Here, I’m Here –

Kobayashi Issa 1763-1828

Kobayashi Issa
Born: 15 June 1753, Kashiwabara, Japan
Nationality: Japanese
Died: 5 January 1828, Shinano Province, Japan

Issa was a poet and lay Buddhist priest of the Jōdo Shinshū sect best known for his haiku poems and journals. Known simply as Issa, a pen name meaning Cup-of-tea, he is regarded as one of the Great Four along with Bashō, Buson, and Shiki. A reflection on the popularity in Issa as a man and poet is shown in the Japanese books on Issa are almost equal to those written on Bashō and outnumber those on Buson

Issa was the first son of a farming family in Kashiwabara, now part of Shinano-machi, Shinano Province. His mother died when he was three years old, the first of many challenges to face the young boy. Issa’s grandmother cared for him until five years later when life changed again with his father’s remarriage and two years later the birth of his half-brother. Issa was 14 when his grandmother died and he felt estranged in his own home. A moody, lonely child Issa preferred to wander in the fields to his home life, an attitude that was none too pleasing to his stepmother.

Issa was sent to Edo by his father when he was 15 in order to make a living. Virtually nothing is known of the next decade of his life, however, his name is associated with Kobayashi Chikua of the Nirokuan haiku school. Issa’s father died in 1801 and he fought over his inheritance with his stepmother. He also wrote a journal now known as the “Last Days of Issa’s Father”.

Issa secured rights to half of the property left by his father after years of legal battles. At the age of 49 he returned to his native village and found a wife, Kiku. After a short period of marital bliss, tragedy struck with their first child dying shortly after birth and less than two and half years later their daughter died. A third child died in 1820, In 1823 Kiku became ill and died. Issa married twice later in his life, and despite so much tragedy, he produced a large body of work. His third wife died when he was 61.

Issa died in 1828 in his native village,

Face of the spring moon by Kobayashi Issa

Face of the spring moon–
about twelve years old,
I’d say.

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