New Year’s Haiku
by Matsuo Bashō
New Year’s Day—
sun on every field
PHOTO: Mount Fuji, the sun, and a field in Fujikawaguchiko, Yamanashi, Japan. Photo by Tampatra1, used by permission.
NOTE: Mount Fuji is the highest mountain in Japan, standing 12,389.2 feet. An active stratovolcano, Mount Fuji last erupted from 1707 to 1708. The mountain stands about 62 miles southwest of Tokyo and can be seen from there on clear days. Mount Fuji’s exceptionally symmetrical cone, which is snow-capped for about five months of the year, is commonly used as a cultural icon of Japan. In 2013, Mt. Fuji was added to the World Heritage List as a Cultural Site. According to UNESCO, Mount Fuji has “inspired artists and poets and has been the object of pilgrimage for centuries.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Matsuo Bashō was the most famous poet of the Edo period in Japan. His poems were influenced by his firsthand experience of the world around him, often encapsulating the feeling of a scene in a few simple elements. During his lifetime, Bashō was recognized for his works in the collaborative haikai no renga form; today, he is recognized as the greatest master of haiku (then called hokku). He is also well known for his travel essays beginning with “Records of a Weather-Exposed Skeleton” (1684), written after his journey to Kyoto and Nara. Bashō believed his best work lay in leading and participating in renku, saying, “Many of my followers can write hokku as well as I can. Where I show who I really am is in linking haikai verses.”
IMAGE: Poet Matsuo Bashō meets two farmers celebrating the mid-autumn moon festival in a print from Tsukioka Yoshitoshi‘s Hundred Aspects of the Moon (1891). The haiku reads: “Since the crescent moon, I have been waiting for tonight.” (SOURCE: Toyko Metropolitan Museum of Art, used by permission)