Kinoshita Rigen (木下利玄)

Rigen KINOSHITA (January 1 1886-February 15 1925) was a Japanese poet. His real name was Toshiharu.

Chronological record

KINOSHITA was born in 1886 in Ashimorimura, Kaya District, Okayama Prefecture (current day Ashimori, Kita Ward, Okayama City), the second son of Toshinaga KINOSHITA who was the younger brother of Toshiyasu KINOSHITA, the last lord of Ashimori Domain.

In 1891 at five years of age his father died and he was adopted by the family soke (family head), the House of Viscount KINOSHITA which, as the family heir, required him to move to Tokyo.

In 1892 he entered the first grade at Gakushuin, a school for peers. He was in the same class as Saneatsu MUSHANOKOJI.

In 1906 he entered Tokyo Imperial University. At Tokyo Imperial University he studied under Nobutsuna SASAKI, and was called the most talented student of the Bamboo and Oak (Chikuhaku) Society.

In 1910, he launched the Shirakaba (White Birch) magazine with Saneatsu, Naoya SHIGA and others, and published tanka and sanbun (prose). He was one of the representative poets of the Shirakaba School.

In 1911 he married Teruko YOKOO. Also in 1911 he graduated from Tokyo Imperial University.

In 1912 he became a Japanese literature teacher at Mejiro Middle School. In the same year their first son was born but died immediately after birth. After this they had two more boys and one girl, but aside from the youngest child (the third boy, Rifuku) they all died prematurely.

In 1916 he left Mejiro Middle School to devote himself to tanka.

In 1922 he was confined to bed suffering tuberculosis. In 1923 he joined the Nikko, a jointly run magazine to oppose the Araragi school of tanka poetry.

In 1925 his sickness became much worse and he died on the February 15. He died at the age of 40.

His graveyard is at the Daikoji Temple in Ashimori, the Kinoshita family temple. His ashes are buried at the Yanaka Cemetery in Taito Ward, Tokyo.

Literary Style

His poetic style was at first sensual and sentimental. Later, through the influence of poets such as Utsubo KUBOTA and Akahiko SHIMAGI, he developed what became known as the 'Rigen-cho' (lit. Rigen style) - simple, graphic tanka that makes use of spoken language and colloquialisms.

The below tanka has been adopted for the text books for junior high schools and high schools, school tests including entrance examinations, and is widely known.

When I go to town and pass by the children, the smell of mandarins takes me back to winter.

Indeed, a peaceful, tranquil place where tree peony flowers are in bloom.

Red spider lilies burn as I pass through the quiet streets under the strong autumn sun.

Collections of poetry

Gin (Silver) (1914)
Kogyoku (Ruby) (1919)
Ichiro (One Way) (1924)
Risshun (First Day of Spring) (1924)
Risei-shu (Plum Blue Collection) (1925)
Rigen Kinoshita Poetry Anthology (1926)