Fifty-five Waka Poems
I was born in Danwenhu, Miaoli, Shinchiku Prefecture, Taiwan.
I was born at dawn on the 14th day in the Eighth Month of the 37th year of the Meiji
At six, I left my mother’s arms. The price I fetched was 100 yen.
At nine, I went to Tokyo for studies. At the banquet, I cut off my queue.
Oh, those days! Often we got by eating taro congee with river snails—my original
When I stood up, my head nearly touched the top of the doorframe, but I still hoped
to grow fatter.
Van Gogh had his Theo. [My nephew] Togei is like Theo to me.
I thank you once again. Though it’s strange, I will always feel grateful to [my wife]
When I look closely at images of Yama the God of Death and Justice, I seem to see
When you pass three days quietly in a rainy mountain monastery or temple, Lord
Yama in His hall will become your friend.
My older brother used to call me Chubby, but today I often draw chubby self-
portraits of the me that used to hate that nickname.
No one can hide from Fate. God is absolutely fair.
When the sun sank behind that uninhabited mountain, my mother called me, and
the cicadas droned.
“Te Lai” [“Come, Virtue”] was the name my father and mother chose for me
together. They probably meant it as instructions.
Since ancient times, people have been like falling leaves, like the setting sun—we are
sure to die.
I miss the days when the moonlight would follow me wherever I went.
Human passion can only burn for a limited time. The sun can burn for ten thousand
A once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Netherworld begins by wishing upon a still moon on a
The Land of Mt. Fuji has nurtured this son of Taiwan for half a century.
Where the sun shines, where the stars and moon smile, that is the hometown of my
After three months at Nishikihana Elementary School, I transferred to Yamabuki
When I was in grade school, I used to suddenly cry, because I didn't understand
"flags, kites, and spinning tops" in the textbook.
Even though 30 years have passed, I still am happy to have Hideko pray devoutly
every night before bed.
People are born, people die. This is the only fact I have ever understood on earth.
How could such a tragedy take place? Two atom bombs incinerated Hiroshima and
Having gone through times of ceaseless air raids, I am thankful to still have so many
green trees and so much pure soil.
The fiery red sunset solemnly informs me of the Way of Heaven, then gradually sets
in the west.
Today I make an oath, this day I will be a kind person for the sake of humanity and
work hard for everyone in the world.
The character for “father” (父) stands for a father’s two hands and his love, lifting his
children up high.
The character for “mother” (母) stands for how a mother bears, births and nurtures
The character for “parent” (親) stands for seeing a tree grow straight and tall, and
imitating how it blossoms and bears fruit.
The warm embrace of a mother is like hiding in a nest, cutely begging for affection
under a blanket.
I am a painter, with rice balls wrapped up round my waist, gladly greeting the
mountains, greeting the sea.
I miss the days when I would bury my head in my mother’s soft bosom and sleep.
I wish I could swim with you again at the beach, where the white sand was so warm.
How sorrowful! Building a hill of sand, the warm sand of the seashore!
The mountain tall, the water flowing, the flowers so lovely. Today I live in this world.
Although the sunlight shines everywhere, after a long rain, the plum tree grove is
The warm red of the plum seems like it could melt the snow.
In the world, we exist to support each other. This is the meaning of the character for
I believe the Earth is one of a kind. The many countries divided on the planet should
be as one.
After I took a plane to travel, I’ve never been able to forget that feeling when I was in
The East has the strengths of the East, and the West has the strengths of the West.
Both should be respected.
My life is the only one like it in the world. My fate is the only one like it in the world.
It should be respected.
What my eyes see and my ears hear every day are my lessons, and I feel thankful.
The old master who is tired of money, tired of desire, tired of painting—only his
works are precious.
Paint with the mindset of a magician—even feel proud of yourself.
The Nihonbashi Bridge, underneath the overhead expressway, looks very unhappy,
because its existence is not obvious.
The birds and beasts know nothing of suicide and know nothing of the gods. Humans
know of the gods, and know of suicide.
As lush and green as Hakone Road, like Mt. Fuji of which the warblers sing.
On white sand like the bedding in a dream, when I am warmly embraced, I heard
what the white sand said.
Dream, dream, dream, dream, dream, dream, dream, dream, dream, dream,
dream—this dream, that dream.
Don’t cry in your dreams! Never cry! Don’t cry! This world has people, and it also has
The 39th Year of the Showa Era (1964).
At home in Meguro, Tokyo.
Dimensions: 12.5 × 18.6 cm
©HO Te-lai Family
<the colors are subject to the actual products>