Monday, December 18, 2006

Basho in Niigata

Matsuo Basho, father of the verse form haiku, set off from Edo (Tokyo) in May of 1689 on a pilgrimage to Japan's northern provinces. Accompanied by his disciple Sora, the two covered some 2400 kilometers, mostly on foot, during the ensuing five months. Their peregrinations took them along the Sea of Japan coast later that year, in August . Following the Hokuriku Road southwest from Yamagata Prefecture, the poets made few stops-and penned even fewer haiku- while in Echigo Province, as Niigata was then known. Nevertheless, Basho composed a fine poem in the village of Izumozaki, a small port sixty-odd kilometers from Niigata City. The following translation is by Dorothy Britton.
O'er wild ocean spray/ All the way to Sado Isle/ Spreads the Milky Way!
Though Niigata City itself cannot boast of having inspired the master's muse, the city honors Basho with a fine monument, the Basho-do, located on a promontory overlooking the sea. In clear weather, 佐渡ヶ島, the Sado Isle of Basho's poem, is clearly visible 65 kilometers away.
The photos show Basho-do and its setting in a copse of trees, as well as a nearby view of the Japan Sea. Incidentally, the Basho Memorial is in the vicinity of the site of Megumi Yokota's abduction.

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