Matsuo Bashō was the master of haiku. He wrote,
The old pond
The frog jumps in
The Japanese poet's attentive selection of kanji raised the value of the haiku. Bashō did this better than any other poet. Kanji are visual metaphors, sketching something that cannot be explained in words. They build sound and pictures. Like a movie.
It is no wonder that photographers in Japan often combine their photos with personal essays. Images and words.
Seasons, emotions, mountains, temples, the red leaf maple, are all depicted in kanji in brush strokes painted in black on a stark white canvas.
Bashō also wrote,
The toll of the bell ebbs,
The receding echo returns in the soft perfume of the cherry blossom.
This is an elegant haiku.
Warning: Explaining a haiku is a horrible thing to do. I apologize. To me the haiku is a small piece of life, of nature. To tear a haiku apart and then to further violate it and bore you with excessive words of explanation, is ironic at best and a sin at worse.
Line 1. Kane kiete. Kane かね (a large bronze temple bell), Kiete消 (fades out).
See that kanji, 消! The fire 火 radical (the 3-fingered symbol) on top, is the intensity of the fire of the loud gong of the bell. The water 水 radical on the left feels like a cold bucket of water dousing the booming bell. And the moon 月radical on the right-bottom is cold and calming down the loud gong. Note that the moon image is echoed in the last line - night 夕.
Line 2. hana no ka 花の香 the smell of the flower, tsuku 撞 く(strikes).
Though I expected that the fading sound of the bell would be a sign that my day had come to an end, I am surprised. My day is not ended. There is more! As the sound wanes, I am struck by delicate whiffs of cherry blossoms. A smell I had not noticed before. Perhaps I was too overcome by the intensity of the bell. I look up and I also notice...
Line 3. yū 夕 - night has come.