Takashi Hoshino (Haiku poet)×Masato Kosukegawa (Creative Director, Shiseido Advertising and Design Department) Haiku and advertisements are similar? Words that convey “beauty,” and creative writing

This is an interview series in which creatives at Shiseido discuss the idea of beauty with other designers and professionals active in their respective fields. Today’s guest is haiku poet, Mr. Takashi Hoshino, great-grandchild of Kyoshi Takahama (haiku poet, 1874-1959). He is the President of the haiku magazine “Tamamo,” and the Director of the Kamakura Kyoshi Tatsuko Memorial Museum. In conversation with Mr. Hoshino is Creative Director Masato Kosukegawa, who attends the gathering of haiku poets organized by Mr. Hoshino, and composes haiku under the pen-name “Komasuke Kosukegawa.”

At first glance, haiku and advertisements may appear to be worlds apart; however, there are actually many points that link haiku to creative advertising, including constraints in elements such as the number of words and the use of kigo (“Season words,” or words that indicate the season. Basically, at least one kigo must be included in each haiku.), and the fact that they are both forms of expression with focus on the “audience” that they wish to convey meaning to. By delving deeper into these commonalities, this dialogue brings forth the essence of communication that seeks to convey “beauty”.


Takashi Hoshino
Born in Kanagawa Prefecture in 1952. Eldest son of Tsubaki Hoshino, grandchild of Tatsuko Hoshino, and great-grandchild of Kyoshi Takahama. He began writing haiku in his teens, studying under Tatsuko Hoshino. He is the President of the haiku magazine “Tamamo,” Director of the Kamakura Kyoshi Tatsuko Memorial Museum, member of the Association of Japanese Classical Haiku, member of The Japan Writers’ Association, lecturer at Asahi Culture Center, and member of Hototogisu magazine. He has published many collections of haiku poems, including Zankyo.

Masato Kosukegawa
Joined Shiseido in 1991. After gaining three years of sales experience, he took on the position of Commercial Planner, and is currently Creative Director. The web movie that he produced in 2015, titled “High School Girl?” has received many international advertising awards, including the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, THE ONE SHOW, and the Clio Awards.

Haiku that enriches our everyday lives|1

--Mr. Hoshino, I understand that you are Mr. Kosukegawa’s haiku master.

KosukegawaThat’s right. In fact, just yesterday, I was at a gathering of haiku poets with Mr. Hoshino.

HoshinoThere were quite a few people at the gathering, weren’t there? Participants at my haiku gatherings include not only professional haiku poets, but also others from a wide variety of backgrounds including employees at various companies, creators such as musicians and manga artists, those engaged in the work of expression such as voice actors, designers, actors, and film directors, and even people of foreign nationalities.

--Mr. Kosukegawa, what is the motivation behind writing haiku alongside with your everyday job of working as a Creative Director at Shiseido?

KosukegawaI think that feeling the changes in the seasons and writing haiku in response can enrich our everyday lives. Shiseido’s mission is to “appreciate genuine, meaningful values” and “inspire a life of beauty and culture.” That is why, in addition to our cosmetics business, we also operate SHISEIDO PARLOUR and Shiseido Gallery. My interpretation of our mission as such a corporation is to “incorporate things that make us happy into our everyday lives.” Haiku is precisely an act that brings us happiness. I think that it is wonderful to incorporate seasonal changes into our everyday lives.

HoshinoThere are many words that we can learn about especially because we write haiku. For example, if you know that saezuri (meaning “birdsong”) is a kigo for spring, an added depth would emerge when you listen to the cry of a bird. If you know that a certain food is a kigo, you may realize that it is in season now and must be especially tasty, and this will in turn enhance your enjoyment of its flavors.

KosukegawaWhen I began writing haiku, what surprised me was that hirune (meaning “afternoon nap”) is a kigo for summer. Until then, whenever I took an afternoon nap, I would regret it and feel that I had wasted my time; however, after learning that it was a kigo, I was able to appreciate it at a deeper level. I think that enjoying such seemingly negative aspects is also a part of what makes haiku so profound.

There is also a kigo for autumn, mugetsu (meaning “moonless sky”). This describes the sight of the moon hiding behind cloudy skies on a full moon night. Instead of being discouraged by the situation, haiku transforms this into a story and fulfills the role of elevating both the positive and negative aspects of the situation into a form of culture.

HoshinoThis is because Japanese is the only language in which the name of the moon changes every day depending on the waxing and waning of the moon. Mangetsu (full moon), izayoi (the moon on the sixteenth night of the lunar month), jusanya (the moon on the thirteenth night of the lunar month), tachimachizuki (the moon on the seventeenth night of the lunar month)… although it appears that there are no significant differences at one glance, a careful observation would reveal subtle waxing or waning of the moon, or differences in its brightness. Enjoying these subtleties is precisely what we mean by “beauty.”

Kamakura Kyoshi Tatsuko Memorial Museum, where the conversation took place Entrance to the Museum

Creation based on a “theme” – Something universal to both haiku and advertisements|2

--Earlier, you mentioned that people from various walks of society participate in the gatherings of haiku poets. Are there many participants engaged in creative advertising work just like you, Mr. Kosukegawa?

KosukegawaYes, there are many of us. That is probably because haiku shares advertising’s quality of “creating theme-based works.” Such people definitely enjoy creating works within certain constraints. Writing a haiku in 17 syllables grouped in three lines of five, seven, and five syllables, is very similar to communicating something within a 15-second commercial. There are various techniques in writing haiku that are also useful in planning the production of an advertisement.

--Could you give some examples?

KosukegawaIn haiku, there are techniques such as nibutsu-shogeki (combining a kigo with something that is completely unrelated within the same haiku to create a collision) and ichibutsu-jitate (expressing the aspect of only one particular kigo). When things from different worlds collide, the world of those watching from the sidelines expands. Alternatively, focusing on only a certain thing and expressing it in simple terms to convey it more profoundly, is another haiku technique that can be used as reference. Haiku is also known as “the literature of omission” because it expresses an idea within the confines of a predetermined number of words. I think that this concept of “omission” is precisely the technique that can be applied to any kind of work. In short, “omission” is the act of focusing on a certain thing.

HoshinoFor example, when describing the scene of crows perching on electric cables, even though we want to say “crows perching on electric cables,” the “five, seven, five” rule does not provide enough words for us to say that. In that case, without using the words “electric cables,” how can we express this such that the image of crows perching on electric cables appears before the eyes of the reader? When we consider this question seriously, sophisticated expressions and words will emerge.

KosukegawaThere is a haiku written by Mr. Hoshino that goes “Touisu ni fukaku suwareba miyuru mono” (“The things that you see if you snuggle deep into a wicker chair”). This haiku focuses on touisu, (“wicker chair”), which is a kigo of summer, but does not explain what is seen by the narrator. The narrator sitting in the wicker chair is probably surrounded by nature; a certain person may see mountains, while a certain person may see the sea. I think that coming up with such expressions that stretch the imagination of the audience is something that is also applicable and important in advertising. On top of that, writing haiku also improves one’s precision in writing proposals.

HoshinoIs that so? (laughs)

KosukegawaIn haiku, it is important to focus on a single theme as far as possible. The haiku technique called kigasanari, which involves the use of multiple kigo, is not unacceptable; however, this does not mean that it is a good idea to cram anything and everything into it. It is not possible to convey the idea to the audience without prioritizing and giving serious consideration to the elements that you wish to include. The same applies to a proposal; it is important to focus on something. In this sense, it is surprising that haiku and advertisements have so many points in common.

Expressions that come into existence only thanks to an audience|3

--Haiku and advertisements may appear to be worlds apart, but it is actually possible to find many similarities between the two, isn’t it?

KosukegawaAdvertising involves communicating with consumers, so it is based on the premise of an audience being present. Haiku is also described as “the literature of crowds.” As it is composed while bearing in mind how the audience will receive it, haiku and advertising probably share a similar “method of conception.”

HoshinoI agree with that. Haiku is the act of communicating “beauty” to people using words. It does not entail simply conveying information to people; rather, it is important for haiku to fulfill the role of restoring the spirits of the audience reading it, give them courage, and bring them joy. However, there is also quite a number of haiku that are written without taking the audience into consideration.

KosukegawaTo refrain from writing self-serving, egoistic haiku, I am careful to move back and forth between subjectivity and objectivity. It is not good for a haiku to reflect the author’s thoughts too strongly, so I take the bird’s-eye view from the perspective of the audience and fine-tune it, in order to improve the precision of communication.

HoshinoFor example, if you were writing a haiku using the kigo harukaze (“spring breeze”), you may wish to convey that this breeze will never come again, so the breeze that is blowing now is very important. However, this is very difficult. Anyone can say that “a fine breeze was blowing.” Hence, if you think deeply about questions such as “What kind of breeze was it, and how was it blowing?” “What was its shape?” “What color was it?” succeed in finding words that can express these ideas, the haiku would then become a good way of communicating your ideas. That is the interesting aspect of haiku.

KosukegawaIf we were to carefully observe the subject that we wish to convey ideas about, we may be able to uncover new facets that we could not see before. If these discoveries are present in a short haiku, I believe people will be moved and inspired by them. If we could embed some form of “discovery” inside an advertisement, we would also be able to convey things and ideas with a fresh impression.

HoshinoAs there are many advertisements in the world, people would probably not look at them if they were not unique in some way, such as offering new discoveries. The same applies to haiku; nobody would read a haiku such as “Harukaze ga kokochiyoi” (“The spring breezes feel good”). In particular, advertisements are viewed by various types of people, so in a sense, it is also necessary to make them easy to understand, isn’t it?

KosukegawaThat’s right. For both advertising and writing haiku, I am conscious of the word heimei (meaning “plain, simple”), which Kyoshi Takahama described as a technique for composing good haiku. Heimei, simply put, is to present something profound in a way that is easy to understand. I think that people who excel in communication are capable of communicating in simple terms, without making the audience think too hard.

HoshinoHeimei is the most difficult to achieve. Good haiku cannot be produced simply by using words that are difficult to understand; haiku that is composed with words that are used in regular conversation is far more easily understood by readers. To that end, rather than leaving the interpretation to the reader, it is important to compose with the audience in mind. I aim to write haiku that can somehow bring joy and happiness to the reader.

Photographs and materials about the haiku poet, Kyoshi Takahama, in the Memorial Museum Haiku monuments inscribed with famous haiku, lined up in the Memorial Museum

Japanese culture as seen from outside of Japan|4

--Mr. Kosukegawa, how do you apply the concepts of haiku to your work?

KosukegawaI have produced a web movie titled “High School Girl?” (2015), which features male high school students with make-up applied. The aim of the movie was to convey the power of make-up. When producing the movie, I was conscious of “what to focus on” and “creating the work while imagining the audience’s feelings.” I also keep these in mind when writing haiku. Firstly, the subject that I focused on was “the power of make-up.” Additionally, the question of how to attract the audience’s interest is important for a web movie, so if you were to present the answer at the beginning, no one would continue watching till the end. Hence, I thought about how I could feed the wild fancies and delusions of the audience to the maximum without providing any explanations in the script or through text.

HoshinoSince I am a haiku poet, it has become a habit for me to think, “Can this become a haiku?” whenever I see something. When I looked at the apparel worn by the male students appearing in the film, as well as the overall colors, I got a sense of something refreshing and natural, in a way that was seasonal in the background of the movie.

KosukegawaAs we utilized natural light in the shooting of the film, there is a sense of humidity in the images. This commercial received many international advertising awards, but I think, in hindsight, that making picture tones which exuded a strong link with nature and made you wonder what season it was contributed to the film’s favorable reception around the world.

HoshinoI sometimes interact with haiku poets from overseas, and I have found that there are regions with few kigo as many regions do not have a culture of experiencing and feeling the four seasons. Hence, there were times when they did not understand even when I explained kigo as “season words.” Even so, I feel that haiku is a culture that is gradually spreading around the world.

--I heard that major haiku organizations in Japan established a council in April 2017, with the aim of registering haiku as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage.

HoshinoThat is right. For example, I have heard there is currently a “haiku boom” taking place in Spain, and the haiku population has reached as many as 10,000 people. They have also published several haiku magazines. The haiku culture is also flourishing in Brazil, possibly due to the influence of the Japanese diaspora there. They have even published a book titled Burajiru Saijiki (“A Literary Calendar of Brazil”), which is a list of kigo that are unique to Brazil, such as flowers and fruit.

“High School Girl?” (2015)

Haiku that stimulate the brain can also spark ideas?|5

KosukegawaWhile I enjoy haiku for itself, I like gatherings of haiku poets even more. Such gatherings have a game-like aspect where points are allocated at the end of each session, and there are rules. In creating haiku, it is necessary to use the left hemisphere of the brain to keep to the format of “five, seven, five” syllables, and the right hemisphere of the brain to appreciate the seasons. Hence, it is an activity that stimulates the brain. Furthermore, as we meet other people at gatherings of haiku poets, and head outdoors to appreciate the seasons, we remain connected to society. I believe these are the reasons why many haiku poets stay healthy and energetic even when they age.

--Specifically, what do you do in gatherings of haiku poets?

HoshinoWe line up the haikus written by everyone anonymously, and decide on the best works from among these haikus. This is known as senku (“haiku selection”).

KosukegawaWhen I participated for the first time, I was very impressed by the democratic way in which this activity is conducted, as even the haiku written by the master is put up for selection anonymously. This is an efficient system for selecting ideas based solely on their merit, since personal identity is eliminated. I have applied this system to meetings at work, to facilitate the generation of ideas in a non-hierarchical environment. The identity of the authors of each idea is kept secret, and every member pastes stickers on the ideas that they think are good.

HoshinoThat is just the same as senku. (laughs)

KosukegawaIn the sense that it improves the efficiency of coming up with ideas, the system used in gatherings of haiku poets is a wonderful one.

HoshinoEven famous haikus by Matsuo Basho and Yosa Buson were produced as a result of this system. They did not compliment their own haikus; instead, their haikus were acknowledged by others as good haikus, communicated and spread to many people, and have remained till the present day. That is why even a famous haiku such as “Furuike ya kawazu tobikomu mizu no oto” (“The old pond; A frog jumps in,—The sound of the water.”) was probably not the favorite of Basho himself. (laughs) However, it is more tasteful and refined to enjoy that instead of feeling frustrated with it.

A screen arranged with excellent haiku selected through gatherings of haiku poets As the haiku are anonymous, the haiku poets are able to select the haiku written by other poets indiscriminately

MAJOLICA MAJORCA: the value of “experiences” preserved into the future|6

KosukegawaKyoshi Takahama used the coined expression kacho-fuei (meaning “the beauty of nature as a central theme for poetic composition”) as a theme for haiku. I believe this means coming face to face with seasonal themes (kidai) in life. Mr. Hoshino, you spoke earlier about your desire to value the fuei (“poetic composition”) part of kacho-fuei. What did you mean when you said that?

HoshinoIn simpler terms, in kacho-fuei, kacho refers to the seasonal themes of the beauty of nature, while fuei refers to conditioning yourself to write haiku. What I meant was that I particularly wish to value the act of “writing haiku with a benevolent spirit,” which is the idea embodied by the words fuei.

--Is this because you feel that there is a lack of benevolence and generosity in modern life?

HoshinoToday, we can control anything with just a single button, such as a remote control. However, isn’t it also enjoyable to think about whether to push the button slowly or quickly? Writing haiku is an act that entails constantly thinking about how to push a button, rather than simply pushing the button without any thought.

KosukegawaI believe that thinking about how to push a button is, in short, creating the experience of pushing a button. That is also something that haiku and advertising have in common. It is interesting how the space of a person’s heart expands when it is presented with new experiences. Recently, in a promotional campaign for the cosmetics brand MAJOLICA MAJORCA, we produced a digital signage (an electronic advertisement that is projected on a flat surface by using a display or projector). We projected images on the four sides of the pillars in the station, as if they were showcases, and presented the items as if they were floating in space. I think that “presenting an experience” is of great importance. In particular, if we were to think about the things left behind for the human race as AI (artificial intelligence) develops and advances going forward…

HoshinoIsn’t writing haiku something that can be done only by human beings? (laughs)

KosukegawaI am sure that AI will also be able to compose haiku. However, it would not be able to experience and feel something through the act of creating that haiku. In the future, I believe that it would become vital to think more about the things that are essential to us, such as the question of “what is important to human beings.”

HoshinoI think that the “now” is the most important, but I believe that the future is also important. Haiku expresses the “now,” but I would like to deviate from that a little, and be conscious of what lies ahead.

(While watching the film from the MAJOLICA MAJORCA advertisement) The birds have just been flying, but they are not simply flying; rather, the film depicted the scene of the birds leaving. Even after this movie has ended, I imagined the story continuing. I got a sense of the future from this MAJOLICA MAJORCA advertisement.

MAJOLICA MAJORCA’s digital signage, with products appearing to be floating in space

Perceiving the world as a large gathering of people|7

KosukegawaThe idea of being conscious of the future, which Mr. Hoshino just mentioned, also encompasses the ideas of “directing people forward” and “making others feel happy.” I think that these ideas should also be at the root of advertising expression.

HoshinoCreators have to carry these thoughts with us constantly, don’t we?

KosukegawaI think of cosmetics as the ultimate “industry of peace.” It makes me happy, brings happiness to those around me, and does not hurt anyone. I think that we should be proud of that.

HoshinoThat is precisely what haiku is about. When we produce a good haiku, we feel happy, and it brings happiness to those around us as well. However, as the people of today are not easily surprised, we also have to approach haiku from even more angles that are different from one another. While it would be great for haiku to be registered as a world heritage and expand its horizons, making it easier to understand and creating good works are a separate issue; there is a need to constantly be aware of striking a balance between the two. I believe the same applies to advertising, doesn’t it?

KosukegawaIn advertising, it is not necessarily a good thing to do something outrageous. Even so, advertising that is especially “advertisement-like” is no longer demanded by people around the world. I believe that advertisements will undergo a transformation and become more like a form of entertainment or art.

HoshinoI think the same will happen for haiku.

KosukegawaToday, the information boundary between corporations and consumers is gradually disappearing due to factors such as SNS, and I think that the ability to consider how the audience feels is becoming more important. If a company were to push out an advertisement purely with the goal of selling something, it would be shut out by the consumer on the receiving end of the advertisement. If corporations do not approach consumers like an acquaintance or a friend, the advertisements would be rejected.

HoshinoIn other words, the world is perhaps a large “gathering of people.”

  • mixi
  • Google+
  • Facebook
  • Twitter