Japanese Poetry

Poetry has been an important part of Japan’s history, with the first recorded poem dating from the 8th century.

Here are some of the major types of poems:


Kanshi (漢詩) , meaning “Han poetry”, is Chinese poetry, or poems in Chinese written by Japanese poets. It was the most popular type of poetry during the early Heian Period.


Haiku (俳句) poetry is probably the most widely known type of Japanese poetry. It comports 17 syllables in three lines composed in the form of 5-7-5. The subject of a Haiku usually revolves around nature.


Tanka (短歌) means “short poem”. This form of poetry is one of the major types found in Japanese literature. Tanka poetry consists of 31 syllables, and used to be called Waka.


Waka (和歌) means literally “Japanese poem”. This type of poetry was created during the Heian Period to differentiate itself from the Chinese poetry called Kanshi.


Renku (連句) means “linked verses”, and is a collaborative poetry such as the Renga poetry. Renku poems are more modern and usually shorter than the Renga poems.


Renga (連歌) means “collaborative poetry”, and is, as its name tells it, a genre of poetry where more two or more Japanese poets collaborate to create a poem.