051217 Japan Times

Japan Times の記事

Nine lives: meditating cats in paradise


Celebrity cat profile

Name: Haiku
Age: 1 year, 8 months
Breed: tabby mix
Favorite foods: catfish, paw-paws
Favorite plants: junipurr, "neko jarashi," cattails
Favorite artist: Cat Stevens
Hobbies: meditating, writing haiku

Today I will introduce you to a cat who writes haiku. This cat, named Haiku, lives in northern Okayama Prefecture and was adopted by a German couple, Gabi and Bernd Greve, who run GokuRakuAn (Paradise Hermitage), a retreat in the mountains.

Upon my arrival at GokuRakuAn, however, the cat was nowhere to be found. "He's off writing haiku," said a three-colored cat curled up in a basket on the table. She stretched her neck in my direction, and I responded to her subtle request by stroking her head.

"But I had an appointment," I said.

"Not so simple," said the cat. "Cats are not people. We don't keep appointments."

"Catastrophic!" I declared. "How will I complete my interview? And who are you?"

"I am O-tsu," she mewed, "Haiku's mother."

I kept my hand on her head, hoping to stroke some information out of her.

"Maybe I can help you," she said.

"Could you tell me a little bit about your son?"

She pawsed for a moment to think, and then began: "Haiku-kun was born on the auspicious day of April 9, 2004, when the haiku master and chairman of the World Haiku Club, Susumu Takiguchi, came to visit GokuRakuAn. It was early in the morning and I hadn't gotten a lick of sleep, but I had found a nice warm birthing spot under the 'kotatsu' table. His first mews were so poetic, we knew he would be a natural, so we named him Haiku-kun.

"These days cats cannot compete with the modern mousetraps, so many of us are unemployed. So we groomed him to become a haiku master by making him the honorable vice director of the World Kigo Database Project. "

"Would you like some hot milk?" she offered. "It's a delickacy around here."

"Thank you," I accepted, warming to her feline charm. "What is the World Kigo Database Project?"

"This is Haiku-kun's pet project to collect and catalog words from all over the world that may be used as 'kigo' (seasonal words) for haiku of the respective areas. It is based on the concept of a Japanese dictionary of seasonal words ('saijiki'), but addresses all cultures and regions of the whole world. Cats are a kigo for spring, for example.

"Haiku-kun was also the catalyst for starting the cat haiku genre, and he has really brought the art form to purrfection," she said.

"Cat haiku?"

"You don't know? Let me explain. Haiku comes from traditional 'hokku,' a form of poetry with five, seven and five syllables. There is often a pause at the end of the first five, such as in this poem by the great Japanese master Matsuo Basho":

An old pond --
The sound of a frog jumping
into water

"Cat haiku is a little different, since it is tailored to cats and written by cats. Whereas hokku uses a five-seven-five pattern, cat haiku uses a four-one-M pattern: four paws, one tail and a meow. Haiku-kun is responsible for letting the cat out of the bag on this one, and catapulting cat haiku to popularity."

"Is cat haiku really that popular?"

"Well, you'll never find it in the tabbyloids, but it is gaining popularity. Even humans are pawning off their haiku as cat haiku nowadays. You'll also find some excellent cat 'haiga' (paintings to match haiku) such as the works by the Russian artist Olga Hooper."

"Can you give me an example of cat haiku?"

O-tsu squinted her eyes, started purring, then recited:

quince in full bloom -
I just love the smell
of that Siamese tomcat

木瓜満開 ..シャム君の匂い ..タマラネエ

"The catch is, we like to give our poems a little chutzpaw, even make them amewsing."

"What was the purring for?" I asked.

"I wasn't purring," she said, "I was meditating. Here is a cat haiku by Haiku-kun":

love season for cats -
the neighbor's daddy too
returns in the morning

猫の恋 隣のパパも 朝帰り

"Can you give our readers some general tips on writing haiku?"

"I will give you some wisdom from the master cat. Haiku entails emptying your mind, because the mind has to be empty for something to come in. This is why cats like to meditate. Find a quiet spot, or listen to some quiet mewsic to help you relax, then turn your mind off and let nature work. Let nature communicate with you."

That evening I stayed overnight at GokuRakuAn. Gabi and Bernd prepared the 'rotenburo' outdoor bath (heated with a wood furnace), and I watched the snow fall with a beer in my hand. Later, snuggled in my futon, I dreamed about the mountains with a fresh layer of snow on them. The next morning, near the tail end of my stay, there was still no sign of the great master Haiku-sensei. When I went to breakfast, however, there was a haiku waiting on the table for me from the master himself:

heavy snowfall -
a white silence

The Japan Times: Dec. 17, 2005
(C) All rights reserved


See more photos and hear the interview at
Animal Tales by Amy Chavez, with LINKs to People and Places mentioned in the interview

Listen to the Interview at Amy's Podcast.


A Haiku Cat friend, Timosha and Olga Hooper

. . . . .

My Cats in Paradise, Gabi Greve

Amy interviewing Haiku kun and O-Tsu

With Photos !


Back to TOP

大垪和 。。。道の駅に戻る – Michi no Eki - BACK



Bill said...

I'm delighted to know cats are writing something besides detective stories.

Anonymous said...

Dear Gabi san and Haiku chan

What a wonderful Christmas story!!!


ai... chibi


Cow Lady said...

Thanks Gabi and Bernd for your hospitality. You really have some great celebirty cats! I'll send you a CD of the live interview--which differs somewhat from the print version. O-stu and Haiku-kun's fans can vote for them at www.podcastalley.com under "Animal Tales."

I hope to visit GokuRakuAn again soon!

Cow Lady said...

The above article has 2 idioms about cats and 24 plays on words to do with cats. Can you find them all?!

. Gabi Greve said...


cat haiku uses a four-one-M pattern


These three are my favorites! You did a good job with the cat words, Amy san ! Myaaaaa !

Sure hope to see you around soon. Next time, I promise, I will be there!

Haiku kun


Origa said...

Purr, purr, Haiku-kun, you are my awesomeow sensei, I read your interview with grrreat pleasurrre :)))) O-tsui san is also marrrvelmeows haijin, I admirrrre her! I hope one day to meet you both in perrrrrson, meeeeow!!! :)

And you even mentioned me and my human pet Origa in the interview -- thank you verrrry much, I aprrrreciate this! This is my gift for you and O-tsui san:

pourrrring rain --
two cats on the lap
of their human pet

Meeeeow, meeeeeeow, purrrrr! :)

Timosha, and his brother Prosha.

(and their human pet Origa :)))


bigshoulders said...

really enjoyed the cat haiku! my cats have yet to actualy write anything down... any tips on how to train them to hold a pen?

thanks for the wonderful read!


. Gabi Greve said...

My cats don't meditate, they dream of mice and food bowls and sunspots.



Whow, R., how do you know THAT ?


Anonymous said...

Gabi san,
I've enjoyed your recent posts, when I had time to peek in...
I was thrilled to read about Haiku Kun -- you must be so proud of him!

Congratulations to all...



Anonymous said...

the nameless cat,
Soseki's invention, has turned
in his grave!

Haiku-kun will soon be moon-dancing or hollywooding!




. Gabi Greve said...

One more comment, that has been sent to Amy:

Hi Amy san,
I am a Japanese senior(72) and have been a member of SW (Senior World) which is consisted of 60-70 members around the world. I found your latest article on Japan Times by chance. It was so interesting that I sent it to SW this morning. Thanks.
Haiku kun and his mother ni yoroshiku.


Anonymous said...

do you like my haiku?

"a cats soft purring,
and their soft furry body,
is very conforting"

from a poetic cat in scotland

. Gabi Greve said...

Dear anonymous cat from scotland !

glad you found your way to our O-Tsu and Haiku kun !
They are already sleeping on the kitchen table!

Today was minus eight centigrade in the morning, they need a lot to purr to keep warm !


Anonymous said...

Thanks Haiku-kun for your comments on the interview with me, the Komodo Dragon. I wonder what cat's take like?? Probably chicken.

The Komodo Dragon

. Gabi Greve said...

Hi, Komodo Dragon, my old buddy !

Cats dont taste like chicken, we have no wings and no drumsticks!

Me personally, I smell a lot like a Japanese badger now, since my tanuki friends outside are having their hot times and sometimes, when I get tooooo close, I get a shower of ... brrr, you would not want to smell that ... brrr

My humans sniff at me in disgust! But I just love to sit on my wall and watch the badgers!

badgers in love -
a tomcat peeps
from the stone wall

Haiku kun

ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo ooo

. The Komodo Dragon .


Diamond said...

Dear Gabi san and Haiku cat, my bean Lynettea says she has read Gabi's haiku before in workshops on the Internet. She also writes haiku and has had some published. I haven't had a go at haiku yet, so thank you for your tips.

spring morning
a stretch on the windowsill
warms half the fur

Ella Wagemakers said...

Wonderful CAT-alogue of CATtales here, Gabi! Had I had a cat, I would have named him Ping-Pong. As it is, though, we have no time for pets ...

full moon
as the cat climbs
up a silk curtain

:>) Ella

Gabi Greve said...

Thanks for visiting the famous Haiku kun!
Right now, he snores in the warm kotatsu!


Anonymous said...

Hi, Hello Haiku chan.
my name is Sumie who is Kitty of Aoi.
My papa is Hayato who is Haiku jiiiii( 俳句じいさん)
Haiku chan is cute and heavy snow photo is beautiful.
now I flashed cat haiku in my mind.


Gabi Greve said...

Thanks so much, Sumie chan, for pawing by my home!
Haiku kun
(to tell the truth, I am snoring in the kotatsu, it is cold here already ...)

(Haiku-Mother Gabi)