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Frogpond 46.3 • 2023

Museum of Haiku
Literature Award

Haiku & Senryu

Essay 1 - Earthquakes

Essay 2 - Editing Haiku

Essay 3 - Imagining Haiku Narrators

Interview - Randy Brooks



Book Reviews

Haiku Society of America


Earthquakes (and Tsunamis)

by Charles Trumbull

Earthquakes (and Tsunamis)
(complete PDF version)

Earthquakes in Japan

It will come as no surprise that most haiku about earthquakes have to do with seismic events in Japan, the very same land in which the humble haiku emerged and flourished. “Of the 14 or 15 tectonic plates known in the world, four converge on Japan, where over 2000 active faults can be found . . . Some 20% of earthquakes in the world measuring magnitude 6 or over occur in or around Japan.” Wikipedia’s table of tectonic events suggests an average of two to three quakes greater than magnitude 7.0 occur in Japan each year.

The standard Japanese word for earthquake is jishin. The readings (nai), (nae), and (jiburui) will be found in older haiku but are considered outdated usage. “Tsunami” (literally “harbor wave”), of course, is a Japanese word, and signifies one or more long, high sea waves caused by an undersea earthquake or other seismic event. Both words have figurative meanings as well.

Gabi Greve in her World Kigo Database provides a possible explanation as to why Japan is so earthquake-prone:

A giant catfish [namazu] lived in mud beneath the earth. The catfish liked to play pranks and could only be restrained by Kashima, a god who protected the Japanese people from earthquakes. So long as Kashima kept a mighty rock with magical powers over the catfish, the earth was still. But when he relaxed his guard, the catfish thrashed about, causing earthquakes.

Namazu is, in fact, an archaic word for “earthquake.”


[essay continues for several more pages] . . .

. . .

Trumbull, Charles. "Earthquakes (and Tsunamis)." Frogpond 46.3, Autumn, 2023, 95-123.

This excerpt inclues the first page of the essay: page 95. The complete essay includes pages 95-123. To read the complete essay, click on the link to the PDF version:

Earthquakes (and Tsunamis)
(complete PDF version)