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Masaoka Shiki

(1867-1902). Poet and critic. Through his successful advocacy of a new realism for haiku and tanka, the traditional verse forms, he made them viable genres in the postfeudal culture of Meiji-period (1868-1912) Japan. Shiki, whose given name was Tsunenori, was born in Matsuyama in what is now Ehime Prefecture to a modest samurai family. During his literary career, Shiki devoted much effort to reforming haiku verse. Contemporary haiku was sterile and imitative, employing limited diction and subject matter. The master poet Bashō, who by this time was honored by monuments and in quasi-religious shrines, was the supreme model. Shiki, who denigrated the bulk of Bashō's haiku, advocated for the importance of realism and immediacy, which he termed shasei ("sketch from life"). He, along with Bashō, Buson, and Issa, are considered the four masters of haiku. (adapted from Japan: An Illustrated Encyclopedia. Tokyo: Kodansha, 1993)

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