Fuwa Barrier

Two poems about the Fuwa Barrier Gate, the first by Matsuo Basho, the second by the the 13th century poet and nun Abastsu.

Aki-kaze ya / Yabu mo hatake mo / Fuwa no seki

an autumn wind and
fields and thickets —
Fuwa’s barriers

Nozarashi kikô, Matsuo Basho, 1684

Notes. Aki-kaze, 秋風, the autumn wind, is often bitterly cold. Seki, 関, a barrier gate to control traffic and goods (notice how the character looks like a gate with a crossing). Barrier Gates were shut at dark blocking the road. Travelers stayed in the attached house or found accommodations nearby.

So full of cracks
The (unbreakable) barrier gatehouse of Fuwa
How the rain and the moonlight
Both break in

Izayoi Nikki, nun Abatsu, 1279-80

Note. Fuwa, 不破, also meaning “unbreakable.” Fuwa no Seki,不破の関, an unbreakable Barrier Gate. Seki is gate, but it would be understood to include the gatehouse where travelers waited overnight. In Abatsu’s day, local lords used the barriers to control traffic and exact tolls.

Narai, one of the stations on the Nakasendo Way, artist, Hiroshige, original image Wikipedia


Abatsu (阿仏, c. 1222 – 1283), Japanese poet and nun, 尼. She served as lady-in-waiting to Princess Kuni-Naishinnō, sister to the Emperor Go-Horikawa. In addition to poetry, she kept a diary — Izayoi nikki (十六夜日記). Izayoi, 十六夜, meaning the 16th night, and nikki, 日記, meaning diary, that became the travelogue, Diary of the Waning Moon. A dispute over her son’s inheritance led her to make trip from Kyoto to Kamakura, near Edo.


Fuwa’s barrier gate/house was on the Nakasendo way, just west of Nagoya, near the post-town of Sekigahara. This one was totally abandoned by Basho’s time. Incidentally, Sekigahara was the site of the decisive battle in which Tokugawa Ieyasu defeated a coalition of Toyotomi loyalist clans, establishing the Tokugawa shogunate.

Basho’s inland journey took him along the Nakasendo way, where he crossed the Fuwa barrier. He also travelled the Tokaido coastal road, crossing the Hakone barrier gate, just south of Edo. Both routes connect Edo with Kyoto, the Imperial Capital. In Basho’s later travelogue, Oku no Hosomichi, he mentioned the barrier gate at Shirakawa, which led to the northern interior.

Kyoto pathway

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