Tōson Shimazaki

Hatsukoi (First Love)

Tōson Shimazaki (1872-1943) is an important Japanese author and poet, writing at the time when Japan had begun opening up to the world. His collection of poems ‘Wakanashu’ (Collection of young herbs) was published in 1897 and is credited with setting a new, natural and realistic Japanese poetic style. It established Tōson as one of the key Romantic poets of modern Japan, influenced both by western Romantic poets like Wordsworth and Japanese classical tradition.

Hatsukoi (First Love), one of the poems in Wakanashu, tells a story of dreamy love and growing up, set amongst apple trees. In the Japanese language, the poem achieves elegance through perfect rhythm and sound repetition, making it a favourite in Japan.

The reading of Hatsukoi by Masayo Sasaki is an Apples & People commission. Masayo was assisted by the Tōson Memorial Museum in Nakatsugawa-shi, established in 1947 to honour Tōson’s legacy. It is accompanied by a musical setting for the poem composed for the inauguration of the Tōson Memorial Museum.


“Hatsukoi” by Tōson Shimazaki read by Masayo Sasaki. Piano accompaniment composed by Toraji Oonaka played by Dr Andrew Haslam.

Copyright © Tōson Shimazaki, Toraji Oonaka, Dr Andrew Haslam and Masayo Sasaki

Masayo Sasaki is a Japanese translator and online language tutor www.thehanahouse.co.uk who comes from a kimono seller family in Japan. She was brought up studying Japanese traditions and ceremonies, including from an early age being required to rote-learn important Japanese works of literature. Hatsukoi was one such work.