Learn Japanese From Matsuo Basho

Written byIchika Yamamoto

Matsuo Basho is a renowned Japanese poet from the Edo period, he's well known for his ability to capture the beauty of a scene or moment in concise and clear words, his ability has made him internationally prominent in his work and his poems and quotes are still plastered in many of the monuments of Japan.

Matsuo was a teacher, born in 1644 to Matsuo Kinsaku and Matsuo Chuemon Munafusa, who practiced poetry from an early age and after being introduced to the literary world of the Edo period, gained admiration for his work throughout all of Japan. He stopped making a living out of teaching to start wandering through the countryside of Japan and gave up all the social and urban customs to gain inspiration from his journeys.

His work was encouraged by his first-hand experiences of the world that surrounded him. He died in November 26, 1694 as the Master of brief and clear Haiku.

His haikus have been translated into many languages. It's difficult to explain what makes these very short poems so extraordinary...

Here are two samples of Matsuo's haikus that are shortcut in the intent to express the beauty of his work.

年 暮 れ ぬ

笠 き て 草 鞋

は き な が ら

Toshi kurenu

Kasa kite waraji


Another year is gone;

and I still wear

straw hat and straw sandal.

The word kureru can mean to get dark or to come to an end but the nu suffix conveys a sense of completeness as well so \93toshi kurenu

\94 could also be expressed as \93The year has come to an end


借 り て 寝 む

案 山 子 の 袖 や

夜 半 &#12398 ;霜

Karite nemu

kakashi no sode ya

yowa no shimo

I would sleep,

borrowing the scarecrow's sleeve.

Midnight frost.

(The word \93nemu

\94 comes from \93neru

\94 which means to sleep but the suffix mu expresses intention and conjecture.)

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