I think a graded anthology of haiku or tanka might make an excellent chrestomathy for learning kanji and japanese.

Are there any appropriately-licensed (e.g. creative commons / public domain) haiku or tanka anthologies in electronic form that could be used as the basis for this?

EDIT: (in response to sawa's comments, I've added "and tanka" to this question.

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    I am skeptic about your idea. Haiku is a highly sophisticated literary art. It is even difficult for a native Japanese speaker. There are haiku lessons for native Japanese speaker. The comments on a graded haiku will most likely be written in Japanese, from which you have to interpret the subtle nuances of what it is talking about. That seems to contradict with your intention to learn Japanese through it. Furthermore, haiku is a verse; you can't expect to see much grammatical structure in it that would be sufficient to learn Japanese.
    – user458
    Commented Jul 9, 2011 at 21:43
  • @sawa this is very useful feedback; I appreciate that there'd be little grammatical structure but for picking up vocabulary is it also a non-starter? Commented Jul 9, 2011 at 22:28
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    The Vocablary will be highly biased. For one thing, it is a general rule to include a word 'kigo' that expresses the season. For another, since the format is very short, you have to pack in words that will be 'expanded' by the reader's imagination. This ends up with high bias towards words that express abstract situations. Maybe you might want to see tanka instead.
    – user458
    Commented Jul 9, 2011 at 22:34
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    Tanka is free in format, and will be better to use. Also note that you have to chose ones that are written in present Japanese, as the majority (but not all) of the verses are written in classic Japanese. But why do you need to redistribute it? Is it not for your own study? I think it will be difficult to find a copy-free one.
    – user458
    Commented Jul 10, 2011 at 7:45
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    If I understand chrestomathy correctly, then as @sawa mentioned, you may not be looking for the best source for learning/teaching/analysing Japanese. As far as kanjis are concern, there may be kanjis that aren't used anymore if they are too old… But if your request gives results, then I'd be glad to look at it too.
    – Axioplase
    Commented Jul 10, 2011 at 9:31

4 Answers 4


One such resource for haiku is Wikisource's collection of Matsuo Basho's Haiku. There are also quite a few pre-modern poetry anthologies transcribed at the University of Virginia's Japanese Text Initiative, including a transcription of the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu (a collection of 100 waka poems by 100 different authors).

The original Japanese poetry is all in the public domain and as such should be redistributable without any issue; any translations, however, are likely under copyright and more restrictive licenses than you will find desirable.

The University of Virginia also has a selection of modern selections with which you may need to exercise more care, as some of them may still be under copyright.

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    Do note, however, that any public domain works are almost certainly old, which further limits their usefulness in chrestomathy beyond the use of nonstandard forms in poetry.
    – rintaun
    Commented Jul 20, 2011 at 18:18
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    This totally makes me want to build a hyakunin isshu flash card deck so I can dominate the next karuta bout during the New Year holiday. Commented Jul 21, 2011 at 19:06


Here is a website specializing in "easy haiku" testing: http://pmana.jp/pm32.html

When they say "easy", it means easy for Japanese people, though...

Unfortunately, the content is not open and they are talking about 525円 per month. There is a free sign up but I haven't tried, it might give you access to some of the content.

The website designed for cellphones, so it might behave strange sometimes.


I also like to work with open resources, so that I can transform and share them. Wikisource has some Japanese poetry (mostly seems to contains the Matsuo Basho pointed out by rintaun, actually):



If you want to learn Japanese, you don't need to be reading Tanka. That would be like learning English by reading Beowulf. If you want a "learning curve is almost 90 degrees" tough-love approach to learning the Japanese writing system and its vocabulary, I recommend Japanese Newspaper Compounds. It's kanji boot camp.


I agree with Mike that haiku and tanka are by far too difficult for learning Japanese. Native japanese needs dictionaries and explations to understand them too.

I found very useful when studing Japanese alone the Tanaka corpus. About 200000 sentences translated in Japanese-English.


Now it's hosted on the tatoeba project where you can browse it:


It's also used by jwb online dictionary:


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    It should be noted that many consider the Tanaka Corpus to be tainted because it has many errors and unnatural-sounding sentences.
    – William
    Commented Jul 21, 2011 at 16:55
  • I agree with william, but also, I don't see how this answers the question.
    – rintaun
    Commented Jul 21, 2011 at 17:57
  • Tatoeba project did review many of the tanaka corpus sentences. I also used it alot and I didn't find any wrong sentences. Of course they are just translations of examples so sometimes are not what a native speaker would use. Still very instructive to learn grammar.
    – Uberto
    Commented Jul 22, 2011 at 7:16

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