We have entered the micro-season of “The Rainbow Hides Unseen”. This is the first micro-season of the mini-season Minor Snow. All the micro-seasons within Minor Snow are:
- The Rainbow Hides Unseen (Nov 23 – Nov 27)
- The North Wind Brushes the Leaves (Nov 28 – Dec 01)
- The Tachibana First Turns Yellow (Dec 02 – Dec 06)
These seasons were established in 1685 by Japanese astronomer Shibuka Shunkai and are specific to Japan. However, just because the calendar focuses on Japan doesn’t mean it isn’t applicable to others. No matter where you live you can use these seasons as a starting point for your personal exploration of the world around you.
To celebrate this season, we will learn about rainbows and what “rainbow hides” might mean. Then we will read rainbow-themed haiku by both modern and classical Japanese poets.
A rainbow is created when light is reflected and refracted through water droplets suspended in the air. The light’s reflection and refraction are what create the multi-colored visual arc that we typically call a rainbow.
The colors of a rainbow range from red to violet. Perhaps you remember the acronym ROYGBIV, or the mnemonic system of “Roy G Biv”, or even” Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain”.(2) These are all ways to help us remember the seven visible colors of the rainbow.
The color red, which has the longest wavelength, is seen at the outer edge of the rainbow. This is then followed by Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, and Violet. Violet has the shortest wavelength of visible light and thus becomes the innermost color of the rainbow.
As the eye moves inward past the color violet the sky seems brighter. This is because our eyes see a white light when all the rainbow colors get mixed together.(3)
How Does A Rainbow Hide?
In order to see a rainbow, a light source needs to be behind us and that light needs to strike the suspended water droplets at a 42-degree angle. As we transition into winter, the days are getting shorter and the sun is lower in the sky and less intense. Because of this, there are fewer days where the conditions exist to create a rainbow. Therefore, “The Rainbow Hides Unseen” should not be understood as a literal interpretation of what is happening, but instead should be seen as a poetic expression of the shifting seasons.
“The Rainbow Hides Unseen” also has an opposite micro-season called “The First Rainbow Appears”(Apr 14 -Apr 19). “The First Rainbow Appears” is in spring during the mini-season of Clear and Bright. During this time, light rain is more frequent and the sun’s path is elevated. This will then increase the likelihood that a rainbow will become visible.
According to the World Kigo Database, rainbow or niji is a summer kigo. However, also on the World Kigo Database, Larry Bole references the work of William J. Higginson’s Haiku World by stating, “Conditions for seeing rainbows are more common in summer in most of the temperate zones, accounting for the assignment of RAINBOW (niji) to summer in the sajiki. But they also occur at other times, so the topics SPRING RAINBOW (haru no niji) and AUTUMN RAINBOW (aki no niji) are recognized as well as WINTER RAINBOW (fuyu no niji).”(4)
Notice in this explanation Higginson is stating that the “rainbow” by itself is associated with summer. However, add in a qualifier such as “Spring”, “Autumn”, or “Winter” and you can have a rainbow for all seasons. With this in mind, let’s read some haiku!
ready to open and breathe forth a rainbow a peony flower (translated by Makoto Ueda)
irises — where that rainbow starts from (translated by David G. Lanoue)
two rainbows have risen over the green paddy field (translated by Tanaka Kimiyo)
In my research for rainbow-inspired haiku, I came across Charles Trumbull’s “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” from A Field Guide to North American Haiku published in Frogpond 43:2. In this article, Trumbull points out that “rainbow” was not frequently used by classical Japanese haiku poets. In fact, Trumbull states, that Basho did not write any rainbow or niji haiku. Trumbull then states, “The idea of a rainbow—especially a winter rainbow—being something beautiful but transient or unattainable figures prominently in 20th- and 21st-century Japanese haiku”.
Below are a few examples.
Et tu, Brute! even now a winter rainbow ready to disappear (translated by William J. Higginson in Haiku World)
This haiku is also featured on Dr. Greve’s World Kigo Database.
it disappears as soon as I point it out— winter rainbow (translated by Fay Aoyagi and Charles Trumbull)
winter rainbow one foot lingers at the Kamo River (from Mayuzumi Madoka, Haiku: Love in Kyoto)
Want to read more about rainbows in haiku? You can read Trumbull’s complete article here.
Our last haiku (or perhaps it is more of a senryu) for today comes from Takahama Kyoshi.
the rainbow stands as if you are here in a moment. (found in Masterpieces of Japanese Culture)
A Haiku Invitation
This week’s haiku invitation is to write a haiku or senryu that references rainbows of any season.
Share your haiku in the comments below, or post on your own page and link back to this post. I can’t wait to read what you write!
- “Rainbow”: Wikipedia
- “ROYGBIV”; Wikipedia
- “Rainbow”: National Geographic Society Encyclopedia
- “Rainbow (niji)”; World Kigo Database
- Trumbull, Charles: “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” from A Field Guide to North American Haiku: Frogpond 43:2.
Buson’s haiku was retrieved from “Haiku of Yosa Buson” Terebess Asia Online (TAO). Issa’s haiku was retrieved from David G Lanoue’s Haiku Guy. Shiki’s haiku was retrieved from “Masaoka Shiki (1867-1902)” Terebess Asia Online (TAO). Takahama Kyoshi’s haiku was retrieved from Masterpieces of Japanese Culture.
Thanks Mark for another interesting and enlightening post. Love the selection of poems. Happy Rainbow Day My Friend.
Hi Goff, Thanks! The haiku for this season were difficult to find, but well worth the search. I hope you have a great day and good weekend.
Well worth it My Friend. Trusting you have a great weekend too. Happy Haiku Research.
Hi Mark. here is my contribution to this weeks prompt ‘Rainbows of any Season.
Have a great day everyone.
Hi Goff, Thanks for sharing! I link the way you took this one. Talk soon,
Cheers Mark. Have a great day.
Great post. Some interesting facts about rainbows. 🙂
Hi Sue, Thanks for the comment. I am glad that you enjoyed this one. I hope you have a great week!
I love these poems about rainbows. 🙂
Hi Lesley, Thanks! I am glad that you enjoyed this selection. I hope you have a good week.
And you too, Mark. 🙂
in the winter light
More common here in Southern CA during our only rainy season (if we get one).
Hi Eavonka, Wonderful! In my research I was reading about how winter for some places, like Southern California, was the rainy season. So rainbows might be more common at this time of year. Thanks again for visiting and sharing your work. Your support is very much appreciated.
You could certainly use a rainy season, Eavonka.
Yes! This is the longest drought perhaps in history for us. We need La Nina to turn into LA Nino–but it’s been a long time.
Very interesting post to view and thank you so much for sharing 🌷🙏♥️
Hi Thattamma, Thank you! I am glad that you enjoyed this one. Any rainbows were you are right now? Or is it just rain?
Can see rainbow 🌈 so welcome and happy weekend 🌷🙏♥️🌷
the sun melts it
all too soon
hides in the clouds
frosty feathers disappear in sun dogs
~Nancy Brady, 2022
Sun dogs form much like a rainbow and have many of the same colors as rainbows.
Hi Nancy, There are great! When I read the first Ice Rainbow ku, I think about the Buddhist teaching on impermanence. I enjoyed that one a lot.
Thanks, Mark. Glad you liked them. We saw a ice rainbow in the clouds once, briefly, but then isn’t almost everything impermanent?
This is a lovely micro season. 🙂
Hi Sara, Thanks so much for the comment. I am glad that you enjoyed this one.
I love this micro season. Here’s my haiku: https://oddsends707138946.wordpress.com/2022/11/26/indigo-by-britta-benson/
Hi Britta, Thanks for sharing such a great haiku and starting a good conversation about how these seasons may apply in your part of the world.
I love this mix of science and creativity. I had firmly vowed not to follow any more blogs, but …
Hi Margaret, Thanks so much for the follow and thank you for the kind words! I am glad that you enjoyed the post.
Just for here; Since I just played with my earlier ideas, one is a four liner and added a third more of a senryu;
In the melting icicle
sun’s rays, curtsy bow
light up homes
colorful hues sparkle
in the moonlight
twisted color sparks
© JP/dh/ Jules
Hi Jules, That third one about migraines is wonderful and sounds just like what I hear from some people who suffer from them. Glad you were able to pull a few things together.
It really adds to the conversation. Thanks for writing and sharing! Have a good week!
Luckily I have not had migraines… but we can empathize.
I’ve got some cardboard glasses with prismatic lenses that let you see stars and other shapes when you look at points of light… Not quite like 3D glasses (that don’t work for me… ) but fun for the wearer!
Nice haiku/senryu, Jules.
They are quite delightful!
Hi, bit late with this one but it fits with my NaNoBloMo self challenge: https://poetisatinta.wordpress.com/2022/11/29/micro-season-haiku-3/
Wonderful work on this one! Thanks for sharing! Have a good rest of your week.
You are welcome ❤