Professor Haruo Shirane, in his convincing exposition, shows how metaphor and analogy are subtly and profoundly enclosed in many classic haiku. And he considers that they are the pre-condition of the level of depth that a haiku can reach. In time, it is extremely steep in his consideration on the assumption that haiku refers to facts and not to certain fiction. The most compelling example that he provides is that of a ku from Buson, which refers to his wife’s death. But the truth is that his wife outlived him many years! To sum up: Prof. Shirane reaches the conclusion that Japanese traditional haiku cannot just be imposed in the Western world, as it corresponds to a culture and aesthetics radically different, as is the Japanese. He states that what really happened is that after Japan opened up to the West during the Meiji Era, in the XIX century, European literary realism influenced Japanese literature, which in time re-exported it to the Western world. That is to say, that what we consider Western haiku with the assumptions mentioned before, is our own reflection in a mirror!
Is there anything that differentiates haiku from other poetic forms and genres? What is its essence, the nuclei of its identity? What is that mysterious and evanescent essence that poets call “the spirit of haiku”? The answer was provided by several Japanese scholars of the XVIII century, particularly one of them: MotoriNoorinaga. These scholars set themselves the objective of finding what is underlying to all artistic expressions of Japan, which gives a unique specificity to them. Noorinaga coined the expression “mono-no-aware”, which in this context means sensitivity or sensibility for things, in its broader sense. For the scholar, what defines the Japanese character, and therefore its culture, is its peculiar way of perceiving reality and relating to it. And he concludes that this distinctive feature is their ability to experience the natural world and the objects in an immediate way, without need for intermediates. This causes Japanese –according to Noorinaga- to be able to understand the outer world and its objects, identifying themselves directly with them, in a kind of direct empathy that leads to understanding the essence of reality.