By July, 1689, Matsuo Basho and Sora had reached Obanazawa, three months into their Journey to the Northern Interior, and ready to rest.
[By Matsuo Basho’s reckoning, according to the Japanese lunar calendar, it was the 5th lunar month (五日, itsuka), from the 17th to the 27th, 1689.]
“In Obanazawa, I met a man called Seifu (清風, a Chinese phrase meaning cool breeze).”
“He is wealthy, yet a man of a samurai mind. He has a deep understanding of the hardships of the wandering journey, for he himself had traveled often to the capital city. He invited me to stay at his place as long as I wished and made me comfortable in every way he could.”
Yes (Hai), crawl out!
Under the silk moth hut
The mental image of
Mayahuki (an eye brush)
And Benihana (Safflower, red powder flower)
Notes on Translation
Obanazawa (尾花沢), literally means the valley of the yellow iris (尾花). The city is located along the Mogami River in central Japan, halfway between Sendai and Sakata (Stages 18 and 31).
In Obanazawa, Matsuo Basho’s host was Seifu (清風), a wealthy merchant and poet of the Danrin school, founded by Nishiyama Sōin (1605 to 1682). Seifu had previously exchanged haiku with Basho and Sora in Edo. Seifu is the Haiku name of Michisuke Suzuki, a safflower wholesaler, thus the third haiku.
Not me, not you
Like Safflower powder
Bashō no yōna
I have not been able to find any haiku by Michisuke Suzuki, or Seifu. But, there is a Seifu Museum in Obamazawa.
Safflower (紅粉の花, benibana or beni no hana), has been used in Japan as a source for red tint in cosmetics and dye for clothing. The yellow flower contains a concentrated tinge of red.
With the July heating up, and the long walk, Basho and Sora were ready for a rest. The WKD Archive site indicates that Basho stayed at a nearby temple and not with Seifu. Perhaps, Seifu was not as “cool” as his name suggests.
From the second haiku, one infers that Basho’s host also maintained a nursery for Silkworm moths. Basho addresses a toad hidden in a Moth hut. It is hot and humid, Basho kindly commands him to crawl out, enjoy the cool, fresh air.
Mayahaki in the third haiku refers to the brush that sweeps the eye with red powder from the Safflower. It is the signature look of the Geisha.
suzushisa o waga yado ni shite nemaru nari
hai ideyo kaiya ga shita no hiki no koe
mayuhaki o omokage ni shite beni no hana