Yagi Mikajo - "Avant-garde haiku": Tasting the Era
Personal History

Yagi Mikajo (b. 1924 –; Yagi Michiko, Sakai City, Osaka Prefecture), graduated from Sakai Women’s High School (the same institution from which tanka poet Yosano Akiko, 1878-1942, also graduated), and entered Osaka Women’s Medical College (now Kansai Medical University). She received her MD Degree from Osaka City University, becoming the first female ophthalmologist in the history of Japan. Following the war, she was first taught haiku in the shasei style by Suzuka Noburo (1887-1971), then by the previously arrested New Rising Haiku poets, Hirahata Seitô and Saitô Sanki, as well as others. She was given the haigô (haiku pen-name) “Mikajo”—in emulation of the kanji found in “Yosano Akiko,” by Seitô and Sanki. Her haiku style is known as zen’ei (avant-garde) haiku. She engaged in haiku activities not only with the senior poets of the New Rising Haiku movement, but also with the younger postwar haiku poets, such as Kaneko Tohta (1919—), Suzuki Murio (1919-2004), Akao Tôshi (1925-1981), and others. In 1964,she became the leader of her own journal-group Hana [flower]. Further biographical details are given in the “Commentaries” link, to the right.


Haiku: Benitake [The Scarlet Mushroom], 1956; Akai chizu [Red Map], 1963; Rakuyôki [The Season of Falling Leaves], 1974; Sekichû no fû [The Poetics of (Ancient Greek and Egyptian) Columns], 1985; Shigo [Personal Conversation], 2002; Yagi Mikajo zen kushû [The Collected Works of Yagi Mikajo], November, 2006, and others.


The 1984 Osaka 21st Century Association Celebration Shield; for numerous civic achievements, including the vision, founding and construction of the Yosano Akiko Museum, Sakai City.


Online materials: author attribution

Richard Gilbert, “Cross-cultural Studies in Gendai Haiku: Yagi Mikajo” Gendai Haiku Online Archive (2008), Kumamoto University, Japan <gendaihaiku.com>.  

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Yagi Mikajo

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Page in German  

     Yagi Mikajo-sensei is a legend. Not only is she one of the last living students who has studied directly under the New Rising Haiku poets Saitô Sanki and and Hirahata Seitô, she is also a cultural treasure. Her brilliance as a poet of gendai haiku is without equal — her radical voice, daring and cutting humor, and unpretentious poetic stance are fearless. Through more than five decades she has been not only a leader, but has served also as a guide to a new poetics. Mikajo is one of a handful of pioneering women of the postwar zen'ei avant-garde gendai movement who not only championed women's issues (in what had been something of a cultural vacuum), but also pioneered gendai haiku itself. Drawing on her experiences as a woman, she presented new dimensions of contemporary haiku.

    We met Mikajo (as she is familiarly known) in her family home, on August 4, 2007, through the generosity of her son, Shiwa Kyôtarô (a.k.a. Professor Shimoyama Akira, Ph.D., Professor of Economics, Osaka University of Commerce; the second son of Yagi Mikajo), who acted as host for our meeting. Now in her later years, Mikajo is affected by Alzheimer’s disease. Though ebullient and energetic, her ability to verbally articulate recollections has diminished. Due to this situation, the video interview shown here is accompanied by a series of translations from her recently published book of collected works (Yagi Mikajo zen kushû [The Collected Works of Yagi Mikajo], November, 2006, 515 pages). Please click on Commentaries to read comments by Mikajo herself, Kaneko Tohta, Uda Kiyoko, and Shiwa Kyôtarô, and a selection of haiku by Mikajo. As well, several of the Shikishi shown below are penned by Mikajo, as well as Seito, Sanki and others. The English translations can be found by clicking on a thumbnail and scrolling below the image.

From the Mikajo Family Album
Click on any thumbnail

Mikajo c. 1935
Mikajo c. 1942
Mikajo c. 1949
Mikajo c. 1949
Mikajo c. 1952
Benitake Pub. Party 1956
Mikajo Family, 1959
Mikajo Family, 1959
Mikajo at Kakuoji
Mikajo & Husband
Kyôtarô & Shikishi
Shikishi 1
Shikishi 2
Shikishi 3
Shikishi 4
Shikishi 5
Shikishi 6
Shikishi 7
Pub. Papers 1
Pub. Papers 2