "Search Haiku Texts" at the top of any page, or "Keyword Search" on the home page. For help with searching, see the following section.

     You can also look through images associated with the different seasons by clicking on "Images" at the top of any page. When you find an image that you are interested in, click on the small (thumbnail) image or on the link called "image" under the thumbnail to open a larger version of the image. If you click on the title of the large image, you will go to the full entry corresponding to the image, or else to the brief entry if a full entry is not yet available. You can also click on "entry" under the thumbnail to go to the full entry where that is available, or else to the brief entry for that image.

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How to Search for Words in the Dictionary

     In the toolbar at the top of the page, click on "Search Haiku Texts." In the search box enter a single character or a word or words in English or rōmaji or Japanese. Click on "Submit Query." The search may take a short time. The results will be returned to you in a new window. Note that your search term is highlighted in red.

     If your search term appears in a brief entry, the entire brief entry will be displayed in the seach results. Similarly, if the term appears in a full entry, the entire full entry is displayed. If the search term appears in both a brief entry and the corresponding full entry, only the full entry is displayed in the search results.

     Results are arranged in the same order as the brief and full entries: by season, and within seasons by categories (The Season, The Heavens, The Earth, etc.; see Basic Arrangement below)

     You can limit your search to either brief or full entries by selecting "Brief entries only" or "Long entries only" in the "within" pull-down menu. You can also limit your search to the haiku in the long entries. This option is useful, for example, for searching for the names of poets whose haiku are included in the long entries.

     The search finds exactly the string of characters that you input. For example, if you search for the string "dog" (without the quotation marks), you will retrieve entries that include both "dog" and "dogs," as well as "hina dōgu." If you search for the romanized word for dog, "inu" (without the quotation marks), you will get a large number of entries in which "inu" is part of verbs. You can limit the search by leaving a blank space before and after "inu" in the search form. If you do this, the search returns only a few instances in which "inu" means dog. If you search for a word in quotation marks, you are likely not to get any hits, because the search is trying to find cases of your word enclosed in quotation marks in the actual entries.

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Basic Arrangement of the Brief Entries, Full Entries, and Images

     The order of entries followed here is based on the traditional order as recorded in Mizuhara Shūōshi, Katō Shūson, and Yamamoto Kenkichi, supervising editors, Nihon Dai Saijiki, 5 volumes (Tokyo: Kōdansha, 1981-1982).

     The Brief Entries, Full Entries, and Images are organized by seasons and under each season by traditional sub-categories within seasons. The seasons are Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter, and New Year. Each seasonal category includes related phenomena. The categories are:

時候【じこう】 jikō, The Season: general climate, reminders of the previous season, solstice or equinox (i.e., the middle of the season), the months, time and length of day, temperature, approaching the end of the season, anticipating the beginning of the next season.

天文【てんぶん】 tenbun, The Heavens (sometimes translated as "Astronomy"): sky, heavenly bodies, winds, precipitation, storms, other sky phenomena, light and shade.

地理【ちり】 chiri, The Earth (sometimes translated as "Geography"): landscape, seascape, fields, forests, bodies of water.

生活【せいかつ】 seikatsu, Daily Life (sometimes translated as "Livelihood"): clothes, food, home, work and school, sports, recreation and the arts, illness, travel and communications, moods.

行事【ぎょうじ】 gyōji, Observances: sacred and secular holidays and festivals; associated decorations, clothing, foods, and activities; death anniversaries (usually of literary persons).

動物【どうぶつ】 dōbutsu, Animals (sometimes translated as "Zoology"): mammals, amphibians and reptiles, birds, fishes, mollusks, insects.

植物【しょくぶつ】 shokubutsu, Plants (sometimes translated as "Botany"): blossoming trees, foliage of trees and shrubs, garden flowers, fruits and vegetables, wildflowers and other wild vegetation, seaweed, fungi.

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Brief Entries

     [The following notes are by William Higginson.]

     1. The Nyūmon Saijiki, on which this topical dictionary is based, contains approximately 800 kidai and 2,100 kigo. The translation of all of the kidai and kigo is in progress. As of March, 2002, approximately 70% of the kidai and kigo are available in the topical dictionary.

     2. Each entry begins with a seasonal topic (kidai) at the left margin in Japanese characters; terms indented under a kidai represent additional season words (kigo) relating to the kidai immediately above. (Not every kidai has additional kigo listed.)

     3. Except where a kidai or kigo is entirely in kana, full furigana is next indicated in square brackets for each kidai and kigo.In a few cases where kana are normally used in a kidai or kigo but kanji may also be used, the kanji form is shown next in parentheses. (In a very few instances, an alternative kanji form of the kidai or kigo is given in parentheses after the more common form.) Also, note that the orthography of kidai and kigo (and of haikai generally) frequently omits okurigana generally found in modern orthography (e.g., 冴返る, not 冴え返る).

     4. After each Japanese kidai or kigo, a romanized word or phrase reflecting its modern pronunciation is given in italics. In this rōmaji the macron is used for long a, e, o, and u (e.g., hari kuyō). Where a medial "n" (ん) might be confused with an initial "n" in な行, it is followed by an apostrophe, e.g., kan'ake. (Also, note that ん is never respelled as "m" here: shinbun, not shimbun.) Phrases involving the particle の are usually spelled as separate words in rōmaji, unless a sound-change occurs or the native phrase is represented by one kanji, e.g., 春の氷 haru no kōri, but 天の川 amanogawa or 筍 takenoko. Generally, the rōmaji, including word separations and hyphenations, is based on that in Kenkyusha's New Japanese-English Dictionary (1954). For plant names, rōmaji follows that of Jisaburo Ohwi, Flora of Japan (in English) (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1984).

     5. For a number of kidai, an older pronunciation orthography is included in hiragana in parentheses following the romanized modern pronunciation.

     6. The translated kidai or kigo immediately follows the pronunciation(s). In some cases, a brief explanation in square brackets follows the translation. In some translations of kidai and kigo, words understood as part of the meaning, but not literally present in the Japanese saijiki, are included in parentheses. Parentheses also surround optional plural or singular inflections and the "to" of infinitive verbs when the subject of the verb is not part of the kidai or kigo. Technically speaking, almost all nouns in Japanese may be taken as either singular or plural, but note that in some cases the translator has arbitrarily assigned singulars or plurals on the basis of an understanding of the phenomenon and its usual appearance in poems. Forward slashes separate equivalent alternatives. A slash without surrounding spaces indicates alternative words; with surrounding spaces a slash indicates alternative phrases.

     Generally speaking, the grammar of the translations of kidai and kigo parallels that of the Japanese. For example, usually Sino-Japanse compounds are treated as compound nouns or noun clusters (or as simple adjective-noun combinations), while phrases in native Japanese are treated as more or less equivalent phrases in English. A number of kigo are brief, grammatically complete sentences in Japanese, and are so treated in translation (without capitalization or punctuation, however). In some cases, distinctions between Sinified and native Japanese forms for the same term are observed by using Latinate or more formal words in translations of the former and Anglo-Saxon-derived forms or less formal words for the latter; however, in many cases there is little or no difference in meaning, and the same translation is given. If two or more kidai/kigo have the same or equivalent English translations, it may be assumed that they mean the same thing, and that the choice of one or the other in a particular poem is a stylistic matter, not a difference in meaning. (For example, one term might be preferred in a particular poem for its metrical fit, its sound, its value in a pun, its historical relationship to other words, and so on.) English spelling follows American usage as set forth in Merriam-Webster dictionaries, with the exception that some plant names have been spelled as found in relevant technical works or field guides. In some cases where there are striking differences between American and British spellings, both are given.

     7. The appropriate part of the season--all, early, mid, or late--follows each kidai in parentheses. This information is not always included in Nyūmon Saijiki entries. It is included here as essential for certain uses of the saijiki as a reference, especially for translators of haikai no renga and other linked poetry. For haiku poets, it aids in determining which phenomena one is likely to encounter at a given time of year. And the part of the season must often be taken into account by those writing linked poems.

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Full Entries

     We have selected for our first translations of full entries some 100 kidai and kigo that are recognized by the Japanese scholar Yamamoto Kenkichi as being among the top 500 kidai and kigo of all time. Initially, we are giving particular attention to those which combine historical importance (in many cases going back to classical waka, or being especially prominent in linked poetry and haiku) and continuing popularity among Japanese poets, as indicated by their frequent use in poems appearing in saijiki today.

     In addition to the components in the brief entries, the full entries also include a prose description of the kidai (seasonal topic), followed by haiku that illustrate use of the kidai or related kigo. Each haiku is displayed in Japanese characters, with a romanized version and a translation. The final haiku of the entry includes a prose paragraph discussing that haiku.

     Everything in the brief entries is also in the corresponding full entries except for the part of season (such as "all spring"), which at present appears only with the kidai in the brief entries.

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     Most of the full entries include one or more images illustrating the seasonal topics covered by the entries. Click on the thumbnail image(s) in a full entry, and a larger version of the image opens. Use your browser "Back" icon to return to the full entry. All of the images are also included in the Images directory. Click on the Images link in the toolbar at the top of the Web page to access the Images. Every image in the full entries is included in the Images directory. In addition, there are a few images (for example, tanabata) that at present are linked to brief entries. As more of the full entries are translated, images will be linked to the full entries.

Sound Files

     Some of the full entries include sound files; for example, kaminari (thunder), aki no koe (voices of autumn), and wataridori (migratory birds). The sound files are in .mp3 encoding. There is a great deal of information on the Web about how to use .mp3 files, from search engines such as and Newer Web browsers like Internet Explorer are likely to include .mp3 players. Free players for sound files are also available from sources such as MusicMatch, Winamp, and Windows Media Player from Microsoft.

How to Use Unicode

     This topical dictionary is encoded in Unicode (UTF8). You will be able to display the site most effectively if you have a Unicode font installed on your computer. If you are using Internet Explorer 4.x or higher, you are likely to have a Unicode font installed. If you are using Netscape 4.x, you may not be able to display the topical dictionary effectively.

     An explanation of how to display texts in Unicode is here.

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Sources Consulted

[The following bibliography is by William Higginson. The books below are published in Tokyo, unless otherwise indicated.]

Aoyagi Shigeki 青柳志解樹 and Natsuume Rikuo 夏梅陸夫. Haiku no Hana 『俳句の花』, 2 volumes. Sōgensha 創元社, 1997.

Brazil, Mark A. The Birds of Japan. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1991.

Breen, Jim. WWWJDIC Japanese-English Dictionary Server, accessed at <>.

Brickell, Christopher, editor in chief. The American Horticultural Society Encyclopedia of Garden Plants. New York: Macmillan, 1989.

Campbell, Bruce. Birds in Colour, illustrated by Karl Aage Tinggaard. Hammondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1960.

Carr, Anna, et al., editors. The Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening, new revised edition. Emmaus, Pennsylvania: Rodale Press, 1978.

Cerny, Walter. A Field Guide in Color to Birds, [translated by Schierlova. London: Cathay Books, 1975.

The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. New York: Oxford University Press, 1971.

Flexner, Stuart Berg, editor in chief. The Random House Dictionary of the English Language, second edition, unabridged. New York: Random House, 1987.

Farrand, John, Jr. The Audubon Society Master Guide Birding, three volumes. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1983.

Gendai Haiku Saijiki Compilation Committee 現代歳時記編纂委. Gendai Haiku Saijiki 『現代俳句歳時記』. Gendai Haiku Kyōkai 現代俳句協会, 1999.

Gove, Philip Babcock, editor in chief. Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language, unabridged. Springfield, Massachusetts: G. & C. Merriam, 1976.

Hay, Roy, and Patrick M. Synge. The Colour Dictionary of Garden Plants with House and Greenhouse Plants, compact edition. London: Bloomsbury Books, 1991.

Higginson, William J. The Haiku Seasons: Poetry of the Natural World. Kodansha International, 1996.

Higginson, William J. Haiku World: An International Poetry Almanac. Kodansha International, 1996.

Inahata Teiko 稲畑汀子. Hototogisu Shin Saijiki 『ホトトギス新歳時記』. Sanseidō 三省堂, 1986.

Kaneko Tohta. 金子兜太 Gendai Haiku Saijiki 『現代俳句歳時記』. Chikuma Shūpansha 千曲秀版, 平成7年 (1995).

Katsumata, Senkichiro. Kenkyusha's New Japanese-English Dictionary. Kenkyusha, 1954.

Kindaichi Kyōsuke 金田一京助. Jikai 『辞海』, compact edition. Sanseidō 三省堂, 昭和29年 (1954).

Kindaichi Kyōsuke 金田一京助 and Kindaichi Haruhiko 金田一春彦. Meikai Kogo Jiten 『明解古語辞典』, new edition. Sanseidō 三省堂, 昭和37年 (1961).

Kobayashi Junko 小林純子 and Naitō Toshihiko 内藤俊彦. Haru no Jumoku 『春の樹木』, Natsu no Jumoku 『夏の樹木』, 2 volumes. Hokuryūkan 北隆館, 1991.

Kobayashi Junko 小林純子 and Naitō Toshihiko 内藤俊彦. Haru no Yasō 『春の野草』, Natsu no Yasō 『夏の野草』, Aki no Yasō 『秋の野草』, 3 volumes. Hokuryūkan 北隆館, 1991.

Kōjien 『広辞苑』, 5th edition (electronic). Iwanami Shoten 岩波書店, 1999.

Kuroda Momoko 黒田杏子. Kachō Haiku Saijiki 『花鳥俳句歳時記』, 4 volumes. Heibonsha 平凡社, 1987-1988.

Massey, Joseph A., et al. A Field Guide to the Birds of Japan. Wild Bird Society of Japan/Kodansha International, 1982.

Mathews, R. H. Mathews' Chinese-English Dictionary, revised, American edition. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1966.

McClane, A. J., editor. McClane's New Standard Fishing Encyclopedia, second edition. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1974.

Milne, Lorus and Margery. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Insects and Spiders. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1980.

Mizuhara Shūōshi 水原秋櫻子. Gendai Haiku Saijiki 『現代俳句歳時記』. Ōizumi Shoten 大泉書店, 1978.

Mizuhara Shūōshi 水原秋櫻子, Katō Shūson 加藤楸邨, and Yamamoto Kenkichi 山本健吉, supervising editors. Nihon Dai Saijiki 『日本大歳時記』, 5 volumes. Kōdansha 講談社, 1981-1982.

Morrison, Paul. Observers Butterflies. London: Bloomsbury Books, 1989.

Nakauchi, Kiyofumi. Comprehensive Ocean Dictionary, accessed throughout 2001 at <>.

Narita Naruhisa 成田成寿, editor. An English and American Literary Calendar 『英語歳時記』, one volume edition. Kenkyūsha 研究社, 1978.

Neilson, William Allen, editor in chief. Webster's New International Dictionary of the English Language, second edition, unabridged. Springfield, Massachusetts: G. & C. Merriam, 1954.

Nelson, Andrew Nathaniel. The Modern Reader's Japanese-English Character Dictionary, Second Revised Edition. Tuttle, 1974.

Niering, William A. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Wild Flowers, Eastern Region. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1979.

Nowak, Ronald M. Walker's Mammals of the World, 5th edition, 2 volumes. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991.

Ogata Tsutomu 尾形仂, et al. Haibungaku Daijiten 『俳文学大辞典』. Kadokawa Shoten 角川書店, 1995.

Ohno Rinka 大野林火, supervising editor; Museum of Haiku Literature 俳句文学館, editors. Nyūmon Saijiki 『入門歳時記』, handy edition. Kadokawa Shoten 角川書店, 1984.

Ohwi, Jisaburo. Flora of Japan (in English). Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1984.

Onions, C. T., editor. The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles, two volumes. London: Oxford University Press, 1933 (1934 printing).

Peterson, Roger Tory. A Field Guide to the Birds: A Completely New Guide to All the Birds of Eastern and Central North America, fourth edition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1980.

Peterson, Roger Tory. A Field Guide to Western Birds, third edition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1990.

Peterson, Roger Tory, Guy Mountfort, and P. A. D. Hollom. A Field Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe, fourth edition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1983.

Pierson, J. L., Jr. 10,000 Chinese-Japanese Characters. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1926.

Pyle, Robert Michael. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Butterflies. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1981.

Shimizu Mamoru 清水護 and Narita Naruhisa 成田成寿. The Kodansha Japanese-English Dictionary. Kodansha, 1985.

Shinmura Izuru 新村出, editor. Kōjien 『広辞苑』, 4th edition. Iwanami Shoten 岩波書店, 1991.

Spellenberg, Richard. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Wild Flowers, Western Region. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1979.

Swan, Lester A., and Charles S. Papp. The Common Insects of North America. New York: Harper & Row, 1972.

Takaha Shugyō 鷹派狩行, et al. Shinpen Haiku Saijiki 『新編俳句歳時記』, 5 volumes. Kōdansha 講談社, 1978.

Takahama Kyoshi. 高濱虚子 Shin Saijiki 『新歳時記』, expanded edition 増訂版. Sanseidō 三省堂, 1951.

Taylor, Norman, editor. Taylor's Encyclopedia of Gardening, Horticulture and Landscape Design, 4th edition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1961.

Tomiyasu Fūsei 富安風生, chief editor. Haiku Saijiki 『俳句歳時記』, 5 volumes. Heibonsha 平凡社, 1959.

Turner, R. J., Jr., and Ernie Wasson, chief editors. Botanica: The Illustrated A-Z Guide of Over 10,000 Garden Plants and How to Cultivate Them. Milsons Point, NSW, Australia: Mynah, 1997.

Uchida Seinosuke 内田清之助, senior editor. Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Fauna of Japan 『日本動物園鑑』, student edition. Hokuryūkan 北隆館, 昭和23年 (1948).

Ueda Mannen 上田萬年, et al. Ueda's Daijiten: A Japanese Dictionary of Characters and Compounds 『大字典』, American edition. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1942.

Yamamoto Kenkichi 山本健吉. Saishin Haiku Saijiki 『最新俳句歳時記』, 5 volumes. Bungei Shunjū 文藝春秋, 昭和46-47年 (1971-1972).

Yamamoto Kenkichi. The Five Hundred Essential Japanese Season Words, Kris Young Kondo and William J. Higginson, translators; accessed throughout 2001 at <>.

Zucker, Isabel. Flowering Shrubs and Small Trees, revised and expanded by Derek Fell. New York: Grove Weidenfeld, 1990.

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