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10 of the Best Poems About Tokyo 

Tokyo, a city of vibrant contradictions, has long been a muse for poets seeking to capture its essence through the power of words. 

Best Tokyo Poems

From the traditional haiku masters of old to contemporary wordsmiths experimenting with diverse styles, the poetic tapestry woven around Tokyo is as diverse and captivating as the city itself. These ten incredible poems about Tokyo demonstrate the city’s allure and its long history. 

Bickering in the long night by Kobayashi Issa

This poem is a concise and evocative expression of a scene set near the Sumida River in Tokyo. The location specified in the poem is a “nook” along the Sumida River. This creates a sense of intimacy and seclusion as if the argument is confined to a small and perhaps hidden space. The poem reads:

bickering in the long night

in a nook

of Sumida River

The Sumida River is a prominent river in Tokyo, Japan, known for its historical and cultural significance.

Read more Kobayashi Issa poems.

Tokyo City Street
Contemporary Tokyo looks significantly different than when Kobayashi Issa was writing poetry

Apologies to Tokyo by Michael French 

This abstract poem suggests that an unclear situation in Tokyo escalated from something small and innocent to something out of control. The phrase “Seems like things ran into a wall” implies that their actions had unexpected and negative repercussions. Here are a few lines:

Nobody wants this rodeo

Sudden crisis intervention

Apologies to Tokyo

The speaker acknowledges that they may have contributed to the problem by overindulging or overfeeding, using the term “finocchio,” which can refer to fennel or, in a figurative sense, someone who is foolish or overly extravagant.

Tokyo Tango by David W. Clare

This poem depicts the vibrant and lively atmosphere of Tokyo, Japan. It uses imagery and metaphors to capture the essence of the city’s nightlife and cultural experiences. Here are a few lines:

Shadows dance on subway walls

Through crowded bars and pachinko halls

I came equipped for fun and play

The speaker arrives in Tokyo with the intention of having fun and enjoying themselves, but they quickly realize that everything comes with a price. The phrase “You don’t have to tip but boy you pay” suggests that even though tipping may not be customary in Tokyo, there are still expenses or consequences involved in indulging in the city’s offerings.

Tokyo Skyline
The very famous Tokyo skyline

a miracle here is a tragedy elsewhere by Sophie 

The poem explores the interconnectedness of events and the impact they have on individuals’ lives. It begins with the line “a miracle here is a tragedy elsewhere,” suggesting that what may be perceived as fortunate or miraculous in one place can be devastating or tragic in another. Here are a few lines: 

there is no tsunami in Tokyo and your mother dies of lung cancer, your father leaves you in may, does not kiss you goodbye, does not look back at you, you pack your stuff and he sends you away.

The poem touches on themes of choice and chance, illustrating how different outcomes can arise based on individual decisions and circumstances.

Tokyo by Anthony Caceres

The poem ‘Tokyo’ by Anthony Caceres captures the bustling and dynamic atmosphere of the city while also exploring themes of nostalgia, escapism, and the presence of a loved one.

Tokyo is far away

But as long as your still here with me

Tokyo will forever stay

The poem concludes with the realization that Tokyo is physically far away, but as long as the person they cherish remains with them, the essence and spirit of Tokyo will endure.

A Side Street in Tokyo
A small side street in Tokyo

Tokyo by Ceyhun Mahi

The poem ‘Tokyo’ by Ceyhun Mahi offers a brief but vivid description of the city at night, emphasizing the transformation that takes place and the captivating atmosphere that emerges. The poem begins with:

All places of Tokyo change at night,

Streets are flowing rivers of gleamy light,

Lit-neon signs glowing at every sight,

The poem conveys a sense of the enchantment and allure that Tokyo exudes during the nighttime. Through the use of imagery and concise language, it captures the transformation of the city and the captivating beauty of its illuminated streets and architectural marvels.

Blossoms by Dennel Kessler

This poem paints a vivid picture of a scene from Yoyogi Park in Tokyo during early spring. The poem captures a sense of tranquility and natural beauty amidst the urban landscape. The first three lines are:

Forty-eight floors up, a God’s-eye view

a man practices tai-chi on a tired patch of grass

he is measured, beautiful

The poem is able to capture a moment of tranquility and natural beauty within the urban landscape of Tokyo. It celebrates the harmony between people, nature, and the cityscape while also acknowledging the challenges and imperfections that coexist.

Tokyo Traditional Garden
A traditional Japanese garden in the center of Tokyo

Tokyo by John Tiong Chunghoo

This poem by John Tiong Chunghoo celebrates the vibrant and resilient nature of Tokyo while acknowledging its complex history and diverse cultural influences. The first four lines read:

A city of many many millions

A throbbing city with

A thousand dreams 

And a painful past

The poem recognizes Tokyo’s historical struggles, including power struggles and religious persecutions, but emphasizes its unwavering spirit and pursuit of progress. It identifies the city as a hub of technology, fashion, ideas, knowledge, and world peace, where remarkable transformations have taken place in a relatively short time.

Tokyo Skyscrapers
Tokyo is well-known for its incredible architecture.

it: spring, Tokyo you by P.K. Wakefield 

This poem presents a sensual and evocative snapshot of a springtime encounter in Tokyo. The opening line sets the scene in springtime Tokyo, with the speaker suggesting a connection between themselves and the city (“by my hip flowered”). This imagery implies a sense of being in tune with the vibrant energy and blossoming nature of the season. The poem includes the lines:

beneath sole the exact strange neon of

lights bore swiftly under darkness our

The "anime" district in modern-day Tokyo
The “anime” district in modern-day Tokyo

Haiku—Tokyo by Lucy King 

This brief poem succinctly portrays the lively and visually stimulating nature of a city that never sleeps, with its captivating neon lights and the constant presence of people. The poem begins with the line: 

City never sleeps

This aptly describes the unending movement and excitement in the city. 


Who are some poets from Tokyo? 

Some famous poets from Tokyo include Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, Fumiko Enchi, Shūsaku Endō, Shinichi Hoshi, Tatsuo Hori, Michiko Inukai, Takehiro Irokawa, Ayako Ishigaki, and Nobori Kiuchi.

Who is the most famous Japanese poet? 

Matsuo Bashō is widely regarded as one of the most famous and influential Japanese poets in history. He is known for his haiku poetry and is considered the master of the form.

What is different about Japanese poetry?

Japanese poetry, particularly classical forms such as tanka and haiku, emphasizes brevity and a strong connection to nature. It often relies on vivid imagery, seasonal references, and symbolism to evoke emotions and capture fleeting moments.

How is Tokyo a source of inspiration for poets?

Tokyo serves as a rich source of inspiration for poets due to its vibrant atmosphere, contrasting elements, and cultural depth. The city’s bustling streets, neon-lit skyscrapers, and the constant movement of people provide a dynamic backdrop for poetic expression.

Emma Baldwin Poetry Expert
Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues through analyzing poetry on Poem Analysis.
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