The journey begins ...

December 5th, 1688, 3pm

The months and days are travellers of eternity. Just like the years that come and go. For those who live their lives on boats, or lead horses towards old age, their lives are travel, their journeys are home. Indeed, many are those of old who lost their lives on the road.

For some years now, gazing up at clouds pushed along at the mercy of the wind, I have been unable to stop day-dreaming of distant shores. Last autumn I returned to my ramshackle hut on the banks of the Sumida River, swept away the cobwebs, and for a while felt settled. But as the year ended, and the spring haze rose in the sky, I began to think of crossing the barrier at Shirakawa. With these thoughts the gods took possession of my soul, the roadside deities beckoned, and it was impossible to focus on the day’s chores. Before I knew it I was patching my leggings, replacing the tie on my straw hat, and applying healing moxa to my legs. My thoughts turned to the full moon over Matsushima. I found another occupant for my hut, and stayed at a nearby hut owned by my disciple Sanpu. On this occasion I wrote:


Kusa no to mo / sumikawaru yo zo / hina no ie.

This grass hut
With its new occupants
Will be bustling
By the time of the dolls festival.

… and left it on the main pillar of my old home as the starting verse of eight linked poems.

(Image above is The Tiny Island at the Mouth of the Sumida River by Hokusai)

Chris, Lia, Ando, Avren and 7 others said thanks.

Share this moment

Matsuo Basho

Itinerate haiku poet walking Japan. Technically dead. (b. 1644 — d. 1694) Basho's poems and journal as translated and interpreted by Japanese scholar, John McBride.

Create a free account

Have an account? Sign in.

Sign up with Facebook