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Narrow Road to the Interior: And Other Writings

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  515 ratings  ·  75 reviews
Here is the most complete single-volume collection of the writings of one of the great luminaries of Asian literature. Basho (1644–1694)—who elevated the haiku to an art form of utter simplicity and intense spiritual beauty—is best known in the West as the author of Narrow Road to the Interior, a travel diary of linked prose and haiku that recounts his journey through the ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published September 26th 2000 by Shambhala
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4.16  · 
Rating details
 ·  515 ratings  ·  75 reviews

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Susan Budd
Jun 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
“... I felt three thousand miles rushing through my heart, the whole world only a dream” (4).

The few road trips I’ve taken have given me this dreamlike feeling too. There’s something unreal and very appealing to me about this feeling. I feel alive in a way I never feel at home ~ or at the trip’s destination for that matter.

At first this may not make sense. Road trips mean long hours in the car (as a passenger—for I don’t drive.) They mean bad diner food, strange motel beds, and highly questiona
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
Written more than 300 years ago, this book is still makes for a good travel companion.
I am not sure if this story would be better in print or better if I had a printed copy to see as I listened along. I listened to the stories several times over. The narrator that did the Hojoki stories was much easier to understand.

The narrator for the lead piece, The Narrow Road to the Interior was a little hard to understand. There was a lot of Japanese spoken (I did not understand - but it sounded cool). The travel log, itself seems interesting, but hard to picture and it simply a list of pla
Mar 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
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.
S.B. Wright
Apr 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Amergin Ó Kai
Aug 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Good translation and, of course, Basho is good for you.
Ryan Lackey
Oct 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a combination of 17th century travelogue and poetry collection from one of Japan’s top poets. I picked it as “a book/genre I wouldn’t normally read” and enjoyed it very much — it is much more accessible than most collections of Japanese poetry, too.

Aside from the beauty of the poetry, I liked learning about the “haiku party culture” and the groups of poets, students, etc and their interaction with the outside world. Even better, he undertook a trip to the area north of Tokyo, an area I’v
Ray Zimmerman
Jul 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Andrew Arias
Nov 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Aug 09, 2009 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
Mar 14, 2018 rated it liked it
"I pack no provisions for my long journey - entering emptiness under the midnight moon."
- Kuang-wen (1127-1279)
Nick Klagge
Oct 03, 2010 rated it liked it
A pretty enjoyable slim little volume, though not a source of any great inspiration for me. "Narrow Road to the Interior" is a collection of travel journals by the Japanese haiku poet Matsuo Basho. I decided recently that I wanted to read them, but was unsure which translation to choose (there are quite a few). So I went to the Brooklyn Public Library and, as luck would have it, they had four different versions. I read the first section in all of them and this one, by Sam Hamill, was my favorite ...more
Grady McCallie
Dec 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The critical apparatus in this edition - the Shambhala printing of Sam Hamill’s translations - is very helpful. Basho’s poetry and travel journals are beautiful, but loaded with unexplained allusions, both to poetry of Basho’s contemporaries and to figures and events that were already ancient history in his time. Even with an excellent introduction, afterword, and footnotes, I have the sense I still missed plenty of double meanings and connotations. There’s also reflections of a very different c ...more
Jan 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
I read this and Nobuyuki Yuasa's translation together. Hamill offers four travelogues and over 250 selected haiku, while Yuasa adds the brief "Visit to Kashima Shrine". Neither version is bilingual, and it seems like a major oversight not to include at least romaji alongside each haiku (Hamill's version does add romaji to the selected haiku). I preferred Hamill's introduction. Yuasa provided more detailed endnotes.

Ultimately, I preferred the moodiness of Yuasa's prose sections, in spite of his
David Severson
Traveling Alone with the poetry and spirit of Basho

Traveling across Japan, a light stroll through the works of Basho,while on a bus or shinkansen, is a great way to spend your time. Basho speaks in an extremely personal way, as if the poetry were meant for you specifically. The a stories of his travels along across Japan, and his mentions of famous sites in Nara, Ise, Kyoto, Sendai, and more create an even stronger connection as you visit those areas.

However, even if one isn't from Japan or trav
Oct 19, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A lovely book, spare and clean and beautiful. Basho, the eminent Haiku master who was so much more than that. This little book takes you on a poetical, yet difficult, trek around the shrines of Japan, a long, long journey undertaken by Basho in his old age, with his disciple, Sora.

While Basho honors us with the Haiku he wrote on this sojourn, he also offers his Zen Japan in a quiet, essential glory. The 'interior' here is not only the 'interior' of Japan, the essence of so much of its history,
Sep 10, 2007 rated it really liked it
One of the great masterpieces of Buddhist literature -- or, indeed, of literature of any sort. I was especially moved and intrigued by the descriptions of Basho's loving (and perhaps not entirely platonic) friendship with his faithful traveling companion, a man named Sora. Through his exemplary life, Basho demonstrates that it's possible to be a truly saintly person without having to be an ascetic -- So many poems about drinking and hangovers, and even a handful of haiku that delicately hint at ...more
Nov 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
From the translator's introduction:
Oku means "within" or "farthest" or "deadend" place; it also means "interior" both in the sense of interior country and spiritual interior. No is a possessive and is prepositional. Hosomichi means "path" or "trail" or "narrow road." Oku-no-hosomichi can then be taken to mean both a narrow road through the country's mountainous interior lying between Miyagino and Matsushima, and the metaphoric narrow trail leading into one's spiritual center.
Feb 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
It's nice to read a book that doens't roll around in the minature quality of haiku and other boring eastern shit. This book is about being 'on the road' and about marking your territory and about how writing on things and because of things is still interesting. A really great collection of poems and journal entries that is not cheesey and it not easy so don't go giving this book as some sort of feng shui gift to you mother.
Feb 01, 2008 rated it liked it
Very difficult to read. I think the reason for it is that you lose a lot of the meaning of the poems in the translation, but I couldn't really get into this book. The first half, I liked his symbolism, like how he related his empty house to a doll house, or how he interpreted the environment around him to mean a very specific things, but it gets tiring. I think this book should be read a poem a day instead of 10 poems a day, so you can really sit down and think about them.
Jenna Scherer
Dec 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is one of those books I've been reading very slowly and in tiny pieces over the course of years—usually right before bed to help make my brain shut up. Reading about walking up and down mountains and through rain-soaked temples with Basho and his haikus is almost as relaxing as it would be to *actually* walk up and down mountains and through rain-soaked temples with Basho and his haikus. Good stuff.
Don Wentworth
Sep 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, non-fiction
The highest compliment to Sam Hamill's version of Bashô's 'Narrow Road To The Interior' - it reads as if it isn't a translation. The Shambhala Centaur edition fits in th palm of your hand and, though out of print, is readily available on the used market. Perfect for knapsack travel and lighter than a smartphone. Another edition is available from Shambhala with 3 other lesser known travelogues, also translated by Hamill.
Jun 21, 2012 rated it liked it
Unfortunately, Japanese haiku loses a lot in translation. Some of the poems are incredibly beautiful but the book as a whole left me feeling like I was missing so much more.

My favourites:

There is nothing in the cry
of the cicada that suggests
it is about to die

Old spider! What is your
song? How do you cry
to the autumn wind

As the year concludes-
wanderer's hat on my head
sandals on my feet

Nov 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
In “Learn from the Pine,” Bashō writes, “Composition must occur in an instant, like a woodcutter felling a huge tree, or a swordsman leaping at his enemy. It is also like cutting a ripe watermelon with a sharp knife or like taking a large bite at a pear.” This man lives/breathes/writes in spontaneous images. I hope to one day realize such an awareness and heightened consciousness. But for now, I will continue to edit and overwrite.
Mar 30, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very neat little book with great art work. Translated by Sam Hamill. This is said to be one of the great works of Japanese literature; unfortunately all of the allusions to Japanese and Chinese literature, locations, events and religion, although pointed out in footnotes, didn't mean much to me and I can't really experience its "greatness".
Feb 10, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
How do you mark that you liked the book and really, really loved the format of the book? This one is a treasure because of its size, the paper it's printed on, and the design of the pages as well as the inclusion of many screen paintings. I'll read it again if for no other reason than it's a joy to hold in your hands.
JJ Lehmann
Jan 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Fans of Basho; Fans of Japanese literature
Utterly beautiful depiction of Basho's travels through Northern Japan. Basho's sublime poetry is interspersed throughout the travelogue adding to and completing his prose. Do yourself a favor and read this...
Gail P
Feb 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lovely. A treasure.

I listened to this audio edition. I had trouble at with some of the spoken accent but got used to it. Will have to listen again sometime to pick up some of the middle section where the speaker changed.
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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.
“Sadly, I part from you;
Like a clam torn from its shell,
I go, and autumn too.”
“Lonely stillness— a single cicada’s cry sinking into stone” 4 likes
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