Oku no Hosomichi Journey

In March of 1689, Haiku poet Matsuo Basho set out with companion Sora on a journey north to Tohoku and Hokuriku.Starting in Senju, Tokyo, the journey first took the pair to Nikko, Kurobane, Shirakawa, Matsushima, and Hiraizumi of Oshu Province. Entering Dewa Province at Naruko Onsen, the pair went to Yamadera, along The Mogami River, up Dewa Sanzan “The Three Sacred Mountains of Dewa”, and all the way to Kujuku-shima. To mark their arrival in the Hokuriku Region, the pair travelled to Niigata via Sakata and Nezugaseki, before arriving at Ogaki in Mino Province. Altogether, the journey of over 2,400 km took 150 days. Attracted by Utamakura, a category of words long pined after by poets, Basho headed to Michinoku in the north in search of inspiration. Basho was especially infatuated in following in the literal footsteps of the famous poet Saigyo, as well as Minamoto no Yoshitsune. The famous Haiku poet hoped that by seeing what they had seen, he could further deepen his own work. This journey proved vital in Basho developing the now famous concept of Fueki Ryuko, immutability and fluidity.

A patch of rice field
The planting finished,
I leave the willow

Summer grass
Site of dreams
of old warriors

The summer rains
Gathering into swift flows
Mogami River

Matsuo Basho

Born and died: 1644-1694
Location of birth: Iga Province
Left for Edo (Tokyo) with aspirations of becoming a haikai poet at the age of 32
Began freelancing as a master at the age of 34
Retired to Fukugawa no An (Basho-An) at the age of 37
Established the Sho-fu style of haikai with Nozarashi Kiko, Kashima Mode, Sho no Kobun, Sarashina Kiko among other works.
Elevated the status of haikai, which until then was seen as only for play, by compiling Oku no Hosomichi at the age of 46.

This project was selected as part of the Agency of Cultural Affairs’ ‘Cultural Tourism Content Enrichment Project aimed at the Revitalisation and Expansion of Tourism’.