Masaoka Shiki (正岡 子規, 1867-1902), the pen-name of Masaoka Noboru was a Japanese author, poet, literary critic, and journalist in Meiji-era Japan. Shiki is generally regarded as the major figure in the development of modern haiku poetry and also played an important role in revitalizing tanka poetry.
Shiki, or rather Tsunenori as he was originally named, was born in Matsuyama city in Iyo province (present day Ehime prefecture) to a samurai class family of modest means. As a child, he was called Tokoronosuke in adolescence, his name was changed to Noboru. His father, Tsunenao, was a low-ranking official, and his mother, Yae, was the eldest daughter of Ohara Kanzan, a teacher at the clan school. Shiki lost his father when he was five.
Shiki, or rather, Noboru, attended Matsuyama Middle School, where Itagaki Taisuke, a leader of a democratic movement, had served for a time as principal (though he was forced to resign in 1879 his influence remained strong. In 1883, an uncle arranged for Noboru to come to Tokyo, where he enrolled in a preparatory school. He entered the literature department of Imperial University in January 1890.
Shiki was a strong advocate of modernization of Japanese poetry, introducing the terms haiku to replace stand-alone hokku, and tanka to replace the 31-mora waka.
Shiki suffered from tuberculosis much of his life. In 1889, after coughing up blood, he adopted the pen-name of "Shiki". His illness was severely aggravated by a stint as a war correspondent with the Imperial Japanese Army during the First Sino-Japanese War. Upon return from military service in 1895 he convalesced at Natsume Soseki's house in Matsuyama, but he realized that he was terminally ill. He continued to write vigorously, but was largely bed-ridden by 1898. He kept a series of journals dated 1901-1902, in which he described his physical deterioration and the progress of his illness in clinical detail. These journals also contain numerous tanka and haiku, which occurred to him while he was writing. He died in Tokyo on 19 September 1902.
A monument containing a haiku by Shiki, in front of Matsuyama Station
Shiki is today often credited with single-handedly revitalizing the poetry forms of haiku and tanka. Although his ideas and theories were regarded as revolutionary by his contemporaries, he mostly remained within the bounds of the traditionally established “rules” and formats, unlike his more radical free verse successors. His work has an austerity, and a freshness that remains popular today. He is now regarded as one of the four great masters of haiku, along with Basho, Buson, and Issa.
Shiki also played baseball in his early days and entered Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame in 2002.