How to Write Japanese Haiku Poems

General Rules on How to Write Haiku Poems

Haiku is a form of poetry established in Japan approximately in the 9th century. Its name comes from the Japanese “haikai no ku” meaning “light verse”. Usually, this type of writing is used to describe the interesting life topics that are related to nature.

In total, traditional haiku poem should contain 17 syllables in 3 lines. Each of these lines has a certain number of syllables that it must have in order to be called haiku. The first and third line should have five syllables and the second one must consist of seven.

How to write an interesting haiku?

Traditional haiku has specific rules but modern variants of this type of poetry allow deviations. Here are some steps that you will need to take if you are going to get into haiku writing for the first time.

  • In order to get inspiration and to learn how it should be done properly, check out several examples written by famous authors. Matsuo Basho, Kobayashi Issa, Yosa Buson and Masoaka Shiki are the writers that lead the way and who you ought to be looking up to.
  • Compile a list of subjects that you might be interested to write about. Choose something that inspires you. Do not be afraid to choose an unconventional topic.
  • Upon choosing a subject, you need to start reflecting on it. Many prominent poets took the inspiration from simply observing a nature and admiring the world around them. If you do not have such an opportunity, find a great picture that you like and spend some time to concentrate on your emotions and feelings about what you see.
  • Create a list of words that relate to the subject of your choice and try your best to be as descriptive as possible. Each detail matters so take your time to capture whatever you have in your mind in the form of words.
  • While working on the last line of your poem, you may add a surprising twist. Usually, the last line is for summarizing the observed subject but the unexpected emotional turn can make your poem memorable.

6 famous examples of haiku poems by Matsuo Basho

Matsuo Basho (1644-1694) created about 1000 haiku poems during his lifetime and is known worldwide. Here are some famous examples of his haiku poems in two versions. One of the versions is transliterated Japanese and another one is a three-line style translation to English.

Kusa no to mo/ Sumikawaru yo zo/ Hina no ie

The door of thatched hut

Also changed the owner.

At the Doll’s Festival.

2Yuku haru ya/ Tori naki uwo no/ Me ha namida

Spring is passing.

The birds cry, and the fishes fill

With tears on their eyes.

Natsukusa ya/ Tsuwamonodomo ga/ Yume no ato

Grasses in summer.

The warriors’ dreams

All that left.

Samidare no/ Furinokosite ya/ Hikari-do

The early summer rain

Leaves behind


Shizukesa ya/ Iwa ni shimiiru/ Semi no koe

Ah, tranquility!

Penetrating the very rock,

A cicada’s voice.

Samidare wo/ Atsumete Hayashi/ Mogamigawa

The early summer rain,

Gathering it and fast

Mogami River.

Each form of the poem writing has its strict rules but in the case of haiku, you are welcome to apply your creativity. It is flexible in terms of usual capitalization, punctuation and word order so expressing your thoughts by means of haiku should be as easy as never before.