Ema Haiku Challenge
Welcome to the Gekkeikan Tasting Room! As a memento of your visit here today, we invite you to write a haiku and any other comments on an ema, and display it here in the Tasting Room.
Every month, the best haiku displayed in the Tasting Room will be chosen by Gekkeikan, and the author will be offered a prize!
When you have finished and if would like to be considered for the prize draw, please provide your details using this form.
What is an Ema?
An ema (pronounced like the name Emma) is a small wooden board that is often found at Shinto shrines in Japan. Visitors to the shrine write their wishes and prayers to the god(s) of the shrine, or their thanks and gratitude for having a prayer answered.
In Japanese, ema is written 絵馬, using the characters for “picture” and “horse”. In ancient times, horses were offered as sacrifices during Shinto rituals, as it was believed that the gods visited the human world on horses. Over time, real horses were replaced with horse figurines, which were then commonly replaced by wooden tablets, but the reference to the horses of ancient Japan remains in the name used to this day.
On one side of the ema, you can try to write a haiku. See our tips below!
On the other side, you can write anything you’d like; for example, an explanation of your haiku, comments about the tasting room, where you’ve come from, or which sake you enjoyed best.
What is a Haiku?
A haiku is a form of short poem of 17 syllables over three lines: 5, 7, then 5 syllables on each line. A rule is that the haiku ought to be “set” in a season or convey some seasonality through the tone of the poem. This can be direct, e.g. “spring rain”, or indirect, e.g. “icy roads” (suggesting winter).
The true challenge of writing a good haiku is using the few syllables available to you to paint a detailed picture in the imagination of the audience. Here are some tips:
Imagine a scene in your mind first and begin with ideas. Don't worry about counting syllables just yet.
Once you have a scene in mind, start by first putting it into words, and then rewriting according to the syllables after.
A good haiku often features a “punch line" or a surprising final line this can be seemingly unrelated yet provide a twist on the previous two lines, a play on words, or a hint at hidden meaning.
Try to feature references to nature in your haiku - this can help provide the seasonal setting.
Try to use words that relate to the five senses
- this will help the audience imagine your scene for themselves.