As firmly cemented clam shells
Fall apart in Autumn
So too, I take to the road again
Farewell my friends
hamaguri no / futami ni wakare / yuku aki zo
It is September 1689. The leaves begin to change colors. Though it may still be hot, the weather can be unpredictable. The typhoons that come in August may still appear.
Matsuo Basho has made his way from Tsuruga, north of Lake Biwa, and proceeded on horseback to the relaxing city of Ogaki in Mino Province. This was coincidentally (or not) near the site of the Battle of Sekigahara, which brought relative peace to Japan and the beginning of the Tokugawa period. In Ogaki, Sora (Basho’s companion on much of The Narrow Road to the Deep North, Oku no Hosomichi, 奥の細道) and another friend Etsujin join Basho at the house of Joko. Other friends, including Zensen and Keiko and his sons, came to see Basho, as if he had returned from the dead.
It is only fitting that Matsuo Bashō end his journey in Mie Prefecture, the province of his birth near the city of Ueno, and the location of Iga Ueno Castle where he had served as a young boy and man.
On September the 6th, though fatigued from his long journey, Basho went to see the dedication of a Shinto Shrine. Stepping into a boat, Basho makes the journey down the Suimon River to the eastern coast. If he stopped along the way to visit his birthplace or the Iga Ueno Castle, that fact was not recorded. His destination, the Okitama Shrine in Futami (or the more famous Grand Ise Shrine, I am not sure which). There Basho watched the waves crashing against the well-known Meoto Iwa (夫婦岩, Married Couple Rocks) that separate at high tide.
Observing the water come and go, Basho looks to find closure to his journey. So, he included this final haiku in his book The Narrow Road to the Deep North.
A literal translation is:
Hamaguri clams of Futami break apart in Autumn.
Hamaguri clams of Futami part in Autumn.
Futami is a pun on the words body and lid, two bodies, thus the stretch by translators to “Clams firmly cemented”. The second line is also a pun on the idea of parting for Futami and breaking apart. Futami suggests another image, that of Married Couples Rock. Married couples, whose love blossoms in spring and heats up in summer, now by autumn, find their love has cooled and faded.
There is a final coincidental reference – the Hamaguri clam’s hard shell is used to make stones in the Chinese game of Go.
Original Image of Married Rocks from Wikipedia.