A Study of Birth Signs in Haiku Part I

by an'ya

Note: excerpts are all quoted from astrologyonline.com (which is just one of many sites it its kind, and other sources of information may vary). This information doesn't necessarily reflect my own beliefs, nor do I profess to be any kind of expert on the matter, rather, this study article is written strictly as one writer's personal and conceptual observations. The haiku quoted here are all from Mountain Tasting, Zen Haiku by Santoka Taneda.

Born December: Santoka Taneda (1882-1940)

"The Sagittarius enjoys travelling and exploration, the more so because their minds are constantly open to new dimensions of thought."

To start my study off simply, I will say that this seems obviously present to me in one of Santoka's most famous haiku:

going deeper

and still deeper-

the green mountains

In fact, I can see this particular quality in so many of his other haiku, that I need only mention but an additional few here to give you more of an idea:

winter rain clouds

thinking:,going to China

to be torn to pieces

the sound of waves-

now distant, now close

how much of my life remains

in the blazing sun

railroad tracks

perfectly straight

no inn

to spend the night the moon leads

the way

"The Sagittarius also has a positive outlook on life, and optimism is one of the traits they possess, although the negative inherent in everything will sometimes find manifestation, and in such cases, restlessness, uncertainty, misjudgment and distortion of the truth are probable."

For instance, in this one particular haiku written by Santoka, I read both of these factors:

nice road

leading to a nice building

it's a crematorium

Interestingly, in this haiku (above), Santoka starts out being almost overly optimistic in his view

of the road (perhaps even metaphorically "the road of life" as he literally travel led it extensively.) Positive thoughts of a "nice road" leading to a "nice building", until ultimately we end up with the surprise of it being a "crematorium." Possibly this gives us as readers, insight as to the above mentioned "negative inherent" in the Sagittarius birth sign, insofar as perhaps how his family matters (the suicide of both mother and brother for example), played a pertinent role in some of Santoka's haiku writing.

"Sagittarius are full of enterprise, energy, versatility, and eagerness to extend experience beyond the physically familiar."

Looking at this statement in only a literal sense, here are three haiku recorded in Santoka's diary, when he once fell ill in a remote village:

I laid out

my feverish body on

the frozen earth


I'll die like this lying

on the cold earth

I stretch out my body 

along the ground

In each of these haiku, Santoka actually takes reader beyond the physically familiar feeling of everyday sickness, into an illness that he deeply associates with nature. "lying on frozen ground", not something ordinarily done when one is just ordinarily sick. Or in these haiku, where Santoka makes use of the above-mention "energy, vitality and eagerness to extend beyond the physically familiar."

to the mountains

to the sky

the heart sutra

the green grass

I return


the sky at sunset

a cup of sake 

would taste so good

"Sagittarius are basically ambitious and optimistic, and continue to be so even when their hopes are dashed. Their strongly idealistic natures can also suffer many disappointments without being affected.:


it may be sunset

but still there is no inn

shrikes sing


In this haiku, as sunset approaches, and Santoka has no place in sight to stay for the night, he notices the Shrikes sing, and that is enough.


and these haiku also show Santoka's optimistic traits and idealism:


shining brightly

in the sunshine

my meal of boiled rice


a stomach

full of water

I sleep soundly


Just a meal of boiled rice, but look how it shines!, and Santoka's thankfulness for even "a stomach full of water".  

In these next haiku, again his ambitiousness and optimism comes through:

if only

one plows the fields

you'll soon hear a song

tomorrow I'll come

cooking wild vegetables

for your visit

"People born under the Sagittarius birth sign, are honorable, trustworthy, truthful, generous, sincere, with a passion for justice; usually on the side of the underdog in society, they will fight for any cause they believe to be just, and are prepared to be rebellious. They balance loyalty with independence".

Here is what I feel are examples of Santoka's truthful and often times brutally honest side:

pricks ad pussies

boiling together

in the overcrowded bath

making my way

through fallen leaves

I have a good shit in the fields


gathered up

in my navel


urinating by the road

soaking the young weeds

naked in the bath house

the conversation grows

more lively

and here's an example of his honorable and trustworthy personality:

mother! I am sharing

the white noodles offered

for your memorial day


one thing to pawn taking

it in, redeeming it

I offer incense

to the Taneda mortuary tablet

it's all that remains of my family

And his generous and sincere attributes that show up in these haiku:

they could

feel my hand the village flies

escaped easily

I told a lie

a lonely moon


each day

we meet both demons

and Buddhas

even snow

cannot be good snow

with smoke from the factories

And last but not least, balancing loyalty with independence, these simple words from Santoka:

we've separated

and my backpack

is heavy