Volume 34.2
Summer 2003

featured essay


Haiku by Itaru Ina

haiku translated by
Hisako Ifshin and Leza Lowitz

Itaru Ina was born in San Francisco, Calif., on June 10, 1914. His father was an immigrant who worked for the local Japanese newspaper and his mother came to America as a picture bride. At age 5 Itaru accompanied his mother and sickly sister to Japan and received schooling there. He returned to America to rejoin his father when he was 16 years old. Itaru began studying and writing haiku during his teen years. In 1939 he met Shizuko Mitsui, also an American citizen, who was working at the Japanese pavilion on Treasure Island in San Francisco during the 1939–40 World Trade Exposition. They were married in March 1941. Pearl Harbor was bombed in December 1941, and by March 1942 they both were incarcerated at the Tanforan Assembly Center near San Francisco. Shizuko was pregnant at the time and suffered a great deal while confined to life in a horse stable. Itaru was desolate witnessing his wife’s suffering. and by the time they were transferred to Topaz, Utah (September 1942–September 1943), he vowed to make a better life for his family by disavowing his loyalty to America and requesting repatriation to Japan. Now an “enemy alien,” he and his wife and newborn son were transferred to Tule Lake Camp, a segregated prison for those who were identified as disloyal. On June 30, 1945, shortly after the birth of their second child, Itaru was arrested at Tule Lake. Three days later he was sent to a Department of Justice internment camp at Fort Lincoln in Bismarck, North Dakota, where he was held until March 1946. Eventually it was determined that renunciation of citizenship under the duress of imprisonment was unconstitutional, and Itaru and his family were reunited at the Crystal City, Texas, family internment camp. They were finally released on July 9, 1946.

After the war the Ina family lived with relatives in Cincinnati, Ohio, where their third child was born. They returned home to San Francisco in 1950. During Itaru’s camp life, he was an active member of camp haiku clubs and had several poems published in camp haiku journals. He served as the leader of the San Francisco Yukari Haiku Kai until his death on October 31, 1977.


Note: Tessaku (“Iron Gate”) was a publication of the haiku group that met weekly at Tule Lake. There were a total of 158 weekly meetings.

Tessaku 6: New Year’s Special (1945)

jimuhajime      yosooi kuroku       taipisuto

First workday of the year—
the typist
is dressed in black.

Tessaku 8 (1945)

kari ikuya       shôheitô ni      itoma ari

Wild geese fly away—
the tower guards
are on a break.

Notebook #1 (July 1–September 30, 1945)

July 1, 1945. Sunday. Sunny, hot. Packing. Farewell. Imprisonment.

hanare-yuku      ware tomo shirazu       hiyake no ko

I’m leaving—
but the sun-tanned child
doesn’t know.

tsuki suzushi       tesso suke-te       sanga ari

Brisk moon—
through the window’s iron bars
mountains and rivers.

nagaki hi ya       yô o tsuku-tte      kanshu yobu

A long day—
I make up an errand and
call the guard.

July 2, Monday. Sunny, hot.

itotonbo       haya umareshi-ka       goku no mado

already born
at the prison window.

July 3, Tuesday. Leaving Tule Lake at 5:00 a.m. Train leaves Klamath Falls at 8:30 a.m. A trip to Bismarck; 9:30 a.m. Chiloquin; 10:40 a.m. Chemult; 2:15 p.m. Eugene; 3:35 Albany; 4:30 Salem; 6:20 Portland; 8:30 state of Washington.

hiru no tsuki       hanare-nu basu ni      natsu no tabi

The daytime moon
following a bus—
summer journey.

July 4, Wednesday. Fair. The second day in the train.

enten ya       jyukai ni shizumu      karasu ari

Scorching sun!
A crow sinks
into the sea of trees.

kanshi no me       yurumu shasô ni       tsuki suzushi

The guard’s gaze
softens at the train window—
brisk moon.

July 5, Thursday. Fair. The third day in the train. Tombstones on the hill. A statue on the green hill. Summer thunderclouds on the horizon. Fields of mustard green flowers. Nothing but mountains and clouds. A circus village.

entenka       umi ni wa tôki      kuni ni kinu

Under the blazing sun,
I have come to a country
far from the sea.

.July 9, Monday. Fair. Solar eclipse.

nisshoku no       kuraki hikari mochi       ryûjo tobu

Solar eclipse—
willow seed-heads drift
in the gloomy light.

July 12, Thursday. Fair. A robin’s song. Acacia blossoms.

chichiro naki      dakota no natsu no       utsuroeru

A cricket chirps—
the Dakota summer
is past its prime.

July 16, Monday. Fair. Hot. Morning glow at the airport. Mooing cattle. Pressure of the sun.

tonbo umare      doku-jin ôki       te o nobe-nu

A dragonfly is born—
The German extends
his large hands.

July 20, Friday. Thick fog in the morning, fair and sunny in the afternoon. Blood test. Alien registration started. Firefly. An outdoor lamp and a frog.

hotaru mishi       takaburi same-zu       ine-gata-shi

I saw a firefly!
Too excited
to sleep.

July 26, Thursday. Lousy weather. Received rationed clothes. Went to a record concert by Germans. Excitement of listening to music.

tasogare no      ryûjo ga hikari o       hiki-yuke-ru

In the dusk of the evening
willow downs
pull the light along.

August 6, Monday. Sunny and cloudy, cool.

enten ka      ogore-ru kuni ni       noroi are

Under the scorching sun
on and on I curse
the arrogant country.

August 8, Wednesday. Fair. Strong wind. Watched a movie “Love of Edgar Alan Poe.” Saw two snakes.

koi no naki       kuni ni sumai-te       bara akashi

I live in a country
without love,
where the roses are red.

August 11, Saturday. Fair, fog in the morning. Watched a movie: “The Major & The Minor.” Swing Shot with the Germans.

sakujitsu no semi       naruran hitotsu      naki-hajime-nu

Must be yesterday’s cicadas—
one has started

August 12, Sunday. Fair. Hot. The news of a peace talk. Ate cold tofu.

hayanagi ni      mizûri-gawa wa       hitori fukaku

Willow leaves alongside it,
the Missouri River is deep,
on its own.

August 13, Monday. Rain on and off. A snake was about to swallow a frog, which we saved.

rô shisho no       koe o hisome-te       aki oshimu

The old librarian
of the joy of autumn.

August 14, Tuesday. Fair. Heard the siren of cease-fire.

chiroro aware      karikusa no hi ni       hai-izuru

Crawling out of the fire
onto the mowed grass—
poor crickets!

August 15, Wednesday. Fair. Saw a movie “A-Haunting We Will Go.”

kakitsubata      shiroshi yamai wa       ie-gataku

their white disease
is hard to cure.

August 17, Friday. Fair. Hot and stuffy. Carpentry. My turn for the bathroom.

entenka       tobaku ni shire-te       nachisu-jin

Under the scorching sun,
the Nazis lose themselves
in gambling.

August 21, Tuesday. Cold in the morning. Fair. Carpentry (tank). Movie, “Lloyds of London.”

tsuyu ni nureshi       batta ni asa no       hikari miteru

Drenched in dew,
a grasshopper is suffused
with morning light.

August 23, Thursday. Fair. Cold in the morning. Did carpentry. Record concert: Beethoven’s Symphony #9.

nomare tsutsu       kaeru mabataku       hebi no kuchi

As it’s swallowed,
a frog blinks
in a snake’s mouth.

August 25, Saturday. Fair, cold in the morning. Windy. Movie: “Castle in the Desert.”

kisha hitotsu       ugoku nomi nari      natsu kôya

A train moves—
that’s all.
Summer prairie.

August 29, Wednesday. Fair, hot. Alien Return Home Registration began. Movie “No Time For Love.” Received a letter from Shizuko.

asa suzushi      akashi nokoreru       shôkûtô

Cool morning—
the glow of the searchlight

August 31, Friday. Fair, hot.

enten ni       hi o amu toki      ikusa yamu

While I was sunbathing
in the broiling weather,
the war ended.

September 1, Saturday. Fair, hot. Movie: “The Iron Major.”

nagaki yo no       tôka ni nuku-mu       inki tsubo

Under the light
of the long night,
the ink bottle warms.

September 4, Tuesday. Fair, hot. About a hundred and eighty repatriated Germans departed.

saku-goshi ni       te o fure aki no      wakare kana

Over the fence
we touch hands—
autumn farewell.

September 7, Friday. Rain, a little cold. Registration for those who want to cancel returning to their country.

September 8, Saturday. Fair, warm. From today on, the administrative office will be closed on Saturday. Movie: “Rainbow on the River.”

September 9, Sunday. Windy and cold. Cloudy. Went to see the same movie as yesterday. Built the trunk.(to be continued in Modern Haiku 34.3)

Editor’s note: We would like to thank the Ina family for allowing us to publish these haiku and Leza Lowitz for making us aware of their existence. Deep gratitude also to Satsuki Ina for providing the biographical information about her father. This selection is excerpted from From a Silk Cocoon, a selection of letters, diary entries, and haiku by Itaru Ina. Individuals interested in being notified of the publication of this book can be added to a list by contacting Satsuki Ina at <satsukina@aol.com>.



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