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The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Other Travel Sketches (Yuasa)

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  3,419 ratings  ·  340 reviews
In later life Basho turned to Zen Buddhism, and the travel sketched in this volume relfect his attempts to cast off earthly attachments and reach out to spiritual fulfillment. The sketches are written in the "haibun" style--a linking of verse and prose. The title piece, in particular, reveals Basho striving to discover a vision of eternity in the transient world around him ...more
Paperback, 167 pages
Published 1966 by Penguin Classics (first published 1702)
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Nov 13, 2011 added it
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 du
E. G.
Introduction, by Nobuyuki Yuasa

--The Records of a Weather-Exposed Skeleton
--A Visit to the Kashima Shrine
--The Records of a Travel-Worn Satchel
--A Visit to Sarashina Village
--The Narrow Road to the Deep North

Yigal Zur
Dec 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
beautiful travel log of a the great poet and traveler Basho. small pieces of prose with amazing haiku.this is the guy who said to his disciples to look at the bamboo, to be a bamboo and to forget it so they can write it. excellent advise for any especially writers
3.50 stars

Having found his name and read some famous pieces of his haiku in some old Japanese literary works, I finally came across this 5-story paperback late last month and delightfully had it to read. The Narrow Road to the Deep North is no. 5; Other Travel Sketches include no. 1 The Records of a Weather-Exposed Skeleton, no. 2 A Visit to the Kashima Shrine, no. 3 The Records of a Travel-Worn Satchel, and no. 4 A Visit to Sarashina Village. According to Japan: An Illustrated Encyclopedia 1 A-
Akemi G.
Sep 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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)
Justin Evans
Aug 20, 2015 rated it it was ok
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
One doesn't think of Matsuo Basho as a travel writer, but travel write he did! This edition includes "The Records of a Weather-Exposed Skeleton," "A Visit to the Kashima Shrine," "The Records of a Travel-Worn Satchel," "A Visit to Sarashina Village," and "The Narrow Road to the Deep North."

All that said, it was the last piece, around 40 pages, that made the book. The others did not quite hit their stride, telling me that the distinguished poet DID hit his stride as a travel writer with practice.
Maru Kun
I’m sorry to have to say that the Penguin Classics translation of this work Into English, though pioneering in its day, is really quite uninspiring.

I haven’t read all of the Donald Keene translation, but, at first glance, it seems far superior and there may be even better translations out there still.
Jul 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
Thomas Rasmussen
Jul 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Ah, it is spring,
Great spring it is now,
Great, great spring -
Ah, great -

It's hard for me, gaijin piece of shit that I am, to fully appreciate the aesthetics of classical Japan. I've tried. I tried listening to some koto music in the bamboo forest of Arashiyama in Kyoto, and I just felt corny.

With Basho, I know I'm only getting half of it. I don't have the education in the Tale of the Heike and the Tale of Genji and what not. I don't understand the complexities of shogunate politics. But I do know the sense of melancholy that affects the lone traveler, and the sense
Eddie Watkins
Jan 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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 of B ...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Basho takes to the road, and, along the way, writes little haiku.

It wasn't always pleasant:

How far must I walk
To the village of Kasajima
This endlessly muddy road
Of the early wet season?


Bitten by fleas and lice,
I slept in a bed,
A horse urinating all the time
Close to my pillow.

But there are also lovely tributes to nature:

It was with awe
That I beheld
Fresh leaves, green leaves,
Bright in the sun.


In the utter silence
Of a temple,
A cicada's voice alone
Penetrates the rocks.

It's a fascinating wal
Sep 30, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: walks, nature, 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 he nearly perfected. Filled with humble, memorable images of things seen on the road, these haiku journals have become classics of Japanese literature, treasured by many for ...more
Jul 08, 2017 rated it liked it
I first became aware of this from some puttering around on the internet, and from an article (years ago) in the Scottish publication Rebel Magazine, which wrote a brief, admiring account of Basho's life and work. Basho is credited with inventing or perfecting the haiku, althou similar styles had existed for some time. Like other forms of minimalist art, I find it difficult to really enjoy, despite its roots in Buddhist philosophy. Complexity, richness, and life in its passions and contradictions ...more
Al Bità
Apr 22, 2015 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
Dec 05, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 01, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, 2016, travel

Bashō's final travel journal describes his pilgrimage to various Buddhist temples and historical sites throughout mountainous north Japan. Not surprising for a haiku master, Bashō's prose is lean yet rich in imagery, punctuated throughout by haiku composed on the road. Though written in an accessible manner, the copious allusions that would have been obvious to 17th Century Japanese readers sent me on frequent forays to the notes section in the back of the book. Interrupted reading aside, this w
Patrick McCoy
Matsuo Basho has long been admired as the wandering poet and master of "haiku," the 5-7-5 syllable poetry style renowned among grade schoolers everywhere. The Narrow Road To The Deep North And Other Travel Sketches (1689) is a collection of poetry and other musings by Basho, who seems to have used his travels as inspiration for his poetry about life on the road as well as the beauty he encounters on his travels. This collection is comprised of the following pieces: "The Records of a Weather-Expo ...more
Jul 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"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 ...more
Mar 02, 2014 rated it liked it
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. ...more
 The Black Geek
I had the opportunity to read this text while living and working in Japan. It is rare that a translated text can embody so much beauty and spirit of the original poems, but Donald Keene seamlessly accomplishes this within Basho's classic work. Masayuki's kiri-e images bring an additional depth to the text (almost like a modern day haiga). It is indeed a perfect marriage between words and visual representation.
Aug 21, 2008 rated it really liked it

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.....
Jun 21, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Best travel story ever. I love me some haiku. Basho is a sassy little Japanese man.
Jan 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
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.
sally ✿
I wish I could say this book made me realize the subtle beauty and power that is poetry, but alas, it did not.

I still don’t get poetry and it is honestly more of a “it’s not you, it’s me” thing. In a lot of ways I am but an ignorant human who does not know Japanese and is most likely missing references and thus missing the point of this novel.

Oh well. You win some, you lose some. The book was quite thoughtful and beautiful. If anything, it made me love and appreciate nature more and more.
Aug 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
I have wanted to read this book for many years. I tried when I was 16 years old but I didn't get very far. I was insufficiently knowledgeable about the context in which Basho's travels took place and the book seemed beyond my assimilation. I tried again this year and succeeded. I wish I could give it an even higher rating because I am sure it is a masterpiece of literature. My problem is that I sometimes found my mind wandering while reading it, probably because I couldn't visualize clearly the ...more
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 li
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What's the Name o...: classic Chinese poetry [s] 3 28 Mar 20, 2013 11:39AM  
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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.

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“When a country is defeated, there remain only mountains and rivers, and on a ruined castle in spring only grasses thrive. I sat down on my hat and wept bitterly till I almost forgot time.

A thicket of summer grass
Is all that remains
Of the dreams and ambitions
Of ancient warriors.”
“Days and months are travellers of eternity. So are the years that pass by. Those who steer a boat across the sea, or drive a horse over the earth till they succumb to the weight of years, spend every minute of their lives travelling. There are a great number of ancients, too, who died on the road. I myself have been tempted for a long time by the cloud-moving wind - filled with a strong desire to wander.” 12 likes
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