Photo/IllutrationA self-portrait by poet Masaoka Shiki (Shigetaka Kodama)

  • Photo/Illustraion

A 32-page notebook containing five previously unpublished works by celebrated haiku poet Masaoka Shiki has been found on the 150th anniversary of his birth.

The notebook's existence was no secret, but it had been missing for years.

Aside from eight works in his own hand, it contains two self-portraits.

The poems were created on Jan. 1, 1901, the year before Shiki, who was active throughout the Meiji Era (1868-1912), died at the age of 34.

Bound in traditional Japanese style, the notebook measures 24 centimeters by 16 cm.

The front cover bears kanji characters that read, “New Year’s Book, Jan. 1, the 34th year of the Meiji Era.”

Although he had been bed-ridden due to advanced spinal caries, the decay of bony tissue, Shiki's poems come across as cheerful, suggesting the poet must have been in a celebratory mood as the new year unfolded.

“The works epitomize the easily comprehensible haiku that he set out to create,” said Ichiro Fukumoto, professor emeritus of Japanese literature at Kanagawa University.

The five works are: "Neokurete Shinnen no Kane o Kikinikeri"; "Kurakiyori Gancho o Sawaku Kodomo kana"; "Uraura to Hatsuhi no Kage ya Karekodachi"; "Hatsuyume ya Kotatsu Futon no Atatamari"; and "Rusu no To ni Meishi Nagekomu Gyokei kana"

One poem describes children rising early while it is still dark and running around to celebrate New Year's Day, while another portrays Shiki listening to temple bells ringing in the New Year after missing his bedtime.

The notebook also features haiku (a Japanese poem in 17 syllables having a 5-7-5 syllabic form and traditionally containing a reference to the season), tanka (a short Japanese poem of 31 syllables, arranged in lines of five, seven, five, seven and seven syllables) and drawings created by 13 others, including Kawahigashi Hekigoto (1873-1937), a poet, as well as Shiki’s other disciples and friends.

The notebook was found among archives that an individual entrusted with the preservation association of Shiki-an, a modest dwelling in Tokyo’s Taito Ward where the poet resided.

Shiki, born in Matsuyama, Ehime Prefecture, was a leading figure in a movement to reform traditional haiku and tanka, stressing the importance of portrayal. He was credited with establishing haiku and tanka as literary works.

The notebook will be on display at Shiki-an from Sept. 1 to Sept. 30.