Ghost Of Tsushima Gets A Lot Wrong About Haiku

Early on in Ghost of Tsushima, protagonist Jin encounters an easily missed poet in the forest around Hiyoshi Springs who teaches him the art of haiku, one of Japan’s oldest and foremost poetic traditions. Heeding the poet’s advice, Jin rests at a nearby rock and tries his hand at composing a haiku, scanning the idyllic scenery for inspiration as he contemplates his quest and the natural beauty around him in a moment of quiet reflection.

It’s a picturesque scene that captures the solemnity and Zen-like nature of haiku in Ghost of Tsushima’s interpretation of 13th century Japan. The only problem is none of this would have actually happened.

While it’s true that samurai were expected to be versed in other arts beyond swordsmanship and often practiced poetry, haiku as they are presented in the game did not begin to emerge as a standalone poetic form until around the 1600s–roughly 400 years after Ghost of Tsushima takes place. Moreover, none of the characters in the game would have referred to their poems as “haiku,” as the word did not enter into common usage until the 19th century, when it was coined by noted writer Masaoka Shiki–widely regarded as the last of Japan’s “four great haiku masters.”

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