a small space
between wit and wonder
left vacant

Monday, June 16, 2014


(Page 3 of 3)
Dr. Gabi Greve's
Basho Translations (Part 3)
from the
 Matsuo Basho Archives –– World Kigo Database

A study resource compiled by Elaine Andre, 2014

Selected translations from the 1031 verses by Matsuo Basho (1644 – 1694)

for study purposes only – use by permission –

See also: http://matsuobasho-wkd.blogspot.jp

sasa no tsuyu hakama ni kakeshi shigeri kana

dew of the arrow bamboo

hangs on to his hakama trousers
walking in the thicket . . . 

- or more literally

the thicket
leaves on his hakama trousers
dew from the arrow bamboo . . .

Written in the summer of 1693.
At the home of Miyazaki Sensen. Sensen had been the representative of the Shogun to visit Nikko in that year.

On his hakama there was certainly some dew from the bamboo of Nikko. This ku shows Basho's appreciation of his haikai friend Sensen.

sato furite kaki no ki motanu ie mo nashi

this old village -

no house without

persimmon trees

Dried kaki fruit was sometimes the only food the poor farmers in the Edo period could eat in winter, since they had to give away all their rice to the authorities for tax purposes. Therefore the kaki trees around each farmhouse were pure necessity to feed the hungry children.

sekizoro no kureba fuuga mo shiwasu kana

when they come
the Sekizoro Singers, then elegance adorns
the last month of the year . . .

Written on the last day of 1690
This hokku has the cut marker KANA at the end of line 3.

Sekizoro refers to a Twelfth Month custom in which strolling singers wandered from town to town, singing festive celebration songs.

They wore large straw hats, decorated with auspicious fern. The faces where covered with white or red towels. Around the hips, they wore red aprons. Some hit their breasts like drums during the performance. Others rattled some small bamboo tools.
They shouted "Congratulations for New Season!" and got rice or money in return from the townspeople. They used to walk around Edo and other big cities from December 20 till the end of the year.
They were in fact a group of very poor beggars, giving a comic performance to make some money.

seriyaki ya susowa no ta-i no hatsu goori / seri yaki

parsley baked duck
first ice around the irrigation pond
at the mountain's foot

Basho age 50
He had been treated to some of this food by his pupils around Shokushi.
Matsuo Basho in the year Genroku 6, when he was 50 years old.
When he visited some pupils and they treated him to this dish:
(The Seri is used to cover the meat taste of the duck meat. It was picked at the nearby irrigation pond of the foothills, which was still covered with thin ice.)

shibaraku wa taki ni komoru ya ge no hajime

for a while
I will sit behind the waterfall -
summer retreat begins

Matsuo Basho on May 20, year 元禄242

Urami no taki - "Back- view waterfall"
near Nikko, with a cave behind the waterfall for mountain ascetic practises.

shimo o kite kaze o shikine no sutego kana

it wears frost
and has the wind for a blanket,
this abandoned child . . .

Basho age 34.
Basho did not see an abandoned child.

This is a parody of a waka poem by Fujiwara Ryookei (1169-1206):

す鳴くや霜夜さむしろ - しきひとりかもね

The crickets are singing and the mist is rising on this cool night.
Am I to sleep alone on the sleeve of my kimono on this rough straw mat?

shinobu sae karete mochi kau yadori kana

even the shinobu fern has withered
and I buy mochi ricecakes
at the inn . . .  

This hokku has the cut marker KANA at the end of line 3.

Matsuo Basho visited Atsuta Shrine, Atsuta-jingū) on his trip "Nozarashi Kiko".

He wrote:
I went to Atsuta to worship. The grounds of the shrine were utterly in ruins, the earthen wall collapsed and covered with clumps of weeds. In one place a rope marked the remains of a smaller shrine, in another was a stone with the name of a god now unworshipped. All around, mugwort and longing fern grew wild. Somehow the place drew my heart, more than if it had been splendidly maintained.
Tr. Barnhill

shio ni shite mo iza kotozuten Miyako-dori

even if pickled in salt
it will deliver the message -
bird of the capital

Written in November 1678, Basho age 35.
This is a farewell hokku for his disciple Aoki Haruzumi, who is leaving for his hometown Kyoto (1653 - 1715)

This is a parody about a waka of the Ise Monogatari:

na ni shiowaba iza koto towan miyakodori
waga omou hito wa ari ya nashi ya to

If you are true to the name you bear
there's one thing I would ask you,
bird of the capital -
does the person I love
still wait for me or not?

shiraga nuku makura no shita ya kirigirisu

white hair
has fallen under my pillow -

Written in the 8th lunar month in 1690, Basho age 47
From the 7th to the 9th month, Basho stayed at Mumyo-an at temple Gichu-Ji.
Written at a haikai meeting for the full autumn moon with his disciples from Omi.

Crickets are a kigo for autumn, and Basho has also come into the autumn of his life, when more white hair shows up on the pillow in the morning.

shizu no ko ya ine surikakete tsuki o miru

this child of low folks -
after husking rice
it looks at the moon

Peasant children
hull rice
gazing at the moon.
(Tr. Thomas McAuley)

A peasant’s child
husking the rice, pauses
to look at the moon.
(Tr. Makoto Ueda)

Husking rice,
a child squints up
to view the moon.
(Tr. Lucien Stryk)

A farmer’s child
hulling rice arrests his hands
to look at the moon.
(Tr. Nobuyuki Yuasa)

a poor peasant boy
husking rice, he pauses now
to gaze at the moon
                        (source: www.tclt.org.uk)

shoshun mazu sake ni ume uru nioi kana

New Year and first
sake and the fragrance of plum blossoms
being sold . . .

This hokku has the cut marker KANA at the end of line 3.

Written in 1687
Nozarashi Kiko, at Katsuragi, Nara. He had stayed there in the year before too.
This is a greeting hokku to his host, who entertained him lavishly with sake.
The name of his host is not clear, though.

sono katachi miba ya kareki no tsue no take

from its form
I imagine - from withered wood
your long staff

This hokku has the cut marker YA in the middle of line 2.

Before the onset of winter in 1688, Basho had promised to meet the Buddhist layman Doo-En / Do-En of Daitsu-An Hermitage (Daitsuu-an) .

Written in the 10th lunar month1688
On the 30th day of the 9th lunar month, Do-En had passed away "like the frost of an early winter night."
The staff must have been extremely long and remarkable, since Basho mentions its form in line 1 and its length in the last line.

sookai no nami sake kusashi kyoo no tsuki

out of the blue sea
from waves with the fragrance of sake -
the moon tonight

Written in 1679 on the night of the full moon in the 8th lunar month
Basho age 36.

The moon is coming out of the sea, which looks almost like a sake cup (sakazuki).

sumitsukanu tabi no kokoro ya okigotatsu

no fix place to live
in my traveler's mind -
this little kotatsu


no place to live
with my mind set on travelling -
this little kotatsu / stove / heater

Written in December of 1690 in Kyoto. Basho age 50
He was sitting there alone in his room, wondering what the New Year would bring this lonely traveller. Maybe he feels a bit like such a "personal kotatsu" which can be moved freely and has to hold its place where it is put.

Suruga ji ya hana tachibana mo cha no nioi

Suruga road -
Tachibana blossoms
smell of tea too

Written on the 15th day of the 5th lunar month, Basho age 51

The region was and still is famous for its tea planations.
The fragrance of Tachibana is very strong, but the smell of tea blossoms is even stronger here.
Suruga province is the old name of the Shizuoka region.
The bay is Suruga Bay.

tachibana - Tachibana citrus fruit
Citrus tachibana. wild Mandarine, an inedible green citrus fruit native to Japan.

It is one of the oldest mikan varieties and the oldest tree is in the temple Tachibanadera in Asuka, Nara. The temple is said to be the birthplace of prince Shotoku.

tabi ni yande yume wa kareno o kakemeguru

falling ill while travelling -
in my dreams I am wandering
over withered fields

The famous Death Haiku of Matsuo Basho 1694

Ill on a journey;
My dreams wander
Over a withered moor.
(Tr. Blyth)

Sick on a journey,
my dreams wander
the withered fields.
(Tr. Robert Hass)

on a journey, ailing —
my dreams roam about
on a withered moor
(Tr. Ueda Makoto)

I'm taken ill while travelling;
And my dreams roam o'er
withered moors.
(Tr. Miyamori)

ill and journeying -
my dreams keep roaming over
fields now withered all
(Tr. Tim Chilcott)

Near my journey's end,
In dreams I trudge the wild, waste moor,
And seek a kindly friend.
(Tr. William Porter)

ill on a journey
dreams in a withered field
wander around
(Tr. Jane Reichhold)

On a journey, ailing-
My dreams roam about
Over a withered moor
(Tr. ?)

Sick on a journey
dreams roam about
on a withered moor
(Tr. Haruo Shirane)

The Japanese kareno is sometimes translated as "withered moors"
withered "moors", karehara
The English word "moor" (Moor in German) has a very special meaning: a moor, a bog or peat bog, a fen.

tabibito no kokoro ni mo niyo shii no hana

my mind of a traveller
should be like this -
pasania blossoms

tabine yoshi yado wa shiwasu no yuuzukiyo

great to sleep on the road -
this lodging in december
with a sickle moon

Written on day 9 of the 12th lunar month in 1687.
This is a greeting hokku to his host Ichi-I in Nagoya.
The next day Basho took off to visit his disciples in Atsuta.

Owari no Ichi-I
His residence was Ichi-I An

tachibana ya itsu no no naka no hototogisu

fragrant mandarin oranges -
when and in what field (do I hear)
the hototogisu

hototogisu, lit. "bird of time"

The fragrant tachibana are associated with the fourth lunar month, while the lesser cuckoo belongs to the fifth lunar month of old waka poetry.

Basho draws on a waka from the Kokin Wakashu, Summer 139:

satsuki matsu hanatachibana no ka o kageba
mukashi no hito no sode no ka zo suru

When I breathe in the scent
of the mandarin orange blossoms
that await the Fifth Month,
I recall the fragrance of the sleeves
of one I loved long ago.
(Tr. David L. Barnhill)

Tanabata no awanu kokoro ya uchuuten

at Tanabata
the hearts can't meet -
Rain in Heaven

Basho age 24
uchuuten - this is a pun with uchooten - ecstasy (sanskrit: bhavagra).
This kind of punning was favored by the Teimon school of haikai.

tera ni nete makoto gao ni naru tsukimi kana

staying at a temple
I find my own true face

gazing at the moon . . . 

The cut marker KANA is at the end of line 3.

toogan ya tagai ni kawaru kao no nari

this wax gourd -
how great the changes
of our faces

1694, written at Iga, Ueno, where he met an old woman, whom he had known in his youth. Now both had old, wrinkled faces.

toogan - white gourd-melon; a wax gourd . lit. "winter melon"
Benincasa hispida

tooki yori aware wa tsuka no sumiregusa

more pitiful
than the parsley is this violet
by his grave mound

Written on the second day of the second lunar month, Genroku 6
For his disciple Kondoo Romaru, who had shown him around at the mountains of Dewa (Oku no Hosomichi) and they had seen this flower together. Romaru's work was to dye the robes of the yamabushi monks of this mountain monastery. He had been to Kyoto and suddenly died on this trip in the home of Kyorai. His grave is in Kyoto.

Tooki is the name of this flower of his home region, the mountains of Dewa.

tooki -  Angelica acutiloba
is a perennial herb from the family Apiaceae or Umbelliferous (carrot or parsley family). It is predominately in Japan and is used to prepare traditional Chinese medicine (kanpo).
The Japanese name, tōki has a literally meaning like “recovering good health”.

tootogaru namida ya somete chiru momiji

my respectful
tears - coloring
the falling red leaves

This hokku has the cut marker YA in the middle of line 2.

This is a greeting hokku for the head priest Ryu of temple Menshooji in Hikone at Hirata.
Koono Ryu - Kono Ryu Kono Michitaka (1662 - 1705, 22th day of the sixth lunar month)
He was the head priest in the 14th generation of this famous temple. He had visited Basho during his stay at Rakushisha, the hermitage of Kyorai in Kyoto, to become his disciple. He died at age 44.
Priest Ryu had built two memorial stones with the hokku of Basho, on a hill of the temple compond called "Kasazuka" (straw hat mound), where he later buried the straw hat of Basho given to him as a memento of the master.

tootosa ya yuki furanu hi mo mino to kasa

so respectful !
even on the day when it does not snow
a mino-raincoat and a rain-hat

Written in December, 1690
He might have written this when seeing the ragged image of Ono no Komachi, Sotoba Komachi, the Beauty Komachi on a grave marker.
It might have reminded him of his own appearance, almost like a ragged beggar.

7 Sotooba Komachi, Sotoba Komachi.
A travelling monk reprimanded an old woman for resting her aged body disrespectfully on a stupa. He found that the woman was a withered Komachi, who started to talk about the tragic love with Captain Fukakusa. After her confession, his soul attained peace. The poem read:

"Were I in Heaven
the stupa were an ill seat.
But here,
in the world without,
what harm is done?"

toshi kurenu kasa kite waraji hakinagara

wearing my travelers hat
and my straw sandals
the year comes to an end

Another year is gone -
A travel hat on my head,
Straw sandals on my feet.
(Tr. Stephen Kohl)

The year draws to its close:
I am still wearing
My kasa and straw sandals.
(Tr. Blyth)

As the year concludes-
wanderer's hat on my head
sandals on my feet
(Tr. Sam Hamill)

Nozarashi Kiko 1684 .

Buson wrote:
Basho satte sono nochi imada toshi kurezu

Since Basho left the world,
Not yet has
"The year drawn to its close."
(Tr. Blyth)

Blyth then quotes a passage from Buson's writings:
"Rushing along in the road to fame and riches, drowning in the sea of desire, people torture their ephemeral selves. Especially on New Year's Eve their behavior is unspeakable. Despicably walking about knocking at doors, treating everyone with contempt unnecessarily, insanely vulgar behavior, and so on, is not decent. Even so, we foolish mortals can hardly escape from this world of dust and sin.

The year draws to its close;
I am still wearing
My kasa and straw sandals.

Reading this poem quietly in a corner of the room, my mind becomes clear; were I living Basho's life, how good it would be! The verse is uplifting to me, and it may be called a Great Rest-and-Enlightenment as far as I am concerned. Basho once gone, we have no master to teach us, whether the year begins or ends."

tsuki hana mo nakute sake nomu hitori kana

no moon, no cherry blossoms
so he drinks sake
all alone . . .

Written in spring of 1689
This hokku has the cut marker KANA at the end of line 3.

This was written as a text for a painting, which most probably did not show moon and cherry blossoms.
Cherry blossoms and the moon are the two most important kigo for spring and autumn.

tsuki juuyokka koyoi sanjuu ku no warabe

moon on day fourteen -
tonight I am still thirty-nine
and a child

Basho age 39.
Written at a haikai meeting in the village Kuniyamura in Kaii at the home of Takayama Biji.

The full moon was on day fifteen of each lunar month. So on day 14 it is still incomplete.
A man was considered a "full man" at age 40. Since Basho was just 39 years of age, he considers himself still a "child".

There is also a famous children's song about the moon:
O-tsuki sama ikutsu sanjuu nanatsu
Mister Moon, how old are you? Thirty-seven? That is still so young.

tsuki kage ya shimon shishuu mo tada hitotsu

this moonlight -
four gates and four (Buddhist) sects
are all one

Basho Visiting temple Zenko-Ji in 1688.

tsuki ni na o tsutsumi kanete ya imo no kami

the name of the moon
wrapped in a double meaning -
God of Smallpox

Matsuo Basho, written in 1689, on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month. Oku no Hosomichi, in Tsuruga, near Yu no O Tooge / Yunoo Toge pass.
At the teahouse of the pass, near the shrine, they sold amulets against smallpox.
This was also the full moon night (IMO meigetsu) when people eat taro potatoes (sato IMO).
So this is a pun with the sound IMO, since the kanji for smallpox is usually read HOOSOO, but can be read IMO.

Imo no Kami - the deity of smallpox
shrine for the God of Smallpox at the Pass

tsuki shiroki shiwasu wa Shiro ga nezame kana

Shiro wakes up
on a night in December
with a white moon . . .

Written in December 1686
The cut marker KANA is at the end of line 3.

Zhong You - Shiro (543 - 481)
One of the 10 most important disciples of Confucius.
Zhong You (Zilu)
Zhong You was a native of Pian in Lu, and only nine years younger than Confucius. His courtesy names were Zilu (Shiro in Japanese) and Jilu.

tsuta uete take shi go hon no arashi kana

tsuta vine planted
and four or five bamboo poles
in the storm . . .

ivy planted,
and four or five stalks of bamboo
in the windstorm
(Tr. Barnhill)

Vines planted
four or five bamboo trees
stirring in a storm
(Tr. Shirane)

A greeting hokku for poet Roboku (1628–1706) kanjin no boosha. The thatched hut of a recluse in Ise

Roboku must have lived a very simple life of a recluse, planting vine creepers on purpose and just a few poles of bamboo in his garden.

This poem has the cut marker KANA at the end of line 3.

tsuyu itete fude ni kumihosu shimizu kana / hitsu ni

The moss pure spring

dew is freezing

and with my brush I soak up

this pure water . . .

beginning to melt,

I soak it dry with my brush:

the pure water spring
(Tr. Barnhill)

Winter of 1687. Oi no Kobumi. 
Written at a haikai meeting at Nagoya

Some sources link this to the pure water of a spring in Yoshino.

This hokku has the cut marker KANA at the end of line 3.
Basho stepping out into the garden after a very cold winter night, trying to pick up some dew from the leaves and write a hokku with it.
This is written in memory of Saigyo:

tokotoku to otsuru iwama no koke shimizu
kumihosu hodo mo naki sumai kana

Trickling down,

pure spring water falls

over the mossy rocks,

not enough to draw up

for this hermit life.

(Tr. Barnhill

u no hana mo haha naki yado zo susamajiki / unohana

deutzia blossoms too
at this home without a mother -
how dreadful

Written in the 12th day of the 5th lunar month in 1687
Basho age 44.
On the 8th day of the 4th lunar month, the mother of his discipke Kikaku had died.

The blossoms of the fence around the house were just showing up for the memorial service.

Kikaku, Enomoto Kikaku - (1661-1707) Takarai Kikaku

Uchiyama ya tozama shirazu no hana zakari

Uchiyama temple -
no outsiders are known
to the cherries in full bloom

Written in 1670, Basho age 27.
He lived at Iga Ueno at that time and visited the area in Yamato.

Basho uses the Chinese characters for a pun.

Uchiyama / Uchiyama Temple Eikyu-Ji
located in Tenri, Nara, Somanouchi village

It was one of the greatest Shingon temple compounds in Western Japan, built in 1144. But has been demolished during the Meiji restauration period. The pond of the Main Hall is still present.
Emperor Godaigo took refuge here in the Nanboku-Cho period.

It was a well-guarded place of the Esoteric Buddist Shingon sect. It was also closely connected to temple Kofuku-Ji in Nara and with mountain ascetic practises (shugendoo).

Uchiyama Eikyu-ji Temple was the Jingu-ji Temple (a temple associated with a shrine) of Isonokami jingu Shrine in Yamato Province.

uma o sae nagamuru yuki no ashita kana

even the horse
gazes at him in this
morning of snow . . .

Basho travelling along the Nakasendo road, on seeing a fellow traveler

ume koite u no hana ogamu namida kana

longing for this plum blossom
I bow to the white deutzia
with tears in my eyes . . .

During his trip, Nozarashi Kiko.
On the death of high priest Daiten of the temple Engaku-Ji in Kamakura.
Basho wrote a letter to his disciple Kikaku about this event.

This hokku has the cut marker KANA at the end of line 3.

Longing for the plum blossoms
I pray to the white deutzia -
tearful eyes
(Tr. Shirane)

yearning for the plum,
bowing before the deutzia:
eyes of tears

Memorial stone at the temple Jooinji Join-Ji in Numazu.
Join-Ji was a sub-temple of Engaku-ji in Kamakura.

ume mare ni hito moto yukashi kora no tachi

plums are scarce
but just one to enjoy -
hall of the shrine maidens

okoraago - Okorago shrine maiden

These Shrine maidens (kora) bring the food offerings (shinsen) to the Gods.
They were 30 virgins, usually members of the nobility, which served the gods and performed ritual kagura dances.
They live in special quarters (tachi).

ume wakana Mariko no yado no tororo jiru

plum blossoms and fresh leaves -
the yam soup at the lodging
at Mariko station

For his Student Kawai Otokuni

Soup with grated jinenjo yam, a speciality of the Shiga region.
Mariko is number 21 on the Tokaido road, about 180 km from Edo. Now it is in Shizuoka prefecture. There used to be many shops like this one, but nowadays there is only one thatched house left, which still looks like the old woodblock. Utagawa Hiroshige : 'Mariko no Tororojiru' - Tokaido 53 Stations

The owner of the present shop has been collecting all the woodblock prints of Hiroshige about 丸子. There is another version of this station print, with the Chinese characters of , depicting the whole village covered in winter snow.

Tororo-jiru, kigo for all autumn  
yam paste, yam gruel
tororojiru, tororo
yam soup, imojiru
yam rice gruel, imogayu
grated yam with wheat, mugitoro
buckwheat noodles with grated yam, sobatoro
tororo yam, tororo imo  a kind of "long yam", naga-imo
Tororo preparations are especailly common in the mountainous areas, where the yam potatoes still grow, even if rice is scarce. They turn into a rather sticky mass when grated.
tororomeshi, tororo meshi  rice with ground yam, a specialtiy in many mountainous areas.

umi wa harete Hie furinokosu satsuki kana

sunshine on lake Biwako
but Mount Hiei still in the rain
of Satsuki . . .

The month of satsuki, the fifth lunar month, now famous for both the rainy season rain (samidare 五月雨) and the few spells of fine weather (satsuki-bare).
Now it is the weather of July/beginning of June.

Written the fifth lunar month in 1688
The cut marker KANA is at the end of line 3.

Basho had most probably been invited to the estate of Namura Saida by the lakeside.
umi refers to the lake Biwako, the biggest lake of Japan.

utsukushiki sono hime uri ya kisaki zane

how beautiful
is this princess melon !
an oval queen's face

Basho age 29
He had left his homeland, Iga Ueno, and decided to take permanent residence in Edo.

himeuri - princess melon is a kind of
WKD : makuwa uri
Oriental melon, Cucumis melo var. makuwa
More hokku by Basho on this link.

During the sixth lunar month, girls played with these melons.
With writing ink (sumi) and white for make-up (o-shiroi) they painted a face and bound the plant with stems of the auspicious mizuhiki plant (Antenoron filiforme) to make a band they could hang around the neck.

There is a waka in the Makura Zoosh / Makura Zoshi
by Sei Shoonagon:

utsukushiki mono
uri ni egakitaru chigo no kao

Beautiful things!
The face of a child has been painted on a melon.

uzumi-bi mo kiyu ya namida no niyuru oto

even the banked fire
is dying - my tears
make a hissing sound

Written most probably in the first year of Genroku in Gifu.
This hokku has the cut marker YA in the middle of line 2.

While he sits near the smoldering coals, he remembers a good friend who has died recently and his tears do not stop.
The sound of his burning tears is a very strong expression of his sorrow and pain he feels.

Some charcoal is left under the ashes to smolder and provide a bit of warmth.

kigo for all winter
uzumibi - "hidden fire"
ikebi, ikezumi
Some charcoal is left under the ashes to smolder and provide a bit of warmth.

wakareba ya kasa te ni sagete natsu-baori

time to say good bye -
the traveller's hat in my hand
and my summer coat on

Written about 1684, Basho age 41 or later

Some explain this as Basho taking leave of his summer robe and friends at the same time. The season would then be early autumn.
It could also be the "change of robes" for summer robes on the first day of the fourth lunar month, thus a kigo for summer, and Basho would be taking leave of his warm winter coat, getting ready for a journey in summer.

warau beshi naku beshi waga asagao no shibomu toki

should I laugh? should I cry?
when my morning glories
begin to wither

Basho age 38

Here Basho also thinks about his own face as it changes when getting older.
This is a pun with the flower "asagao", "morning face" in Japanese.

ware mo kami no hisoo ya aogu ume no hana

me too I look up
to god - in the blue sky -
these plum blossoms

Written in 1676, Basho age 33
The cut marker YA is in the middle of line 2, but lines 1 and 2 are one sentence
ware mo kami no hisoo o aogu

There are two kanji for HISO : and

秘蔵 refers to the "secret storehouse" of the Tenmangu shrine in honor of Sugawara Michizane.
彼蒼 refers to the "sky" in an old poem in the collection
Kanke Kooshuu / Kanke kōshū from the Heian period, about 903, with poems of Sugawara no Michizane.

Here Michizane writes about his feelings on the way to exile in Dazaifu, having left his home three or four months ago. It still feels like a dream when he looks at the blue sky.

wasuregusa nameshi ni tsuman toshi no kure

a handful of licorice leaves
on top of the rapeseed rice gruel -
end of the year

Written in 1678, Basho age 35
nameshi is a kind of rice gruel with the leaves of the rapeseed plant nappa.
Basho tops this gruel with finely cut licorice leaves to "forget the old year".

nameshi "cooked rice with rapeseed leaves" .
kigo for all spring

wazuraeba mochi o mo kuwazu momo no hana

because I am sick
I can not even eat a festive rice cakes -
peach blossom time

Written in 1686
It seems Basho was suffering from some stomach illness. So even on this special day he could not eat the festive mochi rice cakes. But at least he could write a haiku about it.

yadorisen akaza no tsue ni naru hi made

I will stay here
until the day this pigweed
has become a walking cane

Summer of 1688, Oi Nikki
Written in Kajikawa, Gifu at temple Myooshooji / Myosho-Ji.
At the home of Kihaku, where Basho stayed for a short while.
This is a greeting hokku for his host. He must have felt very comfortable there.
Kihaku later visited Basho in Kyoto and in Mino.
Kihaku / Shuuboo / Shubo, priest at Myosho-Ji

akaza - pigweed
It is used in Asia to make canes, and refers to the Gods of Long Life.
Canes of the thorny shrub. Sometimes seen as a phallic symbol.

Basho is making a reference to the Chinese poet
WKD : Du Fu (712–770) .

holding an akaza cane
he grieves over this world -
who might he be ?

- - - - -
akaza - pigweed .
Chenopodium album var. centrorubrum
fat-hen, goosefoot, nickel greens, smearwort
lambsquarters, Lamb's-quarters
- kigo for all summer
. . . but
akaza no mi - fruit of the pigweed
- kigo for early autumn

yakuran ni izure no hana o kusamakura

from your medicine garden
which flower should I take
to stuff in my pillow?

Written on the 8th day of the 7th lunar month at the home of a doctor in Echigo Takada, Hosokawa Shun-an, haiku name Toosetsu / Tosetsu, who had planted a lot of medicinal herbs in his estate. One can imagine Basho and the doctor walking along the garden path, looking at all the herbs and Shun-an explaining their curing effect.

This is a greeting hokku to his host.
The season is autumn, but no special kigo is mentioned.

Oku no Hosomichi - - - Station 33 - Echigo  - - -

[miscellaneous - Zappai]

yama mo niwa mo ugokihairuru natsu zashiki

summer sitting room -
the mountains and the garden
seem to move in too

Written on the fourth day of the fourth lunar month
in 1689
On his travel "Oku no Hosomichi" in Kurobane, as a "greeting poem" to his host Shuuo. This might have been the visit when Basho gave him this "haiku name".
The younger brother of Shuuo has the haiku name

yamabuki no tsuyu na no hana no kakochigao naru ya

dew on the yellow mountain roses
the rapeseed flowers make a face
of envy !

Basho age 38
This hokku has the cut marker YA at the end of line 3, which is quite unusual.

The dew on yamabuki has been the subject of poetry since the Heian period. But nobody ever wrote about the dew on rapeseed flowers.
Just like people write poems about the lotus leaves, but not about the leaves of sweet potatoes.

yo ga fuuga wa karo toosen no gotoshi

my elegance
is like a fireplace in summer
like a fan in winter

Checking a bit about this I found an old one by Susumu Takiguchi in 2005, now online again:

Haiku is a useless thing, a haiku poet is a useless person.
Karo-tosen is an old Chinese saying which has been adopted in Japan, though seldom, if ever, used nowadays. Karo means a fireplace in summer and tosen means a fan in winter. What is the use of a fireplace in hot summer? What is the use of a fan in bitter winter? The saying should now be self-explanatory. Yes, it is to describe something useless or uselessness of things. And we haiku poets had better be, and are, karo-tosen.

Towards the end of April (lunar calendar) of the year 6 Genroku (1693), one of Basho’s disciple, Morikawa Kyoriku (1656-1715), was preparing for his return journey to Hikone Domain (in today’s Shiga Prefecture) where he served as a high-ranking retinue. Kyoriku had been staying in Edo since August of the previous year. He was in company with his Lord, who was serving sankin-kotai obligations in the seat of the Tokugawa government. Sankin-kotai was a duty imposed on feudal lords requiring them to live part-time in Edo and part-time back in their provincial domains, while their wives and children were required to permanently live in Edo. This arrangement was a key policy of Tokugawa to keep his retinues under tight control. In the early August of 1692, Kyoriku met Basho for the first time, formally becoming his disciple.

For the following nine months, the two kept in close contact, becoming important for each other, not least because Kyoriku taught Basho art. So close they were that Basho took the trouble of writing a long farewell letter to him on his departure from Edo, which happens to have become one of the most important documents to study Basho’s thoughts. Called Kyoriku Ribetsu no Kotoba, the letter provides us with an insight into the deepest feelings of Basho. One key sentence goes:
yo ga fuga wa karo tosen no gotoshi,
‘My haikai is like karo tosen’, namely ‘useless’.

What are we to do if Basho says that his poetry is useless?
His was not an idle remark of self-mockery or of amusing Kyoriku in a light-hearted way. It was mentioned after a long and hard navel-gazing reflection on his life. There have been numerous academic studies on this point. Quite apart from them, it certainly provides us with enormous food for thought.
Let us look at some of its ramifications.

yo no naka wa ine karu koro ka kusa no io

in the world it is now time
to harvest rice -
my thatched hermitage

Basho age 41 – 44
Basho wrote: “I got some rice from friends.”

The hut refers most probably to his second Basho-An in Fukagawa.
Someone of his disciples had brought him newly harvested rice to support his poor life.
Basho leads the life of an intonsha - a recluse and makes fun of his lifestyle.

yogi wa omoshi Goten ni yuki o miru aran

the quilts are heavy -
snow falling in far away lands
should be clearly visible

the bed quilts are heavy -
snow falling in Goten
should be clearly visible

Basho age 39.
A parody of a part of the Chinese poem and Zen saying:

kasa wa omoshi goten no yuki - ai wa kanbashi sochi no hana

My bamboo hat has become heavy from the snow of Mount Wu.

Goten, regions in China far away from the center of the GO dynasty in the South of China.
Go, Wu 902 - 937
The State of Wu (Chinese: Wúguó) was one of the vassal states during the Western Zhou Dynasty and the Spring and Autumn Period. It was also known as Gou Wu from the name of the indigenous tribe there and as Gong Wu.
Considered a semi-barbarous state by ancient Chinese historians, Wu was located at the mouth of the Yangtze River east of the State of Chu. Its first capital was at Meili (probably in modern Wuxi) and was later moved to Gusu (within modern Suzhou) and then Helu City (the old town of present-day Suzhou).

yoki ie ya suzume yorokobu sedo no awa

what a splendid house -
the sparrows are delighted
with millet at the back door

Written on the 8th day of the 7th lunar month, 1684
This became the hokku for a kasen.

Written in congratulations to the younger brother of Chisoku in Narumi on the building of his new home.
Brother Shimosato Saburoemon.

Shimosato Chisoku (1640 - 1704)
He was in the sake business, named Chiyokura and had a rich estate.
Basho had sent him various letters during his travels.
His Buddhist name after death was Shakushoo.
Narumi was a postal station of the Tokaido road and business was good.

yoote nen nadeshiko sakeru ishi no ue

drunk I fall asleep
the white pinks are blooming
on the rocks

Written in Summer of 1687

The characters for nadeshiko were "stone bamboo" in the Manyoshu poetry collection.

sekichiku - China pink
lit. "stone bamboo"
kara nadeshiko "Chinese nadeshiko"
Dianthus chinensis; Pink, Fringed Pinks, wild carnation.
kigo for mid-summer

yorube o itsu hitoha ni mushi no tabine kana

floating around
on a paulownia leaf, this insect
sleeps on its trip

Basho age 37
One small insect on a large paulownia leaf has fallen into the Fukagawa river and is floating around. When will it find a safe place at the shore?
This image is classic in Japanese poetry.

kiri hitoha - one paulownia leaf
kigo for early autumn

Yoshinaka no nezame no yama ka tsuki kanashi

so this is the mountain
where Yoshinaka woke up -
a sad moon

Written on the 14th day of the 8th lunar month 1689.
Written at the castle Hiuchi ga joo, Hiuchi Castle (Hyoochi Castle, Hyōchi Castle) on the night of the autumn moon. This castle belonged to Kiso Yoshinaka. So here Basho remembers the famous warlord.

Kiso Yoshinaka
Minamoto no Yoshinaka and his grave at this temple Gichu-Ji.
The Chinese characters 義仲 (Yoshinaka) can be read Gichuu too.

Basho in Tsuruga

tsuki kanashi - is this more of a personification "the moon is sad" or more of a haiku shorthand for
"I feel sad whilst watching the moon" ?

Hideo Suzuki commentary:
Basho seems to have deep sympathy towards Yoshinaka who was a defeated samurai. Basho's grave stone is located at 義仲 (). Therefore I'm in favour of your shorthand version for "I feel sad whilst watching the moon."

yotsu goki no sorowanu hanami-gokoro kana

my begging bowl set
is not complete but my mind enjoys
cherry blossom viewing . . .

goki -  "honorable bowls" for begging and eating

Monks used a set of these begging bowls for soup and food. Basho is also very poor like such a begging monk, but still joins the crowd around Kanei-ji in the famous cherry blossom season of Ueno.
People make merry with sound and musik, food and lots of drink ... and here he sits . . .

Written on the second day of the third lunar month in 1694
Temple Kanei-Ji

yuki kanashi itsu Daibutsu no kawarabuki

how sad to see it snowing!
when will the Gread Buddha Hall
get its roof tiled?

When Basho visited Todaiji in Nara, the temple was still under repair after the destruction wrought by the civil wars of the sixteenth century. The Great Buddha statue was only finally completed in 1692, after the visit by Basho described above, and the statue sat for years in the open like the Great Buddha in Kamakura.

The new Buddha Hall (which is the present one) was finally finished in 1708, and Basho did not live to see this. He grieved for the Buddha in its sad state, for at that time even the head had not been restored yet. Basho saw only the rump of the statue, slowly being covered by the first snow of the year, and he wrote this.

It took about two years after the visit of Basho until the roof was preliminary fixed and the statue out of danger.

Memorial Day for Matsuo Basho "Basho's Day, Basho-ki,
also called:
Winter Rain Anniversary (shigure ki, shigure-e)
Old Master's Day (Okina no hi)
Green Peach Day (Toosei ki)
'Green Peach' was Basho's pen name before he chose the Banana plant, Basho.
With a discussion about the date:

- - - KIGO for November 28 - - -

yuki no ashita hitori karazake o kami etari
yuki no ashita hitori kara zake o kami e tari


A snowy morning
All I’ve got is dried salmon
To chew all alone
                        (Tr. Sharon Hahn Darlin)

snow in the morning -
alone with dried salmon
to chew on

Written in 延宝8, Basho age 37. At Fukagawa

'Rich people enjoy themselves by eating the finest meat, and aspiring youths sustain themselves by chewing vegetable roots.
As for myself, I am a poor man.'

the morning of snow--
all alone, I chew
dried salmon meat
(Tr. Ueda)

The snowy morning -
being alone, I am happy
eating dry salmon
(Tr. Peipei Qui)

'Wealthy people eat tasty meat and strong, ambitious men eat roots.
I am just poor.'

snowy morning
all alone I chew
dried salmon
(Tr. Reichhold)

The morning of snow,
I find myself chewing alone
Strips of dried salmon.
(Tr. Yuasa )

'The rich dine on meat; sturdy youths eat vegetable roots;
but I am poor.'

snow morning:
alone, I manage to chew
dried salmon
(Tr. Barnhill)

Salmon (sake
) - kigo for all autumn

yuki o matsu joogo no kao ya inabikari

the faces of us sake drinkers
as we wait for the snow -
flash of lightning

Written in 1691, tenth lunar month (now November)
They were having a party at the home of Koogetsu, Kogetsu with the disciples from Mikawa.
Suganuma Koogetsu, Suganuma Gon-emon
I think the inversion of lines 1 and 2 makes for more natural English here.

awaiting the snow,
the faces of the wine lovers -
lightning flash
(Tr. Barnhill)

the faces of those
who love to drink -
a flash of lightning
(Tr. Ueda)

There are three types of joogo, jōgo,
according to their reaction to the sake:
naki joogo - those who start crying
warai joogo - those who start laughing
okori joogo - those who get angry

yuku haru o Oomi no hito to oshimikeru

spring is departing
and with the people (friends) of Omi
I lament its passing . . .  

oshimu - to miss, to deplore
to hold something dear, place great value on something
to lament the passing of a season

This hokku is one sentence and has the cut at the end of line 3.

yuku haru ya tori naki uo no me wa namida

spring is leaving …
birds sing
tears in the eyes of (my friend called) Fish

Basho is at Senju in 1689, taking final leave from his friends.
When starting out to the long and dangerous trip of "Oku no Hosomichi", Basho wrote this famous haiku in his honor.

tori ga naku - is a normal expression for the birds singing. It is not really "cry".
This bird of spring is the hototogisu with his gentle warbling.
And what kind of fish is this? Maybe the sawara, Spanish mackerel, which has the character for SPRING - in its name?
Or shirauo, the white fish, which is a delicacy of this region and was a favorite dish of Basho himself.
uo no me, the "eye of a fish" is also an expression for a corn on the sole of the foot. Basho is maybe thinking about the long journey ahead and the many corns he has to tend to on the way.

Another theory about the crying fish:
It refers to the fishmonger Sugiyama Sanpu, who had been a great (financial) patron of Basho in Edo.
Sanpu was an official fish merchant of the Bakufu government in Edo. He was also an ardent haikai poet and supported Matsuo Basho in many ways, helping him to establish his Basho school of haikai.
He was one of the Basho jittetsu - 10 most important followers.

yuku koma no mugi ni nagusamu yadori kana

my brave horse
solaced with munching barley
from the lodging . . .

The cut marker KANA is at the end of line 3. Written in 1685.

Kaii was famous for its black horses.
The kigo is "mugi no aki"

It is not too cold and not too warm to travel in the fourth lunar month. The horse is happy and Basho is looking forward to meet old friends soon. For now he is content watching his horse munching the barley and resting for the night somewhere "in the mountains" (yamanaka).

Basho is maybe close to Tsurushi town. Or he is somewhere close to Lake Yamanaka.

When his home in Edo had burned down in 1682, he had taken refuge for a while with a friend in Kaii and written two hokku about the famous horses.

yuugao ya yoote kao dasu mado no ana

this bottle gourd flower -
I was drunk sticking my head out
of the hole of the window

Written in summer of 1693.

It might well have been the small window of the toilet, since he mentiones the ANA, the hole of the window. When Basho stuck his drunken head out of it, he saw the beautiful flower right there.
It is quite unlikely that he is writing about someone else.

zoori no shiri orite kaeran yama-zakura

I fold the straw sandals
into half and walk home -
mountain cherry blossoms

Basho age 36.
Walking in the rain of spring, Basho considers to fold (oru) his straw sandals, because otherwise they would splash the mud of the road on his robes.
To fold the sandals or use smaller ones anyway (ashinaka) was quite common in these days.
And maybe break (oru) a branch of the mountain cherries, since they will soon be damaged by the rain anyway.
A typical poem of the Danrin haikai school. It shows Basho in high spirits even when walking in the spring rain.

- "half foot" straw sandals

zoosui ni biwa kiku noki no arare kana

while I eat my rice porridge
hail falling on the eaves sounds
like a biwa lute . . .

Basho age 41 or later at Arisoumi.
Basho is most probably home in Fukagawa and has a lonely meal.

Basho uses the spelling:
zoozu, zoosui, zosui which now means dirty water, after washing rice or rinsing dishes

but here is the old version for zoosui:

zoosui - rice porridge
In the Edo period, this watery rice with some leaves of radish was the daily fare of the very poor. Now it is a favorite dish for dieting and also given to ill and recuperating people.

zoosui, the KIGO

Zoosui - rice porridge
(containing vegetables and bits of meat or fish)
a very popular dish for an evening meal. There are many different kinds, according to the main ingredient.
ojiya, rice soup, rice gruel. Reisbrei

with chicken, torizoosui
with duck, kamo zoosui
with puffer fish, fugu zoosui
suppon zoosui
ankoo zoosui
salmon, sake zoosui
oysters, kaki zoosui
crabs, kani zoosui 
cod, tara zoosui
mochi zoosui
sweet potatoes, imo zoosui
leafy vegetables, nazoosui
leek, negi zoosui
nira leek, nira zoosui
eggs, tamago zoosui
with miso base, miso zoosui

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