Monday, 24 June 2024

YuYu Interview - Shigeko Garcia

Born in Fukuoka, Japan, Shigeko Garcia came to the U.S. in 1959.

In 1973, she founded the "San Diego Haiku Association" later renaming it the "Four Seasons Haiku Class" in 1994, while additionally organizing a correspondence based haiku meet-up.

She is an esteemed Councilor of the Haiku Poets Society of America (1989) and became an Honorary Member – the only one in the U.S. – in 2018.

Additionally, she has served as a Selector of the Basho Festival Haiku Contest (2000-2020) and the Rafu Shimpo New Year Haiku (2008-present).

Recognized with the "Key to the City" by the Mayor of National City for her tireless efforts fostering Japan-U.S. cultural exchanges (1977=lower right photo).

Shigeko is an Omotesenke Tea Ceremony Sensei and President of "Shiki no Kai" (1998-present).

She has been awarded the Distinguished Service Prize by the Omotesenke Domonkai (2017) and has published four books of haiku.


Celebrating 50 Years of Four Seasons Haiku Class!

The "Four Seasons Haiku Class" was established in San Diego, California, 50 years ago from her passion to learn, enjoy, and spread the way of haiku, a short form of Japanese poetry, throughout the United States.

Sensei Shigeko Garcia is now 93 years old and still going strong. Her passion for haiku has not waned, and she continues to review and comment on the haiku submitted by members from all over the U.S. while also publishing a monthly newsletter.

Haiku Association of San Diego

The society was founded on January 16, 1973, as the "San Diego Haiku Society" with 80 original members gathering that first time at the San Diego Japanese Language Institute.

The following year, in 1974, the group became a branch of the Japanese Haiku Association Seijusha and changed its name to the "California Seiju Branch Haiku Association.

Finally, in January 1994, it became an independent association taking the name "Four Seasons Haiku Class" and remains so to this day.

Introduction of the Word Processor

Since the inception of the Four Seasons Haiku Class, Sensei Garcia had been a monthly 10-page haiku magazine, initially doing all the work by hand.

Later, when her brother in Tokyo sent her a word processor, she took a correspondence course to master its use, graduating with a perfect score in six months.

With this new tool, she was able to do even more and eventually the magazine grew to roughly 100 pages monthly, including essays, articles on mutual exchanges among members, and of course haiku.

Publication of the Bulletin

Around the time of the association’s 40th anniversary, a hospital visit left her not feeling well and resulted in regrettably having to cancel haiku classes for about two months.

Nonetheless, during this time she drew inspiration from many members' encouraging words, “We all support you, so please don't cancel the haiku class.

We wish you a speedy recovery and eagerly await the return of the haiku class.” 

She did return, but scaled back a bit, publishing haiku twice a year, in the winter and summer, while also publishing her works in a monthly letter-size newsletter for members and two Japanese-language media outlets since 2013.

Visiting all 50 U.S. States

As haiku members are scattered all across the U.S. holding regular haiku gatherings or organizing haiku recitals is nearly impossible, except for members living in the San Diego area.

Nevertheless and because of this, Sensei Garcia says, "The haiku we receive are very interesting because they reflect the unique perspective of each region, not only in terms of local events, customs, and climate, but also in terms of food, clothing, shelter, and everything else."

She take great pride that the haiku magazine and newsletter that she has worked tirelessly on have contributed so greatly to fostering countless heart-to-heart relationships and mutual exchanges among members.

She herself has spent 25 years visiting all 50 states and has experienced firsthand the industries and unique customs of each region.

These invaluable experiences are the foundation for her recognition and appreciation of the numerous works she continually receives from around the country.

Struggling with Computers

Sensie Garcia is now struggling with computers, which she began to learning while correcting and writing replies to haiku and status reports from members, etc. 

Unfortunately, her long time overuse of her fingers and hands has taken its toll, leaving her with persistent pain in her fingertips and wrists, owing to the long days of handwriting and keyboards.

Still her dedication to her life-long pursuit of promoting and teaching haiku in the U.S. since her classes founding has never wavered. 

In fact, it contnues to this day as she still regularly works through the night for days before each issue of the magazine.

The "Garcia Way" of Beliefs

One of Sensei Garcia's primary concerns now is a lack of new members joining these days.

As members are growing older and some are returning to Japan, membership has dwindled to barely 30.

In spite of this, she has continued to maintain ties to the Japanese haiku world and fostering exchanges at every opportunity.

In 2015 she invited Kenzo Nomura, the head of "Oki", among others, to a haiku gathering and tea party, which was well received.

To our Readers

"I am filled with a sense of relief that we have finally made it to our 50th anniversary.

I myself feel very proud that we have made it this far. With the haiku club and its members in mind, we have waived all fees for submitting and correcting poems, which is customary in Japan.

As a leader, I have always tried to be humble, to be kind to people, nature, and have a loving heart.

Going forward, I will definitely continue to do my best in the years to come, relaxing my shoulders a little as appropriate for someone my age, and taking into consideration my own physical condition," she says with a gentle smile.

For Family and Members

Based in San Diego, Shigeko Garcia has spent many years promoting and teaching haiku and tea ceremony throughout the United States.

All the while, she has also been a housewife, handling all household chores and raising three boys and a girl in spite of her extremely busy schedule.

Despite the many difficulties she has overcome, Sensie Garcia continually strives to be kind to her family and members.

Behind her kind and compassionate smile, is a solemn determination, pride and sense of fulfillment as she celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Four Seasons Haiku Class.

(Published in the October 1, 2022 issue)