I remember many, many things,
do cherry blossoms,
Samazama no koto omoidasu sakura kana
In Japan, in late March and early April, they celebrate the Sakura matsuri, or cherry blossom festival.
All eyes will be on the light pink florets as they fill the city sidewalks, public parks, and temple gardens with quivering bursts of color in the gentle breeze of early spring. Picnicking under the blossoms is an ancient tradition. Then, all too soon, the petals begin to fall, and the scene becomes a distant memory.
One explanation of Basho’s haiku is that he is recalling that he abandoned the way of samurai and decided to live the way of haiku. Or simply that cherry blossoms encourage random thoughts.
Samazama no koto omoidasu sakura ka na
The sibilant repetition of the “s” and “z” sounds (samazama, omoidasu, sakura). The repeated consonants of “k” (koto, sakura, kana) produce a melodic sound to Basho’s phrase. “Do you remember many things?” is today’s colloquial understanding of the phrase. A more literal translation is, “Various things, they call to mind, ah, cherry blossoms!”
Notes on translation
さまざま samazama, various, many, many
事 koto, thing, matter
櫻 sakura, cherry blossoms
かな kana, I wonder