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Who was Kobayashi Issa?

Kobayashi Issa was the most beloved hayku master of Eighteenth century Japan. During his lifetime Issa wrote over 20,000 hayku.He lost his mother at an early age, was mistreated by his his stepmother, his children died, and his marriage was unhappy, and he was poor. He was a prolific writer of both poetry and prose, treating his subjects with humor, excelling particularly at affectionate portrayals of such creatures as fleas, frogs and sparrows.

So this is where I end up living - Five feet of snow.
Where I come from Even flies Bite.


Kobayashi Issa was born the son of a farmer in Kashiwabara, Shinano province. His father was widowed a few years after Issa was born- he remarried but Issa had troubles with his stepmother. He began writing haiku as a young child, and in 1777, at the age of fourteen, he was sent by his father to Edo, where he studied hayku under the poets Mizoguchi Sogan and Norokuan Chikua.

Come with me and play Parentless sparrow

Issa's hayku gained the attention Seibi Natsume, who became his patron. Although his poetry became more and more popular, he had to travel and work hard until his fiftieth year. In 1793 he took the pen name Issa and travelled in southwestern Japan. After the journey he published a collection of verse, TABISHUI in 1795. Issa lived in Kyoto, Osaka, Nagasaki, Matsuyama and many other cities. In the 1810's he returned to his hometown. After many disputes, his stepmother finally allowed him to inherit the property that his father had long wanted him to have. In "Diary of the Death of My Father", Issa wrote of his father, "he smiled happily at the people who offered him poison and thought ill of anyone who tried to force medicine on him." His father died at the age of 65. The body was cremated according to Buddhist tradition. and Issa collected the bones.

Issa was a prolific writer of both poetry and prose. He treated his subjects with humor, excelling particularly at affectionate portrayals of such creatures as fleas, frogs and sparrows.

fleas at the gate... the dog is plastered quickly

Issa wrote more than 20,000 hayku during his life.



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