To the non-foodies: shichimi togarashi is a spicy blend of seven spices that goes well with everything.
青くても/ 有べきものを /唐辛子Matsuo Basho, September, 5th year of Genroku. 1692
aoku te mo / arubeki mono o / tōgarashi
It should have stayed in
Its green attire
– A chili pepper
Not So Spicy
Autumn 1692, Matsuo Basho is back in Edo (Tokyo), living in his third Basho-an, the cottage by a banana tree, from which he took his name. Tired of traveling, tired of guests, he lives for the most part in seclusion with a nephew and a woman named Jutei, possible his nephew’s wife. She perhaps tended the garden. She maybe cooked the dinner using the popular tōgarashi (唐辛子), red chili peppers. Basho, who lived with a stomach ailment for most of his life, would have preferred something not so spicy.
The red chili pepper did the trick.
I liked this haiku because I planted some chili peppers in my garden this spring and watched the green pepper turn red in late fall. Basho, I suspect thought the chili pepper none too spicy, and therefore, it should have kept its green attire.
Notes on Translation
The subtleties of the Japanese language often befuddle me. What should be so simple gets complex the more I try to delve into the meaning of things. For instance, ても, te mo should mean “even though”, but that doesn’t work. And tōgarashi, 唐辛子, the red chili is red because we know it ripens to that color. It is a popular ingredient in Shichimi, where a little bit goes a long way.
I have of course clothed the chili pepper in green “attire” like the Jolly Green Giant. Others have too.