A rainy day
This autumn world
Ame no hi ya seken no aki o sakaichō
[Utagawa Hiroshige, White Rain on the Nihon Bridge, 1838, credit, Yale Art Museum]
A Rainy Day in Autumn, 1678
“…seken no aki o sakaichō”
It sounds good to the ear even when you don’t know Japanese.
It is 1678, Matsuo Bashō, age 35, is living in Edo (Tokyo) in Nihonbashi, Edo’s city center . He is part of the Japanese literary society composing haikai no renga, comical linked verse (now shortened to haiku).
Two years from now, Bashō will move across the Sumida River to the then rural and unconnected by a bridge Fukagawa District. The bridge would come soon and Bashō would write a haiku about its construction. It would be nine more years until Matsuo Bashō and his traveling companion, Kawai Sora, would make their celebrated journey Oku no Hosomichi (奥の細道), Journey to the Narrow North.
For now, Bashō is taking in all that Edo has to offer.
By the 17th century, the population in Edo (Tokyo) numbers in the neighborhood of 150,000 people. Along the western edge of the Sumida River, Edo’s theaters and playhouses are being built, mingling with houses of prostitution, with a mixture of tea-houses and Geisha-houses, where conversations with poets and actors are the main attraction.
Of course, they serve sushi and sake in Sakaichō.
It must have been a sensational sight, walking shoulder to shoulder, even in the soaking rain.
Ame no hi ya, seken no aki o sakaichō.
[Kabuki Theaters at Sakai-cho, Opening Day of the New Season (Sakai-cho Shibai no Zu), artist Utagawa Hiroshige, 1838, credit, Metropolitan Museum of Art.]
Notes on Japanese translation
雨の日, ame no hi, rainy days
世間 seken, world, society
秋 aki, autumn