HISTORY

MATSUO BASHO, HAIKU MASTER…& NINJA?

2013.06.16 [HISTORY,WHAT'S NEW]

MATSUO BASHO, HAIKU MASTER…& NINJA?

Matsuo Basho is considered the greatest master of the traditional
Japanese linked verse poetry known as haiku. The Edo period poet
is famous not only for his masterful verse written in three lines of
five, seven and five syllables, but for his extensive travels around
Japan while composing poetry.

 

There’s a rumor that the famed haiku poet Matsuo Basho wasn’t
just a master of art of poetry, but a master of the art of Ninjutsu,
the art of stealth, subterfuge and spying. The art of the Ninja!

 

Matsuo Basho was born in Akasaka, part of modern day Ueno City
in Mie Prefecture, in 1644.  As a child he served the family of the
samurai general in charge of the Iga area, Todo Shinshichiro, and as
a personal attendant to Todo Yoshitada, who introduced him to the
world of haiku poems. Basho took up haiku in earnest having left the
Todo following the death of Yoshitada.

 

Basho published an anthology of his works titled “Kai Oi”, or Shell
Matching Game, in this house before making his way to Edo (Tokyo)
where he further developed his own style and started gathering a
following.

 

Over the years, Basho released a number of volumes of verse
inspired by his various experiences on the road. Records of the
Exposed Bones, A Visit to Kashima Shrine, Records of the Travel
Worn Satchel and A Visit to Sarashina all became bestsellers prior
to his masterpiece, A Narrow Road to the Deep North, based on
his journey to the Tohoku region of northern Honshu. Between
journey’s he would often return to his home town, staying at the
Chogetsuken Villa.

 

In late1694 at the age of 50, he set off for his final journey.
Bound for Kyushu, Basho fell ill and died in Osaka.

 

 

Basho’s home, Minomushian or “Hut of the Bagworm Moths.” where Basho wrote his most famous
poem, “The old pond/ A frog jumps in/ The sound of water,” and the villa he stayed in, Chogetsuken,
remain to this day, and are now a popular destinations for haiku aficionados. The villa contains a
number of the writer’s personal items and examples of his work. Another attraction for fans of Basho
can be found just behind nearby Iga Ueno Castle. The ‘House of Basho’ as it is termed, is a strange
octagonal shaped building with a roof of compressed cypress bark, said to resemble the hat and cape
worn by Basho on his many travels. It too features a number of Basho related items including a
ceramic statue of the poet only opened to the public during the Basho Festival, held annually on
October 12, the date of the great writer’s death.

 

 

So was Matsuo Basho just a wandering master poet, or was he a master spy? During the cautious years
of the early Edo, or Tokugawa period, people were not permitted to travel freely around the country,
however Basho managed to obtain permission. His position as a celebrated poet gained him a close access
to the nobility. He was able to enter castles and palaces, view the estates of the lords and spend time
chatting with them. Speaking directly to the various lords, he would have been able to discover their hidden thoughts as they composed poems together. All wonderful opportunities for intelligence gathering. Take a
look at the Basho related attractions at Iga Ueno, and a look at the nearby Ninja House and museum too,
and you decide, Matsuo Basho, poet master, or ninja master?

 

 

 

 

 


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