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U.S.–Japan Conference on Haiku Poetry—San Francisco (1987)

A meeting of haiku poets from Japan and the United States took place on November 8, 1987, at the Hotel Nikko in San Francisco under the auspices of Japan Air Lines and the Association of Japanese Haiku Poets. About 160 American and 40 Japanese poets attended. Presentations were made by Americans Makoto Ueda, Jerry T. Ball, Garry Gay, and Tom Tico, and by Japanese Kin’ichi Sawaki, Shigeru Ekuni, and Yoshiko Yoshino.

Cover of the proceedings of
the 1987 U.S.–Japan Conference on Haiku Poetry

The first meeting between large groups of haiku poets from Japan and the United States took place on November 8, 1987, at the new Hotel Nikko in San Francisco under the sponsorship of the San Francisco Branch of Japan Airlines and the Association of Haiku Poets (社団法人俳人協会 Shadan Hojin Haijin Kyōkai) in Tokyo. The Japanese delegation comprised 40 haiku poets, and about 160 Americans attended. Presentations were made by Americans Makoto Ueda, Jerry T. Ball, Garry Gay, and Tom Tico, and by Japanese Kin’ichi Sawaki, Shigeru Ekuni, and Yoshiko Yoshino.

Kazuo Sato, professor at Waseda University and director of the International Division of the Museum of Haiku Literature in Tokyo, provided an “Afterword” for the booklet of proceedings in which he described the conference. His text in its entirety follows.

This U.S.-Japan haiku conference was held on November 8, 1987, in San Francisco through the auspices of Japan Air Lines and the Association of Japanese Haiku Poets. Participants included forty Japanese haiku poets from Japan and about 160 American haiku poets from the Bay Area. In addition, one American came from Hawaii and another from Salt Lake City, Utah.

Professor Makoto Ueda spoke both in English and Japanese. Professor Kin’ichi Sawaki, Mr. Shigeru Ekuni and Mrs. Yoshiko Yoshino spoke in Japanese. Translations were provided for the American audience by Mr. Tadao Fujimatsu, public relations manager of the New York office of Japan Air Lines. Translations for the Japanese audience of papers by American poets Jerry T. Ball, Garry Gay and Tom Tico were provided by myself. 

Prior to the conference, participants and other interested parties were invited to submit their haiku either in English or Japanese. The theme for the haiku was “fog.” First, second, and third prizes were awarded in both the Japanese and English haiku categories and were announced at the end of the conference. About 300 English and 50 Japanese haiku were submitted in total. The respective selectors for the English and Japanese categories were Professors Ueda and Sawaki. This conference was very unique in bringing together both Japanese and American poets for an exchange of ideas on haiku despite obvious language differences. Of interest also is the fact that both groups of poets were writing on the same theme, whether in English or Japanese. 

All of us who were connected with the conference believe it was an important step forward in the internationalization of haiku. We are very pleased this internationalization is occurring so successfully, as it was shown at the conference, and within a climate of such friendship and good will. East and West, I believe, are truly meeting through haiku.

Conference attendees heard the following presentations:

  • “Welcome”—Kazuyoshi Miyazaki, Vice President and Western Regional Manager, Japan Air Lines;
  • “Frog that Swam across the Ocean: Japanese and Western Reading of Haiku”—Makoto Ueda, Professor, Stanford University;
  • “The Spirit of Haiku”—Kin’ichi Sawaki, Professor Emeritus, Tokyo National University of Fine Arts & Music, and President, Association of Haiku Poets;
  • “Writing Haiku Abroad”—Shigeru Ekuni, haiku poet and essayist;
  • Basho, Poet of the Universe”—Yoshiko Yoshino, President, Hoshi Haiku Society;
  • “What Is It that Falls Under the Name of ‘Haiku’ This Autumn Morning?”—Jerry T. Ball, Associate Professor, Chabot College;
  • ‘‘Haiku Activities in the Bay Area”—Garry Gay, haiku poet; and
  • “An Ancient in Modern Times: A Reading of Santoka”—Tom Tico, haiku poet.

A haiku competition was held in conjunction with the conference. Before the conference began, all poets—not only conference participants—were invited to submit haiku in either English or Japanese on the theme of “fog.” The English-language entries were judged by Makoto Ueda, the Japanese by Kin’ichi Sawaki. Contest results were published in the conference proceedings booklet.

Prize-winning haiku in English

First PlaceJerry Kilbride,
San Francisco, California
fog …
just the tree and I
at the bus stop
Second PlaceJane Reichhold,
Gualala, California
unpainted porch
sea fog comes
to a closed door
Third PlaceEdwin A. Falkowski,
Campbell, California
From Bielawski hill
under overcast—heron
wings winnow the fog
Honorable Mention (20)Garry Gay,
San Francisco, California
Seal voices
carry from the rocks …
the fog
Elizabeth Searle Lamb,
Santa Fe, New Mexico
New Year’s Eve
all the whistles, all the bells
but in the fog ghosts
Ruth Weiss,
Albion, California
there there the bridge is—
every so often
Richard Tice,
Salt Lake City, Utah
morning fog:
only the crunch of old snow
and my neighbor’s lights
Margaret Molarsky,
Ross, California
Closed in …
fog out of nowhere
creeps into alleys
Tom Tico,
San Francisco, California
and foghorns
silence the city
Helen J. Sherry,
San Diego, California
forest fog—
sound of the woodpecker
on a vanished tree
Jerald T. Ball,
Livermore, California
surrounded by fog
the sound of muffled footsteps
becomes a person
David E. LeCount,
La Honda, California
Autumn solitude —
the deepening fog fills
an empty bird’s nest.
Jennifer Brutschy,
Dublin, California
lost in beach fog …
cry of the gulls
slap of the waves
Lequita Vance,
Carmel, California
school crossing
a small parade passes
from nowhere to nowhere
Sunnyvale, California
Here it is again.
You know what the season is.
Fog is everywhere.
Barbara McCoy,
Raleigh, North Carolina
Autumn morning fog—
At the mountain overlook
lovers holding hands
Mary L. Hill,
Palo Alto, California
in a fog cocoon
that only sound penetrates
… as from a distance
Virginia Golden,
Portola Valley, California
Clouds cover the hills
with softness of summer fog …
The Bridge is hidden
Darold D. Braida,
Honolulu, Hawaii
the thick fog drifts in—
grounding all the jumbo jets
and the gray sea gulls
Tom Arima (Manzen),
El Cerrito, California
All engulfing fog—
Benignly a fishing boat
Just rises and falls
Violet Kazue DeCristoforo,
Salinas, California
Swirling fog of Golden Gate
constantly shrouding hundred
thousand souls of internees
Paul O. Williams,
San Francisco, California
the city goes gray—
fog droplets run down the twig,
fall in the cupped leaf
Louis Cuneo,
Berkeley, California
Talking to bull frog
about just being laid off; autumn
leaves falling near by.

Prize-winning haiku in Japanese (English translations by Jack Stamm)

First PlaceSakiko Tagami,
Kani seseriori taigan ni kiri ugoku

crabs working their digs
over on the other shore
fog begins to move
Second PlaceSatoru Yoshida,
San Francisco, California
Wanko no kyoto akashi kiri o nuki

at the bay’s entrance
Golden Gate’s portals piercing
redly through the fog
Third PlaceTokuko Arai,
Kyusuito teru asagiri no kangokuto

in the morning fog
Alcatraz holds up shining
its water tower

Adapted from Japan Air Lines, ed., U.S.-Japan Conference on Haiku Poetry

Sources / Further Reading

  • Japan Air Lines, ed. U.S.–Japan Conference on Haiku Poetry. Trans. Kazuo Sato and Jack Stamm. San Francisco: Japan Air Lines Foundation, 1988.
Updated on December 26, 2023