Poet Biographies

Kobayashi Issa: A Master of Haiku

Kobayashi Issa was a Japanese haiku poet born on June 15, 1763. He is known for his works that reflect the human condition and everyday life, including his observations of nature and animals. 

Kobayashi Issa Illustration

Today, he is considered one of the four great masters of haiku, along with Bashō, Buson, and Shiki. He is also commonly referred to as “Issa.” 

Issa’s haiku poems are characterized by their simple, direct language and their ability to capture the essence of a moment. He often wrote about the natural world, as well as the struggles and joys of everyday life.

His poetry is also known for its wit and humor, which sets him apart from other haiku poets of his time.

Life Facts

  • Kobayashi Issa was born on June 15, 1763, in Kashiwabara, Japan.
  • He was born Kobayashi Nobuyuki.
  • He was educated in Buddhist teachings.
  • Issa married at forty-nine, but the couple’s firstborn child died shortly after being born. 

Interesting Facts

  • He wrote thousands of haiku during his lifetime.
  • His pen name means “cup of tea.” 
  • His mother died when he was three years old. 
  • He was known for his empathy and compassion for all living things.
  • He wrote the “Last Days of Issa’s Father” about his father’s last years of life. 

Famous Poems

  • This dewdrop world’ – this famous haiku reflects on the impermanence of life and was inspired by the death of the poet’s children.
  • ‘O snail’ – this beautiful and well-known humorous haiku encourages perseverance and patience.
  • ‘Even with insects’ – this poem uses insects to speak about the rest of the world, including humanity. The poet suggests that insects, like people, are different from one another. Some can sing, and some can’t. 
  • ‘The snow is melting’ – this haiku describes the movements of children in a village after the snow started to melt. The poet suggests that with warmer weather, more people want to be outside. 

Early Life

Kobayashi Issa was born into poverty, and his early life was marked by tragedy. His mother died when he was young, and he was raised by his stepmother. 

He received a basic education and began writing haiku at a young age. He was sent away from home by his father at the age of 14 to make a living.


Issa began his career as a haiku poet in the Edo period, and his work was characterized by a deep empathy for all living things. He wrote about the beauty of nature and animals, as well as the hardships of everyday life. 

Issa’s poetry was heavily influenced by his Buddhist beliefs and his love for nature. He often wrote about the beauty of the natural world, as well as the struggles and joys of everyday life. His poetry was characterized by its simple language and its ability to capture the essence of a moment in just a few words.

Issa’s most famous work is his collection of haiku poems, which he called “The Spring of My Life.” This collection consists of over 20,000 haiku poems and is considered one of the most significant contributions to Japanese literature.

In addition to his poetry, Issa is also known for his extensive diaries, which offer a unique insight into life in Japan during the Edo period. His diaries cover a wide range of topics, including his travels, his thoughts on religion and philosophy, and his personal experiences.

Many of these included images include: 

  • Snails
  • Toads
  • Frogs
  • Fireflies
  • Mosquitos
  • Flies
  • Fleas 
  • Cicadas 

In addition to his poetry, Issa was also a prolific diarist and essayist. He wrote extensively about his travels and his experiences in Japan, and his writing offers a unique insight into life in Japan during the Edo period.

Later Life and Death

In his later years, Issa continued to write poetry and became a respected figure in the haiku community. He died on January 5, 1828, at the age of 64. 

Today, he is remembered as one of the great masters of haiku and a poet who brought a deep sense of empathy and compassion to his work. His poetry continues to inspire readers around the world.


Kobayashi Issa is primarily known for his contributions to Japanese poetry, particularly his haiku poetry. He is regarded as one of the great haiku masters of the Edo period, along with Bashō and Buson.

Issa is remembered as a writer who found beauty and meaning in the world around him, despite the many hardships he faced throughout his life. His work continues to inspire readers and writers around the world, and he is regarded as one of the great literary figures of Japan.


What was the most tragic event in Kobayashi Issa’s life?

The most tragic event in Kobayashi Issa’s life was the death of his young daughter, who died at the age of two. Issa wrote several poignant haiku about the loss of his daughter, including one that reads: “This dewdrop world – is a dewdrop world, and yet, and yet…”

What is the most famous haiku of all time?

It is difficult to pinpoint the most famous haiku of all time, as haiku is a highly regarded literary form with countless memorable poems. However, one of the most well-known haiku in the Western world is probably Basho’s “Old pond / A frog jumps in / The sound of water.”

What is the pseudonym of Kobayashi Issa?

Kobayashi Issa’s pseudonym was “Issa,” which means “one cup of tea.” He used this name throughout his literary career and is now primarily known by it.

What is the main point of haiku?

The main point of haiku is to capture a moment or feeling in a few simple, direct words. Haiku typically consist of three lines, with a syllable count of 5-7-5. The form originated in Japan and often incorporates images from nature or everyday life. Haiku aims to evoke a sense of wonder, contemplation, and appreciation for the world around us.

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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