Matsuo Basho


Matsuo Basho 松尾芭蕉
(1644 - 1694)
寛永21年(1644年) - 元禄7年10月12日(1694年11月28日)
posthumous Shinto name, given by the court

hion myoojin 飛音明神 "Jumping Sound God"
Deity of Jumping Sound

. Matsuo Basho - Archives of the WKD .

". . . the balances Basho sought in his world were not 'balance as antithesis' (allowing yin to stand beside yang)."

". . . in yoking opposites (yin and yang) a transformation occurs; a new something is always coming into being."

"Change as the fundamental law of existence is thus established as the basic conceptual frame within Basho's literary world. Carefully constructed comparative and contrastive correspondences are always at work within a structure that lures the reader into deeper and deeper levels of experience."
Mori Atsushi quoted from the book below.

shizukasa ya iwa ni shimiiru semi no koe

sinking into the rocks
cicada's songs

Tr. Eleanor Kirkham
Excerpted from Matsuo Basho's Poetic Spaces

shizukasa ya iwa ni shimiiru semi no koe
Basho in memoriam his haiku teacher Sengin 蝉吟
. Basho at Ryushaku-ji - 立石寺 .

The Voice of Cicadas in haiku

Judgement, Duality (yin and yang) and haiku

. Learn from the Pine ! .
Basho teaching "shasei" 写生 to his disciples.

Complete Basho Haiku in Japanese
source : en.wikisource.org


The Narrow Road to the North
Oku no Hosomichi 奥の細道

with Ohba Mitsuro

On the thirtieth day of June, 318 years ago, the divine poet Matsuo Basho and his disciple Sora walked the Nakayama Pass section of the Dewa-Sendai Highway from Miyagi Prefecture, to Yamagata Prefecture. Re-trace Basho' s steps while seeking to awaken the poet's sensibility that resides in each of our hearts.

Walking silently, listening to the sounds of the insects and the rustling of the forest canopy, we will soak up Nature 's inspirations, and gathering at the Border Guard 's House, we will share the fruits of these inspirations with each other. Participants will be invited to express themselves by singing, dancing, telling a story, or, if you like, reciting a haiku poem or just observing a moment of silence.

Ohba Mitsuro

Comment by Larry Bole

I was struck by Oba's comment, "Civilization has made it difficult for us to bond with nature or to experience the passing of time and the presence of ourselves in the environment."

I have a book I haven't read in years, entitled, "On the Narrow Road: Journey into Lost Japan," by Lesley Downer (New York, Summit Books, 1989), in which the author, starting by train from Tokyo, but then mostly walking and hitchiking, follows in Basho's footsteps on his famous journey.

When Ms. Downer gets to Obanazawa (Pampas Marshes), she meets with some people at the house of Seifu, where Basho stayed when he passed through. She reports that the house has a sign no it, "Basho-Seifu 'Shiryokan' (museum)."

Ms.Downer writes:

"...a girl ... brought out squares of white card, a pile of them, and they asked me to write something--about why I had come to Obanazawa, Basho, anything. I sat and looked at the white card and thought. 'O-ba-na-za-wa'--five syllables. Perhaps I could try a haiku. The rain
was pounding on the roof and the wind rattled the windows in their wooden frames.

Obanazawa wa Basho no Nihon deska natsu no ame

Is this Basho's Japan?
Summer rains

Not bad for a first attempt, I thought. Dipping the brush in the ink, I shaped each character slowly and carefully, trying to make my calligraphy as good as possible.

Nagatsu studied the card sternly, holding it at arm's length. 'The first line is too long,' he pronounced. 'Wa'--you don't need 'wa'. The second line is too long too. 'Ba-sho-o-no-ni-ho-n-des-ka'-- he counted them off on his fingers--'nine syllables.'

He adopted the pose of Rodin's 'Thinker', frowning. 'Obanazawa / Basho no sekai / natsu no ame'--'Obanazawa / Basho's world / summer rains'--that's better.'

I took a clean white card and wrote it out laboriously. 'No good,' said Nagatsu, looking at my pinched little hieroglyphs. 'The characters have to fill the page.'

Finally--after several more attempts--he was satisfied. As I was painting on my signature suddenly he cried out, 'Ah!' flinging up an arm. 'Natsu no ame / Basho no sekai / Obanazawa'--'Summer rains / Basho's world / Obanazawa'--best of all!' "

Nagatsu then adds a wakiku:

Nihon no fuudo tomo ni tazunen

The beauty of Japan--
Let's look for it together


On a bright, clear day in May,
Master Butchō went to visit the hermitage of the poet Matsuo Bashō. Bashō had told Master Butchō that he wanted to meet with him and have sanzen (a private interview). Upon seeing each other, the two smiled broadly.

Butchō asked, “So, what have you realized?”
Bashō answered, “The rain has ended and the mountains are greener than ever. The moss is so bright, even greener than before!”
Butchō could not accept just that.
He asked, “What is the Buddhadharma prior to that bright green moss?”
He was asking about that pure transparent source of awareness prior to any division into good or bad, prior to any duality, prior to even a single mind moment.

People often misunderstand the “empty” state of mind of zazen as nihilism. Butchō was making certain Bashō had not made that error.
An answer came flying back:
“Jumping into the river, the sound of water.”

At that moment, something had broken the stillness by jumping into the water. Most likely it was a frog, and this “plop” filled the ears prior to any division. Bashō expressed clearly that place without any preconceived notions, found in the very moment’s immediate encounter. He expressed pure awareness. Butchō verified that Bashō had realized the Truth.
From this came, it is said, the famous poem:
Into the old pond the frog jumps—

Bashō is one of the four great haiku poets from Japan, and most regard him as the greatest. His art of haiku consisted of much more than composing verse. He was a very deep spiritual man who used his poetry as a tool for expressing his insights found in the world around him. Composing haiku is not about seeing how many clever poems one can write, but about expressing one's insights gained through years of introspective study.
If one can live a long life full of introspective study, perhaps one great haiku will result.

Shared by Steve Weiss
Joys of Japan, February 2012


Basho and His Translators
by John Carley

Poems are more complex than instruction manuals: there are few facts; their content is a matter of interpretation. Even if we accept without question the less-than-certain premise that the poet always knows his own mind - that there is a single correct meaning which reflects the poet's concerted purpose - we can agree that the reader will always bring their own experience into play when responding to a poem. This is a commonplace, and all well and good - the more so in the case of haiku which seek from the outset to suggest and evoke rather than describe and delimit. ...

John Carley
lives in Lancashire, England, is a former renku editor for Simply Haiku and the creator of the Renku Ready Reckoner website.
source : poetrysociety.org.nz


Onmitsu : Oku no Hosomichi 隠密・奥の細道
1988年10月14日 - 1989年3月31日
TV Drama

Was Basho a Ninja? or was his companion Sora?
A TV series was quite effective in spreading this image.

Watch the beginning here:
source : www.youtube.com

. Sora, Kawai Sora 河合曾良 .


Details of his life
Basho Memorial Day (Basho-Ki) , a kigo
Winter Drizzle Anniversary (shigure ki 時雨忌, shigure-e 時雨会)
Old Master's Day (Okina no hi 翁の日)
Green Peach Day (Toosei ki 桃青忌) 
'Green Peach' was Basho's pen name before he choose the Banana plant, Basho.

Kai-ooi, Kai-Oi, Kaioi 貝おほひ The Seashell Game Ueno, Iga 1672

Oku no Hosomichi ... some background information
Gabi Greve, 2007

Basho in Narumi (Old Tokaido) Temple Seiganji 鳴海 「誓願寺」


aki no yo o uchikuzushitaru hanashi kana

this autumn night
brought to naught
by our storytelling

Basho at the home of Shioe Shayo in Osaka
In the year 1694 (Genroku 7, on the 21st day of the ninth lunar month), shortly before his death.
He passed away on the 12th day of the tenth lunar month in 1694.
Basho Memorial Day / 芭蕉忌 Basho-ki


. 吸物はまづ出来されし水前寺 
suimono wa mazu dekasareshi suizenji

the soup
was served first -

On his trip to Higo Kumamoto, where he was eager to savor the nori, which were already famous in his days.


... More Haiku by Matsuo Basho
Translating Haiku Forum

Sound of Water (mizu no oto)
and how to translate it ...

Matsuo Basho as a Daruma Doll

© 365日 だるまといっしょ♪


mono hitotsu waga yo wa karoki hisago kana


 © 芭蕉秀句

just one possession,
my world light
as a gourd

Tr. Barnhill

Discussing this translation
Translating Haiku Forum, December 2008

karoki, karui ... light, easygoing

. mono hitotsu
hisago wa karuki
waga yo kana .


月はるる角力に袴 踏みぬぎて
tsuki haruru sumoo ni hakama fuminugite

the moon becomes visible -
I hake off my hakama
for a sumo mach

Matsuo Basho
Tr. Gabi Greve

Maybe Basho compares the moon coming out of the clouds with a wrestler. During the times without electricity, the moon was a welcome source of light on dark nights.

Hakama trouser-skirts and haiku


matsusugi o homete ya kaze no kaoru oto

the sound of the fragrant breeze
praises them -
famous pines and cedars

Matsuo Basho at Temple Jojakkoji, Ogura, Kyoto
Joojakkooji 常寂光寺 京都市右京区嵯峨小倉山

Written in the year of his death. The famous "Mountain abode at Ogura" 小倉の山院 is in rememberance of Fujiwara no Sadaie 藤原定家. There is the famous pine planted by Sadaie, Shigure no Matsu 時雨の松 . But later people come to enjoy the red autum leaves.
more about Ogura see below

Shigure no Matsu 時雨の松
Famous tree, famous wagashi sweet

This is made in Yamagata Prefecture, Yonezawa, from local soybeans aobatamame 青畑豆, kinako powder and sugar.

Waka by Sadaie

tanomu kana sono na mo shiranu miyamagi ni
shiru hito etaru matsu to sugi to o

Temple 常寂光寺 / Photos

There is a later "Pine in winter drizzel"
at the temple Uhoin at Nishijin, Shotengu in Kyoto.
The imperial prince Kuninomiya Tomohiko 久邇宮朝彦 (1824 - 1891) took shelter here from the rain during his visit of the temple. This is an Akamatsu tree, now about 8 meters high.

. . . . .

春風が 峰を越えてや 小倉山

The spring breeze –
it comes from over your shoulder,
Mount Ogura

Nakamura Zen'ichiro
source : www.japanvisitor.com

. Ogura Hyakunin Isshu Poems 小倉百人一首 .

. Shigure-An 時雨庵 .
In Honor of Matsuo Basho
Temple Honryu-Ji, Tarui town, Gifu

. . . . .

shiragiku ya me ni tatete miru chiri mo nashi

white chrysanthemum
without a speck of dust
the eyes can catch

Tr. Ueda Makoto

Honkadori of a poem by priest Saigyo Hoshi
. Basho and Saigyo .

He composed this hokku for his host, the beautiful
. Shiba Sonome 斯波園女 .


10 Haiku on the road
. Traveling along the Nakasendo Road  中山道 .

(Basho's) account of the journey along the Kiso Road is so cursory that we are hardly given a place-name to help us identify Basho's course, but this may be because he traveled very quickly, in order to reach Obasuteyama before the night of the full moon.

The Blue-eyed Tarōkaja: A Donald Keene Anthology
source : books.google.co.jp


Mount Ogura

Briton aims to restore poets' peak to former glory
Working with locals, Stephen Gill pens poems, haiku in praise of Kyoto's famed Mount Ogura
... Mount Ogura is a "paramount poet's peak" in Gill's words. Matsuo Basho, Kyorai and Saigyo are among the famous poets in the past who wrote of the turtleback mountain's beauty. The Japanese card game karuta is based on the "Ogura Hyakunin Isshu" ("One hundred Poets' Poetry Anthology") compiled by 12th century poet Fujiwara no Teika when he lived near the base of Mount Ogura.
Nineteen university students and civic-minded Kyoto residents squat on a mountain pass on a cloudless afternoon in early October as a tall British poet, Stephen Gill, 58, reads from a collection of haiku.
One day, back in August 2003, Gill spent 16 hours walking the paths of Mount Ogura. In the course of the day he wrote 100 poems, which he published in a book, "One Poet on Mount Ogura, 100 Verses in a Day." His poems are unsparing:

Heat of the day — A pine-clad cliff
Down which a washing machine
Has tumbled.
source : Japan Times, October 2011

. Ogura toosuto おぐらトーストOgura-Toast .


春雨や 蓬をのばす 艸の道
harusame ya yomogi o noabasu kusa no michi

spring rains
let artemisia grow,
my clumsy way

Shared by Hideo Suzuki
Joys of Japan, February 2012

kusa no michi 草の道 / 艸の道

spring rain -
the mugwort grows
along a road with weeds

Tr. Gabi Greve



***** Introducing Japanese Haiku Poets


. Matsuo Basho - Archives of the WKD .



Gabi Greve, Cormorants said...

omoshiroote yagate kanashiki ubune kana

so fascinating,
but then so sad:
cormorant fishing boat
Tr. David Landis Barnhill

so exciting
and, after a while, so sad -
cormorant fishing
Tr. Makoto Ueda

Reading Basho - said...

“Bashō” by R. H. Blyth
in: Haiku, Hokuseido, 1951, pp. 328-36.

in: A History of Haiku, Volume 1: From the Beginnings up to Issa, The Hokuseido Press, 1963, pp. 105-29.


Gabi Greve said...

On Love and Barley:
Haiku of Basho

Translated by Lucien Stryk

Penguin Book

Basho, one of the greatest of Japanese poets and the master of haiku, was also a Buddhist monk and a life-long traveller. His poems combine 'karumi', or lightness of touch, with the Zen ideal of oneness with creation. Each poem evokes the natural world - the cherry blossom, the leaping frog, the summer moon or the winter snow - suggesting the smallness of human life in comparison to the vastness and drama of nature. Basho himself enjoyed solitude and a life free from possessions, and his haiku are the work of an observant eye and a meditative mind, uncluttered by materialism and alive to the beauty of the world around him.

Gabi Greve / konagi said...

namagusashi konagi ga ue no hae no wata
waterweeds (konagi)

Gabi Greve - Basho said...


kiku no hana
saku ya ishiya no
ishi no ai

chrysanthemum flowers
are blossoming - amongst the stones
of a stonemason's

Matsuo Basho

More about this haiku :

Gabi Greve said...

sarabachi mo honoka no yami no yoi suzumi / sara hachi

dishes and bowls
shimmer so faintly
in the cool darkness

Matsuo Basho 松尾芭蕉, 1694 summer 元禄7年夏

Pots and plates

Gabi Greve said...

Ebisu-koo su-uri ni hakama kisenikeri

Ebisu Festival:
vinegar salesman decked out
in formal wear

Matsuo Basho
trans. David Barnhill