Micro-Season: “The Rainbow Hides Unseen” (2022)

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. 


Rainbows

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. 


Seasonal Haiku

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!

Summer haiku

Buson

ready to open
and breathe forth a rainbow
 a peony flower 
(translated by Makoto Ueda)

Issa

irises —
where that rainbow
starts from
(translated by David G. Lanoue)

Shiki

two rainbows
have risen over
the green paddy field
(translated  by Tanaka Kimiyo)

Winter haiku

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.

Katō Shūson

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.

Mayuzumi Madoka

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.  

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!  


Resources:

  1. “Rainbow”: Wikipedia
  2. “ROYGBIV”; Wikipedia
  3. “Rainbow”: National Geographic Society Encyclopedia 
  4. “Rainbow (niji)”; World Kigo Database
  5. 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.

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39 thoughts on “Micro-Season: “The Rainbow Hides Unseen” (2022)

Add yours

  1. a surprise
    in the winter light
    crisp rainbow

    More common here in Southern CA during our only rainy season (if we get one).

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

  2. Just for here; Since I just played with my earlier ideas, one is a four liner and added a third more of a senryu;

    encapsulated
    In the melting icicle
    sun’s rays, curtsy bow

    decorations
    light up homes
    colorful hues sparkle
    in the moonlight

    that migraine
    twisted color sparks
    taunts vision

    © JP/dh/ Jules

    1. 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!

      1. 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!

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