Ozaki Hosai has played in important role in the free verse haiku movement and was one of the first to see the movement develop. Ozaki was a Japanese poet who wrote emotionally charged verses that expressed feelings of loneliness, isolation and poverty. He was also an alcoholic and had extremely poor health during the last years of his life. His physical, emotional and psychological conditions inspired much of the poetry he produced.
Like many haiku poets of Japan, Ozaki began his career as a poet early on. He was greatly influenced by the work and teachings of Ogiwara Seisensui, who was one of the founders of the free verse haiku style. Ozaki was exposed to Ogiwara’s work early and was highly inspired while in high school. After high school, Ozaki attended the Tokyo Imperial University in Japan where he decided to propose to a close friend named Yoshie Sawa.
However, Yoshie’s brother did not approve of the marriage and did now allow his sister to marry Ozaki. Ozaki was emotionally hurt by the rejection and resorted to alcohol. Many find that the pain from rejection was responsible for the alcoholism that Ozaki experienced later on in life. After attempting to hold various jobs, Ozaki ultimately left Tokyo and decided to become a lay mendicant monk and reside in a temple near a Buddhist training center.
Leading a Buddhist lifestyle was difficult for Ozaki due to his poor health. On the other hand, isolation allowed Ozaki to become serious in his haiku poetry. He gained inspiration from his distressed life and poverty. The word of Ozaki is compelling and emotionally charged. Only one anthology exists with haiku poems from the last portion of Ozaki’s lonely life, before he died in 1926.