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dōjin (同人)

Dōjin (Japanese: 同人), a title bestowed on the leading members of a haiku group to recognize both the quality of their writing and service to the group. Dōjin participate in the administration of the group by attending general meetings, organizing and leading kukai and ginkō, and managing day-to-day operations.


Dōjin (Japanese: 同 , ”same“ or ”in agreement,” and 人 jin or nin, “person(s)”) in Japanese literally means people sharing the same interest, friends with similar tastes. The term originated in the Meiji Era, around 1885, among people who wrote novels and poetry and published them in their private journals called 同人誌 dōjinshi—what might be called in contemporary English “fanzines.” For example, in large, established organizations, such as Takahama Kyoshi‘s ホトトギス Hototogisu (“The Cuckoo”), dōnin (as 同人 is pronounced by this group) comprised the most talented haiku poets or members who financially supported the group—i.e., patrons—and relatives of the sensei (master) for whom dōnin was an honorific title. American haiku scholar William J. Higginson suggested the term “fellow” in English for dōjin.

Most haiku groups in Japan have adopted the designation to distinguish the leading members of the group from regular members. The title is bestowed by the sensei (master) to recognize both the quality of writing and service to the group. Dōjin, who may be either female or male, are allowed to teach haiku, and they are expected to take part in the administration of the group by attending general meetings, organizing and leading kukai and ginkō, managing the day-to-day operation of the group, and so forth. The title guarantees the poets’ status, confirms their commitment to the ideals of the group, and acknowledges their responsibilities to pursue the haiku path. The title usually lasts for a lifetime or as long as the poet stays with the group. In a typical large Japanese haiku club, dōjin comprise anywhere from 25 to 50 percent of the membership.

Dōjin is a term used for leading members of some traditionally oriented haiku groups in the West, for example the Yuki Teikei Haiku Society in California.

AUTHOR: Emiko Miyashita

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Updated on January 21, 2022