Sanki Saitō

1900 –

Poet and short story writer Sanki Saitō was born Keichoku Saitō on May 15, 1900, in Tsuyama, Japan. In his late teens, he moved to Tokyo, where he enrolled at Aoyama Gakuin University. He soon dropped out, intending to study painting, but then enrolled at Nippon Dental College. In 1925, he graduated from dental school and moved to Singapore.

Three years later, in the midst of an economic downslide and a rise of anti-Japanese sentiment in Singapore, Saitō immigrated back to Japan, where he returned to practicing dentistry at a hospital in Kanda, Tokyo. Saitō began writing haiku, adopting the pen name “Sanki,” meaning “three demons.” He became known for his outspoken, frequently sardonic haiku.

Saitō became a contributor to Kyodai Haiku magazine and in the mid-1930s quit dentistry to focus more on his writing. In 1940, he published his first collection, Flags, but that same year Saitō was imprisoned during a government crackdown on artists thought to be perverting traditional forms or ways of thinking.

Forbidden to write, Saitō removed himself to Kobe, Japan, in 1942 and didn’t pick up writing again until the end of the war, after which he published three more poetry collections: Night Peaches (1948), Today (1952), and Transformations (1962). Accepting a position as chief editor of Haiku, Saitō moved back to Tokyo, where he lived until his death in 1962.