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A Haiku Journey: Basho's Narrow Road to a Far Province
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A Haiku Journey: Basho's Narrow Road to a Far Province

4.17 of 5 stars 4.17  ·  rating details  ·  1,691 ratings  ·  168 reviews
In the seventeenth century, the pilgrim-poet Basho undertook on foot a difficult and perilous journey to the remote northeastern provinces of Honshu, Japan's main island. Throughout the five-month journey, the master of haiku kept a record of his impressions in a prose-poetry diary later called The Narrow Road to a Far Province. His diary was to become one of the classics ...more
Paperback, 124 pages
Published March 1st 2002 by Kodansha International (first published 1689)
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Oct 09, 2013 Jan-Maat added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Travellers with weary feet and a raincoat in their backpacks
A long time ago I read a book review in the newspaper. It was about a travel book in which the author retraced the footsteps of Matsuo Basho's journey through seventeenth century Japan told in The Narrow Road to the Deep North. Naturally I never did get my hands on the modern book but at my local library there was the penguin translation of Basho's book.

no sooner had the spring mist begun to rise over the field than I wanted to be on the road again to cross the barrier-gate of Shirakawa in due
Towards the end of his life and in relatively ill health, Matsuo Basho repeatedly left the comfort of his home and followers to embark on grueling foot journeys throughout Japan. This 'book' is really a travel journal peppered with gorgeous haiku that apparently do not suffer much from being translated from a language and culture that are radically different. Of course, the nature of translation and hermeneutics is very slippery. Even though I may experience a sublime feeling upon reading one of ...more
Moved by the desire to see the moon rising over a famous shrine — or simply to test the strength of his “slender legs” — Matsuo Basho (1644—94) made five major treks through Japan during the last decade of his short life. He wrote about each of his trips in brief travel journals that he illustrated with haiku, a form of poetry that he nearly perfected. Filled with humble though memorable images of things seen on the road, these haiku journals have become classics of Japanese literature, treasure ...more
I've finished Ben's book
Of cherry trees and temples
A man's long travel.

Written in sweet words
Like a lonely, sad Bob Ross
Bashō did wander.
Matsuo Basho was a poet. He traveled throughout Japan. He wrote poems about it... and short essays. Prose and poetry mix. It is a beautiful thing when the two meet seamlessly. was a great pleasure to see the marvelous beauties of nature, rare scenes in the mountains or along the coast, or to visit the sites of temporary abodes of ancient sages where they had spent secluded lives, or better still, to meet people who had entirely devoted themselves to the search for artistic truth. Since I ha
Eddie Watkins
This collection presents the development, and perfection, of Basho’s uniquely hybrid literary works – part memoir-like travelogue, part poetry – which ideally convey his experiences by offering trudges (prose) toward brief crystallized moments of sensory apotheoses (haiku). Basho’s art was wedded to his self-styled Zen practice, which to my mind was more an excuse to pass as a mendicant priest or monk while pursuing his own aesthetic which was a conjunction of the impersonality of Zen and a refi ...more
I heartily recommend reading the translator's insightful introduction to this collection of Basho's haibun, the traditional form of Japanese travel journal interspersed with impromptu poems. I don't think I can sum up any better why The Narrow Road to the Deep North holds such a beloved place among the masterworks of Japanese literature, so I won't try. It is a deep, rich, and subtle travelogue, placing his prose and verse in the context of a lifetime of increasingly agonizing self-scrutiny in B ...more
Oleg Kagan
While I certainly learned from the laudatory introduction, found a pleasing rhythm in the four-line haiku translations, and appreciated the poetic qualities of occasional prose, "The Narrow Road to the Deep North" itself was too much a series of unfamiliar people and places to keep me very engaged. Though I enjoyed the preceding four sketches more, I would certainly have found more to like in all of them had their been effective annotations to contextualize elements of the diaries unknown to non ...more
Ivan Granger
Sep 21, 2012 Ivan Granger marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: buddhism, poetry
I was just about to start reading this, until my new puppy ate the book. I'm trying to decide: Does that mean he's giving it a good review or a bad review?
Best travel story ever. I love me some haiku. Basho is a sassy little Japanese man.
Amergin O'Kai
Good translation and, of course, Basho is good for you.
Eva Shang
Of all the books we read in Religion class all term, Basho was my favorite. His simple, poetic descriptions of the Japanese countryside and that poignant sense of loneliness and connection to history and nature all spoke to me vividly. In particular, his emphasis on wabi-sabi, poverty and loneliness, as seen in a lone tree on the hillside or a lone house in a deserted field or drinking water from a simple chipped pitcher, evoked something in me that I'd been able to quite articulate. The way he ...more
Absorbente traducción, aunque no me quedé convencido que el estilo anticuado y a veces aun difícil refleje la estética de Bashō mejor que una forma más actual.

Por ser la primera traducción a un lenguaje occidental, tiene una posición curiosa en el estudio del haiku. Paz depende de Donald Keene demasiado, creo, y no le dio cuenta de la distinciones poéticas entre José Juan Tablada (del que habla en la introducción) y Bashō. Por ejemplo, su versión del famoso poema sobre la voz del cigarro que pen

My kind of book. As fresh and relevant today, as when written. Basho pointedly travels to record his experience in detail. He illuminates, to me anyway, how much we are all travelers and observers in this life, with ability to capture a moment with an art of our choice, or not.

His beautiful words: was a great pleasure to see the marvelous beauties of nature, rare scenes in the mountains or along the coast, or to visit the sites of temporary abodes of ancient sages where they had spent secl
Matsuo Basho is THE master of Japanese Haiku. We've all modeled our grade school attempts at this form of poetry from his example. He's a tremendous example for Westerners interested in Japanese culture. So, why was I so completely unimpressed and disinterested in Basho's most famous work? In a word, 'artifice.' I just couldn't get past the overwhelming sense that Basho is deliberately trying to produce a unique aesthetic, sure, based on wabi (sadness) and sabi (loneliness) - two great Japanese ...more
Keith Michael
The cultural context of the haiku was a really crucial understanding that I gained from this collection of Basho. The haiku is a natural extension of Eastern thought, which deemphasizes the individual and focuses on balance in a way that feels sadly absent from American culture. The language of haiku is simple and spare. To say too much would impose the self upon the subject. Much like meditation, the virtue of this style of writing is self-control.

I enjoyed much of the haiku in the book, but s
Matsuo Basho is said to be the greatest of the Japanese haiku poets. In these travel sketches, he combines prose and poetry to describe what he sees and thinks while he’s on the road.

Some have objected to the translator’s habit of rendering three-line Japanese haiku into four-line English verse, but he explains that three lines of English would inadequately convey the full sense of the original. I am willing to be open minded and not bound by any (probably erroneous) preconceptions.

All in all, a
This was one of my first forays into Japanese literature, and won't be the last. This book is the most sublime travel journal I have ever read - a collection of interwoven prose and poetry (known as haibun) that records Basho's journeys in 17th century Japan. I found the haibun form much easier to read than straight-up poetry, and was continually amazed at the richness and meaning that could be contained in seventeen deceptively simple syllables (and I'm sure I missed the vast majority of the al ...more
Bashō's view of life is essentially tragic and his sense of both melancholy and wonder increases through the five travel sketches included in this slim volume. Probably there are better translations than these, first published in 1966, and surely better annotated editions too. Still, it suited my purposes to read this portable version. Next up: an account by one of Bashō's many emulators: Shokyu-ni's "Record of an Autumn Wind," translated by Hiroaki Sato and published in Monumenta Nipponica 55.1 ...more
Ray Zimmerman
I read the Shambhala Press edition

…every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.

This book deserves attention for the sheer beauty of the poetry and loveliness of the images. Some Japanese scholars say that Haiku began and ended with Basho. He is often recognized as the author who perfected this form, but is also noted for his Haiban, a form which includes prose passages with Haiku. The travel journal, Narrow Road to the Interior, is one of these. It may be his best known work, but his
En la época que vivió Matsuo Bashō, había un género en boga llamado haibun: texto en prosa que rodea un grupo de haikú, los poemas breves en los cuales Bashō era reconocido como un maestro. A este género pertenece Oku no Hosomichi o Sendas de Oku, que relata los primeros seis meses de un viaje que hizo Bashō hacia el norte de Japón.

Esta edición es la traducción al español llevada a cabo por Octavio Paz y Eikichi Hayashiya. Dicho trabajo fue publicado por primera vez en la editorial de la UNAM en
This collection of the haibun of Matsuo Bashō treats the reader not only to the exquisite poetry of Bashō and other masters and to the poetry of disciples and others whom he met along the way embedded in the text but also to the thoughts of a 17th century traveler experiencing the sacred geography of Japan through a series of arduous and sometimes dangerous journeys. These journeys, undertaken for the purposes of seeking poetic inspiration, sightseeing, religious pilgrimage, and visiting friends ...more
Andrew Arias
The Narrow Road to the Interior provides a beautiful journey of an influential Japanese poet, Matsuo Basho and his companion. Along his journey, he visits all the sights he has read about in prose and poetry by other Influential Japanese writers, paying homage to them by writing poetry at the same spots and often naming them in the documentation of his travels.
On the road - with Bashō..

"On my way through Nagoya, where crazy Chikusai is said to have practised quackery and poetry, I wrote:

With a bit of madness in me,
Which is poetry,
I plod along like Chikusai
Among the wails of the wind."


"I went to a snow-viewing party.

Gladly will I sell
For profit,
Dear merchants of the town,
My hat laden with snow."


"I reached home at long last towards the end of April. After several days of rest, I wrote:

Shed of everything else,
I still have some lice
I pic
I'm a sucker for this genre: old travel diary. Like "Sailing Alone Around the World" and "Voyage of the Beagle," Basho manages to capture moments in time with color and accuracy that can carry through time to a contemporary reader. His haiku and linked verse come across effectively interspersed with delicately framing prose. In the introduction (which is definitely worth reading), it is explained how Basho's works are prized for not just capturing the aesthetic, but also emotional tonality - "sa ...more
Iain Coggins
Simply one of the most beautiful books I've ever read. Basho truly comes alive in this haibun travelogue from the 17th century. It is a book to return to again and again, especially on quiet summer evenings when the moon is full and low in the sky.
Aug 09, 2009 Painting marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Read my pocket version of Narrow Road for the zillionth time and recalled standing by the Tama River...

Standing at Tama
Water song dancing sparkles
Hello dear Basho
Tim Weakley
I'm not sure if I liked the prose better, or the illustrations. This one was a very lucky find at the bookstore where I work. Very happy I grabbed it.
how else can a man like Basho keep moving other than to take 17- syllables, without punctuation and move like a boxer switching from right to left.
Weak translation.
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Matsuo Bashō (松尾 芭蕉) was the most famous poet of the Edo period in Japan. During his lifetime, Bashō was renowned for his works in the collaborative haikai no renga form; today, he is recognized as a master of brief and clear haiku.
More about Matsuo Bashō...
On Love and Barley: Haiku of Basho Basho: The Complete Haiku The Essential Basho A Zen Wave: Basho's Haiku and Zen Bashō's Haiku: Selected Poems

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“Sadly, I part from you;
Like a clam torn from its shell,
I go, and autumn too.”
“In this mortal frame of mine which is made of a hundred bones and nine orifices there is something, and this something is called a wind-swept spirit for lack of a better name, for it is much like a thin drapery that is torn and swept away at the slightest stir of the wind. This something in me took to writing poetry years ago, merely to amuse itself at first, but finally making it its lifelong business. It must be admitted, however, that there were times when it sank into such dejection that it was almost ready to drop its pursuit, or again times when it was so puffed up with pride that it exulted in vain victories over the others. Indeed, ever since it began to write poetry, it has never found peace with itself, always wavering between doubts of one kind and another. At one time it wanted to gain security by entering the service of a court, and at another it wished to measure the depth of its ignorance by trying to be a scholar, but it was prevented from either because of its unquenchable love of poetry. The fact is, it knows no other art than the art of writing poetry, and therefore, it hangs on to it more or less blindly.” 4 likes
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