The 5th International Haiku Forum

  The 5th International Haiku Forum was held on the website of the Akita International Haiku Network for 31 days from August 21 through September 20, 2021. The theme was “Let Akita and Matsuyama be Sister Cities!”
   Fortunately, a lot of thoughts and ideas were sent to the organizer by email. As a result, here are some reports on international haiku in Akita as well as in Matsuyama, and a prospect of future projects for the sister city dream to be realized.
  1.  Ishii Rogetsu and Masaoka Shiki

Alexander Dolin, Professor Emeritus of Akita International University, tells about Rogetsu and Shiki through a few pages of his book.

 2. Matsuyama Declaration

    The Matsuyama Declaration was announced in September 1999, reviewing the prospect of world haiku in the 21st century, and the shape that the haiku must take. The declaration was first drafted by the Coordination Council of Matsuyama (headed by Gania Nishimura) in Matsuyama, Ehime on July 18, 1999. 
The declaration was officially announced at the Shimanami Kaido 99 International Haiku Convention on September 12, 1999.

Here is part of the declaration.

Let’s Give Poetry Back to the People…

A World Poetry Revolution in the 21st Century

   It has been about 100 years since the death of Shiki, who ignited the haiku reform movement. Precedents for the declaration which we propose here are Shimazaki Tōson's preface to his poetry collection of about 100 years ago in which Tōson stated that "The age of new poetry has finally come" and the Surrealism Manifesto of Andre Breton that appeared about 75 years ago. But it has been a long time since we have witnessed the birth of this kind of new poetic manifesto. In the world of Japanese haiku also, there has recently been a demand for reform and for an end to a prolonged state of stagnancy. 
   In this declaration, we have concentrated on the essential universality of haiku that has been present since the days of Shiki's reform. By taking into account the circumstances in which haiku spread to the world in the past, we have made projections about its future possibilities globally. In regard to the fixed-form and season words that have been considered the essence of haiku in Japanese language, we think that, in the context of universalization of haiku, poets all over the world should work at finding the inner order of language and the application of keywords that possess symbolic meanings unique to their particular culture. We wish to openly welcome those poems from all over the world that possess the haiku spirit.
   By making use of a traditional fixed form of poetry, the Japanese have succeeded in applying a grammar unique to the Japanese language, such as kireji, and condensing the poem to 17 syllables. We feel that in all languages, including English, French, German, Italian, Russian, Chinese, Korean, Arabic and Spanish, we can find ways to condense diction for the purpose of poetic expression. We also believe that an understanding of the value of silence will greatly contribute to the broadening of poetic space in each language. We hope that the poets of the world will share the achievements of the Japanese haiku masters with us and that they will take part in this poetic movement to resolutely pursue ways to condense their own language. 
   The 21st century is just around the corner. The haiku world of Japan is filled with countless haiku groups, poets and societies. Haiku continues to live on by simply reproducing the haiku we Japanese have inherited from our ancestors. On the other hand, modern poetry has endured various trials and tribulations and is sometimes on the brink of stagnation in various parts of the world. Some devoted poets of the world have yearned for haiku, this short poem that is at the forefront of world poetry and offers the highest level of completeness. Haiku provides a means for these poets to break free of this situation. 
   The only way we can return haiku or poetry to the common people is by responding to the wishes of these poets. We wish to rise above the current situation of the Japanese haiku world where haiku is at once in prosperity and in stagnation at the end of the century. With all earnestness, we watch the growing global awareness of haiku. We announce the Matsuyama Declaration to poets all over the world from this extraordinary site, Matsuyama, where Shiki ignited the haiku reform a century ago by describing it as the "Poetry by the Defeated." Our purpose is to once again pave the way for new possibilities in poetry. Haiku welcomes the world as it faces outward towards the world. 
   The Matsuyama Declaration of 12 September, 1999 is a statement made by the following people: Arima Akito, Minister of Education of Japan, Haga Toru, President of Kyoto University of Art and Design, Ueda Makato, Professor Emeritus of Stanford University, Soh Sakon, Poet, Kaneko Tohta, President of the Modern Haiku Society, Jean Jacques Origas, French Oriental Language Research Institute.

3. Internationalization of Haiku in Akita

Japan-Russia Haiku Contest in 2012

   In May, 2012, the Akita International Haiku, Senryū, and Tanka Network launched the first Japan–Russia Haiku Contest as one of the links with the cultural exchange between Japan and Russia, wishing to provide an opportunity to mutually share haiku related to the theme of “the sea” (The Sea of Japan) which connects Japan and Russia.
   The organizers hoped that the contest would serve as an opportunity to deepen mutual understanding among people, to promote the interaction of people’s views on Japan and Russia, as well as to convey the enjoyment of writing and reading haiku. The organizers also hoped that it would serve as an opportunity to strengthen and develop the sister city relationship between Akita and Vladiovostok as well as to promote and increase cultural exchanges between Akita Prefecture and Primorsky Region.  

Akita International Haiku Contest in 2019

   The Akita International Haiku, Senryū, and Tanka Network organized the Japan-Russia Haiku Contest with great success for 7 years. This tri-lingual (Japanese, Russian, and English) contest always yielded beautiful poetry from poets all over the world.
   On October, 2019, after the Japan-Russia Haiku Contest was over, the Akita International Haiku Network re-launched the haiku contest simply as “Akita International Haiku Contest” and (regretfully) only accepted haiku in Japanese or English.
   The organizers still hoped that the contest would serve as an opportunity to deepen mutual understanding among people from all over the world, and promote Japan’s traditional poetic form of HAIKU. They also hoped that this contest would continue to draw attention to northern Japan’s Akita region, its rich natural heritage, its luscious environment, traditions, and poet-community.

World Haiku Series 2019

   330 years passed since Matsuo Bashō ( 1644–1694) visited Kisakata in Akita Prefecture on the evening of August 1, 1689. 
The statue of Bashō is erected in the garden of Kammanji Temple in Kisakata, Nikaho City, Akita Prefecture.
   If Bashō were to be there, the greatest master of haiku would be greatly surprised to find that haiku is loved all over the world.
   On October, 2019, a new project “World Haiku Series 2019” was launched by the Akita International Haiku Network. 
Feeling most grateful to haiku friends in the world for having sent their haiku to the Japan-Russia Haiku Contest from 2012 through 2018, the Akita International Haiku Network started the project, celebrating the 330th anniversary of Bashō’s visit to Kisakata at the same time.

4. Projects in 2022

The 11th Akita International Haiku Contest

   The 11th Akita International Haiku Contest will be launched in celebration of the 150th anniversary of Ishii Rogetsu’s Birth by the Akita International Haiku Network. Ehime Prefecture and Matsuyama City will also be asked to be sponsors for this memorial haiku contest. 

The World Haiku Series 2022

   The World Haiku Series 2022 will be launched in celebration of the 150th anniversary of Ishii Rogetsu’s Birth by the Akita International Haiku Network. Ehime Prefecture and Matsuyama City will also be asked to be sponsors for this memorial haiku series. 

5. Let Akita and Matsuyama be Sister Cities!

Here is a book cover of a novel “ROGETSU and SHIKI”.

   The Ishii Rogetsu Research Group in Akita have been dreaming of Akita and Matsuyama being sister cities since the book “Novel ROGETSU and SHIKI ” was published by the Akita Sakigake on July 8, 2018.
   This is because the author of the book, Kazuhiro Kudō, who is the chief director of the Research Group, was invited to Matsuyama to make a talk on Rogetsu and Shiki in the hall of the Ehime Shimbun by the Matsuyama Shiki Society on February 19, 2019, and also because members of the Matsuyama Shiki Society delightedly agreed to the idea of the sister city relationship proposed by Kazuhiro Kudō.
   If Rogetsu and Shiki were to be present there, the sister city idea would have both of them greatly surprised and excited in rejoicing. And if the dream were to come true, it would help promote trends toward internationalization, universalization and localization of haiku. And it would help make haiku spread to the people globally throughout the world.

Hidenori Hiruta

Chief Director

The Akita International Haiku Network

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