- His real name is Masaoka Noboru. He was born into a lower-class samurai family with a comfortable lifestyle, up until his father died when he was six years old. From his own accounts, Shiki did not have a good relationship with him, and he seemed to have thought his father to be a drunken failure.
- Physically he was described to be weak and delicate, more attracted to beauty than to toys, and his disposition gave off a feminine impression. His sister, in contrast, was a tomboy, and when her brother was being bullied by classmates, she threw stones at them.
- Shiki's immediate family knew surprisingly little about him. His mother described him as small and overweight as a child; in other words, a weakling. He also had difficulty learning and pronouncing words compared to other children. According to her, he only acquired average looks around eighteen years old. His sister's recollection was along the same vine, giving the impression that they did not know anything about Shiki, not even his passion for baseball. In contrast, Shiki's disciples describe him as beautiful like a prince.
- He had once wanted to be a novelist and greatly admired Kouda Rohan's The Buddha of Art. In his aspirations to be a novelist, he wrote The Palace on the Moon, a work modeled on The Buddha of Art, and sent it to Rohan for critique, in the hopes that Rohan's praise and recommendation would launch his career as a novelist. Though they came from similar samurai backgrounds, Shiki swallowed his pride and deferred to him as a senior who had published major successful novels. Rohan did not criticize it, but did not praise it; and this was a crushing blow to Shiki, who later on decided he would be a poet rather than a novelist.
- His haiku treated the experiences of daily life; he would write about what he himself had seen or felt, regardless of whether or not it was conventionally beautiful. This differentiated him greatly from the typical Japanese poetry, which consisted of trite imagery like falling cherry blossoms and autumn leaves.