Pheasant (kiji)

. Legends about the pheasant .

Pheasant (kiji)

***** Location: Japan, other areas
***** Season: All Spring
***** Category: Animal


The pheasant has been introduced to Japanese literature since olden times. He is mentioned in the Kojiki 古事記  and Nihon Shoki 日本書記  and also in the Manyoo'shuu 万葉集 Poetry Almanach.
It is the national bird of Japan.

He represents a good omen, prowess and daring, since he eats poisonous snakes too. He is also said to be very dilligent and able to predict an earthquake. He is one of the companions of the fortious hero Momotaroo, the Peach Boy, on the way to defeat the demons.

He is also well loved by the gourmets, since his meat is delicious. In my part of the mountains, hunters often go to the forest before dinner and then delight in a barbeque, noodle soup or other local pheasant specialities.

The most common in Japan is maybe the Ring-necked Pheasant (Chinese Pheasant), Phasianus colchicus. He can be found all year long, but in spring his voice is most often heared, so it is a kigo for haiku.

Gabi Greve

pheasant, kiji 雉
..... kigisu, kigishi 雉子
hollering of the pheasant, kiji no hororo 雉のほろろ

"mountain bird", yamadori 山鳥

copper pheasant - Syrmaticus soemmerringi
... bigger than the pheasant. It is known for its long tail
"yamadori no o" 山鳥の尾 in many waka poems.

Voices of an animal in HAIKU


There are about 50 species of Pheasants.
Practically all of them are native to Central Asia, Ukraine, and China. They have been introduced and widely established in various areas. Romans brought Pheasants into Europe. According to mythology Argonauts took them from the river Phasis in Colchis. Egyptian Pharaohs kept Pheasants; Alexander the Great brought them to Greece from Asia.

Some species first came into North America and then to Europe. At present Pheasants are found in a variety of habitats from the snowy Himalayas to the jungles of Indonesia.
Pheasant is the state bird of South Dakota.

Worldwide use


In Europe, pheasant hunting is only for the Royals. The pheasants are driven to the hunters. "Common Folks" walk the fields and flush the birds so that they fly over the "Royals" shooting stations.





North America

A kiji is a pheasant, the Asian ones come in a variety of colors and sizes, some with magnificent long tails, though no where near the peacock in size. When I was a zookeeper, Asian pheasants were also in my care. They were not particularly noisy at the zoo, but they did make noise.

There are no North American native pheasant species. The ring-necked pheasant which many regard as an 'American pheasant' was introduced from Asia in the 1800s.

M. Kei
Editor of the Chesapeake Bay Saijiki

Things found on the way

. Kiji-guruma きじ車 pheasant on wheels
Pheasant toys from Kyushu



yakeno no kigisu yoru no tsuru 焼け野の雉子 夜の鶴
pheasant in a burning field, crane in the evening

a mother's heart is always with her children.

Legend knows that a pheasant mother will run back and save her chicks if she discovers the fields around her nest are burning.


父母の しきりに戀し 雉子の声
(ちちははの しきりにこいし きじのこえ)
chichi haha no shikiri ni koishi kiji no koe

Father, mother dear!
I hear as I mourn for you –
hear the pheasant's cry!

The voice of the pheasant;
how I longed
for my dead parents!

Tr. Blyth

Written in 1688, Basho age 45
at Mount Koyasan 高野山. He had been to Iga Ueno to celebrate the important 33th death anniversary of his father.

This is a reference waka by Gyoki Bosatsu 行基菩薩

yamadori no horohoro to koe kikoeba
chichi zo omou haha ka to zo omou

to the cry of a pheasant
I wonder:
Could it be my father?
Could it be my mother?

source : Makoto Ueda

Oi no Kobumi 笈の小文
. Matsuo Basho 松尾芭蕉 - Archives of the WKD .

. Gyoki Bosatsu (Gyooki Bosatsu) 行基菩薩 .   

hebi kuu to kikeba osoroshi kiji no koe

when it eats a snake
the dreadful voice
of a pheasant

Written in 1690 元禄3年.

osoroshi 恐ろしい dreadful, terrible
. Matsuo Basho 松尾芭蕉 - Archives of the WKD .


oka no kiji sagi no mimochi o urayamu ka

hilltop pheasant
are you jealous of the heron's

akimeshi wa karasu toru to ya kiji no naku

"the raven took
all the fried rice!"
announces the pheasant

Issa has about 70 haiku about the pheasant.

Check out the Database of David Lanoue !

. Kobayashi Issa 小林一茶 in Edo .

More about the Pheasant in Japanese Literature.


- - - - - Yosa Buson - - - - -

yamadori no eda fumi-kayuru yonaga kana

A mountain bird
Shifting on a branch from foot to foot--
A long night.

Tr. Nelson/Saito

A mountain pheasant
moves his feet on the branch--
the long night!

Tr. Sawa/ Shiffert

yamadori no o o fumu haru no irihi kana

The setting spring sun
has been treading on the tail
of the copper pheasant.

Tr. Blyth

stepping on
a copper pheasant's tail -
spring sunset

Tr. Haldane

A mountain pheasant,
treading on its tail,
the springtime's setting sun.

Tr. Henderson

hageyama ya nani ni kakurete kiji no koe

these barren hills -
where is it hidden
the call of a pheasant

Tr. Gabi Greve

hi kururu ni kiji utsu haru no yamabe kana

At sunset
The sound of pheasant shooting
Near the spring mountainside.

Tr. Miura

kiji naku ya saka o kudari no tabi yadori

a pheasant calls -
I walk downhill
looking for a lodging

Tr. Gabi Greve

kiji uchite kaeru ieji no hi wa takashi
kiji utte kaeru ieji no hi wa takashi

With a shot pheasant,
going back home on the path,
the sun still high.

Tr. Sawa/ Shiffert

osoki hi ya kiji no ori-iru hashi no ue

Daylight longer!
a pheasant has fluttered down
onto the bridge.

Tr.Sawa/ Shiffert

. kameyama e kayou daiku ya kiji no koe .
Kameyama in Kyoto

boke no kage ni kao tagui sumu kigisu kana

A face shaped similar
to a flowering quince, the pheasant
that dwells here!!

Buson has made the astute observation that the face of a pheasant is similar to flowers that the quince blooms.
Masaoka Shiki mentioned this haiku as one of the better 'pictorial' haiku that Buson wrote. It is easy to understand the visual aspect of this haiku, but I think that it is important to consider that to write this 'picture' out, Buson used to a simile to do it. And the word 'sumu' (dwells) really is padding that adds nothing to the visual effect of the haiku. The use of the old character 㒵 (kao - face) does add to the visual effectiveness of the haiku because it physically inserts the face of pheasant and the quince flowers into the words.
This count 18. Since Buson could have used the shorter word 'kiji' for pheasant, instead of the older word 'kigisu', you have to wonder what linguistic considerations went into making this count one over.
- source : James Karkoski on facebook -

きじ啼や草の武藏の八平氏 - hachi heiji - The Hachi Clan

. Yosa Buson 与謝蕪村 in Edo .


the pheasant flies but
beauty's feathered sheen still shines
in the seer's eye

Kalamu ya Salaam

This example is a haiku which leans heavily on the use of the long "ssss" sound and on its complement, the long "ffff" sound, both of which contrast with the short and abrupt "but" and "eye." Notice, even though "but" and "eye" fall at end points, the rhyme is set up with the half rhyme of "flies" and "eye." If you recite it alould you will immediately hear the connections.
My experimentation has been to go beyond what the poem means and also dig deeply into how the poem sounds. Most haiku do not focus on the sounding element precisely because most haiku don't use a Black aesthetic.

Read this interesting article (L)


early morning -
a pheasant hollers
right above me

Gabi Greve, December 2008

Related words

***** Peacock, kujaku 孔雀 


. Legends about the pheasant .

. pheasant predicting an earthquake .


Pheasant as Food
WASHOKU ... Japanese Food SAIJIKI




Anonymous said...

the crying pheasant
teases it with his tail...
Sumida River

naku kiji ya shippo de naburu sumida-gawa


by Issa, 1810

Tr. David Lanoue

Anonymous said...

at a little shrine
dragging his tail...
evening pheasant

ko yashiro ya o o hikkakete yuu kigisu


by Issa, 1811

Tr. David Lanoue

Gabi Greve - WKD said...

Kobayashi Issa :

kiji naku ya zatoo ga hashi o hau toki ni

a pheasant cries out
as a blind man crawls
across the bridge

Tr. Chris Drake


Gabi Greve - Basho archives said...

Matsuo Basho

蛇食ふと 聞けばおそろし 雉子の声 -
hebi kuu to kikeba osoroshi
kiji no koe

Gabi Greve - Issa said...

Kobayashi Issa

ao yama o koshiraete naku kigisu kana

turning the mountain
green already, the cries
of a pheasant

This hokku is from the early 2nd month (the middle of March) in 1810, when Issa was traveling around in the area just east of the city of Edo. Many grasses are turning green, and a few deciduous trees, such as the willows, are already light green, but most are now in flower or preparing to put out their leaves.

"Green leaves" are generally a summer image, although "green mountains" isn't a season word. However, Issa speaks of the cries of the pheasant "creating" a green mountain, so he seems to mean the deep green of summer, when mountains are thickly covered with leaves, in contrast to the sparse, lighter green of March.

The mating cry of a male pheasant in spring is sharp, high, sudden, and piercing, and to Issa its burst of sound seems to synesthetically suggest the raw natural power of the gradually greening mountain itself.

The most common type of pheasant in Japan (and the unofficial national bird) is the green pheasant. The breast and most of the bird's neck is a dark green, and part of its back is lighter green, and when the male pheasant cries it flaps its wings furiously and throws out its green breast feathers, which seem to momentarily stand on end, expanding the bird's apparent size considerably. Then, as the green feathers retract to their normal position, they flutter like deep green leaves swaying in the wind.

Perhaps the fluttering green feathers contribute to the momentary synesthetic vision the crying pheasant gives to Issa of what the whole mountain is beginning to do.

Chris Drake

Gabi Greve said...

tenryo no sora kagayakasu kiji no kira

the glittering
of the pheasant brings a shine
to the "Land of Heaven "

Endoo Masako 遠藤正子 Endo Masako

about the
tenryoo, tenryō 天領 Tenryo Government Land "Land of Heaven"
bakuryoo 幕領 Bakuryo government land
bakufu chokkatsu chi 政府直轄地 / bakufu chokkatsu ryoo 幕府直轄領

Gabi Greve said...

Legend from Nagano
Hachimen Daioo 八面大王 Great King with Eight Faces
魏石鬼 八面大王 (ぎしき はちめんだいおう) Gishiki Hachimen Daio is a legendary figure in Nagano.
Gishiki no Iwaya 魏石鬼の岩屋(ぎしきのいわや) Cave of the Gishiki Demon

At the foot om mount Ariakeyama there lived the farmer 弥左衛門 Yazaemon with his son 弥助 Yasuke.
The son has been abducted by a Demon named Hachimen Daio 八面大王. Yasuke grew up to be a fine young man. One day he helped a yamadori 山鳥 pheasant.
Three days later Yasuke med a beautiful young woman and married her. But Hachimen Daio became quite jealous and wild again.
When 坂上田村麻呂 Sakanoue no Tamuramaro came tho the Kannon Hall to pray, He had a vision telling him to use the feathers of a pheasant tail to make an arrow.
When Yaskue heard this, he begun to worry. But his wife, the incarnation of the pheasant, offered her tail feathers and then disappeared.
With this arrow, the evil Hachiman Daio could be shot down and driven away.

Gabi Greve said...

Legend from Okayama
北房町 Hokubo // 真庭郡 Maniwa district
A hunter went out in the early morning when the kiji 雉 pheasants come out. While he was waiting in the mountain forest, there was a noise of "Tengu knocking down trees". He huddled down and fired his gun in great fear. There was a sudden silence. When it became light enough he went around seraching and found a kamo 鴨 duck shot dead. Now he knew that it was not the Tengu, but a flock of ducks that had made the noise.

Gabi Greve said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gabi Greve said...

Edo, Kanda Kijibashi 神田雉子橋 Kanda Kiji-Bashi Bridge
Kijichoo 神田雉子町 Kiji-Cho "pheasant district"

(a pun with the sound of kiji 木地 plain wood)
now in 千代田 Chiyoda, 神田司町二丁目 Kanda Tsukasamachi second sub-district

Gabi Greve said...

Legend from Tokushima
hikagiri ヒカギリ Hikagiri is a form of Yamanokami and 水神 Suijin the Water Deity. It is a small serpent with a ring around its neck.
If someone is bitten by this snake, he will die the same day.
Once a man observed this snake trying to swallow a kiji キジ pheasant, tore it out of its mouth and went home. But the serpent followed him all the way and at the entrance of his house he gave it back to the serpent.