Matsuo Basho

Matsuo Bashō (松尾 芭蕉) was born in 1644, in Ueno, Iga province, and died Nov. 28, 1694, in Ōsaka.

His birth name was Matsuo Kinsaku, Matsuo being the family name. His father was, a minor samurai, who after the unification of Japan under the Tokugawa shogunate, took to farming. Having other brothers, the early death of his father, and Basho’s own literary penchant, pushed him into other fields. First, as the servant to a local feudal lord, then upon his death, to Kyoto where Basho was introduced to poetic expression.

Basho became Japan’s best known haiku poet, who refined the 17-syllable haiku into an artistic expression of image and truth. The goal is to compress our worldly experiences and observations into simple word pictures, disclosing, at the same time, subtle truths in small things.

Old pond — frog jumps in — sound of water.

ふるいけや
かわずとびこむ
みずのおと

furu ike ya
kawazu tobikomu
mizu no oto

“Plop” is an onomatopoeic rendering of the sound of water, as is “no oto”.

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