Cuckoo (kankodori)

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Cuckoo (kankodori) - little cuckoo (hototogisu)

***** Location: Japan
***** Season: All summer
***** Category: Animal


We have two different birds.

Cuckoo, Cuculus canorus, kankodori 閑古鳥
..... kakkoo カッコウ
cockoo, cockuu

Little Cuckoo, Cuculus poliocephalis,
hototogisu ホトトギス, 時鳥
Click HERE to look at some photos !

Sometimes, the bush warbler (uguisu) and the little cuckoo (hototogisu) get mixed up.

Listen to the voice of the hototogisu here:
source : www.youtube.com

More names for this bird:

CLICK for more photos !

first cuckoo, hatsu hototogisu 初時鳥(はつほととぎす)
mountain cuckoo, yama hototogisu山時鳥(やまほととぎす)
"calling his name" nanoru hototogisu

waiting hototogisu, matsu hototogisu

taosadori 田長鳥(たおさどり)
kutsutedori 沓手鳥(くつてどり)
imosedori 妹背鳥(いもせどり)

uzukidori 卯月鳥(うづきどり)
uzuki is the name for april in the lunar calendar

token 杜鵑(とけん), too 杜宇(とう)、
hototogisu 杜魂(ほととぎす)

hototogisu 子規(ほととぎす)
The inside of the mouth of the cuckoo is so red that it looks like blood when the bird is singing.

Masaoka Shiki took the Chinese characters for his name、 because of tuberculosis, he would spit blood.
. WKD : Masaoka Shiki 正岡子規 .

hototogisu 蜀魂(ほととぎす), hototogisu 不如帰(ほととぎす)


© http://www.hana300.com/aafuda.html

..... Flower Trump (hanafuda) and haiku


“Demon cockoo, oni kakkoo 鬼カッコウ 
Eudynamys scolopacea


Iwakura no kyoojo koi seyo hototogisu

A little cuckoo across a hydrangea - Yosa Buson

cause the madwoman at Iwakura
to fall more deeply in love
o hototogisu

source : Cheryl A. Crowley

Discussion of this haiku
. Iwakura waterfall and
temple Daiun-Ji 岩倉大雲寺 .

Worldwide use


Kuckuck - Cuculus canorus

Gackelkuckuck - Cuculus poliocephalus
Kleiner Kuckuck



There is a bird associated with the Monsoon in India:
CLICK for more photos
the Pied Crested Cuckoo; may be called the Rain bird.
It is called 'Erattatthalachi Kuyil' in Malayalam and 'Kondai Kuyil' in Tamil. It Hindi, it is 'Chatak.' It's observed that this Cuckoo appears in South India and in North India just before the Monsoon to herald the arrival of rain.
It is believed, for instance, its arrival in Mumbai indicates that the first rains will fall within three days! Its call is wailing.

Very noisy when breeding. Calls also during moonlit nights. Its call is loud, rather plaintive, metallic piu-piu-pee-pee-piu… pee-pee-piu, or just a tinkling piu.. piu…
© indulekha.com/rainraga


a cuckoo's silence -
leaves on a mango tree rustle
in the breeze

- Shared by Surmeet Maavi -
Joys of Japan, 2012


. Asian Koel (Eudynamys scolopaceus) .
Asian Koel, Koil, Kuil, Koyal
a member of the cuckoo order of birds
oni kakkoo オニカッコウ "demon cuckoo"

Things found on the way

The famous comparison of three famous warlords

鳴かぬなら 殺してしまえ ホトトギス
鳴かぬなら 鳴かせてみせよう ホトトギス
鳴かぬなら 鳴くまで待とう ホトトギス

Here is the famous story to shed light on the temperament of the three most famous warlords in Japanese history:
When confronted with a nightingale in a cage, which would not sing, each had his own approach to this situation.

If the bird does not sing, kill it!

If the bird does not sing, I will make it sing!

If the bird does not sing, I will wait until it sings!

Read my details here


Azumabashi in Edo

Ando Utagawa Hiroshige 歌川広重
One hototogisu in the clouds of the rainy season.


The Haiku Magazin "Hototogisu"

"Hototogisu" was first published on 15th, Jan. of 1897 (Meiji 30). This Haiku magazine had about thirty pages and it was 0.06yen (6-sen) a copy. This magazine had 300 circulations and edited by Kyokudo Yanagihara.

The number twenty of "Hototogisu", published on 31st, Aug. of 1898 (Meiji 31), was the last number published by the publishing office of "Hototogisu" in Tachibana-cho, Matsuyama, which had been based on "Shofu-kai in Matsuyama".

Shiki composed the following Haiku celebrating the first issue of "Hototogisu".

" Greeting a Happy New Year
A bush warbler just starts to chirp
The Hototogisu was first published "


Read more HERE !
© "Hototogisu" - Kyokudo,Hekigotou,Kyoshi

Nightingale, bush warbler (uguisu) Japan


hot tub steam stirs
as does the grass

hototogisu yukeburi soyogu kusa soyogu

by Issa, 1813
Tr. David Lanoue


Compiled by Larry Bold
Translating Haiku Forum

Matsuo Basho haiku with various translations :

hototogisu ootakeyabu o moru tsukiyo

Henderson's word-for-word translation is:
Cuckoo large-bamboo thicket's seep-in moon-evening

And Barnhill's word-for-word translaton is:
cuckoo large-bamboo grove leak moonlight

.................................................... Further translations:

Moonlight slants through
The vast bamboo grove:
A cuckoo cries

trans. Blyth

Moonlight slanting through
all this long bamboo grove
and nightingale song.

trans. Bellenson

From moon wreathed
bamboo grove,
cuckoo song.

trans. Stryk

Song of the cuckoo:
in the grove of great bamboos,
moonlight seeping through.

trans. Harold Henderson

through immense bamboo groves
the moonlight

trans. Stephen Addiss

through a vast bamboo forest
moonlight seeping

trans. Makoto Ueda

a cuckoo's cry--
moonlight seeping through
a large bamboo grove

trans. Haruo Shirane

filtering through the vast bamboo grove
the moon's light

trans. David Barnhill

Moonlight slanting
through the bamboo grove;
a cuckoo crying.

trans. Robert Hass

A cuckoo cries,
and through a thicket of bamboo
the late moon shines

trans. Sam Hamill

So, we have for what the bamboo is in: grove, thicket, and forest.

For what the moonlight does we have: shines, slants/slanting, filtering, seeps/seeping, "through" with no verb (Addiss), and wreathed.

For what the cuckoo is called, we have: cuckoo, nightingale, hototogisu.

For what the cuckoo does, we have: cry/cries/crying, song, and no verb (just the bird's presence itself implying its sound).

little cuckoo -
moonlight filters through
the vast bamboo grove

Tr. Gabi Greve


. Matsuo Basho 松尾芭蕉 - Archives of the WKD .
"Oku no Hosomichi" Station 9 - Sesshooseki Hot Spring 殺生石
"the murder stone", "Slaughter Stone" , "Killing Stone"
The hot spring has poisonous yellow water and bees and butterflies can not live there.

no o yoko ni uma hikimuke yo hototogisu

road across a plain --
turn my horse sideways
toward that hototogisu!

Tr. Makoto Ueda

Across the field, turn
The direction of the horse
Towards the cuckoo!

Tr. Oseko Toshiharu

turn the horse’s head
towards that moor;

Tr. Michael Haldane

Lead the horse
Across the moor
To where the hototogisu is singing!

Tr. Blyth

across the plain,
turn my horse over there!

Tr. Barnhill

across the field
the horse pulls toward
the cuckoo

Tr. Jane Reichhold

- More translations -

- Reference : Sessho Seki

hototogisu hokku by
. Matsuo Basho 松尾芭蕉 - Archives of the WKD .


toribeno ya shiko hototogisu shiko karasu

Toribe Field--
ugly cuckoo!
ugly crow!

by Issa, 1824
Tr. David Lanoue

Read our discussion here:
Toribeno Cemetery
Cuckoo and Death in Japanese literature


あるけばかっこう いそげばかっこう
arukeba kakkoo
isogeba kakkoo

if I walk ... cuckoo
if I hurry ... cuckoo

Taneda Santoka
Tr. Gabi Greve


channel-billed cuckoo
from beneath the dying fruit tree
I hear its storm cry

Alan Summers, UK
1. Snapshots three July 1998
2. Blithe Spirit Call of the Crow haibun Volume 14 Number 2 (June 2004)

Related words

***** Toadlily, Tricyrtis hirta (hototogisu)

***** Nightingale, bush warbler (uguisu 鶯)


The name is written with the Chinese character for 魂 "soul" :
hototogisu 杜魂(ほととぎす)
hototogisu 蜀魂(ほととぎす)

hototogisu 不如帰(ほととぎす)

Hototogisu with his blood-red throat is known as the bird of hell.
Some folks say it begins to sing for someone who is about to die.

hototogisu hitsugi o tsukamu kumoma yori

this little cuckoo
comes through a break in the clouds
to snatch a coffin

With its song the bird seems to tell the world he got another soul to bring to 閻魔 Enma, the King of Hell.

. Yosa Buson 与謝蕪村 in Edo .

- quote -
The Enigmatic Japanese Cuckoo
..... The cuckoo (Cuculus poliocephalus) – or hototogisu has several meanings in Japanese folklore but its use in these prints appears to be transient or elusive – much like the bird itself. .....

- Hokusai, A Cuckoo and Rainbow

The cuckoo has long been popular as a subject in Japanese literature and Haiku, possibly to do with the word having five syllables; and in literature and myth it is associated with the longing of the spirits of the dead to return to their loved ones. Mourning, longing, melancholy; these are suggested maybe by its song and perhaps signals its persistent use in woodblock prints.

..... Kunisada, Soga Brothers (print)
The cuckoo here is pictured as a portent of tragedy (as is the rain) and of the echo of the dead and unquiet father.
..... Hiroshige, 100 Views of Edo (print)
Here the falling cuckoo is also used to imagine the oncoming storm and the melancholy of the windy night.
- source : toshidama.wordpress.com -


. Japanese Legends - 伝説 民話 昔話 – ABC-List .

- reference : Nichibun Yokai Database -
時鳥 04 / ホトトギス 15 / ほととぎす 07 / 杜鵑 06





Anonymous said...


which, oh which
is your mountain?

dore-dore ga nanji ga yama zo hototogisu


by Issa, 1813

Tr. David Lanoue

Anonymous said...


is the night this nice
in China?

konna yo wa kara ni mo aro ka hototogisu


by Issa, 1811

Issa doesn't literally say that the night is "nice," but I feel that this is implied by the phrase, "this kind of evening" (konna yo).
The hototogisu or "little cuckoo" sings day and night, unlike the common cuckoo (Japanese: kakoo).

Tr. David Lanoue

Anonymous said...

cuckoo --
cuckoo repeats
day dawned

ホトトギス ホトトギス とて 明にけり

hototogisu hototogisu tote ake ni keri

Chiyo-ni (1703 - 1775)

Anonymous said...

How amusing that nature would come up with a bird which lays its eggs in other birds' nests and even produces its eggs to look like the eggs of the bird who owns the nest! This of course fools the nest owner into breeding the egg as one of its own, and raising the young when it hatches.

a cuckoo's call
echoes in the woods
... which tree?


Gabi Greve said...

Which tree indeed ? and which cockoo ?

Thanks for visiting, Ella san!


Anonymous said...

Cuckoo in China

Messenger of Spring and Morality: Cuckoo Lore in Chinese Sources

Journal article by C.M. Lai; The Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 118, 1998

The common cuckoo (Cuculus canorus) has long intrigued poets and philosophers as a study in contradictions.(1) Myth and biological reality merge and diverge, forging cuckoo lore that is intriguing, mystifying, and powerful. The cuckoo is the harbinger of spring, its call beckoning the start of the ploughing season, its arrival heralding summer rains. Yet, conversely, in the Old Testament the "cuckow" is unclean, held in "abomination among fowls," alongside vultures and ravens.(2)

Topsell (ca. 17th c.) claimed that the "cuckoe" signified "a Coward and fearefull man." In French vernacular it signals deceit; the British say "faithless(ness)." Yet the cuckoo also projected phallic prowess, for an amorous Zeus ravished Hera by assuming the shape of the cuckoo. Along these lines, it is a Danish symbol for fertility and longevity.(3)

Chinese tradition encompasses many of the properties associated with such cuckoo lore. The cuckoo emerged as a natural symbol through hybrids of literary conceit and interpretation of biological truth. In this paper, discussion of cuckoo lore in Chinese sources will focus on two universal hybrids of conceit and fact, the cuckoo as harbinger of spring - in this, resembling the lore of other cultures - and as "brood parasite," the latter term referring to the behavior of relegating incubation and rearing of offspring to other "foster-parent" birds.

Interpretations of such behavior, by contrast, set Chinese cuckoo lore apart, and often reveal ideological biasses. In traditional Chinese sources the main characteristics of the cuckoo evolve from philological debate over nomenclature, in which textual, and not ornithological, classifications have been explicated and debated in confusing detail.

And since it is Confucian texts that figure prominently in these debates, the study of cuckoo lore offers insights into Confucian principles of classification, which take the cuckoo as a natural symbol.

The cuckoo is consistently designated by four appellations in Chinese sources, the shijiu, bugu, dujuan, and daisheng. As scientific classification was applied relatively late to the study of Chinese birds, accounts of these terms must be understood and classified as "literary species" of the cuckoo.


Gabi Greve said...

ほとゝぎす 消行方 ( きえゆくかた ) や嶋一ツ
hototogisu kieyuku kata ya shima hitotsu

Matsuo Basho

The small cuckoo -
where it disappears, a single island

(Tr. Shirane)

- - -

off where it disappears -
a single island
(Tr. Barnhill)

- - - - -

This hokku has the cut marker YA at the end of line 2.
Summer 1688

Gabi Greve - Basho archives said...

iwa tsutsuji somuru namida ya hototogishu

rock azaleas
colored by his tears -
this hototogisu

Matsuo Basho
Tr. Gabi Greve

Written in 寛文7年, Basho age 24.

The inside of the mouth of the cuckoo is so red that it looks like blood when the bird is singing.

Gabi Greve - Basho archives said...

Matsuo Basho

ta ya mugi ya naka ni mo natsu no hototogisu

rice fields and barley -
and among them also
summer's cockoo

Tr. Barnhill

Written in 1689 on the 7th day of the 4th lunar month.
元禄2年4月7日 Oku no Hosomichi
(雪まるげ)at Shirakawa

Gabi Greve - Issa said...

Kobayashi Issa

escaping into the night
from the emperor's palace

hototogisu oo-uchiyama o yonige shite

since we don't understand
your song is just noise

warera-gi wa tada yakamashii hototogisu

from a hokku sequence,
with comments by Chris Drake

Gabi Greve - WKD said...

byakushin no kamigaki asa no hototogisu

for a God's fence - in the morning
the hototogisu

Sakurai Haruko 櫻井春子

about kamigaki fences

Gabi Greve - Basho archives said...

Matsuo Basho

to no kuchi ni yadofuda nanore hototogisu

at the front entrance
hang out your visitor sign -

MORE about the yado fuda

Gabi Greve - Edopedia said...

Kobayashi Issa

imo chaya mo ureshii mono yo kankodori

even a cheap tea stall
can make me so happy -
mountain cuckoo

Tr. Gabi Greve

imochaya and tea stalls in Edo

Gabi Greve - Issa said...

Kobayashi Issa

imagoro ya oouchiyama no hototogisu

right about now
in the emperor's garden
a nightingale


you've won over
glorious Edo

hototogisu hana no o-edo o hito-nomi ni


a nightingale
escapes in the night
from the palace grounds

hototogisu oouchiyama o yo-nige shite

Read the comments by Chris Drake !

Gabi Greve - Issa said...

Kobayashi Issa

ko-biyori ya yoshino e hito o yobu ko tori / yobuko-dori

sky clear now,
an ancient bird calls us
to distant Yoshino

This hokku is from the third month (April) 1824, the year after Issa's wife Kiku and their last surviving child both died. Issa writes of a bird that was known only in ancient waka. Its name is actually the epithet of a bird whose name did not survive the ancient period, and it literally means "bird that calls its young," though in ancient waka it also calls to humans. In Issa's time the most popular theory was that the epithet referred to the cuckoo (kakkou), though some people thought it referred to the nightingale (hototogisu), the bush warbler (uguisu), or several other birds -- or even referred to the cries of monkeys. Others thought the word simply referred to a vigorously crying unknown bird that seemed to be calling to the listener. I think Issa is probably using the word in this last sense: he's not sure what bird it is, but he feels it's calling him and other humans and making an urgent request. In the second line hito can also mean "me," but I use the plural "us."

The fact that the bird is calling people to come view the famous cherry blossoms in Yoshino, which is too far away from Issa's hometown for anyone to visit without making a long journey, suggests that the bird is calling from a place distant in both space and time. It can be heard even in a place far from Yoshino -- and in an age when people can't even remember the bird's name or reference. As Issa knew, in the ancient age, when the bird was known and referred to directly, Mt. Yoshino was famed for its spiritual power as well as for its blossoms, so he may feel the bird is now asking him and others to return to the ancient age, at least in spirit, and learn from it. Perhaps the temporarily clear sky may suggest an opening in the flow of time through which the bird and its ancient call have traveled.

The half-humorous hokku that follows this one in Issa's diary is also somewhat otherworldly:

mysterious bird,
I'm useless -- why do you
call me?

yaku-nashi no ware o nani tote yobuko-dori

After the death of his wife and children, probably few people call out intimately to Issa, and the bird's strong, personal cry seems to perplex as well as attract him. He's getting old and is an unemployed widower with no family. Does the bird see something in him he himself can't see yet? Actually, at this time a go-between was negotiating a second marriage for him, and Issa remarried two months after writing this hokku, though the marriage, to the daughter of a samurai, was a bad match and quickly ended. Does the call of the ancient bird also remind him of his youth?

Chris Drake

Gabi Greve - Darumapedia said...

Kobayashi Issa

hototogisu kyoo ni shite miru tsukiyo kana

go see this moon
in the old capital
- - - - -

at night even weeds
are beautiful

hototogisu yoru wa mugura mo utsukushiki

Comment by Chris Drake

Gabi Greve said...

kakkoo ya yama no yu no yakushi san no shiroi shooji

this cuckoo -
a Yakushi hot spring in the mountains
with white sliding doors

Hagiwara Seisensui 荻原井泉水 (1884 - 1976)
pen name of Ogiwara Tōkichi

more about hot springs with Yakushi Nyorai

Gabi Greve said...

Yosa Buson

hototogisu e ni nake higashi shirojiroo

sing to the painting
the east is blanched white

Tr. Cheryl A. Crowley
at temple 大徳寺 Daitoku-Ji
The sky in the East is pale white (shirojiro 白じろ)
Shirojiroo is short for Kano Motonobu 元信, Genshin Shirojiro) 1476-1559


Gabi Greve said...

Kobayashi Issa

eta mura ya yama hototogisu hototogisu

outcaste village--
instead of a cuckoo
a mountain cuckoo

This haiku refers to the outcastes (eta). In Issa's time, they performed "unclean" jobs such as disposing of dead animals, working with leather, and executing criminals. They were the subject of racial prejudice, scorned by "pure" Japanese.
Shinji Ogawa notes that yama hototogisu ("mountain cuckoo") is a particular species of bird less valued than the hototogisu. Therefore, Issa is joking, "The cuckoo in the outcaste village is also inferior." In this archive I normally use "mountain cuckoo" to denote the kankodori. In this case, "mountain cuckoo" refers to a different species.

David Lanoue

Gabi Greve said...

Legend from Nagano about the hototogisu

Mount Senningatake 仙人ヶ嶽 - 637 m
The chi no ike 血の池 "blood pond" of Senningatake is about 150 m to the North of 閼伽流山 Mount Akarusan.
The pond got its name from a Hotogogisu, who sang at the pond and spit out blood so the water got all red.
If a priest performs rain rituals there, it will definitely rain soon. They even did it in the Showa period.
hototogisu ほととぎす
7 legends to explore !