Seems that most were written by monks, priests, noblemen, and other well educated members of Japan's history. They reflect on what it means to live and die, and their philosophy on both.
Some are beautiful and reflective, such as Koraku's
The joy of dewdropsOthers display a wonderful humor about the inevitable, such as Morikawa Kyoriku's (1656 - 1715)
In the grass as they
Turn back to vapor.
Till now I thoughtMy favorite so far is from Moriya Sen'an:
that death befell
the untalented alone.
If those with talent, too,
surely they make
a better manure?
Bury me when I die
beneath a wine barrel
in a tavern.
the cask will leak.
To read these and others go to the
Google Book search for Japanese Death Poems: Written by Zen Monks and Haiku Poets on the Verge of Death
By Yoel Hoffmann
Or better yet, support the guy and buy the book like I did!
Here's an easy link to Hoffmann's book on Amazon - ya cheap schmuck!