I recently drove back from the east coast. And, while I was in Central Missouri in the middle of nowhere, an hour or so after dusk, I caught a view of a full moon, large, round and orange, in the rear view mirror of my car. It was a breathtaking sight. My trip, and my moon spotting, corresponded roughly with the traditional day of Japanese moon viewing (Tsukimi, 月見), or September 21, 2021.
That the moon is prettier in Autumn, is, I learned later, due to the astronomical fact that the moon rises sooner in fall and at a narrower angle, making it appear to be fuller and more orange. I also learned that the moon is moving closer to earth, that is, it is in perigee, and will reach its closest on December the 4th.
The 17th century Japanese operated on a lunar calendar. And each season had its own moon. Spring moon, 春の月, haru no tsuki; Summer moon, 夏の月, natsu no tsuki; Autumn moon, 秋の月, aki no tsuki; and Winter’s moon, 冬の月, fuyu no tsuki.
And here are four haiku by Matsuo Basho with seasonal references to the moon.
春もやや 気色ととのふ 月と梅Matsuo Basho, 6th year of Genroku, Spring 1693. The plum blossoms in early spring, often when snow is on the ground. An almost too perfect combination of a bright moon and heavenly scented plum blossoms.
haru moya ya/ keshiki totonou/ tsuki to ume
a colorful complexion of
the moon and a plum blossom
蛸壺やはかなき夢を夏の月Matsuo Basho, at Akashi, a seaside town near Kobe famous for its seafood. When alarmed an octopus will hide in a dark place. Thus, fishermen intentionally make pots black to catch the unwitting octopus.
tako-tsubo ya/ hakanaki yume wo/ natsu no tsuki
an octopus pot,
a fleeting dream
under a Summer moon.
去る引の 猿と世を経る 秋の月Basho, The Monkey’s Raincoat, 1691. Basho’s haiku was a response to a linked verse by Boncho. Boncho’s verse was, a new priest hurrying to the temple getting cold.
saruhiki no/ saruto yo furu/ aki no tsuki
a street entertainer–
going through life carrying a monkey
— Autumn moon
冬庭や月もいとなるむしの吟Matsuo Basho, 2nd year of Genroku, 1689, at a tea ceremony with Ichinyū, a tea potter and lay Buddhist teacher . It would be unusual for an insect to find food at this time of year, much less to hear an insect at all.
fuyu niwa ya / tsuki mo ito naru / mushi no gin
In Winter’s garden
when the moon is a thread,
an insect sings
Note to reader
If you find fault in my translations or have comments, feel free to respond. We are after all, like Basho, students of life.
As season comeBashō no yōna, November, 2021
And seasons go
The moon will always glow