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

4.15  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,282 Ratings  ·  233 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 (first published 1689)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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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
Justin Evans
I want to be very clear about one thing: who the heck am I to be giving Basho two stars? I am nobody, and I am not giving Basho two stars, I am giving this book two stars. The Japanese literary tradition is so deep and aesthetically interesting, and I have no doubt whatsoever that, *in Japanese*, these travel narratives are well worth reading.

But I, filthy occidental, do not know Japanese, and I am reduced to reading sentences such as this, chosen entirely at random: "Dragging my sore heels, I
Akemi G
Oct 10, 2015 Akemi G rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review is more of a note about this specific translation so that people know what it is.

The Narrow Road to The Deep North and Other Travel Sketches, from Penguin Classics, translated into English by Nobuyuki Yuasa, 1966.
Introduction (pretty good explanation of how haiku stemmed out from waka)
The Records Of A Weather-Exposed Skeleton (野ざらし紀行: nozarashi kikou) 1684-85
A Visit To The Kashima Shrine (鹿島紀行: Kashima kikou) 1687
The Records Of A Travel-Worn Satchel (笈の小文: oi no kobumi) 1687
A Vi
Jul 10, 2013 Thelaurakremer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Andree Sanborn
I don't want you to think that I didn't enjoy this book, because I did. I also don't want you to think it was an easy read, as I thought it would be when I started. It wasn't. It required, on my part, a lot of map looking, Google image searching, re-reading, and note taking. I began the book knowing how much I love travelogues, which this is described as being on Amazon. But, written in the 17th century, it is far different than travelogues written in the 20th century. It is sparse; bare-boned. ...more
Dec 05, 2008 Gregory rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Eva Shang
Dec 23, 2013 Eva Shang rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 17, 2014 Scott rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nature, walks, japan, poems
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
Sep 15, 2014 Jessica rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 09, 2015 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
This slender volume
Reflects nature's solitude,
Spare beauty, and depth.

Written on the road,
It brims with poignant snap-shots,
Of seasons long past.
Sep 10, 2009 Brian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2009, asian
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
Feb 17, 2013 Bonny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

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
Eddie Watkins
Oct 28, 2014 Eddie Watkins rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sean the Bookonaut
Known also by the title Narrow Road to the North, Narrow Road to the Interior and Other Writings collates several travelogues and hundreds of Haiku written by the Japanese master Basho.

All translated works depend on the skills and abilities of their translators and on the choices they are forced to make in trying to recreate something in another language and culture. To that end I think Sam Hamill does a good job, or his tastes are more in line with mine i.e. three line haiku.

I have the paperbac
Mar 28, 2016 Sher rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Seventeenth century haiku and prose -travelogue of the great poet Basho. Read as part of my Nature Literature reading group. Several journeys over various years in the poet's life. Captured moments. It was so interesting to me how he traveled and met other writers and they gifted poetry to each other.
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
Al Bità
Apr 22, 2015 Al Bità rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Some 400 years ago the great Japanese poet Matsuo Bashō went on a series of journeys through Japan. These journeys were captured by the poet in travel sketches, written in the haibun style, in which poetry and prose are combined. This Penguin Classic presents us with five travel sketches, culminating in the longest and perhaps most famous “The Narrow Road to the Deep North”. We are prepared for this by an excellent Introduction by Nobuyuki Yuasa, who also translated the five sketches. As well as ...more
Don Pintor
Apr 17, 2016 Don Pintor rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Padrísimo libro. No sólo la selección de haikus es impecable; la introducción del traductor (Antonio Cabezas) y la manera tipo diario como Bashō contextualiza cada poema, permite al lector profundizar un poco más en cada uno.

De mis favoritos:

Pulgas, piojos,
meando los caballos...
¡Vaya almohada!
(Traducción de Antonio Cabezas)

Después de revisar "Sendas de Oko" (traducción de Octavio Paz) me di cuenta que aunque algunos han llegado a gustarme más en la voz de Paz, me da la impresión de que
Jun 04, 2015 Rick rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays, poetry
This brief book integrates brief travel essays with haiku, most of the haiku by Basho but some by traveling companions. It was almost entirely delightful. Two moments gave me pause. An early mention of Basho coming across an abandoned baby literally stopped my reading for several days. Basho pauses to consider what led to the child’s abandonment. Reflection leads him to determine it heaven’s will and therefore beyond intervention. He resumes his journey, leaving the two year old to its own devic ...more
Nate Morris
May 27, 2015 Nate Morris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Narrow Road to the Deep North is a well known memoir about Matsuo Basho and his incredible journeys. Basho was a student of Zen Buddhism and wanted to explore the beautiful regions of Japan. These adventures included visits to multiple shrines, temples, and mountains. Basho captures the natural beauty of these attractions by writing haikus and poems. Within these poems, Basho extracts the beauty out of everything that might be considered monotonous. Basho continues to write poems for each to ...more
Sep 03, 2008 matt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Absolutely beautiful, vivid, simple, elegant and still.

For a word-over-doer like myself reading this is an excellent tonic. He packs so much into such a small form that it really begins to unravel once you actually spend time digging into it.

You'll come away amazed.....
Oleg Kagan
Jun 23, 2014 Oleg Kagan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: haiku, japan
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: poetry, buddhism
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?
Jun 21, 2007 Kaelin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Ray Zimmerman
Apr 27, 2016 Ray Zimmerman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
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
Daniel Cloutier
Oct 25, 2015 Daniel Cloutier rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: haiku
Eine Offenbarung. Meine letzte Lektüre von Bashos schmalen Pfaden lag schon einige Jahre zurück. Es inspirierte mich zu einer Zeit des Haikudichtens und dem Verschlingenen weiterer Literatur zu dem Thema, vornehmlich weitere Bücher aus der allgemeinen Reihe der Dieterich'schen Verlagsbuchhandlung: Shomon I und II: Kompilationen von Bashos Meisterschülern, Chuko: Haiku mit Annotationen der Enkelgeneration sowie Bashos Sarumino.
Basho gilt als einer (wenn nicht der) größten Haikai/Haiku-Dichter Jap
Aug 11, 2014 Brandon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 12, 2008 Neil rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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...

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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.” 5 likes
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