Moon over the Mountains

In the summer and fall of 1676, young Matsuo Chūemon Munefusa (he had not yet taken the pen-name Bashō) left Edo and returned to Iga to visit his family. The autumn moon rising over the mountains was a sight to behold.

Let us write poetry!
the moon over the mountains
is rarely seen in Edo

nagamuru ya Edo ni wa marena yama no tsuki


Hiroshige’s Moon over Mountain, 1835

Moon Viewing

Matsuo Chūemon Munefusa is 33, struggling to make a name for himself.

He has been living for four years in Edo’s fashionable and artsy Nihonbashi neighborhood. It is noisy, it is dirty, the lights obscure the moon. A autumn trip to his birthplace in Iga, Ueno provides an opportunity to see the harvest moon.

The last line, 山の月 yama no tsuki, moon over the mountain. This refers to the Japanese custom of holding parties to see a full moon, called moon viewing. The most popular viewing is the harvest moon in mid-autumn, celebrated as Tsukimi.

Notes on Translation

読む nagamuru, reading, reading out loud, reciting.

稀な marena, rare or uncommon. Viewing the full moon in the crowded, dirty city of Edo was not a beautiful sight. Especially so, as young Matsuo was living in the bustling district of Nihonbashi, a kind of New York Times Square with all sorts of distractions.

This post relies on WKD – Matsuo Basho Archives by Gabi Greve.

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