Plum flower temple

Natsume Sōseki

‘Plum flower temple’ by Natsume Sōseki is a beautiful, contemplative haiku that explores the natural world around a temple and quiet voices rising in the distance. 


Natsume Sōseki

Nationality: Japanese

Natsume Sōseki (1867-1916) was a Japanese novelist and haiku poet.

Through poetry, Sōseki delves into the complexities of the human psyche.

Key Poem Information

Unlock more with Poetry+

Central Message: Nature is worth contemplating

Speaker: Likely the poet

Emotions Evoked: Contentment, Enjoyment, Happiness

Poetic Form: Haiku

Time Period: 19th Century

This beautiful poem perfectly demonstrates Sōseki's skill with verse.

This poem is a great example of Japanese haiku written by the famed novelist Natsume Sōseki. While he is better known for his books, this poem proves that Sōseki was just as skilled at writing haiku. The poem engages in many of the images and emotions that haiku are wellknown for, including a contemplation of the natural world. The English version of the haiku was translated by Soiku Shigematsu.

Plum flower temple
Natsume Sōseki

Plum flower temple:Voices riseFrom the foothills.


‘Plum flower temple’ by Natsume Sōseki is a beautiful poem that describes a temple, flowers, and soft voices in the distance. 

This poem begins with the poet mentioning a “plum flower temple. This suggests an image a beautiful, serene temple where the flowers represent beauty and peace. The natural landscape is highly important in this poem, as is the suggestion that, for a time, it’s going to be marked by temporary flowers. 

In the next lines, the poet describes voices in the distance, bringing a human element into the poem. They’re rising from the “foothills,” somewhere in the small hills in the distance. The poem ends on this note, allowing readers to consider what this scene looks like, feels like, and sounds like. 

Structure Form 

‘Plum flower temple’ by Natsume Sōseki is a three-line traditional haiku that was written by one of the most famous Japanese writers of all time. 

This Sōseki poem conforms to the basic elements of a haiku. It has three lines, and much of it is focused on nature. The poem also has a human element, something that many haiku don’t have. 

It’s important to note that because this poem was originally written in Japanese and later translated into English, it does not have some of the poet’s original language. 

Literary Devices 

In this poem, the poet uses a few different literary devices. These include: 

  • Imagery: this is seen when the poet uses particularly interesting and evocative descriptions. For example, “Plum flower temple” triggers readers’ senses and makes them see, feel, and imagine an entire scene. 
  • Enjambment: occurs when the poet cuts off a line before its natural stopping point. For example, the transition between lines two and three. 

Detailed Analysis 

Line 1 

Plum flower temple:

This short poem begins with the poet describing a “plum flower temple,” something that evokes a temple surrounded by, or even covered in “plum flower[s].” Plum blossoms are known for their short-lived blooming period, often associated with the arrival of spring in Japanese culture.

By including a temple in this scene, the poet evokes feelings of connection between the earthly and the divine and often serves as a retreat from the noise and distractions of everyday life. The poet also combines these two images in order to merge the natural and the spiritual realms. 

The use of the colon at the end of these lines adds a great deal more, telling readers that the line’s main subject is about to follow. There is a “plum flower temple” in the foreground, but there is something else happening around it. 

Tori Gates
A series of Tori gates at a Japanese temple

Line 2

Voices rise

The next line changes the overall feeling of the poem, and it suggests that there are people nearby. It’s not entirely quiet (what’s revealed in the next line) are the foothills around the temple. The voices imply the existence of a community or a group of individuals engaged in some form of communication. It could be interpreted as people engaging in conversations, prayers, or chanting, all of which are common activities in temples.

By saying that the voices “rise,” the poet is suggesting that the voices are not static but are actively reaching out or expanding, perhaps resonating throughout the surroundings. 

Line 3 

From the foothills.

“From the foothills” is the last line of the poem and helps readers better understand the geographical location within the landscape.  Foothills are the lower slopes or base of a mountain or hill. They represent a transitional zone between flat terrain and more elevated regions. 

The foothills in this poem evoke a sense of peacefulness, as they are removed from the hustle and bustle of urban areas and offer a closer connection to nature.

By stating that the voices are coming “from the foothills,” the last line of the poem further emphasizes the interplay between human activity and the natural setting. It reinforces the notion that the voices are part of the organic environment, emerging from the foothills as an integral part of the landscape.

A traditional Japanese temple
The Fushimi-Inari Temple in Japan is a beautiful, contemplative place


What is the tone of ‘Plum flower temple?’ 

The tone of this poem is tranquil. The poem is quite short and simple, but with the lines the poet uses, readers can feel transported to a place of peace and contemplation. 

Why is ‘Plum flower temple’ important? 

This poem is important because it is a great example of the haiku form as well as Sōseki’s poetry. While Natsume Sōseki was an amazing writer, he is far better known for his prose than he is for his poetry today, meaning that each example of his poetry is all the more important. 

What is Natsume Sōseki known for? 

Sōseki is known for creating some of the best-known examples of Japanese literature. These include Botchan, Kokoro, I Am a Cat, and a few others. His works are celebrated for their originality and depth. 

What makes a haiku, a haiku

Haiku are known for their relatively simple form. They are three lines long and generally use five syllables in the first and third lines and seven in the second line. 

Similar Poetry 

Readers who enjoyed this poem should also consider reading some other Natsume Sōseki poems. For example: 

  • Over the wintry– is a haiku that captures the desolate beauty of a winter landscape.

Some other similar poems include: 

Poetry+ Review Corner

Plum flower temple

Enhance your understanding of the poem's key elements with our exclusive review and critical analysis. Join Poetry+ to unlock this valuable content.

Natsume Sōseki

Sōseki's haiku effectively captures a serene and harmonious scene in nature and serves as a great example of the poet's skill with verse, something that is often less-commonly appreciated. The poem demonstrates that Sōseki was just a good of poet as novelist.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+

19th Century

This poem connects perfectly with the spirit of 19th-century poetry. It demonstrates the essence of expression and contemplation prevalent in poetry during that era. It also reflects the influence of Japanese poetic traditions, showcasing simplicity, restraint, and a focus on the natural world.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+


This poem is a prime example of Japanese poetry. It embodies the aesthetic principles and cultural traditions that define Japanese verse. Plus, the poem's emphasis on nature and spirituality aligns with the core themes often found in Japanese poetry.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+


The mention of the foothills in the poem could hint at a metaphorical journey, where individuals embark on a physical and spiritual pilgrimage towards the temple or any temple. It could suggest that personal growth and self-discovery can be found along the path.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+


Nature plays a central role in 'Plum Flower Temple,' serving as a backdrop of serenity and inspiration. The poem invites us to appreciate the beauty and harmony found in the natural world. It underscores humanity's connection with the environment, as well, as the speaker is out in nature.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+


This poem alludes to the spiritual realm, expressing a sense of contemplation, meditation, and connection to the divine. It represents a sacred space where individuals can find solace, enlightenment, and a deeper understanding of themselves.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+


The poem implies contentment through its portrayal of the "Plum Flower Temple." The voices that rise from the foothills suggest a community that finds solace and fulfillment in this serene setting. It also conveys the idea that contentment can be attained by embracing the beauty of nature.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+


This piece invites the reader to find enjoyment in the simple pleasures of life. The poem encourages appreciation for the delicate beauty of plum blossoms, the tranquil atmosphere of the temple, and the collective experience of shared voices.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+


While not explicitly stated, the poem suggests that the poet's speaker is experiencing a sense of happiness. It suggests that finding joy and happiness can be achieved by immersing oneself in the serenity of nature.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+


This piece by Sōseki suggests that the speaker is feeling a great deal of appreciation for what they're seeing. It prompts readers to recognize and value the beauty of nature, the importance of spiritual spaces, and more.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+


The mention of plum blossoms in the poem symbolizes the beauty of nature that can be found in spring. Without describing them in detail, the poem expresses a sense of admiration for the flowers. This is something that's very common in haiku.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+


This poem evokes a sense of peace; this is seen through the description of the temple, which serves as a sanctuary of peace and tranquility. The poem encapsulates a serene atmosphere that allows for introspection and connection with the natural and spiritual world, as well.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+


The reference to plum blossoms in the poem signifies the arrival of spring, a season symbolizing renewal (something common to Japanese poetry and haiku). It captures the essence of new beginnings, growth, and the anticipation of life's cycles.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+


This poem exemplifies the essence of haiku poetry, adhering to its traditional structure of three lines and capturing a singular, seemingly simple moment in time. It also embodies the brevity, simplicity, and focus on nature that is characteristic of haiku poems.
To unlock content, or join Poetry+
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.

Join the Poetry Chatter and Comment

Exclusive to Poetry+ Members

Join Conversations

Share your thoughts and be part of engaging discussions.

Expert Replies

Get personalized insights from our Qualified Poetry Experts.

Connect with Poetry Lovers

Build connections with like-minded individuals.

Sign up to Poetry+
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Got a question? Ask an expert.x

We're glad you like visiting Poem Analysis...

We've got everything you need to master poetry

But, are you ready to take your learning

to the next level?

Share to...