The haiku poet Matsuo Bashō 松尾 芭蕉 (1644-1694) lived in the Fukagawa area of Tokyo. Today you can still visit his favourite spot next to Sumidagawa, as well as various other places associated with him, including the departure point of his famous journey to the north.
|This used to be Bashō's favourite spot next to Sumidagawa. That's his statue.|
|Bashō's favourite spot (in that green curve on the right) seen from Sendaiborigawa|
Bashō's haiku can be read all along the river. This one is about walking around a pond in the moonlight. (His famous "ancient pond and frisky frog" haiku is there as well, but I like this one.)
名月や / meigetsu ya / (under the) beautiful moon
池をめぐりて / ike o megurite / around the pond
夜もすがら / yomosugara / I walk all night long
Here's the frisky frog haiku, written in 1686:
古池や / furu ike ya / an ancient pond
蛙飛びこむ / kawazu tobikomu / a frog jumps in
水の音 / mizu no oto / a splash of water
Perhaps that is why you can see so many frogs in Fukagawa: from paving stones to tiny porcelain statues at a small Inari shrine near Bashō's favourite spot.
|The Inari shrine near Bashō's favourite spot|
The photos below show Bashō in front of a replica of the Saito-an house, which belonged to his patron Sugiyama Sanpu. The statue is on the spot where Bashō set off on his famous journey to the north. His haiku written during his travels were included in a book called Oku no Hosomichi, which is usually translated as The Narrow Road to the North. The first entry in this book reads:
The moon and sun are eternal travelers. Even the years wander on. A lifetime adrift in a boat, or in old age leading a tired horse into the years, every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home. From the earliest times there have always been some who perished along the road. Still I have always been drawn by wind-blown clouds into dreams of a lifetime of wandering. Coming home from a year’s walking tour of the coast last autumn, I swept the cobwebs from my hut on the banks of the Sumida just in time for New Year, but by the time spring mists began to rise from the fields, I longed to cross the Shirakawa Barrier into the Northern Interior. Drawn by the wanderer-spirit Dōsojin, I couldn’t concentrate on things. Mending my cotton pants, sewing a new strap on my bamboo hat, I daydreamed. Rubbing moxa into my legs to strengthen them, I dreamed a bright moon rising over Matsushima. So I placed my house in another’s hands and moved to my patron Mr. Sanpu’s summer house in preparation for my journey.
This website provides nine different translations of the opening paragraph of Oku no Hosomichi. I selected the translation Narrow Road to the Interior and Other Writings by Sam Hamill, 1998.
|Bashō in front of the Saito-an house|
If you want to visit the Saito-an house, it's at Umibebashi 海辺橋 across Sendaiborigawa 仙台堀川 in Fukagawa 深川.
|Modern skyline seen from a replica of Bashō's hut|
National Geographic has a well-written, intelligible article about Bashō here.