In his introduction to this delightful paperback, Stephen Addiss, Tucker-Boatwright Professor of Humanities: Art at the University of Richmond, Virginia, notes that humor has long been a key element in traditional Japanese culture. It has taken many forms — parody, satire, absurdist humor, fantasy, sexual humor, puns, gender humor, wit, caricature, and visual humor.

This collection contains 120 haiku, a medium that has long been used to express literary playfulness. These brief poems convey the surprises of life, its impermanence, and the contradictions of human nature. Here you will find haikus by Basho, Issa, Buson, and others along with color reproductions of more than 50 woodblock prints, paintings, and drawings.

The poems are divided into chapters on human foibles, the human touch, and smiles with nature. Here are a few examples from the collection:

• One umbrella —
the person more in love
gets wet.

• Taking a nap
looks more refined
when holding a book.

• Trying not to disturb
the snow on my hat —
take it off and look.

• Scorned by
fleas and flies
another day ends.

• Tame ducks
stretch their necks
hoping to see the world.

• Turning into a Buddha
in the autumn dusk —
the badger.

• Very squarely
it sets its buttocks down —
the pumpkin.