On June 21, 2014, Dr. Lars Värgo wrote FOREWORD for a haiku booklet “Radu Șerban AMBASSADORIAL HAIKU” as President of the Tokyo International Literary Society.

Dr. Värgo was very active and influential as in the following report.


Tokyo International Literary Society

25 April 2013
by Lars Vargö


Last night we organized the first lecture activity of the newly formed Tokyo International Literary Society (TILS) at the Alfred Nobel Auditorium of the Swedish Embassy. The lecturer was the renowned authority on Japanese literature, Dr. Donald Keene. It was truly an historic moment. Dr. Keene spoke about his encounters and friendship with writers like Tanizaki Jun’ichirô, Mishima Yukio, Abe Kôbô and Ôe Kenzaburô. He also spoke with sadness in his eyes about his old friend and former Minister of Education Nagai Michio.

Listening to Donald Keene is not only informative and fascinating. He came to Japan right after the war and walked into what he called “the golden age of Japanese literature”. Since then he has written about and introduced Japanese literature to the rest of the world, from early ages until modern times. To have Dr. Keene as the first speaker of TILS was a true privilege.

The purpose of TILS is to introduce Japanese literature to the foreign community in Japan and world literature to Japanese nationals. If there is a writer from, say, Europe, visiting Japan, the TILS will try to invite her/him to give a lecture. TILS will also invite Japanese writers to talk on a regular basis. If you wish to know more about TILS please contact the Swedish Embassy in Tokyo.


Here are two photos on the first lecture activity by Dr. Donald Keene.




Here is FOREWORD by Dr. Värgo with the Japanese translations by Hidenori Hiruta.




 In this collection of haiku by Ambassador Radu Serban the poet has chosen to classify the poems according to five themes: ‘Japan’, ‘Nature’, ‘Feelings’, ‘Time’, and ‘Home’.




In the first category, the reader will find scenes and locations which reveal various experiences of the poet throughout the country.




In Kumamoto and Matsuyama he follows in the footsteps of Natsume Sôseki and Masaoka Shiki.




Mount Fuji is described from various angles and the beauty of the mountains around Asahikawa have also found their ways into the haiku.




In Tokyo the moon becomes part of a giant Christmas tree decoration.

A butterfly on Mount Takao is accompanied by wandering clouds in Fukushima.





In the second category, ‘Nature’, the poet goes through the various seasons of Japan. Flowers, snowflakes, a flying peacock as well as immaculate swans help paint a sensitive atmosphere of harmony against the background of a dramatic and powerful nature.




Feelings are not commonly expressed in traditional haiku, but although a special category is dedicated to them, the poet does not exaggerate or exploit the emotions of humans. He keeps the feelings low key and often only hints at what one can find behind them.




He sometime also alludes to earlier centuries of poets and their expressions. ‘Dew of tears’ in one of the poems immediately brings forward associations to the early Japanese collection Manyôshû.





In ‘Time’ it is especially the passage of time that is alluded to through various poetic expressions. And in ‘Home’ the poet puts the light on the warm atmosphere created in homes where the holiday spirit is a time of philosophical reflection.





Many of Ambassador Serban’s haiku follow the traditional 5-7-5 syllabic pattern, while in others one can find both jiamari and jitarazu, ‘too many’ and ‘too few’ syllables respectively.




This is in line with the best haiku written all over the world today. What is important is poetry itself, not the metrical uniform.




Lars Vargö

President of the Tokyo International

Literary Society

June 21, 2014  






Here is a photo of Dr. Lars Värgo and Hidenori Hiruta, who translated FOREWORD into Japanese.



By Hidenori Hiruta





















According to


So as a memory of his visit and his ku, the statue of beautiful Seishi was built at the road station, Kisakata-Nemunokoa.




                                                                                                                                                                         蛭田秀法 編集

                                                                                                                                              Edited by Hidenori Hiruta


On October 13, 2015, Ben Grafström received Akita International University President’s Award in the English section of the 4th Japan – Russia Haiku Contest for the following haiku :


Full moon in summer—

ripples in the lake reach the shore

kissing our toes






Here is a photo taken at the award-giving ceremony.



Here is a brief bio of Ben Grafström.






Ben Grafström

Akita University

Lecturer 講師


I studied Japanese literature at the University of Colorado, Boulder (CU) where I earned my Master’s Degree in East Asian Languages and Civilizations. My thesis research was based on the genre kōwakamai, which was a popular performance art form from the Muromachi period to the beginning of the Edo period.



In 2009 after I graduated from CU, my graduate school advisor, a classmate, and I accompanied 12 American teachers through Japan following Matsuo Bashō’s Oku no hosomichi trail. The purpose of this research project was to study Bashō in-depth, while at the same time learning about Japan’s many traditions, culture, and history. It was during this trip that I first began to consider composing haiku in English seriously.




I am now entering my sixth year at Akita University. Aside from my regular courses, I also teach a seminar called “Journey to the Interior” and another course called “Introduction to Japanese Culture II.” “Journey to the Interior” is an intensive study class focused on Bashō, but students also learn a lot about composing haiku in English. There are three haiku competitions held in the class that allow students to share their best haiku with each other. In the Japanese culture class, we also talk a lot about haiku as well as Japan’s literary tradition leading up to haiku.


秋田大学で教えるのは、今年6年目になります。英語科目以外にも「Journey to the Interior」と「日本文化入門II」を担当します。「Journey to the Interior」は『奥の細道』の集中的な授業です。学生は芭蕉を学ぶと共に、英語で句作の方法を習います。学期中、句会三つを開催します。留学生向きの「日本文化入門II」の科目内容は、俳句だけではなくて、奈良時代から江戸時代の日本の文学や和歌も教えます。


This spring (2017) I taught a course for Hōsō Daigaku on English haiku. I hope that the students who took this course were able to improve their English language ability through creative writing. Also, I hope that Japanese people who have an interest in haiku will perhaps consider haiku in English more seriously.




I write haiku in English regularly and hope to one day publish a collection of my poems.




Ben Grafström


Center for Promotion of Educational Research and Affairs

Akita University


1-1 Tegata Gakuen-machi, Akita City, Akita 010-0852

018-889-2463 (office phone & fax)


講師 グラフストロム・ベン



010-0852 秋田県秋田市


tel・fax: 018-889-2463


卯の花や箸の浮きたる洗桶  小川 軽舟












Tōhoku Bentō, Ben’s bog, is full of exciting and inspiring articles on Life, Literature, Eating, and Drinking in Japan’s North East.



Lastly, we sincerely hope that everyone enjoys Ben’s blogs and photograpy.  


                                                                                                                                                                                    By Hidenori Hiruta