Terebess Asia Online (TAO)


Matsuo Basho's
„Narrow Road to the Deep North”

Station 1 Notes

Eternity, in time, generations, voyagers
This is an allusion to a work by the Chinese poet Li Po.

Road, travelling, journey, journeyed
Basho's respected models all died on the road; Saigyo at Kawachi, Sogi at Hakone Yumoto, Li Po at Kiukiang, and Tu Fu who died at Lake Dotei. Where did Noin die?

Corner, road gods, Dosojin, spirits of the road
The Dosojin are pairs of male and female deities that protect travellers. These statues are located beside the roads.

Pillar, hut, cottage
A renga would be written on multiple sheets of paper with the first eight verses coming on the first page, so that is what Basho posted up. This renga no longer exists.

Dolls, well, house
By using the line "hina no ie" Basho suggests that whoever moves into this place has either a wife or a daughter. Since Basho has neither, the poem expreses how different his situation is from that of the new occupant.


Station 2 Notes

Twenty-seventh, last seventh,
According to Nihon Koten Bungaku Taikei, this date corresponds to May 16 in the western calendar.

Away, wan moon, waning moon, brilliance, the sky
This is a quotation from the "Broom Tree" chapter of the Tale of Genji.

Cherry blossoms, Yanaka, flowering branches,
The cherry blossoms of Ueno Yanaka were one of the famous sights of Edo. Here Basho wonders when, if ever, he will see them again. This may be an allusion to a poem written by Saigyo when he was in Shikoku and visited the Kamo Jinja. The poem he wrote on that occasion goes: "kashikomaru/ shide ni namida no/ kakaru ka na/ mata itsu ka wa to/ omou kokoro ni." (Sankashu)

Senju with its famous fish market was the first overnight stop on

Miles, 3000 li, ahead
The term "sanzenri" is often found in The Tale of Genji and other works of classical literature with which Basho was familiar. It means simply "a long distance," not specifically three thousand miles.

Tearful eyes, wept, departure, shed tears, world
Basho's grief here is a sadness for the passing of spring and a sadness at leaving behind his firends. His poem here may be an allusion to a poem by T'ao Yuan Ming who says that "birds seek their familiar forests and the fish year for their old pools."


Station 3 Notes

Paper coat, rainwear, raincoat
The paper coat was made from a kind of lacquered or oiled paper which made it both waterproof and wind resistant.

Reasons, to bear, inevitably, on the way, away
Basho concludes with a statement of resignation saying, in effect, "These are the difficulties faced by all travellers."


Station 4 Notes

Burning cell
The story from the Nihongi is this:
"The August Grandchild accordingly favored (i.e., married) her, whereupon in one night she became pregnant. But the August Grandchild was slow to believe this, and said:- 'Heavenly deity though I am, how could I cause anyone to become pregnant in the space of one night? That which thou hast in thy bosom is assuredly not my child.' Therefore Ka-ashi-tsu-hime was wroth. She prepared a doorless muro (called utsumuro), and entering, dwelt therein. Then she made a solemn declaration, saying: - 'If that which is in my bosom is not the offspring of the Heavenly Grandchild, it will assuredly be destroyed by fire, but if it is really the offspring of the Heavenly grandchild, fire cannot harm it.' So she set fire to the muro. The child which was born from the extremity of the smoke which first arose was called Ho no Susori no mikoto (he was the ancestor of the Hayato)..." [W.G. Aston, p. 71-3]
The Heavenly Grandchild here is the deity who descended from the high plain of heaven to Takachiho and thus provides the living link between heaven and earth.

According to another version of the story, the princess secluded herself in a cave which became a birthing room and purified it with fire to insure a safe birth. She gave birth to three deities: Hosuseri, Hoakari, and Hohodemi.

Several poems speak of the rising smoke here. Two poems from the Senzaishu: #7
煙かと室のやしまを見しほどにぱがても 空のかすみぬるかな。
And #186,
五月雨に室のやしまを見渡せば煙は波のよよ りぞたつ。
Fujiwara Sanekata wrote in Shikashu #188:
いかでかは 思ひありとも知らずべき室の八島の煙ならでは。

They say that this fish when cooked gives off the smell of burning human flesh and therefore is associated with the Lady of the Flowerbearing Trees. This is also why people are forbidden to eat this fish.


Station 5 Notes

Since there were only 29 days in this month we know that this episode was either made up or misplaced. SoraOs diary says that on the first day of the Fourth Month they visited the shrines at Nikko and then put up at Gozaemon's place. Donald Keene suggests that Basho chose to rearrange the sequence of events and add an extra day to the calendar because he wanted to create some space between his visits to two holy sites, Muro no Yashima and Nikko.

Most editions of the text put this passage in quotations, Gozaemon is saying this about himself. He refers to himself as Hotoke Gozaemon, that is, Gozaemon the Buddha.

April 13
This corresponds to May 19 in the Western calendar.

The original name Niko means "twice turbulent" mountain. There was an opening in the rocks on the northeast side of this mountain which erupted twice a year. When the venerable priest Kukai climbed the mountain, he changed the name to Nikko in order to pacify the eruptions. Another legend says that Katsudo Shonin asked Kukai to give this name to this sacred site in honor of the Kannon. This mountain was actually made a sacred site by Katsudo Shonin in the Engaku era in the late 8th century.

Black hair
All Basho says here is: Mount Kurokami was shrouded in mist and still white with snow.

Sora's poems says: "Cut my hair and cast it away, Mount Kuroyama, A change of clothes". He works a contrast and a comparison. He cut his own hair, but the mountain has black hair. He has changed his robes for those of a priest and the mountain has changed to its spring colors as of the 15th of the Fourth Month.

Pen name
Sora's original name was Iwanami Shozaemon Masataka and he later changed it to Kawai Sogoro. He was a native of Kami Suwa in Shinshu. He died in 1710 at the age of 62. During his lifetime he edited several volumes of poetry.

Basho says: That's why he wrote a verse about Kurokamiyama. Therefore the words 'koromogae' have great power.' Sora has changed his appearance recently and feels a kinship with the mountain which has done the same.

Basho calls the waterfall "Urami no taki," the waterfall of resentment or the waterfall seen from behind. Why doesn't he follow up on the potential double entendre?

Summer traditionally began on the 16th day of the Fourth Month and lasted for 90 days. It was customary for priests to go into seclusion in a room and dedicate themselves to reading and copying the sutras. These were the summer observances. Secluding himself in the cavern behind the waterfall reminds Basho of this practice. Another aspect of this is that seeing the falls from behind represents a new perspective on the world rather than the conventional one. What are we to make of the word "urami" which means both 'to see from behind' and 'a grudge.'


Station 6 Notes

According to Sora's diary, on the night of the Second Day of the Fourth Month they put up at the farm village Tamanyu (‹Ê¶) which is located between Nikko and Kurobane. Sora says the accomodations were poor.

There is an element of humor here as Basho the dedicated pilgrim seeking the proper way relies for guidance not on the ignorant farmer for directions, but on the farmer's horse.

The name Kasane calls to mind the double petalled primrose. Basho refers to her as a little princess.


Station 7 Notes

In the middle ages dog shooting took place in the horse riding grounds as a form of martial competition. It is said that the custom began here as a way of driving off the spirit of lady Tamamo.

Lady Tamamo
There is an element of humor here as Basho the dedicated pilgrim seeking the proper way relies for guidance not on the ignorant farmer for directions, but on the farmer's horse.

This is the Kanemaru Hachiman. Today it is called the Nasu Jinja. The story of Nasu no Yoichi can be found in Tales of the Heike in the episode describing the battle at Yashima =303= As the fight wore on, the warriors of Awa and Sanuki Provinces who had formerly sided with the Heike abandoned them and, in small bands of fifteen or twenty, left their hiding places in the hills and caves to join the Genji. Thus reinforced, Yoshitsune soon found himself in command of some three hundred horsemen.
'Night is falling. For now let us have no more fighting.' So said the men of both armies who began to withdraw. Suddenly from the offing, a small well-equipped and beautifully decorated boat was seen rowing toward the Genji. When it approached within seven or eight tan of the water's edge, it swung around, boradside to them. Then a court lady of eighteen or nineteen, wearing a five-layer white robe lined with blue over a scarlet hakama, took a red fan emblazoned with a gold rising sun and fixed it on top of a pole. She then stood the pole on the gunwhale and beckoned to the Genji.

Intrigued, Yoshitsune summoned Sanetomo and asked: 'What does that mean?'

'It may be a mark for us to shoot at, my lord,' replied Sanetomo. 'But there must be some treachery behind this. I think they would like you to step out of our ranks to look at that beauty. Thus enticing you out to the boat, they plan to shoot you, my lord. We must hav eone of our men hit that fan.

Yoshitsune inquired: 'Who is our best archer? Is there anyone who can bring down that fan?'

'We have quite a number of skilled bowmen, but the best one is Nasu no Yoichi, the sojn of Nasu no Suketaka, a native of Shimotsuke Province. He is a small man but a most skillful archer.'

'How can you prove it?'

'In a contest of shotting down birds in flight, he can always hit two out of three, my oord.'

'Then call him!'

On command, Yoichi stepped forward. This young warrior was but twenty years old. He wore armor laced with light green silk cords over a deep blue battle robe. The collar of the robe and the edges of the sleeves were decorated with red and gold brocade. At his side hung a silver-studded sheath. In his quiver were the black and white feathered arrows that remained from the day's battle and a turnip-headed arrow fashioned from a stag horn and fletched with feathers from a hawk's wing. These could be seen protruding from behind his head. Under his arm he carried a rattan-bound bow. With his helmet slung on his back, he came into the presence of Yoshitsune and made obeisance.

'Well, well, Yoichi!' said Yoshitsune. Can you hit that fan in the center and show the enemy how skillful we are at archery?'

'My success is not certain, my lord,' replied Yoichi. 'If I happened to fail it would be a disgrace for my lord and all the men of the Genji. Would it not be better to entrust this to someone who is confident of his success?'

Yoshitsune was incensed at his reply and roared: 'All of you who have come with me from Kamakura to the western provinces must obey my commands! Any who do not - away with them at once!'

Yoichi knew that he was already committed to shooting down the fan, so he said: 'I am still uncertain of my success, but inasmuch as this is my lord's command, I shall try.'

After he had retired from the presence of his master, he mounted a fine black horse with a lacquered, shell-inlaid saddle and a tassled crupper. Holding his bow firmly, he gripped the reins and rode toward the sea. The warriors on his side, seeing him off from the camp, exclaimed: 'This young fellow will surely bring down that fan!' Yoshitsune too was convinced of his success.

The fan was too far off for him to make a shot from the beach, so Yoichi rode about oner tan further into the water. The target still seemed very distant.

It was about the hour of the cock [6:00 p.m.] on the eighteenth day of the second month. Dusk had begun to fall. The north wind was blowing hard, and the high waves were lapping the beach. As the boat rolled and pitched, the fan atop the pole flapped in the wind.

Out on the offing the Heike had ranged their ships in a long line to watch the spectacle. On land the Genji lined up their horses neck to neck in anticipation.

Now Yoichi cliosed his eyes and prayed: 'Hail to the great bodhisattva Hachiman! Hail to the gods of my native land, Shimotsuke! Hail to the god Utsu-no-miya of Nikko! Grant that I may hit the center of that fan! If I fail, I will break my bow and kill myself! Otherwise how can I face my friends again? Grant that I may once more see my native land! Let not this arrow miss its target!'

When he opened his eyes, the wind had subsided a little, and the fan looked easier to hit. Taking the turnip-headed arrow, he drew his bow with all his might and let fly. Small man though he was, his arrow measured twelve handbreadths and three fingers, and his bow was strong. The whirring sound of the arrow reverberated as it flew straight to its mark. It struck the fan close to the rivet. The arrow fell into the sea, but the fan flew up into the air. It fluttered and dipped in the spring winds, and then suddenly dropped into the water. When the ed fan, gleaming in the rays of the setting sun, bobbed up and down on the white crests of the waves, the Heike offshore praised Yoichi by beating on the gunwhales of their boats, and the Genji on the shore applauded him by rattling their quivers.

Yoichi's feat was so exciting that a warrior of some fifty years of age, unable to restrain himself, sprang up on the boat and began to dance near the place where the fan had been hoisted. He wore armor laced with black leather and carried a sickle-bladed halberd with an unlacquered wooden shaft.

Yoshimori rode into the sea and came up behind Yoichi, saying: 'Our lord has commanded that you shoot that fellow too.'

This time Yoichi took one of his sharpest arrows, drew his bow, and let fly. The shaft flew true, hit the dancer in the neck, and knocked him headfirst down to the bottom of the boat. The heike were silent, while the Genji rattled their quivers again. Some applauded saying: 'A fine shot!' But some criticized saying: 'That was a cruel thing to do!'

[From: The Tale of the Heike translated by Hiroshi Kitagawa and Bruce Tsuchida, University of Tokyo Press, 1975, pp. 658-60.] =303= Yoichi actually prayed to the Hachiman at Chisen Jinja. Basho visited Kanemaru on 4.13 and Chisen on 4.19, but he relates this incident in connection with Kanemaru.

Shugen sect
Komyoji is a temple where the warrior austerities are practiced. According to Sora they visited here on 4.9. At this temple is a statue of En no Gyoja, a mountain priest and wizard who lived in the Nara period. He was the founder of the shugen sect. His real name was En no Ozuno and he lived in the mountains of the Yamato region where he practiced Buddhist austerities. He opened the mountains of Kinbusen in Yoshino and Omine among others. As a result of defamation he was exiled to Izu from 699 to 701. Based on legends, Tsubouchi Shoyo wrote a three act play about him in 1917.

The reference to the summer mountains suggests that they have already entered the north country. Surely there is an element of humor in this poem as Basho piously worships Gyoja's clogs rather than the holy man himself. In another sense, Basho is a traveller and is also praying for strength in his legs for the journey ahead.


Station 8 Notes

According to Sora, Basho visited here on 4.5. Buccho also used the name Rakuami. He was the 21st chief priest of the Konponji. He was attached to the Kashima Jingu and for nine years beginning in 1674 he fought to get the temple property back. In 1683 he achieved his goal and resigned as head priest. He died in 1715 at the age of 73.

Basho meets a throng of other travellers, especially a group of boisterous young people , but then he draws away from them; first up a valley, through a gate, and finally, after having exhausted all of the ten famous views of Unganji, he crosses a bridge leaving the world completely behind. When at last he reaches the temple, he ignores the religious site and goes around to the back to seek out the ruins of Buccho's hermitage, a shrine to poetry not religion. (Was Buccho also a poet?)

Genmyo was a Chinese Zen priest of the southern Sung dynasty. According to legend, he secluded himself in a cave and closed it up staying inside for 15 years. Houn was a great Chinese poet of the Liang dynasty (502-556 CE). He founded the Hounji Temple. He built his hermitage on an isolated stone and it is said that until the end of his days he never tired of disputation and debate.

What does this mean that his poem is impromptu? Does this suggest that most of his poems are not? Basho uses the term toriaenu and the notes interpret it to mean ÒsokkyoÓ.


Station 9 Notes

The farmer who led the horse asks for a poem card, a rectangular card on which one writes a poem and presents to a person. Basho characterizes this request as yasashiki koto an expression of gentle sensibility. This establishes a contrast with the sinister Murder Stone.

Poisonous gas
What actually vents from the ground around this stone is a combination of sulphur and arsenic gas.

In contrast to the poisonous miasma of the murder stone is the kiyomizu of the crystal stream. Here is where Saigyo is said to have stopped and composed his poem, Shinkokinshu #262:
(On the shore of this limpid rill/ beneath a weeping willow tree/ For a while I will lie still/ From the heat of summer free. H.H. Honda).
The contrast between Saigyo's and Basho's poems is that Saigyo comes to this spot and pauses; Basho pauses and continues on his way.

The ruler referred to here is Ashino Yasuyoshi who died in Genroku 5 (1692) at the age of 56. For further reference see: ?‘Oe‚A?‘•¶Šw: , vol. 24, no. 7.

There is no specific mention of girls planting the field in Basho's text, but the universal custom was for the fertile young women of the villages to do the planting in the hope that they would convey some of their fertility to the rice and insure a rich harvest.


Station 10 Notes

Shirakawa is a pillow word and many poems have been written at this location. We know from Sora's diary that Basho passed through the new barrier gate although he also made a slight detour in order to visit the ruins of the old gate which had been established some 500 years earlier.

This is a reference to Taira no Kanemori who visited here and wrote the following poem which is found in the Shuishu:
‚1‚a‚e‚ ‚ç‚΂c‚©‚A“s‚Ö??‚°‚â‚ç‚n?!“ú”’‰Í‚IŠÖ‚͉z‚¦‚E‚A?B

The three major gates of the northern interior were 1) Shirakawa of Iwaki, 2) Nakoso of Hitachi, and 3) Nezu of Dewa. Later, Basho will briefly mention crossing the barrier at Nezu.

For poets here Basho uses the term Fuso (•—‘›?jmeaning 'a noisy wind' or a 'boisterous wind.' Why does he use this term to designate a literary man?

Autumn wind
This means he can hear the autumn wind in his ears although it is now only early summer. This is a reference to a poem by Noin =306=
Noin (988-?) His real name was Tachibana no Nagayasu. He studied poetry under the supervision of Fujiwara no Nagato and established the precedent of the master-disciple relationship. He took holy orders around the year 1013 and from that time onward led an itinerant life. He was later epitomized by Saigyo (1118-90). His legendary dedication to poetry gave rise to many famous anecdotes preserved in the medieval tale collections.

From his travels he produced Noin Utamakura, a work esteemed by later classical poets for its treatment of various scenic places. His personal anthology, Noin Hoshi Shu was compiled between 1044-49 and contains 257 poems. His verse is noted for its descriptive qualities, a new departure in an age characterized by wit and intellectualizing.

Basho's interest in Noin is evident from the fact that he was a traveller who used poetry to write about scenic places he had visited and from the fact that he chose to focus ont he descriptive qualities in an age of wit an intellectualizing which is the same departure Basho made from the Danrin school of poetry. =306= which goes:

Autumn tints
Here Basho is thinking thoughts of autumn leaves and makes reference to a poem by Minamoto Yorimasa from the Senzaishu: ?@?@?ç?Í?W?@?@?”‚R‚U‚S?F
Notice how Basho is moving through time, not only in his allusions to these earlier poets, but also in the seasons. It is early summer, but his mind is in autumn and winter. He not only moves back over the years, but also around through the seasons.

The allusion here is to a paoem by Oe Sadashige from the Zoku Goshuishu: ‘±Oa?E^â?W?@?@?”‚S‚X‚Q?F?@ŠÖ?á‚?

This is a reference to an episode recounted by Fujiwara Kiyosuke in Fukurozoshi. According to this story Takeda Daifu Kokugyo rearranged his clothes and wore his best hat when he passed through the barrier at Shirakawa. Asked why he went to such pains, he replied that since the ancient priest Noin =306= had composed such a distinguished poem
here, it would not be right to pass through in ordinary clothing

Sora affects to be a beggar with no good clothes or hat to change or straighten. All he has are flowers to decorate his hat. He prefers to show off his poetic sensibility rather than his clothes.


Station 11 Notes

River Abukuma
Abukumagawa is an utamakura. The name of the river uses the same characters as we see later in Takekuma no matsu. Is this significant?

Notice that Basho makes reference to all four directions here: Mount Bandai on the left, three villages on the right, he croses over the mountain range with Hitachi behind him and Shimotsuke in front of him. This refers to NESW.
Crossing the range of mountains is also a further echo of the crossing he made at Shirakawa, each crossing separating him further from what he has left behind. We will notice that all of Basho's main experiences are preceded by notes of anticipation and followed by echoes.

Shadow Pond
Kagenuma in Japanese. In the Kenryaku era, 1211-13, Wada Tanenaga, the son of Yoshimori was implicated in his father's rebellion and was exiled to this place. Tanenaga's wife came here yearning to be reunited with her husband only to find that he had already been executed. In despair, hugging a mirror to her breast, she jumped into the pond and drowned. Ever since that time the surface of the pond is said to reflect things like a mirror. A guidebook from Basho's time, however, assures us that on cloudy days the pond does not reflect anything.

His real name was Sagara Izaemon and he was the headman of this post stop. He was six years older than Basho and had formerly lived in Edo. The two poets were old friends.

The message of the poem is that these songs are Basho's first flavor of the north country. Again this is an echo of his experience at Nikko where he saw the Urami waterfall as his first worship of this summer devoted to travel.

The allusion here is to Saigyo's poem from the Sankashu which goes:
For a further discussion of this passage see: LaFleur, William. The Karma of Words, University of California Press, 1983, p. 149-64.

Gyoki Bosatsu was a priest of the Nara period (8th century). The Emperor Shomu (724-49) was his devoted follower.


Station 12 Notes

Glimpse of it
Basho creates a sense of urgency in this passage. He says there were many swamps, so he asked people where the katsumi were to be found, but they did not know, so he searched frantically from swamp to swamp asking each person he saw, but the setting sun reached the edge of the mountain and he could not find the flower. This is in contrast to several other sites where he does not seem at all troubled at not being able to see what he came for. This urgency here contrasts with his indifference at Kagenuma.

This reference to Nihonmatsu may be setting us up for a later visit to Takekuma no matsu. Kurozuka as a place is the source of many legends dealing with an old hag, a malignant spirit, who lies in wait for travellers and devours them. Taira no Kanemori has a poem in the Shuishu #559 which goes:

The sense of this poem is to ask the question: Does Kurozuka in Adachigahara really contain a malignant spirit? This legend can also be found in the No play Adachigahara also sometimes called Kurozuka.


Station 13 Notes

The word shinobu has two meanings in Japanese. One sense is to endure hardship, pain, or suffering; the other is to remember. Thus, memory or remembrance is often linked to pain. Basho does not seem to exploit this double entendre.

They spread the cloth on the stone, scattered grass over it and rubbed the juice of the grass into the fabric which both dyed it and gave it a pattern of the checkered design of the stone.

We notice that Basho often relies on questionable guides, in this case local children. He relates their story, but in a way that slyly questions its authenticity. Basho does not mind this.

Basho says that people who came to see the stone pulled up the farmer's grain crops to spread on the stone to make their own souvenirs and thus destroying the crops.

The poem literally says something like:
The hands that transplant the rice formerly did the dyeing.


Station 14 Notes

Sato Shoji is a reference to Sato Motoharu, a warrior of the late Heian period and a retainer of Fujiwara no Hidehira who brought the Fujiwara family to the peak of its glory in the Mutsu region at Hiraizumi. Basho is anticipating his stop later at Hiraizumi. Sato Motoharu fought against Yoritomo and gave sanctuary to Yoshitsune. When Yoritomo attacked in the southern part of Fukushima, Sato died in the fighting. Sato's two sons were Tsugunobu (1158-85) and Tadanobu (1161-86); both were warriors who fought with Yoshitsune and were counted among his special guardians. The older brother, Tsugunobu died at the battle of Yashima when he was struck by an arrow intended for Yoshitsune. He was called Saburo while Tadanobu, the younger brother, was called Jiro. When Yoshitsune was hiding out at Yoshino, the party was attacked by warrior priests. Tadanobu pretended to be Yoshitsune and took the full brunt of the attack while his master escaped. The following year Tadanobu entered Kyoto in secret, was discovered and surrounded by hostile forces and so committed suicide.

The Tales of the Heike gives an account of Tsuginobu's death:

That day Yoshitsune wore armor laced with purple silk cords over a red brocade battle robe. At his side hung a sword in a gold-studded sheath. In his quiver were black and white feathered arrows. Now, gripping his rattan-bound bow at its middle and glaring at the ship, he roared: 'I am Minamoto no Yoshitsune, the captain of the Police Commissioners Division with the fifth court rank. I am here as an envoy of the cloistered emperor.'
Following Yoshitsune's lead, all the Genji chieftains, Nobutsuna, Iesada, Chikaie, and Yoshimori, declared their names and titles. Still others - Sanetomo and his son, Motokiyo, Tsuginobu and his brother Tadanobu, Genzo, Kumai-Taro, and Benkei - declared themselves.

'Shoot! Fight them to the death!' cried the Heike, letting fly showers of arrows all along the shore. But the Genji dodged right and left to avoid the deadly shafts. The boats that had been beached and deserted by the heike were used as shields, behind which the Genji rested their horses. In the meantime, Sanetomo, a vetern warrior of the Genji who did not take part in the fight on the beach, proceeded to the palace and set it afire. The place went up in flames in the twinkling of an eye.

Munemori summoned his retainers and inquired: 'How many men are there in the Genji force?'

'No more than seventy or eighty, my lord. This is all we have counted so far,' was the reply.

'What a shame!' exclaimed Munemori. 'Even if the hairs of their heads were counted one by one, the total would not equal our force! Why did we not stand fast and destroy them? Instead, at the first sight of the enemy we ran to our boats. We even allowed them to burn down the palace. Is not Lord Noritsune here? Let him land and do battle!'

At this command, Noritsune had small boats rowed back to the shore carrying a band of warriors under the command of Moritsugi, and they took up a position in front of the burned out main gate of the palace. In response, Yoshitsune drew his eighty men within shooting range. Now Moritsugi stood on the deck of his boat and roared at the Genji: 'I know you have already declared your names and titles, but far from the shore I could not hear you well. Which were they, real names or assumed ones? Who is the commander with whom I deal today?'

'It is needless to repeat our names and titles!' Yoshimori shouted back. 'What a fool you are! Our commander is the captain of the Police Commissioner's Division, Yoshitsune, a younger brother of Lord Yoritomo, a tenth-generation descendant of Emperor Seiwa.'

'Oh, I remember him,' retorted Moritsugi, 'He is little more than a child. When his father was killed during the heiji Insurrection, he was left orphaned with no hope but to become a temple serving boy at Kurama, and then he ran away to Mutsu carrying baggage in attendance upon a gold merchant.'

'How your tongue rattles!' replied Yoshimori. 'You shall pay for your impudent insult to our lord! Remember! Was it not you who was kicked down the mountain of Tonami a few years ago and had a narrow escape staggering along the Hokuriku Highway, begging and weeping your way home to the capital?'

'I am a retainer of a bounteous master, satisfied with his great favors. Why should I be a beggar?' Moritsugi cried back. 'Now, what about yourself? Are you not ashamed to make your living and keep your family by robbing and thieving in the mountains of Suzuka in Ise?'

At this point Ietada cut in: 'Stop this nonsense! What is the good of playing with words? Any fool can do that! Simply remember what you saw at Ichi-no-tani last spring! You saw what our valiant young warriors of Musashi and Sagami can do!' Ô Ietada had hardly spoken these words when his brother, Chikanori, took an arrow twelve handbreadths and three fingers long, fitted it to his bow, and drew it with all his might. The arrow flew hissing straight at Moritsugi and pierced his breastplate and chest. This put an end to the oratorical warfare! Ô 'Let me show you how to fight a sea battle!' exclaimed Noritsune, the governor of Noto Province. That day he was not wearing a battle robe but a tye-dyed short-sleeved kimono,over which was armor laced with twilled silk cords. At his side hung a long sword in a magnificant sheath. Over his shoulder was slung a quiver containing twenty-four arrows plumed with black and white feathers from a hawk's tail. His left hand held a rattan-bound bow. He was a powerful bowman renowned throughout the land; no one within range could escape his shafts. Now he marked Yoshitsune for a single shot. The Genji were aware of his intention, and so Tsuginobu and his brother Tadanobu, Yoshimori, Hirotsuna, Genzo, Kumai-Taro, and Benkei - each renowned as a match for a thousand - rode neck and neck in front of their master to protect him. Noritsune could not draw a bead on his well- guarded target.

'Get out of the path of my arrows, you worthless berggars!' screamed Noritsune. Drawing his bow again and again, he shot down ten or so armored Genji horsemen in an instant.

Tsuginobu had been in the vanguard of the Genji, and so an arrow had pierced him through from the left shoulder to the right armpit. Mortally wounded, he pitched headfirst to the ground. One of Noritsune's servants, Kikuo, a young man of great strength grasped a long sickle-bladed halberd with an unlacquered wooden shaft, darted to take the head of Tsuginobu. He was about to fall upon the body when Tsuginobu's brother Tadanobu drew his bow and sent an arrow through the back joint of Kikuo's body armor. Staggered by this shot, Kikuo fell and began to crawl away. Seeing Kikuo in danger, Noritsune sprang from his boat and still holding his bow under his left arm, seized Kikuo with his right hand and dragged him aboard. Kikuo's head was saved from the enemy, but he soon died from his wound.

This young man, aged eighteen, had formerly been in attendance upon the governor of Echizen Province, Michimori, but since the death of his lord, he served Michimori's brother, Noritsune. Noritsune felt such grief at the death of Kikuo that he lost heart to do battle.

Yoshitsune ordered his men to carry Tsuginobu to the rear. Alighting from his horse, Yoshitsune took the wounded soldier by the hand and said: 'Tsuginobu, revive yourself!'

'But I am dying, my lord,' replied Tsuginobu faintly.

'Are there any last words you wish to say?' asked Yoshitsune.

'Nothing, my lord,' replied Tsuginobu. 'The only thing I regret is that I shall not live to see you flourish. Except for this, I have no desires. It is the fate of a man of bow and sword to fall by the shaft of an enemy. I am content with this death, for they will say in the days to come that Tsuginobu died in place of his master at the battle on the beach of Yashima in Sanuki Province during the war between the Genji and the Heike. This is a great honor for a warrior, and it is something I will carry with me on the shaded path to the world beyond.'

As the valiant soldier's breath began to fail, Yoshitsune wept bitterly and ordered his men to seek a reputable priest. When they found one, Yoshitsune instructed him: 'This wounded man is dying. I wish you to gather as many of your disciples as possible and let them write out a copy of a sutra within a day and pray for this soldier's better lot in the next world.'

With this request, Yoshitsune presented to the priest a fine black horse and a gold-studded saddle. This was the horse that Yoshitsune had given the name Tayuguro at the time he had received the fifth court rank with the title of captain of the Police Commissioners Division. Also, it was on this horse that Yoshitsune had galloped down the precipitous slope of the Hiyodorigoe Pass behind Ichi-no-Tani.

Now, when all the warriors, led by Tsuginobu's brother Tadanobu, saw their master's gracious act, they were moved to tears and exclaimed: 'For the sake of our lord, we shall not hesitate to risk our lives. In comparison to his, ours are as trivial as dust and dew.' [The Tale of the Heike. trans. By Hiroshi Kitagawa and Bruce Tsuchida, University of Tokyo Press, 1975, pp.654-7.] =307=

In China during the Chin dynasty an official named Yang Hu died and people erected a monument on top of a hill to celebrate his great virtue. It turned out that everyone who came to see the monument found himself in tears. Consequently, the poet Tu Yu called it the Weeping Stone. When Basho says, "I felt I was in the presence of ...," the phrase he uses is ishibumi mo touki ni arazu, meaning that although it is in distant China, it is also right before his eyes. This allusion may also be to the No play Ukai which uses the line, "Hell is not in some distant place, it is right here before our eyes."


Station 15 Notes

Commentators are unsure of the exact nature of Basho's old complaint. Some hasve suggested that it was hemorrhoids while others have thought it was a stomach ailment brought on by gall stones. Sora does not mention this illness in his account leading some commentators to think it may have been a fictional episode. Others say that since the illness was of a personal nature, Sora chose not to comment on it.


Station 16 Notes

Abumizuri gets its name from the mountain pass located here. The name means "to scrape one's stirrups" and it comes from the fact that the defile of the pass is so narrow the traveller's stirrups scrape as he passes through.

Fujiwara no Sanekata =308= [] =308= was a poet of the Heian period active during the reign of the Emperor Ichijo (986-1011). The story is that he had an argument in the palace with Fujiwara Yukinari. For this he was censured by the Emperor and demoted to the position of Governor of Mutsu. On his way to take up his duties he passed by the Dosojin of Kasajima without dismounting. For this show of disrespect he was thrown from his horse and died.

This passage actually says, "The Dosojin shrine and, off to the side, the susuki grass are still there." The allusion is to a poem Saigyo wrote when he visited this place. See Shinkokinshu #793:
When travelling in Michinoku he came across a large tomb. He wondered whose it was, and found out it was the grave of Fujiwara no Sanekata. It was winter, and frost-bitten plume grass stood forlorn, and he wrote this, feeling sad. A name imperishable/ he left behind,/ but only plume grass/ stands by, all withered. (H.H. Honda, p. 217).


Station 17 Notes

Takekuma no Matsu =309=

1. Oa?E^â?W?@?@?”‚P‚Q‚O‚P?F?@?@‹k?G’E‚Ý‚?‚I‚­‚ɂɉo‚e‚Ä•?OG‚I?1‚?‰I‚É
•?OG‚I?1‚Í“n–O‚?ŽO‚«‚AO3‚ւ΂a‚­“Ç‚é‚É‚Í”n‚E?¬‚ׂµ ?@?[?@‘m?3?[Šo
Tachibana Hidetori went down to Michinokuni and sang about the pine of Takekuma sayaing that if soeone inquired about its double trunk, he would reply "miki." Hearing this, the poet wrote: If they say the pine of Takekuma's two trunks are miki. If you read it carefully, that is not the case.

Hoping you will/ soon return/ like the trees at Takekuma/ I, pine for you, ageing fast. (H.H. Honda)

Still thinking that perhaps you will return, like the pine at Takekuma I have grown extremely old.

Living long by the grace of the pine of Takekuma, who was it who long ago said it had three trunks?

On being appointed governor of Michinoku, he went there and saw that the pine of Takekuma was withered and dead, so he planted a small pine on the spot. Later, after his term of service had ended, he was once again made governor of the province and went to see the pine he had planted on that first occasion.

When I planted you I made a pledge to come and see you once again, Takekuma no matsu.

When Sanjo Taiseidaijin left to become governor of Mutsu, he recited this poem as a parting gift: Gazing at the pine of Takekuma, I will be comforted by the shade it has provided for a thousand years.

At the 360th poetry competition at Sumiyoshi Shrine - Things that Grow Love: From afar I make my pledge to your three trunks alone, but till the end you remain heartless, pine of Takekuma.

To whom shall I proclaim that I am waiting at Takekuma no matsu, I who do not return to my home.

If a thoughtful person travelled to Michinokuni, I wonder if I could follow and see the Takekuma no matsu with her?

All the more it comes to me at Takekuma no matsu, will you wait for the one who has gone away?

Deep rooted though young, for a thousand ages the young pines cluster around Takekuma no matsu.

A person leaves to work in Michinokuni and I ponder, Ohow many years will I wait (takekuma no matsu) in sorrow for his return?

Though our separation may be temporary, my fondness for you continues steadfast as the pine of Takekuma.

‚P‚R?B?VOA?!?W?@?@?”‚P‚S‚V‚S?F‹k^×’‡’©?b—¤‰o‚ÉŽ~‚e‚—‚鎞?@‰I‚ ‚Ü‚1^₵‚—
Misty and fiar/ must look the moon/ at Takekuma/ on the vernal night (H.H. Honda)

Hesitantly the moon seems to rise leaking into the nook of the pine of Takekuma, moonlight on a spring evening.

[NB. The middle two lines of this poem form a sort of palindrome.]

Even the green of Takekuma no matsu is buried now under snow, shall I tell people of this sight I see?

‚P‚T?B?V?ç?Í?W?@?@?”‚V‚S‚U?F?@“!O´O“Žž—¤‰o‚É‚E‚e‚Ä‚­‚3‚e‚—‚é‚É‚Í ‚E‚?‚c‹‹‚Ó‚A‚Ä•?OG‚I?1‚IŠô?c‚©Oo‚É‚—‚é‚A”N‚?‚©‚1‚Ö‚Ä‹A‚e‚ ‚Í‚E‚??@ ?[?@‹a??‰E‘a?b
On Fujiwara no Kanetoki's departure for Michinokuni Like the Takekuma no matsu I will wait counting the long days wondering when he will return.

How many years has the pine at Takekuma stood? I count the years wondering when you will return.

‚P‚U?BOa?E^â?W?@?”‚P‚O‚S‚R?F?@‚Ý‚?‚I?‘‚É‚Ó‚1‚1‚N‰o‚e‚ÄOa‚I‚1‚N‚1 ‚—‚­‚Ü‚I?1‚aŽ~‚ç‚´‚e‚—‚e‚΂a‚ÝŽ~‚e‚—‚é
Travelling to Michinoku for the second time and finding on this later occasion that the Takekuma pine was no longer there, the poet composed this: This time there is no trace of the pine at Takekuma, lasting for a thousand years is my resentment.

‚P‚V?BOa?E^â?W?@?”‚P‚O‚S‚Q?F?@‘YOo‚I’©?b‚I‹–‚É‚Ý‚?‚I‚­‚ɂɉo ‚e‚Ä‚1‚—‚­‚Ü‚I?1‚?‚a‚ÝŽ~‚e‚—‚é
The pine of Takekuma has two trunks, if a person from the capital asks if this is true, shall I say "three trunks?" =309= is an Utamakura, many poems have been written about this pine tree with its double trunk. It is sometimes called niki no matsu. In his diary for the Fourth Day of the Fifth Month, Sora writes: "To the left of the entrance to Iwanuma is the Takekoma Myojin. Behind the Bettodera Temple there is the Takekuma no matsu pine tree. A bamboo fence surrounds it."

[Noin] =306=


Station 18 Notes

It is widely believed that the artist Kaemon's real name was Yamada Shohei II and that he ran a woodblock carving establishment called Yamadaya. As proof that he was also a painter, there still exists an ema painted and signed by him. His youngest son, Joshibo Hakkyo, was also a well known haiku poet. There are, however, other views about this man. Sora's diary entry for 5.7 suggests that his name was actually Kitano Kashi; in which case he would not have been related to Joshibo Hakkyo. What is certain is that Kaemon wrote poetry under the pen name Kashi.

Basho characterizes Kaemon with the term "Furyu no sharemono." "Sharemono" usually means someone who is foolishly obsessed with something, but in this case, Basho does not use it as a term of derision although he acknowledges that others may consider it so.

These shoe laces are just an indication of Kaemon's artistic sensibility, they also refer back to the custom alluded to at the beginning of the passage where people toss ayame onto the roofs to ward off illness. Here the purple magic is applied to their feet to keep the travellers' legs and feet strong.


Station 19 Notes

There are many poems about the sedge mats of Tofu (Tofu no Suge or Tofu no sugamono).

Tsubo no Ishibumi
This refers to an ancient stone monument found at Tsubomura just north of Shichinoe. Later the stone monument at Taga Castle came to be called by the same name.

Ono no Azumabito
Ono no Azumabito accompanied Fujiwara Umakai in his attack on the barbarian Emishi. He built Taga Castle. According to Zoku Nihongi, he died in the 14th year of Tempyo.


Station 20 Notes

Tsubo no Ishibumi
This refers to an ancient stone monument found at Tsubomura just north of Shichinoe. Later the stone monument at Taga Castle came to be called by the same name.

Ono no Azumabito
Ono no Azumabito accompanied Fujiwara Umakai in his attack on the barbarian Emishi. He built Taga Castle. According to Zoku Nihongi, he died in the 14th year of Tempyo.

Noda no Tamagawa
Noda no Tamagawa is an Uta Makura. This is one of six famous Tamagawas in Japan. Noin wrote a famous poem about it, Shinkokinshu #643: Come evening briny air starts flowing in with plovers crying over Tama's stream at Noda in Michinoku (H.H. Honda, p. 173)

Rock in the offing
A poem by Nijoin in the Senzaishu twists the meaning of this Uta Makura: -- The reference is to a stone in a small pond at Hachiman Jiohi at Taga Castle.

Sue no matsuyama
This is also an Uta makura. Among the Azuma Uta of the Kokinshu is: -- Another poem from Goshuishu by Kiyohara no Motosuke (One of the 36 poetic geniuses of the Heian period, he was also a skilled player of the koto. He was editor of the Gosen Waka Shu ((909-990)): --

This word is written with the same characters as "Sue no Matsuyama," so the place name and temple name reinforce each other.

End of our lives
This is a reference to the poem "Everlasting Sorrow" by Po Chu-i.

Old poem
This is an allusion to one of the Azuma Uta in the Kokinshu which goes:--

Okujoruri is a kind of old style joruri, also called "Sendai Joruri" or "Okuni Joruri." In this style one narrates a story to the rhythm of a fan or biwa.

In Japanese the line literally says: "He beat it with a rustic rhythm and he did it close by my pillow, but at any rate it was a tradition of this area and I could not put it from my mind, and so it seemed commendable."

Myojin Shrine
This Myojin Shrine was built by Date Masamune (1567-1639). He had inherited the Mutsu domain from his father. In 1590 he had an audience with Toyotomi Hideyoshi at his camp at Odawara and was received as a retainer of the Taiko. Later, at Sekigahara and at the seige of Osaka Castle he led attacks for Tokugawa Ieyasu and was later given the Sendai domain. He built the Shiogama Myojin shrine in 1597.

Izumi no Saburo
Izumi no Saburo was the third son of Fujiwara no Hidehira (?-1187) who built the powerful Fujiwara presence at Hiraizumi in the late Heian period. From there he ruled the north. Hidehira opposed Minamoto no Yoritomo and favored Yoshitsune. On his death bed Hidehira ordered his sons to protect Yoshitsune from Yoritomo. Saburo tried to do so and was murdered by his treacherous older brother. He died at the age of 23.

Five hundred years
Literally this passage reads: "The ghosts of 500 years ago came floating before my eyes now." This is an echo of the 1000 year old stone monument he had seen earlier at Taga Castle.


Station 21 Notes

Tall islands
For tall islands Basho uses the term "sobadatsu mono" meaning those which prick up their ears. Meanwhile, those that are prostrate are crept about by the waves.

Some islands are stacked in layers of two, others in stacks of three; on the left they are separated, on the right, joined together; some carry the other on their backs, some embrace each other; they are charming like children and grandchildren. Their bent limbs are naturally straightened by the sea breeze. Both the sentences end in the phrase 'ga gotoshi' which emphasizes the parallelism.

Feminine countenances
This reference comparing Matsushima to a beautiful woman comes out again in an oposite way at Kisagata. Basho's phrasing here is a reference to a Chinese poem about the beautiful women of Seiko, the place referred to above.

Priest Ungo
Ungo Zenji was a man from Tosa and a priest at the Myoshinji in Kyoto. In 1637 he was invited to Matsushima by Date Tadamune to be the priest at Zuiganji. He died in 1659 at the age of 78.

Makabe no Heishiro
A priest of the Kamakura period who had studied in Sung China.

Priest Kenbutsu
Kenbutsu Hijiri built a hermitage on Ojima and practiced austerities there for 12 years. He read the Lotus Sutra repeatedly and was admired by the Emperor Toba. Saigyo was quite fond of this man and came here to visit him and ended up spending three months.


Station 22 Notes

Aneha no matsu is written with the characters for "Elder sister's teeth," whatever that means. Ise Monogatari makes a reference to "Kurihara no Aneha no matsu."

"Odae no hashi" is referred to in a poem by Sakyo Daifu Michinori in the Goshuishu #751:
Michinoku no/ Odae no hashi ya/ korenaramu/ fumimi fumazumi/ kokoro matowasu.
Both this and "Aneha no matsu" mentioned above are utamakura. Although Basho did not actually visit these places he wanted to refer to them as famous poetic sites.

According to Sora's detailed account it was no accident that they visited Ishinomaki and no fictional account either. The only fiction is the claim that they were lost.

Flowers of gold
The blooming flowers of gold refers to a poem by Otomo Iemochi in the Manyoshu #4097:
sumerogi no/ miyo sakaemu to/ azuma naru/ michinoku yama ni/ kogane hana saku.
The story is that in the reign of the Emperor Shomu (749) a tribute of gold was brought to the court from Okushu accompanied by the above poem by Iemochi.

Ishinomaki was a major seaport on the Pacific coast of Japan transporting people and goods to and from the north.

There is a whole list of utamakura here; Sode no watari, Obuchi no maki, and mano no kayahara. Basho was not really lost here, but pretends a poetic confusion in real space to emphasize his familiarity with poetic space. On this last is a famous poem by Lady Kasa in the Manyoshu:
Michinoku no/ mano no kayahara/ toukedomo/ omokage ni shite/ miyu tofu mono wo.
(Far off as the reed-plain of manu/ Lies in 'Road's End'/ Yet in vision, they say,/ It comes near.)
Sora says they visited all these places on the 10th rather than on the 12th.

Right at the beginning of the Edo period Date Masamune changed the channel of the Kitagamigawa and the old course of the river was like a long swamp. This is another echo of Tu Fu.


Station 23 Notes

Empty dreams
The three generations of the Fujiwara began with Kiyohira (1056-1128) who prospered in the north. With the help of Minamoto no Yoshiiehe destroyed Kiyohara Iehira and Takehira and took control of the two regions of Mutsu and Dewa. He built the Chuzonji temple at Hiraizumi and established the Fujiwara clan in Mutsu. His son, Fujiwara no Motohira (?-?) continued to rule Mutsu and Dewa and imported to that area the culture of Kyoto. He added to the Chuzonji and practised austerities there. The third eneration was represented by Fujiwara no Hidehira (?-1187). He lived at Hiraizumi ruling Mutsu and Dewa. During his time was the finest flowering of the Fujiwara reign in the northern regions. Hidehira fought Minamoto no Yoritomo and sided with Yoshitsune. He also built the Muryo Koin in imitation of the Byodoin.
The "snatch of an empty dream" refers to the old Chinese story of Hwang _____ whose entire career passed in the length of time it took to cook a bowl of food.

Mount Kinkei
This reference to Mount Kinkei is an allusion to Tu Fu, but it is also a parody in the sense that Mount Kinkei is an artificial mountain. As a protective talisman Hidehira had buried two golden chickens, one male and one female, and over them he built a mountain in imitation of Mount Fuji. Tu Fu's poem speaks to the futility of man's endeavors; here the manmade mountain alone survives, but there is nothing to protect.

Izumigashiro Castle
This is the place where Izumi Saburo Tadahira lived. See the commentary for further notes on him.

Lord Yasahira
Yasuhira was Hidehira's second son. In 1189 on orders from Minamoto no Yoritomo he attacked and killed Yoshitsune as well as his own younger brother Tadahira. Later he himself was attacked by Yoritomo and killed.

This old man had joined Yoshitsune as the guardian of Yoshitsune's wife. In their final stand it was he who made sure that Yoshitsune, his wife and the children died nobly, then he engaged the enemy and finally took his own life. He was a noble and faithful warrior in an age of treachery and deceit.

According to Sora the Sutra Chapel was closed and its contents were not revealed to Basho. It actually contains Buddhist statues, not statues of the Fujiwara rulers.


Station 24 Notes

Basho had originally planned to coninue northward as far as the north coast at Aomori, but at this point he changed his mind and decided to cross the mountains and head back.
Ogurozaki and Mizunooshima taken together are an uta makura as we see in this Azuma Uta from the Kokinshu: #1090:
Ogurozaki/ mizu no oshima no/ hito naraba/ miyako no tsuto ni/ iza to iwamashi wo.
(Were the fair three isles/ Off Kurozaki people/ Then would I not take them/ Back home to show my friends?, H. H. Honda).

Three days
Here again Basho finds himself in the midst of wind and rain just as he had at Matsushima. There he gave himself up to it and enjoyed the experience, here he is unhappy, even miserable about it. Actually, according to Sora's diary they spent the night of the 15th day fo the 5th month at the boundary and on the 16th there was a great rain storm so they stayed over, but left of the 17th. Basho says it was to no purpose they were stuck for three days in the mountains. 'Bari' here reflects the name of the barrier 'Shitomae' where they had first entered the mountains.

This is an allusion to Tu Fu.


Station 25 Notes

Seifu was the pen name of Suzuki Michiyu, a merchant of Benihana. He had originally been associated with the Danrin School of poetry, but later studied under other masters. He edited several anthologies of poetry and died in 1722 at the age of 71. He was in his late thirties at the tie of Basho's visit.

Fresh air
After his frightening and difficult trip over the mountains Basho speaks of the relief of 'being at home.' This seems an odd sentiment for a travelling man. Perhaps the yearning for home is better than being at home.

This is an allusion to Manyoshu #2265:
Asagasumi/ kaiya ga shita ni/ naku kawazu/ koe da ni kikaba/ ware koime ya mo.

(In the morning mist/ Under the silkworm nurdery/ A toad croaks.../ If only I could hear our voice/ None of this yearning for you! Ueda Makoto).

It is also a reference to Manyoshu #3818:

Asagasumi/ kaiya ga shita no/ naku kawazu/ shinobitsutsu ari/ to tsugen ko mo ga mo.

Station 26 Notes

This temple is said to have been founded by Jikaku Daishi in 860 on orders from the Emperor Seiwa after Jikaku had completed his studies in China and returned to Japan.

The hard, ancient, forbidding quality of this is a sort of biography of Jikaku. Basho is not put off by this nor is he disappointed that the temple is closed - he hears the counterpoint, the trilling of the cicada. Away from the fier of nature while crossing the mountains and from the relief of Obanazawa, he has now achieved a kind of tranquility.


Station 27 Notes

River Mogami
The Mogami River is one of Japan's three fast flowing rivers. It has its source in Azumayama on the border of Fukushima Prefecture. It flows north through Yamagata, then turns west entering the Japan Sea near Sakata.
According to Sora's diary they left the Ryushakuji on the 28th Day of the Fifth Month and went to Oishida where they stayed the 29th and 30th and held a poetry meeting. On the First Day f the Sixth Month they left Oishida and went to Shono and on the 3rd they left there heading for Motoaikai where they boarded a boat and started down the Mogami River.

Station 28 Notes

Speckled stones, Goten, refers to a place where the stones in the river are like Go stones. Eagle Rapids is wher ethe force of the water is strong. Apparently Basho did not actually float down the rough upper stretch of the river. Mount Itajiki is an utamakura. Sakata is a busy commercial port specializing in Shonai rice and benihana.

Old times
The rice boats used by the farmers are "inabune" which are much celebrated in poetry.

Silver Threads
Shiraitotaki is one of 48 waterfalls on the Mogami River and is the highest of them all. This is a falls much referred to in poetry. An example is found in the Kokinshu #1092:
Mogamigawa/ noboreba kudaru/ inabune no/ inanihaarazu/ kono tsuki bakari.
(Boats go up and down the river/ Mogami, loading rice/ Enjoying the view, pray, wait a month/ Be sure I love you true. H.H. Honda).

Sennindo is actually upstream from Shiraito Taki. It is a shrine in honor of Yoshitsune's retainer Hitachibo Kaison.


Station 29 Notes

Mount Haguro
Mount Haguro is a center for the practice of religious austerities. For further details see: Togawa Ansho. "Haguroyama in Okeru Basho," Kokugo Kokubun no. 23, issues 1 and 2.

Zushi Sakichi
A fabric dyer and haiku poet who lived in the village at the foot of Mount haguro. He died in Kyoto in 1693.

The context of this poem is that in the distance they can see the snow on Mount Gassan. The wind blowing down from the peaks and through the valleys is both fragrant with spring and chilly with winter. Basho felt a deep sense of gratitude for this sacred place.

Nojo Taishi was the third son of the Emperor Sushun (5897-92). He came to this remote place in order to flee Soga no Umako in whose insurrection the Emperor Sheishun was killed. It is hard to know what to make of this since the Sogas supported the introduction of Buddhism in opposition to the Monobe and the Nakatomi families who supported the native religions. If Umako murdered Sushun in the cause of Buddhism, why did Nojo Taishi become such an ardent Buddhist? Also, what are we to make of the fact that Umanoko's son was Soga Emishi?

The difference between Sato and Kuro is much more obvious in Japanese than it is in English.


Station 30 Notes

He says he feels as though he had actually climbed into the sky where the sun and moon follow their paths.

Basho is at one with the cosmos here; he has the sun going down on one side and the moon coming up on the other. He goes beyond Buddhism here to some pre-Buddhist mountain worship. Here his night in the clouds recalls the mountain pass and Matsushima; it is the same sort of experience but with a different quality than the others. They are all different. They are all uncomfortable, sleepless nights, but one deals with beauty, one with discomfort, and one with religious solemnity.

This apparently refers to a swordsmith who had a forge here around 1200 and who took the name of the mountain. Later, over the years, a number of swordsmiths have used that name and worked here. The swordmakers not only tmeper their swords in the water, they purify themselves in this sacred water before making their swords.

Ryosen Spring is mentioned in the Shih Chi as a place where the finest swords are tempered."

Kansho and Bakuya were a Chinese husband and wife who made two famous swords which took their names. Here Basho is inviting us to remember something far separated from him in both time and space. The message is that true art will endure. If you bring your deepest devotion to it, your art will be known and will endure.

Gyoson was a poet of the late Heian period. He wrote the poem found in Kinyoshu #556:
Omine nite omohi mo kakezu sakura no hana no sakitarikeru wo miteyomeru:
Morotomo ni/ aware to Omohe/ Yamasakura/ hana yori hoka ni/ shiru hito mo nashi.
(Completely pathetic, I feel, the mountain cherry, unknown to people except for its blossoms).

Mt. Haguro
This poem has been interpreted in two ways - one to emphasize the darkness of Mount Haguro and the faint light of the moon. The other emphasizes the pale light of the moon which highlights the chilliness of the scene.

Mt. Gassan
In English it is hard to see how this poem works. Instead of "columns of clouds" it is "Kumo no mine" which contrasts the "Tsuki no yama". So we have day and night, cloud and moon, peak and mountain, based on the idea of Mount Gassan as Tsuki no yama. Which of these combinations is real? Is it a dream or is it reality?

reticent tears
Basho may be weeping tears of gratitude for having the opportunity to drench himself in the secrets of secrets of sacred Mount Yudono.

Mt. Yudono
At Yudono pilgrims leave all their money, emblematic of their willingness to give up worldly things for the sake of religion. Thus many coins are offered and they are scattered on the way leading to the shrine. Sora weeps tears of emotion at this sight.


Station 31 Notes

Nagayama Shigeyuki
A retainer of the Sakai domain also known as Goroemon. He had a personal stipend of 100 koku. He was a disciple of Basho's.

Zushi Sakichi
Sakichi accompanied Basho as far as Tsuruoka. His younger brother was related to Shigeyuki.

According to the notes, from Tsuruoka they took a boat down the Oizumigawa which flows into the Akagawa, a tributary of the Mogamigawa.

En'an Fugyoku
En'an was a physician for the Sakai family. He had studied poetry in various schools before becoming a disciple of Basho's. He edited several volumes of poetry and died in 1698.

Mount Atsumi is located south of Sakata, while Fukuura is located to the north, so Basho's view takes in the whole panorama. The heat of Atsu ns Atsumi is contrasted to the Fuku of Fukura and with Suzumi. This verse was the opening of a linked verse sequence composed by Basho, Fugyoku, and Sora. The poem sequence was written down by Sora and titled "Yuki Maroge". Fugyoku later included this in a volume of poetry edited in 1693.

This poem has the sun going down into the ocean, the day coming to an end, and the river coming to an end by going into the ocean. The "Atsuki hi" and "Mogami gawa" are balanced by the intervening words. It is both "atasuki hi wo umi ni iretari" and "umi ni iretari mogami gawa."


Station 32 Notes

In Basho's time Kisagata was considered one of the two famous bays in Japan. In 1804, however, there was an earthquake which heaved up the sea bottom and created the fields and pastures we have today. Hillocks in the fields mark where islands once stood.

Basho plays on the contrast between fair and clear by saying something like, "If the rain was this bewitching, then I could look forward to the clearing after the rain. I bent my knees to get into a fisherman's hut to wait for the rain to clear." When Basho speaks of "Ama no tamaya," this is a fisherman's hut made of rushes or rush mats. This is an allusion to Noin's poem found in Goshuishu #519:
Yo no naka wa/ kakute mo hekeri/ Kisagata no/ ama no tomaya wo/ waga yado ni shite.

In contrasting Kisagata and Matsushima we may be reminded of the contrast between the proud beauty of Lady Rokujo and the pensive beauty of Lady Yugao. The text contrasts smiling and weeping, but "uramu" means bitter, rancorous, and afflicted. This is not just sadness, but anger. It is like a beautiful woman with a troubled (angry) heart. This may be seen as a headnote to the poem that follows.

Saigyo's poem: Kisagata no/ sakura wa nami ni/ homorete/ hana no yogoku/ ama no tsuribune.

Empress Jingu
Empress Jingu: it is said that on her return from the invasion of Korea the Empress had her ship put in here at this island bringing with her the legendary stones of Kanju and Manju. If you throw the Kanju stone into the ocean, the tide goes out; if you throw the Manju stone, the tide flows in. Kanmanjuji Temple combines the names of both these stones.
Sora's diary for the 17th says, "After breakfast we went to Kisamanji at Jinguyama." The "kisa" he uses here is "kisagai," an ark shell which was found in large numbers in the lagoon of "kata," hence the name Kisagata.

Note that Basho prefers to see the rippled reflectinof Mt. Chokai on the water rather than look directly at the mountain.

against it
The name Shiogoshi indicates that the tide washes over this and the ocean sweeps away to the north. Note also that Basho here looks in all four directions and makes contrasts - a mountain to the south, an ocean to the north, roads going east and west, one blocked, the other fading into the distance.

We have seen Lady Seishi before; this links back to something. The Chinese poet compares Lady Seishi to the scenery of the West Lake. The Nemunohana which blooms in the soaking rain of Kisagata calls to mind the elegant image of Seishi, a beautiful woman with her eyes half closed with sorrow/grief. "Nebu" is also a kakekotoba linked to the idea of Seishi sleeping. "Nebunohana" is written with the characters Gokan no hana which means 'enjoying pleasures together.'

This poem creates the image of cranes that have come down to the shallow waters of Shiogoshi to search for food. As the waves lap continuously against their legs, it gives the image of coolness. "Aogi" are legs, "nure" is to soak.

Sora's poem deals with a festival they saw. In his diary he reports after their visit to Kanmanji, "On the way back we encountered a festival. Afterwards we went to the kumano Gongen shrine where we saw dancing and so forth." The idea expresed in this poem is that in a remote place like this the old ways are preserved and at a festival where they serve traditional foods, Sora wonders what they will be.

Teiji was a merchant from Gifu named Miyabe Yasaburo. Originally he had been a poet belonging to another school. It is conjectured that Basho came to know this man in the summer of 1688 when he went to Gifu to see the cormorant fishing. According to Sora's diary it was through a letter of introduction from this man that Basho got many nights' lodging at places throughout the Hokuriku district.


Station 33 Notes

According to Sora they arrived in Sakata on 6.13. On the 15th, 16th, and 17th they went to Kisagata, returning to Sakata on the 18th. From then until they departed on the 25th they had poetry gatherings with Terajima Takejo and Ito Genju (Fukyoku).

The barrier gate at Nezu is also spelled with the characters for 'Nenju' meaning 'rosary.' This barrier is located on the border between Dewa and Echigo. It is one of the three major barrier gates of the north.


Station 34 Notes

The Hokuriku Road here follows precipitous cliffs with the ceaseless waves pounding at the foot of them. The passage is so tricky and treacherous that each traveller had to look out for himself, even to the point where parents cannot look back to see how their children are doing, nor can children pay any attention to the progress oftheir elderly parents. The way is so difficult that even horses and dogs turn back, unable to traverse it.

Concubines is perhaps misleading here. These are women of pleasure. In olden times Niigata was particularly well kown for its pleasure quarters.

Ise Shrine
In those days it was the belief and custom that every person should make a pilgrimage to Ise at least once in his life. This custom was so strongly felt that even if one took off without the consent and approval of husband or master, one would not be punished or rebuked for it. Such a pilgrimage is a way of combining religious devotion and pleasure. When the old man goes back with a note, perhaps it is to their master, telling whewre they have gone.

The sea ports were known for their pleasure quarters and the women who worked those quarters had a new lover with each wave that washed ashore. By the same token, the women themselves were drifters along these shores as they moved from place to place. The image here is erotic and reinforces our image of these women. They are referred to as 'Ama' or 'Amanoko' which means 'fisher person' and indeed these women make their living from the sea; instead of being fishers of fish, they are fishers of men. The term 'ama' also means a Buddhist nun and has a sacred implication, so here we find the sacred and the profane superimposed. The statement that each time they prove their sinful nature is suitably ambiguous - either they are condemned to this sort of life because of sins in an earlier life, or because of their sinful lives now, they will not attain Buddhahoon in the next life.
Allusion is made to the poem:
Shiranami no/ yosuru nagisa ni/ yo wo sugusu/ ama no ko nareba/ yado mo sadamezu.
This is from the Wakan Roeishu in the section on courtesans and the Shin Kokinshu #1701:
I am a fisherman's child/ Living on the shore/ The white waves lave/ And have no fixed abode. H.H. Honda


Basho's line here is "iisutete idetsutsu." Having tossed off his reply, he set out.

In the Manyoshu XVII a reference is made to the bay at Nago in a poem by Otomo no Iemochi, #4018:
Minato kaze/ samuku fukunarashi/ Nago no e ni/ tsuma yobi kawashi/ tsusa wa ni naku
(The harbor wind blows chill/ On the bay of Nago/ My wife calls to exchange greeting/ The crane cries in the swamp.)

Angry Sea
Perhaps this poem can be seen as a greeting upon Basho's arrival in Kaga, the wealthiest of all domains in Tokugawa Japan. The 'Arisoumi' refers to the whole coastline of Etchu and is used as a makura kotoba. Originally it was "ara iso" or rough shore.


Station 35 Notes

Unohanayama is an Uta Makura found in Manyoshu #1963:
Kakubakari/ ame no furaku ni/ hototogisu/ unohanayama ni/ nahoka nakuramu.
Kurikaragatani is a valley located on the border between the provinces of Kaga and Etchu and is the valley below Kurikaratoge Pass. This is the site where in 1184 Kiso no Yoshinaka led his forces against the great Taira army and drove them back in defeat. Yoshinaka won a night battle by tying flaming torches to the horns of cattle and stampeding them through the Taira lines in front of his advancing army. Curiously Basho makes no mention of this, especially since the Taira army was led by Koremori.

July the fifteenth
This is August 29 by the western calndar.

A haiku poet who has two verses included in Basho's later anthology Saru Mino. He died in 1718.

Issho belonged to the Kosugi family and was a resident of Kanazawa. He studied poetry with several other masters before becoming a disciple of Basho's. He had died on December 6 of the previous year at the age of 36 and is buried at the Gannenji Temple.


Station 36 Notes

early chill
On the basis of Sora's diary many commentators think that this poem was written before Basho arrived in Kanazawa. If this is so, it raises the question of why he would reposition it here. The poem says something like: Red, red, the sun, relentless, the autumn wind. The term "tsurenaku" meaing relentless seems to go both ways modifying both the sun and the wind.

The image here is of a plain covered with hagi and suski rippling in the breeze, and in the middle of it, a dwarf pine. The mood here is quite the opposite of the stunted cherry he had seen earlier at Mt. Gassan. That recalled the past winter, this looks forward to autumn.
Basho met with a group of poets here to compose a 44 stanza linked verse and this poem was the opening verse.


Saito Betto Sanemori was a warrior from Echizen. He had first been a retainer of Minamoto no Yoshitomo, then he served Taira no Munemori and Koremori. He fought against Minamoto no Yoshinaka in the Hokuriku campaign. Although in his seventies at the time, he dyed his hair black so the enemy would give him no consideration for his age. He was killed in battle at the age of 73.

extraordinary one
I read this as "he was no ordinary samurai" with the reference being to Sanetomo, not the helmet.

Higuchi no Jiro
Higuchi was a retainer of Yoshinaka's, and it was he who had cut off Sanemori's head after he had been killed by an arrow. Higuchi and Sanemori had been friends since before the war.

Muzanya means piteous or sad, not awe-struck. In the No play "Sanemori" = 307=Higuchi Jiro uses the phrase "muzanya" when he examined the head of Sanemori and realized it was his friend.


Station 37 Notes

hot springs
In Basho's account he says they stopped at Natadera on the way to yamanaka hot spring, but according to Sora's diary they went straight through to Yamanaka, then back tracked to Nata.

Mount Shirane
This is Mount Hakusan which stands on the border between Kaga and Hida. Since ancient times it has been regarded along with Fuji and Tateyama as one of the three great mountains of Japan.

Emperor Kazan
The Emperor Kazan (r. 984-986). In the year 986 at the age of 19 he abdicated the throne and became a Buddhist priest.

The pilgrimage to the 33 sacred sites of the west country begins with Nachi in Kii and ends with Tanigumi in Mino. These are all shrines to the goddess Kannon. Legend has it that this pilgrimage was first made by the Emperor Kazan, though some scholars doubt this. After completing the pilgrimage, Kazan came here to the grotto at Natadera to install a figure of the Kannon as a kind of recapitulation of all 33 sites he had visited.

The rocks here are whiter than the rocks at Ishiyamadera in Omi. Some read Ishiyama as a generic rather than a specific name.

There is no record of a hot spring named Ariake and many commentators think this is a mistake for Arima, the famous hot springs north of Kobe. Sora writes Arima.

This poem might more accurately read: Yamanaka! The crysanthemums never fall, fragrance of the hot springs.

His real name was Izumiya Matahei and Kumenosuke was a childhood name. He was 14 years old at the time of Basho's visit. He was given the pen name of Toyo by Basho. He died at the age of 76.

Sora's diary shows that he had been suffering stomach problems since the time they were in Kanazawa. As a youth he had been in the service of the Nagashima domain and he still had an uncle living there.

bush clovers
This may be an allusion to a poem by Saigyo who speaks of walking on till he drops. Here Sora is declaring that he will walk on till he collapses, but if he falls in a field of flowering bush clover, he will be satisfied with the beauty of it. His personal loss of self is of no great significance in the face of the enduring beauty of nature. This is the point of Saigyo's poem as well: Izuku ni ka/ nemuri nemurite/ tafurefusan to/ omou kanashiki/ michikusa no tsuyu. (Sankashu).

Basho makes an allusion here to two Chinese friends who parted and expressed their grief. Basho knows the kanashimi of one who goes and the urami of one who stays behind and is wrapped in a cloud of confusion.


Station 38 Notes

Zenshoji temple
This Zen temple was the family temple of the Izumi family of Yamanaka. The chief priest there was related to Kumenosuke's family and Basho probably stayed there on the strength of a letter of introduction from Kumenosuke.

The customs at Zen temples has always been for guests to help with the cleaning the next morning as an act worship and of thanks and respect. "Chiru yanagi" scattered willow leaves, is a sign of autumn. "To sweep the garden and leave, scattered willow leaves at the temple." Basho creates a feeling of having written the poem in haste and cast it aside (kakitsutsu) rather than presenting it formally.

There is a deep bay here where the priest Rengyo in 1471 built a residence at Yoshizaki. It is a sacred site for the Shinshu sect. On a promontory called Shiogoshi opposite Yoshizaki there is a cluster of pine trees greatly prized for their shapely limbs. Yoshitsune also passed this way on his way to Hiraizumi.
[moonlight] Many books on local sights attribute this poem to Saigyo, but it was probably written by Rengyo Shonin. In any case, it is not listed in Kokka Taikan or other repositories where we would expect to find a poem of Saigyo's. Again at an important location, Basho declines to write a poem.

Many books on local sights attribute this poem to Saigyo, but it was probably written by Rengyo Shonin. In any case, it is not listed in Kokka Taikan or other repositories where we would expect to find a poem of Saigyo's. Again at an important location, Basho declines to write a poem.


Station 39 Notes

The head priest of this temple had once served at the Tenryuji Temple in Shinagawa in Edo and may have known Basho from that time.

His family name was Tachibana. He was born at Komatsu but lived in Kanazawa. He was a sword polisher by trade and a disciple of Basho's. He was a key figure in the Basho school of poetry in the Hokuriku region. He also used the name Tokiya Genjiro. His work is included in a number of anthologies. He died in 1718.

Eiheiji temple
Eiheiji is the main temple of the Soto Zen sect founded by Dogen who brought Soto Zen to Japan. Dogen had studied in Sung China and returned to Japan to found Eiheiji in 1243. He died five years later at the age of 54. According to one explanation, Dogen had studied in a region of China that used in its name the same character found in Echizen and out of nostalgia for that name he founded his temple in Echizen. According to another and perhaps more plausible explanation, Dogen simply came to this remote place to escape the worldliness of the capital. Basho describes the place as "yamakage" meaning 'mountain shadow' using the characters for Sanin.


Station 40 Notes

Tosai belonged to the Teitoku school of haiku poetry and was dean of the haiku poets in Fukui. He died sometime before 1700. Basho describes Tosai as "inshi," a hermit.

This meeting with the strange old poet and his thoughts on The Tale of Genji are reminiscent of the earlier scene at Sukagawa (#13) where he also met a hermit. The outward and homeward experiences are balanced. Also, the fact that this hermit is associated with Lady Yugao extends the idea of melancholy beauty expressed at Kisagata.


Station 41 Notes

"Asamuzu no hashi" is a Makura Kotoba. A reference to this bridge is found in Sei Shonagon's Pillow Book where she includes it in a list of bridges.

The reeds of Tamae have often been celebrated in poetry. Minamoto Shigeyuki in the Goshuishu has this:
Natsu kari no/ tamae no ashi wo/ fumishidaki/ mure nuru tori no/ tatsu sora zo naki.
Also, Fujiwara Toshinari in Shin Kokinshu #932 has:
Natsu kari no/ ashi no karinu mo/ awarenari/ tamae no tsuki no/ myoho no sora.
(H.H. Honda's translation: Enjoyable is sleep/ lying on reaped reeds/ beneath the summer moon/ at daybreak in Tamae.

The barrier at Uguisu no seki is used as a Makura Kotoba. Already by Basho's time the barrier gate was gone.

Kaeruyama is a common Makura Kotoba usually associated with wild geese and autumn.

Myojin Shrine
This Myojin Shrine is the most famous shrine in Echizen. The Emperor Chuai is said to have ruled from 192-200. His wife was the Empress Jingu.

Yugyo II
Yugyo II was the chief disciple of Yugyo I who was more commonly known as Ippen Shonin. The man Basho refers to died in 1319 at the age of 83.

In typical fashion Basho fails to see what he is looking forward to. He seems content to write a poem about what he did not see.


Station 42 Notes

pink shells
These are beautiful small pink and yellow shells. Apparently this is an allusion to Saigyo's poem:
Shio somuru/ masu hono kogai/ hirou tote/ iro no hama to wa/ iu ni ya aruramu.

Tenya Goroemon owned a shipping business in the area of Tsuruga.


Station 43 Notes

Rotsu was a poet and disciple of Basho. He died in 1738 at the age of 90. He edited several books of poetry and about Basho.