Dew (tsuyu)

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Dew, dewdrops (tsuyu)

***** Location: Japan, worldwide
***** Season: All Autumn and see below
***** Category: Heaven


dew, tsuyu 露

first dew, hatsu tsuyu 初露
evening dew, yuuzuyu  夕露
night dew, yozuyu 夜露
morning dew, asa tsuyu 朝露

white dew, shiratsuyu, hakuro 白露

beads of dew, tsuyu no tama 露の玉

heavy with dew, tsuyukeshi, tsuyukesa 露けし, 露けさ

cold dew, kanro 寒露. October 8

autumn with dew, tsuyu no aki 露の秋
home, lodging with dew, tsuyu no yado 露の宿

dew dripping from trees, under the dew, shitatsuyu 下露
dew above, on the leaves, uwatsuyu 上露

dew on chrysanthemums, kiku no tsuyu 菊の露


kigo for late autumn

. tsuyujimo 露霜 (つゆじも) frozen dew
"dew and frost"

tsuyu shigure 露しぐれ (つゆしぐれ) dew dripping as intense as sleet

ushiro kara zotto suru zo yo tsuyu-shigure
. WKD : Kobayashi Issa 小林一茶 in Edo .

tsuyuzamu 露寒 (つゆざむ) cold dew
dew in the cold
tsuyu samushi 露寒し(つゆさむし)dew feels cold
..... tsuyu sayuru 露冴ゆる(つゆさゆる)


This word has been used as a symobl of autumn in Japanese poetry since the Heian period.
It is found already in the Manyo-Shu 万葉集 poetry collection.

Since is refers to something that looses its being when the sun starts shining, it is a symbol for the fleeting life itself. In Buddhism, death is just a step to another way of being, and the time spent with the ancestors is so much longer than the time spent here on this earth. Dewdrops are the perfect metapher for the changes in the natural circle of all things, like the shells of cicadas (monuke, utsu-semi).

the world of dew, tsuyu no yo 露の世
the body of dew, tsuyu no mi 露の身
the life of dew, tsuyu no inochi 露の命

Dewdrops are also a symbols for tears in Asian art, in Japan also in connection with the long sleeves of a kimono, wet with dew (tears).
The sleeve is an important item, used by ladies to wipe their tears.

. tamoto たもと【袂】the sleeve of a kimono

Dew can be observed in all seasons, but is most often seen in autumn.
It is also a sign that the long humid Japanese summer is coming to an end.


The World in a Dewdrop. by M.C. Escher

Natural Mandala Patterns, Gabi Greve


kigo for late spring

haru no tsuyu 春の露 (はるのつゆ) dew in spring


kigo for all summer

natsu no tsuyu 夏の露 (なつのつゆ) dew in summer

. cool dew, tsuyu suzushi 露涼い  


kigo for all winter

tsuyu koru 露凝る (つゆこる) dew is freezing
..... tsuyu kooru 露こおる(つゆこおる)
..... tooro 凍露(とうろ)frozen dew

HEAVEN in all seasons

Worldwide use


Tau, Tautropfen



kigo for summer

Ulan Bator (Ulaanbaatar):
The dew point is often a better measure of how comfortable a person will find the weather than relative humidity because it more directly relates to whether perspiration will evaporate from the skin, thereby cooling the body. Lower dew points feel drier and higher dew points feel more humid.

Over the course of a year, the dew point typically varies from -37°C (dry) to 13°C (comfortable) and is rarely below -43°C (dry) or above 16°C (comfortable).

The time of the year between June 23 and August 23 is the most comfortable, with dew points that are neither too dry nor too muggy.
source : weatherspark.com

morning dew
reflects the glare of the sun
on the steppe ...

Burenbileg Batsuuri


More Mongolian poems with dew :
source : Beyond the Limits

Things found on the way

In the dew of little things,
the heart finds its morning
and is refreshed.

Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet


. Matsuo Basho 松尾芭蕉 haiku about dew .


morning dew -
the pearl necklace
of my grandmother

© Haiku and Photo by Gabi Greve, 2005


- - - - - Kobayashi Issa - - - - -

tsuyukesa ya ishi no shita yori kusa no hana

from beneath a stone

.. .. ..

tsuyukeshi ya kusa ippon mo aki no tei

even one blade of grass
is autumn

Issa, Tr. by David Lanoue

Discussion on the use of HUMIDITY
Translating Haiku Forum

heavy dew
one blade of grass shows
signs of autumn

"chibi" (pen-name for Dennis M. Holmes)

Discussion on TSUYUKESHI, by Nakamura Sakuo

... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ...

tsuyu no yo no tsuyu o naku nari natsu no semi

in a dewdrop world
singing at dewdrops...
summer cicada


Sakuo Nakamura notes the religious feeling in this haiku. 'Dewdrop world' suggests fragile life: how all living beings die so quickly. The phrase, "singing at dewdrops," means "singing for a very short time." He adds, "The dewdrop will soon disappear when the sun rises, and yet the summer cicada is alive and singing with pleasure, like a human being. He is not aware of his short life."
Tr. David Lanoue

... ... ... ...

shira tsuyu to shiranu kodomo ga hotoke kana

the child unaware
of the white dewdrops
a Buddha

Tr. David Lanoue

shiranu ga hotoke, a Japanese proverb meaning: not knowing is bliss

... ... ... ...

tsuyo-no-yo wa tsuyu-no-yo nagara sari nagara

Diese Tautropfen-Welt
Mag ein Tautropfen sein,
Und doch...

Kobayashi Issa
Haiku Plus, Germany

tsuyu no yo wa tsuyu no yo nagara sari nagara

this world
is a dewdrop world
yes... but...

One of Issa's most famous poems, this haiku was written to mourn the death of his daughter Sato. It is a reworking of an earlier poem of grief, one written on the one-year anniversary of the death of Issa's first child, Sentarô: "it's a dewdrop world/ surely it is/ and yet..." According to Buddhist teaching, life is as fleeting as a dewdrop and so one should not grow attached to the things of this world. However, in both poems Issa adds the phrase, "and yet..." His human heart clings to his lost children.

John Brandi provides a succinct summary: "[Issa] says I know the world of dew is just the world of dew, yet I feel pain, I am alive"; qtd. in Nanao Sakaki, Inch by Inch: 45 Haiku by Issa (Albuquerque: La Alameda Press, 1999) 72.

... ... ... ...

tsuyu no yo wa tokushin nagara sari nagara

it's a dewdrop world
surely it is...
yes... but...

Tr. David Lanoue


World like a dewdrop
though it's only a dewdrop
even so, even so.

Tr. Jane Reichhold


While this dewdrop world
Is but a dewdrop world,
Yet--all the same!

Tr. John Paris


those old Chinese poets understood
their world of dew.

and yet,
and yet...

Comment by : Eric Hevesy


tsuyu no tama hitotsu hitotsu ni kokyoo ari

in beads of dew
one by one my home

Tr. David Lanoue

Are the dewdrops in the poem a metaphor because he links them to a sense of home?
Or are they something else?
What would that something else be?
... Translating Haiku Forum


hanbun wa ase no tama ka yo ine no tsuyu

hey, look, half
must be drops of sweat --
dew on the rice stalks

Tr. Chris Drake

This summer hokku is from the middle of the 6th month (late July) of 1822. Rice planting in Issa's area was usually done at the end of the 4th month (May) or beginning of the 5th month (June), about six or seven weeks before this hokku was written, and now the rice plants are just beginning to show signs of putting out heads of rice at the top of their lengthening stalks. At this point, the main jobs are weeding and thinning as well as draining the wet paddies and reflooding them, and there is much work to be done before the harvest in early October. It's the hottest time of the year now, and the farmers in the paddies are sweating profusely, so Issa seems to be quite worried about their health. As the son of a farmer, he must know how hard the work is, even though as an adult he rarely worked in the paddies. And his own father collapsed in a field and died not long afterward.

This seems to be a rather existential hokku for Issa, since the tone is direct, colloquial, rough, and emotional. It is more than a question: it expresses a serious suspicion bordering on strong, passionate conviction. It is even possible to interpret Issa's ka yo here as indicating a rhetorical question, as in:

you think only half
are drops of sweat?
dew on the rice stalks

just look -- could only
half of it be sweat?
dew on the rice stalks

In this strong reading, someone would have been talking about the heat and saying that half the dew on the rice stalks must be sweat, and Issa disagrees, using irony to ask, how could all that sweat be only half the dew drops I see? (It must be more than half....) I mention this possibility since someone might want to do a colloquial translation that would explore this reading.

Chris Drake

. Kobayashi Issa 小林一茶 in Edo .

ine no tsuyu 稲の露 strong alcoholic drink from Okinawa


金剛の 露ひとつぶや 石の上
kongoo* no tsuyu hitotsubu ya ishi no-ue

Kawabata Bosha 茅舎

Like a diamond
a drop of dew, all alone
on a stone.

tr. Ueda Makoto

just one drop of dew
situated on a rock --

tr. Nakamura Yutaka

*kongoo: a mythical metal so hard nothing can cut or break it. In Buddhist terminology, 'kongou' is often used to mean something that is extremely hard and valuable.
kongoo-seki: diamond (seki: stone) 金剛石

This gem pays tribute to a haiku ideal: images before ideas.
Classic Haiku, Yuzuru Miura

A drop of dew
Sits on a rock
Like a diamond.

trans. Yuzuru Miura; Classic Haiku: A Master's Selection

Comment and translation by Donald Keene:
Dawn to the West
Bosha wrote an exceptional number of poems about the dew. His first collection, 'Kawabata Bosha Kushuu' (1934), opened with twenty-six haiku on the dew. No doubt he associated his own life in the traditional manner, with the ephemeral dew, but he insisted paradoxically on its strength, as if to proclaim his intensity of purpose, despite his frailty [he died from tuberculosis of the spine]

A single dewdrop
A diamond of hardness
Lies on the stone.

Obviously, this was not the standard way to refer to the dew, but Bosha sensed a strength and absoluteness even in the quickly vanishing dew; indeed, a dew of diamond hardness was the symbol of his entire work.
People at the time sometimes spoke of Bosha's "Pure Land," a realm of lasting dewlike beauty.

Discussion by
. . . . . Larry Bole, Translating Haiku Forum


. Kawabata Bosha  川端茅舎
(1897-1941), some sources quote [1900 -1941]


Other Boosha dew haiku:

tsuyu no tama hashirite nokosu kotsubu kana

Beads of dew run about,
One tiny drop
Remains behind.

tr. Blyth

Tsuyu no tama ari taji-taji to nari ni keri

A ball of dew;
The ant
was aghast at it.

tr. Blyth

... ...

A dew haiku by Shiki, which Blyth says is almost a senryu:

isshoo no tsuyu o tatauru saniwa kana

A small garden
Brimming with dew,--
Half a gallon of it.

tr. Blyth

Two versions of a dew haiku by Issa:


hasu no ha ni kono yo no tsuyu wa magarikeri

On the lotus leaf,
The dew of this world
Is distorted.


hasu no ha ni kono yo no tsuyu wa ibitsu nari

on lotus leaves
this world's dewdrops
are warped

And finally one by me,
first posted on Museki Abe's photo-haiku website:

this body of mine
on its way to the next world...
dew on a petal

Larry Bole


autumn morning
the grasshopper taps
a frozen dewdrop

Kilmeny Niland, Australia, 2007

Origa writes:
A sensitive and direct observation of a simple yet high moment in life. Two skillfully juxtaposed images, a chilly autumn morning when the nature seems almost dead (as it stressed by showing a frozen dewdrop), and a lively tiny creature, a grasshopper, doing its usual tapping on the leaves, but this morning, already on the first frost...

It evokes a painful feeling of frailness of life, and a lump in the throught... Life and death, fleeting moment and permanence, the Mother Nature's embracement of all living things and yet the impassivity for them, the profound symbolism in that grasshopper's tapping on a frozen dewdrop, and much more -- are shown in this poem in only fourteen syllables.

The way it is expressed, shows admirable skill and restraint. Each word is carefully selected for its full effect, and I particularly praise the choice of "taps". This is a most sensitive and subtle haiku with exemplary expression, a masterpiece of haiku.It deeply corresponds with the theme of the contest, and the dedication. Brava, Kilmeny!

RESULTS of the Sixth Calico Cat haiku contest.
Origa (Olga Hooper)

More Haiga by Kilmeny Niland

Related words

Do not confuse dew (tsuyu) with a word of the same sound, but not related to it at all

***** World Kigo Database : Rainy Season (tsuyu 梅雨)

***** World Kigo Database: Rain in various kigo

***** White Dew (shiratsuyu) and Haiku

HEAVEN in all seasons



Unknown said...

Issa like dewdrop.
There are many haiku related on the dewdrop.
Thank you for your precous information.


Gabi Greve said...

morning sunshine--
stranded dew drops
returning home

Raju Samal, Mumbai, India

Gabi Greve said...

on the grass
breaking dew-pearls one by one--
early sparrows

Sunil Uniyal, India

Gabi Greve said...

after such a long night
with statistics
I count dew drops on leaves

Heike Gewi,Yemen

Gabi Greve said...

sloppy, yes
but the dewdrops are pearls!

ibitsu demo tsuyu no shiro tama shiro tama zo


by Issa, 1815

Tr. David Lanoue


Gabi Greve said...

my face
in the morning dew
my face
Gabi Greve, May 2009

facebook said...

Mariko Shimizu on facebook

Issa's Haibun --- a dewdrop world

tsuyu no yo wa tsuyu no yo nagara sari nagara

this world
is a dewdrop world
yes... but...

It is always the rule of this fleeting world that when one reaches at the zenith of happiness, one will be overcome with melancholy and sadness.

read more

Gabi Greve - Basho archives said...

Matsuo Basho and mushrooms

hatsutake ya mada hikazu henu aki no tsuyu

the first mushrooms !
only a few days have passed
with dew in autumn

MORE about mushrooms

Gabi Greve - Issa said...

Kobayashi Issa

natsuyama ya me ni moromoro no kusa no tsuyu

summer mountain --
in my eyes endless dewdrops
on all kinds of plants

comment by Chris Drake

Gabi Greve said...

Kobayashi Issa

isshoo de ikura ga mono zo tsuyu no tama

how much
for half a gallon
of dewdrops?

This autumn hokku is from the 8th month (September) of 1817, when Issa was traveling around near his hometown. Issa is of course asking a rhetorical question. One answer, though, might be everything and nothing. Ordinary dew is not a commodity with monetary value. On the other hand, Issa is referring to three meanings of tama, the "drop" in "dewdrop": 1) a sphere, drop, bead, or ball, 2) a jewel or gem, or 3) a soul, spirit, or life-force.

Dew is a very common metaphor for the shortness of life in Japanese literature, and dewdrops are often used to suggest souls. In fact, Issa may be alluding in this hokku to the famous chapter 6 in Ise Tales (Ise monogatari), in which a woman asks what a drop (tama) of dew is while not knowing that she will soon die and that her own soul (tama) will then leave her body.

Since round, glistening dewdrops suggest the soul, and souls have infinite worth, half a gallon of them mocks the very notion of monetary value. Any attempt to measure the infinite roundness of the soul in a square one-shou wooden box, the way one shou was usually measured, would be comic in its inherent impossibility.

Chris Drake

Gabi Greve - Basho archives said...

Matsuo Basho -

sasa no tsuyu hakama ni kakeshi shigeri kana

about the hakama trousers

Gabi Greve - Basho archives said...

Matsuo Basho

takauna ya / shizuku mo yoyo no / sasa no tsuyu

Gabi Greve - Issa said...

Kobayashi Issa

tsuyu mi tsubu ueno no semi no nakidashinu

More about UENO in Edo.