Haiku and Basho's Crossroad - Kurobane

Discover "Haiku and Basho's Crossroad - Kurobane"! 🏯 Explore the beauty and culture of Kurobane, where poet Matsuo Basho found inspiration on his journey, "Oku no Hosomichi" (The Narrow Road to the Deep North). 🌺 Enjoy the hydrangea festival, learn about haiku, and experience the serene landscapes that influenced Basho's poetry.

Video's Narrative

Haiku and Basho's Crossroad - Kurobane

Hi there! Imagine a journey that becomes a literary masterpiece. What if I told you such a trip truly happened? The Narrow Road to the Deep North, a travelogue known as "Oku no Hosomichi," is the route the renowned poet Matsuo Basho embarked on over 350 years ago. It wasn't your typical tourist path. Basho's epic 2,400-kilometer trek, spanning five months, ventured into many unexplored corners of Japan while also touching upon some well-known landmarks. In today's episode, we'll delve into one such stop - Koorohbaneh, a place where Basho found inspiration and solace.

On a tranquil, overcast morning, my wife and I set off for Koorohbaneh, drawn by the vibrant hydrangea festival at one of the parks. Adjacent to this park was the Museum of Matsuo Basho, a place we were eager to explore. Upon arrival, we noticed a few cars in the parking lot, yet the serene ambiance of the surroundings was apparent. The vivid colors and festive atmosphere of the hydrangea festival warmly greeted us as we strolled up the narrow hillside road leading to the park's center, nestled amidst the historic remnants of Koorohbaneh Castle. Along the access road, hydrangeas in various hues adorned the path, each cluster a unique masterpiece that captured our attention. Our leisurely walk soon brought us to lively stalls and fellow visitors, adding to the charm of our visit.

Koorohbaneh, often referred to as "Basho no Sato" or "Basho's Village," holds a special place in the famous travelogue Oku no Hosomichi—"The Narrow Road to the Deep North." Here, in what can be seen as "Basho's Crossroad," Basho spent 14 days—the longest stay in one place during his journey to the Deep North. This extended visit was a period of rest and reflection, preparing him for the next leg of his travels. Crossing the checkpoint (Seki) of Shirakawa had felt like entering a foreign land, and the time spent in Koorohbaneh was important and meaningful for him. The town's rich historical and cultural heritage, combined with its natural beauty, truly makes it a pivotal point in Basho's journey and a significant destination for us today.

As we delve into Basho's experiences in Koorohbaneh, it's crucial to understand the literary form he mastered—haiku. Basho, a renowned haiku poet, crafted these poems to capture the essence of a moment in just three lines. With a syllable pattern of 5-7-5, haiku often reflects the beauty and transience of nature.


What is Haiku?

* A traditional Japanese poem.
* Composed of three lines with a 5-7-5 syllable pattern.
* Often captures a moment in nature or a seasonal reference.
* Known for its simplicity and depth.
* A word indicating a season (kigo) is always included as a rule to set the seasonal context and evoke the atmosphere.

Example by Basho:

* Original Japanese: 古池や 蛙飛び込む 水の音
* Romanization: Furuike ya kawazu tobikomu mizu no oto
* Translation: An old pond, A frog jumps in— The sound of water.

Basho's haiku often focuses on nature and moments from everyday life. They aim to capture a single moment or feeling with simplicity and depth, using vivid imagery and sensory details. Haiku are known for their ability to evoke emotions and create a sense of mindfulness or contemplation about the natural world. One of his most famous haiku vividly evokes a scene: 'An old pond, A frog jumps in— The sound of water.' This simple yet profound verse encapsulates Basho's ability to capture fleeting moments in nature with clarity and depth.

Now, we are back to the hydrangea festival, where the vibrant atmosphere brought the park to life. Stalls offered local treats and handmade crafts, and we bought a pot of hydrangeas. In the center field, a stage hosted a group of children, no older than five or six, practicing a dance for the festival event. Their energy and enthusiasm were contagious, adding joy to our visit.

Later, we visited the nearby museum of Matsuo Basho. Passing through a bridge to the museum, we approached the yard, where a statue of Matsuo Basho on a horse, accompanied by his disciple Sora, stood proudly in front. The museum showcased items related to Basho’s works, particularly his poetic travelogue Oku no Hosomichi—"The Narrow Road to the Deep North." We spent some time in the museum, paying a ¥300 entrance fee, which was well worth it.

Matsuo Basho embarked on his renowned journey from his home in Fukagawa, Edo, on March 27, 1689. After about six weeks of travel, he arrived at Koorohbaneh in mid-May, where he planned to rest and gather inspiration for the arduous journey ahead. During this early visit, the hydrangeas had not yet bloomed, but Koorohbaneh Castle must have stood solidly amidst peaceful groves and expansive rice fields.

It was here, amidst this serene landscape, that Basho experienced a profound encounter with Daimyo Ōzeki's sons, aged 29 and 28, both already holding the prestigious position of Karo. Alongside them, other relatives and retainers joined in the gatherings, drawn by their shared love for poetry and literature cultivated during their time in Edo. Intrigued by Basho's reputation as a master poet, they extended their hospitality to him, eager to engage in discussions that spanned hours.

Basho found solace and renewed determination in the warm reception and intellectual exchanges at Koorohbaneh. The conversations and camaraderie provided him with the strength and inspiration needed for the challenging northward journey that lay ahead. With Sora, his faithful companion, Basho set forth on a spring day in late May, following the route outlined on his map. This poetic odyssey took him through the northern regions of Japan, spanning from the Tohoku region through Hokuriku and onward to Ōgaki—where his journey concluded. Ōgaki, located on the historic Nakasendō route in present-day Gifu Prefecture. It culminated in the autumn of the same year, marking the completion of his transformative expedition chronicled in Oku no Hosomichi ("The Narrow Road to the Deep North").

I reflected on his poignant opening words of Oku no Hosomichi: "The months and days are the travelers of eternity. The years that come and go are also voyagers." His journey to the Deep North mirrors the chapters of my own life in Japan and the United States.

After our explorations, we took a short drive to a nearby michinoeki, a well-loved roadside station famous for its delicious handmade soba. After waiting in a short line, we enjoyed tempura soba while reflecting on a memorable day and engaging in a haiku game that captured our experiences at the hydrangea festival.

Thank you for joining us on this episode. Our visit to Koorohbaneh blended natural beauty, historical intrigue, and vibrant cultural festivities. We hope you have learned about Basho and haiku through our exploration today. Stay tuned for more stories in the next episode of 'A Passage to Japan's Wonders.' Until then, take care and stay inspired by Basho's timeless words.

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