Comparison of Japanese Poetry and Basho

Comparisonof Japanese Poetry and Basho

JapanesePoetry and Basho

MatsuoKinsaku was famous for the revolution that Japanese literatureunderwent. He later adopted the name Basho. His specialty was poetryand he came up with a new style of writing known haikai no renga. Hewrote hundreds of haiku poems that were based on his travels aroundJapan. The discussion below will focus on the life of a man namedMatsuo Kinsaku.

Japaneseliterature had been in its dark ages for more than two centuries. Itwas not until the 17th century that it began to revive. Around thattime, a poet named Matsuo Kinsaku who was born in 1644. This poetbegan the study of Chinese poetry from a very young age. Heparticularly focused on the style of writing known as haikai no rengathat involved having the first three lines of a poem that do notrhyme consisting of five, seven and five syllables. This form ofwriting was prevalent at that time. He had a knack for this form ofwriting, and he was soon doing numerous works that involved thisstyle. He later came to adopt the name Basho after one of hisstudents gave him a basho tree as a gift. Basho was a compulsivetraveller. He was always on the move in search of new sights andexperiences. He was never satisfied with the work h wrote. He alwaysfelt like it was inadequate. After he had become a monk, he tried toensure his disciples followed the principles he always believed in.One of these principles was a form of lightness when it came towriting. This s best defined as a form of freedom when it came to thestructure of words and sentences. He was adept at describing naturalevents using simple and common words. Most of his writings areinvolved travel sketches. He began his journeys after a gruesome firedestroyed his home. After this, he moved from place to place whileaccompanied by several disciples who were learning from him. Thetravels ensured that Basho saw many different and fascinating sightsand wonders. This made him full of awe and wonder. Naturally, heexpressed his adoration for the natural sights through writing. Thus,he was an accomplished traveller and writer. His form of writing wasa revolutionary idea. Many poets at that time were yet to embracethis style, and Basho became the lead character towards theadaptation of this style of writing for Japanese poetry.

Japanesepoetry usually consisted of well-structured verses that had no formof freedom. Most of the words used were concrete and thus it failedat achieving the true sense of aesthetic appreciation. Basho came upwith a form of writing that was essentially based on ‘lightness’.This form of writing was of a variety that made many readers toappreciate fully the depth and structure of the poems. He was afully-fledged Zen monk, and he had studied under the master Buccho.An exchange that the two once hard whereby the master asked himnormal questions and Basho responded with poetic terms was one of themost famous of his conversations. It is believed that this exchangeinspired one of his greatest works ever. As a true Zen Monk, Bashohad completely detached himself from any form of possession orwealth. His keen concern was the achievement of enlightenment andartistic growth. Though he was a Zen monk most of his works avoidedthe form of writing that was common for the Zen poetries. Hepreferred the use of short and simple words that were bound to sendthe message he aimed at sending through his poetry. Overall, Bashowas an accomplished writer who influenced a new form of writing thatis still being practiced to date. There is an institution thatwriters their base all their works on his original style of writing.Until his death, Basho had written numerous haikki poems and hadtravelled almost the entire Japan. He left a huge impact on theJapanese literature and poetry. This was the first steps ofaccomplishment towards the modern Japanese literature

TheSumida River

SumidaRiver, which flows through the modern day Tokyo, used to flow closeto where Basho had his hut. Basho spent many evenings next to thisriver and he felt inspired whenever he gazed into the flowing waters.This river became the source of inspiration and it led to many Haikupoems that were composed by Basho and other subsequent writers. Thisriver was therefore monumental towards the growth of the Japaneseliterature. The discussion that follows will focus on the importanceof the Sumida River towards Japanese culture.

TheSumida River was close to where the Poet Basho used to live. This wasbefore fire destroyed his home and he chose a life of wanderingaround and viewing the world. Basho wrote a haiku poem based on thisriver. This river was diverted centuries back to control the floodingthat was usually caused by it during the rainy season. This riverinspired many famous works including the play known as Curlew River.This dramatic work was done by a British known as Benjamin Britten,who got inspired once he saw the river back in 1956. This play aimedat trying to display the aesthetic response he got once he first sethis eyes on the river. Basho also lived next to this river somecenturies back next to a banana tree from which he got his name.Basho was in tune with this river, and he saw himself as part of it.He made sure that he would be forever identified by this river. Thiswas evident by his adoption of the name ‘Basho’. The haiku poemshe wrote were based on the daily experiences that he observed alongthe riverbanks. They varied from the description of a woman who wasdrawing water from the river to a little boy that was playing alongthe banks. Basho moved houses three times and all those times, hemade sure that he was close to the Sumida River. Basho feltcompletely at one with this river, and he felt that it was the mainsource of his initial inspiration. He, therefore, saw himself as partof the river, he even though that he was born from the river and whenhe would die, his soul would be finally sent back to the river. Allthe haiku poems that were composed solely based on this Sumida Riverare numerous. Currently, this river is a historical site withnumerous museums. Most are based on the life of Basho and hisachievements with the haiku poems


Hass,R. (Ed). (1994). The Essential Haiku: Versions of Basho, Buson andIssa. Ecco Press.