Basho's thoughts on...
• What Children Do: Basho Honors the Young
• Introduction to this site
• The Human Story:
• Praise for Women
• Love and Sex in Basho
• Children and Teens
• Humanity and Friendship
• On Translating Basho
• Basho Himself
• Poetry and Music
• The Physical Body
• Food, Drink, and Fire
• Animals in Basho
• Space and Time
• Letters Year by Year
• Bilingual Basho 日本語も
• 芭蕉について日本語の論文
• Basho Renku, 芭蕉連句
• Women in Basho
• BAMHAY (Basho Amazes Me! How About You?)
• New Articles


Matsuo Basho 1644~1694

The only substantial
collection in English
of Basho's renku, tanka,
letters and spoken word
along with his haiku, travel
journals, and essays.

The only poet in old-time
literature who paid attention with praise
to ordinary women, children, and teenagers
in hundreds of poems

Hundreds upon hundreds of Basho works
(mostly renku)about women, children,
teenagers, friendship, compassion, love.

These are resources we can use to better
understand ourselves and humanity.

Interesting and heartfelt
(not scholarly and boring)
for anyone concerned with
humanity.


“An astonishing range of
social subject matter and
compassionate intuition”


"The primordial power
of the feminine emanating
from Basho's poetry"


Hopeful, life-affirming
messages from one of
the greatest minds ever.

Through his letters,
we travel through his mind
and discover Basho's
gentleness and humanity.

I plead for your help in
finding a person or group
to take over my 3000 pages of Basho material,
to edit and improve the material, to receive 100%
of royalties, to spread Basho’s wisdom worldwide
and preserve for future generations.

Quotations from Basho Prose


The days and months are
guests passing through eternity.
The years that go by
also are travelers.



The mountains in silence
nurture the spirit;
the water with movement
calms the emotions.


All the more joyful,
all the more caring


Seek not the traces
of the ancients;
seek rather the
places they sought.



Basho Spoken Word


Only this, apply your heart
to what children do


"The attachment to Oldness
is the very worst disease
a poet can have."


“The skillful have a disease;
let a three-foot child
get the poem"


"Be sick and tired
of yesterday’s self."


"This is the path of a fresh
lively taste with aliveness
in both heart and words."
.

"In poetry is a realm
which cannot be taught.
You must pass through it
yourself. Some poets have made
no effort to pass through, merely
counting things and trying
to remember them.
There was no passing
through the things."


"In verses of other poets,
there is too much making
and the heart’s
immediacy is lost.
What is made from
the heart is good;
the product of words
shall not be preferred."


"We can live without poetry,
yet without harmonizing
with the world’s feeling
and passing not through
human feeling, a person
cannot be fulfilled. Also,
without good friends,
this would be difficult."


"Poetry benefits
from the realization
of ordinary words."


"Many of my followers
write haiku equal to mine,
however in renku is the
bone marrow of this old man."


"Your following stanza
should suit the previous one as an expression
of the same heart's connection."


"Link verses the way
children play."


"Make renku
ride the Energy.
Get the timing wrong,
you ruin the rhythm."


"The physical form
first of all must be graceful
then a musical quality
makes a superior verse."

"As the years passed
by to half a century.
asleep I hovered
among morning clouds
and evening dusk,
awake I was astonished
at the voices of mountain
streams and wild birds."


“These flies sure enjoy
having an unexpected
sick person.”



Haiku of Humanity


Drunk on sake
woman wearing haori
puts in a sword


Night in spring
one hidden in mystery
temple corner


Wrapping rice cake
with one hands she tucks
hair behind ear


On Life's journey
plowing a small field
going and returning


Child of poverty
hulling rice, pauses to
look at the moon


Tone so clear
the Big Dipper resounds
her mallet


Huddling
under the futon, cold
horrible night


Jar cracks
with the ice at night
awakening



Basho Renku
Masterpieces

With her needle
in autumn she manages
to make ends meet
Daughter playing koto
reaches age seven


After the years
of grieving. . . finally
past eighteen
Day and night dreams of
Father in that battle


Now to this brothel
my body has been sold
Can I trust you
with a letter I wrote,
mirror polisher?


Only my face
by rice-seedling mud
is not soiled
Breastfeeding on my lap
what dreams do you see?



Single renku stanzas


Giving birth to
love in the world, she
adorns herself



Autumn wind
saying not a word
child in tears


Among women
one allowed to lead
them in chorus


Easing in
her slender forearm
for his pillow


Two death poems:


On a journey taken ill
dreams on withered fields
wander about

Clear cascade -
into the ripples fall
green pine needles




basho4humanity
@gmail.com




Plea for Affiliation

 

Plea For Affiliation

 

I pray for your help

in finding someone
individual, university,

or foundation - 
to take over my

3000 pages of material,   
to cooperate with me 

to edit the material,
to receive all royalties 

from sales, to spread

Basho’s wisdom worldwide,
and preserve for

future generations.


basho4humanity

@gmail.com

 



Home  >  Topics  >  Space and Time  >  G-06


Kyoto in Basho

1 Basho haiku, and 8 renku, 1 haibun, 2 tanka,

Legend:
Words of Basho in bold
Words of other poets not bold

Basho tells the feeling of life in Kyoto, the ancient Capital of Japan, and home of many unconventional  people. 

 

Though in Kyoto /
longing for Kyoto /
ho toto GI su.

 

 Kyoto is one of the best preserved cities in Japan – yet everyday more of old Kyoto is torn down to modernize the city. The “Kyoto” in the first line is city now; that in the second line is the city of long ago. The characters for the name of the little cuckoo, which represents its call, mean “time bird.”

 

Basho describes summer night parties at the Kamo River at Shijo

 

People line up on a platform over the river to pass
the night drinking, eating, and having a good time.
The women kimono sashes are extravagant,
the men’s haori jackets long in the formal style.
Buddhist priests mingle with old folks, and even
the blacksmith’s and bucket maker’s apprentices,
their faces smiling with leisure, sing loud rowdy songs.
It is a scene to be expected in Kyoto.

 

Basho, as a skillful journalist, uses human sensation – food and drink, visual, auditory -- to bring us into the scene, so we feel the coolness too. Humanity and diversity are everywhere in this passage. The blacksmith and bucket maker keep their apprentices busy every minute, so here the youths make the most of their night of freedom. Their counterparts today do the same. The prose flows into the haiku.

 

River breeze –
wearing pale persimmon
in evening cool

 

Someone at a party on a platform over the Kamo river wears a robe dyed with persimmon juice; that color expresses the rejuvenation we feel from coolness after a long hot day. “The color orange radiates warmth and happiness…orange is optimistic and uplifting, rejuvenating our spirit… orange also stimulates the appetite… and promotes conversation and social interaction.” Good for parties.

 

The haiku is a superb example of Basho’s poetic ideal of Lightness: ordinary people enjoying themselves, without tragedy, loneliness or desolation (i.e. no wabi-sabi). Basho provides only satisfying tactile sensation, invigorating color, and an appreciation for human life.

 

River wind so cold
midnight to the outhouse
Leaving Kyoto
today Mika no Hara
belly painful

 

This pair is undated, but written before 1676, and probably before 1672 while Basho still lived in his hometown of Iga (now Mie Prefecture) about 50 km. southeast of Kyoto and traveled to Kyoto to study. Walking from Kyoto to Iga, apparently he spent the night in Mika no Hara, a place in Kizugawa south of Kyoto, alongside the Kizu River which leads east to Iga. “Hara” is both “plain” in the place name, and also “belly.” Already in his twenties he suffered from the bowel disorder that ended his life more than two decades later in 1694.

 

Again he is thrown
Maruyama gets black

One side of go board
all over eastern Kyoto
blossoms scatter

 

Maruyama was a famous sumo wrestler in Basho’s time. A victory in sumo is recorded with a white circle, a loss with a black circle. Basho jumps from sumo to the board game of go, from Maruyama the wrestler to Maruyama a section of eastern Kyoto famous for cherry blossoms. The objective in go is to surround the opponent’s stones and remove them from the board. Here the one playing black is totally overwhelmed: white stones are everywhere on one side of the board, as if all the blossoms in the eastern half of Kyoto have fallen. Those of you who watch sumo, or play go, or hang out in Maruyama: this verse is for your especial enjoyment.

 

Shell discarded
in Yoshino mountains
strumming koto

Wind through the leaves
plays the bamboo flute

His hermitage

among pines and cedars
outside Kyoto

 

The juvenile cicada sheds its skin – or “exoskelton” or “shell” -- to emerge as an adult; the utsusemi, or abandoned skin, remains, on the bark of the tree. Utsusemi, in the Tale of Genji, is a woman who resisted Genji’s romantic advances; one night he tried to force himself on her, but she escaped, leaving her outer robe behind and giving her the name she is known by.

 

The Yoshino Mountains, are far enough from Kyoto that she can play her koto in peace without Genji bothering her. The mountain trees are full of countless adult male cicadas making their “cries” by rapidly vibrating abdominal membranes; the sound goes on and on all day long in the heat of summer, driving some people crazy, while some, such as Basho, compare the notes of a koto, or Japanese 13-string harp.

Shinsho maintains the theme of music as an expression of nature sounds, shifting from koto/cicadas to a bamboo flute which sounds like wind through the leaves. Basho then gives this flutist a hermitage among the trees where he can master his instrument by imitating that wind – still with access to the City.

 

Calculating
to stand against the flow
living in Kyoto

They send no notice of
daughter’s joyful birth.


From the villages where life goes on at a natural pace, young folk migrate to the cities where competition and the high cost of living make life difficult -- but more fun than in the village -- so they must “calculate” to survive. The term ukiyo o tateru , “to stand against the floating world,” means to endure the forces of transience which can in one night destroy a lifetime achievement. I translate “the flow.” To stand tall with dignity in that raging flood of ephemerality, to not be knocked over by “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,” we must “calculate.” Nowadays Kyoto residents struggle to “stand” against the flood of tourism and modernization for the tourist market.


Many have discussed the peculiar difficulties of Kyoto: Oussouby Sackos says “they try to keep everything a little bit expensive here, to keep the high standard Kyoto image.” Cara Clegg adds that “Due to its location in a basin, the area has bad wind flow, making it especially cold in winter and especially hot in summer” and “Buses often run right past their stops without pausing because they’re already filled up with tourists, enraging people trying to get to work or school.” Kaori Shoji says, “Kyoto has always been a snobbish, expensive and unwelcoming kind of place, with surprisingly little in the way of amenities and facilities for the casual traveler.” Alex Kerr says, “After centuries of political intrigue and relentless scrutiny by tea masters, the people of Kyoto have developed the technique of never saying anything.” So in Kyoto today, Basho is right; you gotta “calculate.”

 

Yaba takes Basho’s thought into an entirely different realm: city people, in their endless calculations, lack reverence for human life -- they send out birth notices for boys, but girls are not worth mentioning. Boys bring wealth to the family; girls marry out, exporting wealth to another family. In many places in Asia, by longstanding habit only boys are cherished, and girls considered a liability.

 

One of the ways Japan kept her population constant for 200 years was by strangling unwanted newborns, usually the females. And so “no notice of a girl’s birth” could have a sinister meaning. Yet even if the parents are devoted to her care and the baby girl in fine health and mood, the failure of her parents to send out notice of her birth suggests a subtle marginalization of the female.Basho, however, in his tanka SPRING PASSES BY, blesses the newborn girl, giving full notice to her. In his letters to his oldest friend Ensui about Ensui’s newborn granddaughter, Basho clearly, more clearly than any male writer, says “cherish the newborn female.” Yaba also does something very pro-female here; he gives the character 産 for “birth” (which ordinarily reads as umu or san) the life-affirming reading yorokobu, “to be joyful,” a clear expression of Yaba’s positive feelings for the birth of a musume.


The point, the learning and the fun, of linked verse is to discover how ‘not sending out birth notices for girls’ relates to the ‘difficulty of getting through life in the Capital.” Getting inside the mind of Yaba as he responds to Basho’s lead. Above are the ways I have found to connect these two stanzas. You, dear reader, find your own ways.

 

In this stanza-pair from 1679 Isshun begins and Basho follows.

 

Coming down from Court to
street of gossipy neighbors --
“How are blossoms
at the palace?” nun asks
the second nun --

“A butterfly among wireweed!”
all she says, blowing her nose

 

A female imperial attendant took the tonsure upon the death of the emperor she served, and has come down from Court to live in the ordinary bustle of Kyoto streets. When another nun, a friend of hers who still lives at Court, comes to visit her, the first nun asks about the cherry blossoms she used to know and love. Butterfly is of course an image of feminine elegance, whereas the obnoxious climbing weed mugura –having no name in English, we call it “wireweed” -- grows wild over anything in its path without the slightest hint of elegance. The second nun exclaims “Imagine you, a person of the Imperial Court, among these lowly gossips” while she chokes up with tears of emotion filling her nasal passages.

 

Here we have a bit of Anthropology, a tiny conversation between two women in 17th century Japan. The common thread running through the three stanzas is the contrast between elegance and vulgarity – the Imperial Court vs. nose-blowing – in this unique city known for elegance yet with its share of vulgarity

 

Takigi O-Noh is a traditional Japanese musical drama performed on an open-air stage lit up by a bonfire. The custom originated in the Ninth Century at Kofukuji Temple in Nara where it is still held in May; it is also performed and the Heian Shrine in Kyoto in June.

 

Bonfire past,
neighborhood children
practice Noh

For five spring times
preparations for life

 

Noh theater is characterized by mystical beauty – beauty which is felt rather than seen, the profound beauty of the transcendental world, including the mournful beauty of sadness and loss – so altogether boring to children. The music played by drums and flute is harsh and monotonous, like all traditional Japanese music, devoid of chords and lacking the chord progressions which make music “interesting.” The singing is within a limited tonal range, with lengthy repetitive passages in a narrow dynamic range. Noh has none of the light, happy melodies that make Disney movies popular with children. Ordinarily Noh is not the sort of performance that would interest children – but Noh illuminated by a bonfire is such a trip that in the days after the performance, the local children enthusiastically imitate the actors. Again we see Basho’s unique attention to the activities and consciousness of children.

 

The next poet realizes that what these children are doing – imitation, postural and vocal control, emotional expression -- is more than merely an immature form of an adult Noh performance; rather it is a demonstration of the miracles of human development preparing a child for adulthood..

 

Basho stayed in Uko’s house in the summer of 1690; that autumn, he wrote a letter to her containing this tanka:

Each evening
kettle surely boiling,
how I miss
those three pillows in
the room where we slept

                                                               This is to you
                                                                              Basho

 

Basho recalls the tea ceremony Uko performed for her guest. Kon elaborates Basho’s meaning in the first two lines: “as I think of the kettle boiling in your tea cottage, I imagine your peaceful, settled lifestyle” -- a lifestyle so serene that each evening she has the time and heart to make tea in the formal meditative Way of Tea.

 

In a Japanese home of refinement, the houseguest never puts out his or her own futon and pillow; the wife of the house always performs that role while the guest is in the bath. Because Japanese line things up in parallel as an expression of respect, and because Basho was her teacher and a guest in her house, we can assume that Uko diligently lined the futons and pillows up in three even vertical columns -- like the three strokes of the Chinese character for ‘river,’ 川, which suggest a baby nestled between mommy and daddy, receiving warmth and security from both sides. In the tanka the heat of “kettle boiling” flows into the warmth in Basho’s memory of “those three pillows.”

 

He wrote many haiku praising the splendor of Kyoto’s temples and shrines, as well as yearning for Kyoto long ago, however here Basho praises the living humanity in Kyoto, the graceful serenity of his hostess, the intimacy of their friendship.

 

Although Basho’s follower Uko became a Buddhist nun in 1691, she continued her ordinary family life, living in Kyoto with her husband Boncho and infant daughter Sai. From reading Basho’s letters to Uko, Shoko and I infer that Uko becoming a nun had little or nothing to do with Buddhism. I believe Uko became a nun because she did not want any more children. Officially sanctioned celibacy was the only way she could keep Boncho off of her. So Uko was not really a nun, it was just a disguise, a tatemae for appearance, a means of contraception. Basho wrote this tanka to the “nun Uko”:

 

Nine circles
surround the palace
yet no sea —
With what shall this nun
wring out her sleeves?

 

Kyoto, designed as a scaled replica of the then Chinese capital Chang'an, became the seat of Japan's imperial court in 794. Kokonoe, “nine circles” suggests that Kyoto resembles the ancient Chinese Capital laid out in nine concentric rings with the castle at the center – although in reality there are no such circles around the Imperial Palace in Kyoto. The long hanging sleeves of a kimono get wet from tears, thus in experiencing strong emotion, the Japanese (in poetry) ‘wring out their sleeves’ – although this image corresponds to no reality. Kyoto is one of the few major cities in Japan without a sea coast, so poor Uko has no salt water/tears in which to wring out her sleeves. Basho dedicates this nonsense to the “nun Uko”.

 

basho4humanity@gmail.com

 






<< On a Journey (G-05) (G-07) Iga Ninja – Three Prologues >>


The Three Thirds of Basho

 

 

I plead for your help in finding a person or group to take over my 3000 pages of Basho material, to edit and improve the presentation, to receive all royalties from sales, to spread Basho’s wisdom worldwide and preserve for future generations.

 

basho4humanity@gmail.com
Basho's thoughts on...
• What Children Do: Basho Honors the Young
• Introduction to this site
• The Human Story:
• Praise for Women
• Love and Sex in Basho
• Children and Teens
• Humanity and Friendship
• On Translating Basho
• Basho Himself
• Poetry and Music
• The Physical Body
• Food, Drink, and Fire
• Animals in Basho
• Space and Time
• Letters Year by Year
• Bilingual Basho 日本語も
• 芭蕉について日本語の論文
• Basho Renku, 芭蕉連句
• Women in Basho
• BAMHAY (Basho Amazes Me! How About You?)
• New Articles


Matsuo Basho 1644~1694

The only substantial
collection in English
of Basho's renku, tanka,
letters and spoken word
along with his haiku, travel
journals, and essays.

The only poet in old-time
literature who paid attention with praise
to ordinary women, children, and teenagers
in hundreds of poems

Hundreds upon hundreds of Basho works
(mostly renku)about women, children,
teenagers, friendship, compassion, love.

These are resources we can use to better
understand ourselves and humanity.

Interesting and heartfelt
(not scholarly and boring)
for anyone concerned with
humanity.


“An astonishing range of
social subject matter and
compassionate intuition”


"The primordial power
of the feminine emanating
from Basho's poetry"


Hopeful, life-affirming
messages from one of
the greatest minds ever.

Through his letters,
we travel through his mind
and discover Basho's
gentleness and humanity.

I plead for your help in
finding a person or group
to take over my 3000 pages of Basho material,
to edit and improve the material, to receive 100%
of royalties, to spread Basho’s wisdom worldwide
and preserve for future generations.

Quotations from Basho Prose


The days and months are
guests passing through eternity.
The years that go by
also are travelers.



The mountains in silence
nurture the spirit;
the water with movement
calms the emotions.


All the more joyful,
all the more caring


Seek not the traces
of the ancients;
seek rather the
places they sought.



Basho Spoken Word


Only this, apply your heart
to what children do


"The attachment to Oldness
is the very worst disease
a poet can have."


“The skillful have a disease;
let a three-foot child
get the poem"


"Be sick and tired
of yesterday’s self."


"This is the path of a fresh
lively taste with aliveness
in both heart and words."
.

"In poetry is a realm
which cannot be taught.
You must pass through it
yourself. Some poets have made
no effort to pass through, merely
counting things and trying
to remember them.
There was no passing
through the things."


"In verses of other poets,
there is too much making
and the heart’s
immediacy is lost.
What is made from
the heart is good;
the product of words
shall not be preferred."


"We can live without poetry,
yet without harmonizing
with the world’s feeling
and passing not through
human feeling, a person
cannot be fulfilled. Also,
without good friends,
this would be difficult."


"Poetry benefits
from the realization
of ordinary words."


"Many of my followers
write haiku equal to mine,
however in renku is the
bone marrow of this old man."


"Your following stanza
should suit the previous one as an expression
of the same heart's connection."


"Link verses the way
children play."


"Make renku
ride the Energy.
Get the timing wrong,
you ruin the rhythm."


"The physical form
first of all must be graceful
then a musical quality
makes a superior verse."

"As the years passed
by to half a century.
asleep I hovered
among morning clouds
and evening dusk,
awake I was astonished
at the voices of mountain
streams and wild birds."


“These flies sure enjoy
having an unexpected
sick person.”



Haiku of Humanity


Drunk on sake
woman wearing haori
puts in a sword


Night in spring
one hidden in mystery
temple corner


Wrapping rice cake
with one hands she tucks
hair behind ear


On Life's journey
plowing a small field
going and returning


Child of poverty
hulling rice, pauses to
look at the moon


Tone so clear
the Big Dipper resounds
her mallet


Huddling
under the futon, cold
horrible night


Jar cracks
with the ice at night
awakening



Basho Renku
Masterpieces

With her needle
in autumn she manages
to make ends meet
Daughter playing koto
reaches age seven


After the years
of grieving. . . finally
past eighteen
Day and night dreams of
Father in that battle


Now to this brothel
my body has been sold
Can I trust you
with a letter I wrote,
mirror polisher?


Only my face
by rice-seedling mud
is not soiled
Breastfeeding on my lap
what dreams do you see?



Single renku stanzas


Giving birth to
love in the world, she
adorns herself



Autumn wind
saying not a word
child in tears


Among women
one allowed to lead
them in chorus


Easing in
her slender forearm
for his pillow


Two death poems:


On a journey taken ill
dreams on withered fields
wander about

Clear cascade -
into the ripples fall
green pine needles




basho4humanity
@gmail.com




Plea for Affiliation

 

Plea For Affiliation

 

I pray for your help

in finding someone
individual, university,

or foundation - 
to take over my

3000 pages of material,   
to cooperate with me 

to edit the material,
to receive all royalties 

from sales, to spread

Basho’s wisdom worldwide,
and preserve for

future generations.


basho4humanity

@gmail.com