Amid the clouds of blossoms
Is the bell’s chime Ueno
花の雲 鐘は上野か 浅草か
Hana no kumo/ Kane ha Ueno ka Asakusa ka
Trailing clouds of blossoms we walk
In Japan, it is spring and the cherry trees are in full bloom.
We cannot know, but perhaps Matsuo Basho and his students are in Kiyosumi Gardens, in the Fukagawa District where Basho lived. A disciple begins the discussion by saying, “Is it not heavenly, Master Basho, to walk in the midst of so many cherry blossoms?”
Then a single blossom falls. To which Basho replies, “In the even the smallest flower that falls, I fear, lies a truth too deep for tears.”
At that moment the sound of the bell is heard.
Fukagawa, Ueno, Asakusa
Fukagawa, where Basho lives, is on the other side of the Sumida River from Ueno and Asakusa. These well known areas include Buddhist and Shinto temples, as well as shopping and residential areas. In Asakusa is the famous Buddhist Sensō-ji temple. In Ueno is the Shinto shrine Ueno Tōshō-gū. Ueno is known as a working class district, while Asakusa is home to the more prosperous citizens of ancient Edo.
Notes on translation
花 hana flower, blossom
雲 kumo cloud
鐘 kane bell, chime
上野 ueno, temples include the Shinto shrine Ueno Tōshō-gū; a working class area
浅草 Asakusa, an area along the Sumida River including the ancient Sensō-ji temple; it is an upscale area, a place for the rich and prosperous
清澄庭園 Kiyosumi Garden, today’s strolling garden was developed after Basho’s time on earth, but an earlier garden no doubt existed. The garden contains a stone monument to Basho and his most famous haiku, an ancient pond, frog and the sound of water.