A Basho Bash-Up: Some Of My Favorite Haiku

basho book

After reading Shogun, I’ve found my fascination with Japan’s history at a high pitch.  Currently, my studies have turned to the Japanese wandering poet Basho, the most famous Haiku poet of them all.  Back in Basho’s time (the late 1600s), a Haiku poem was not considered complete without a kigo— some sort of reference to the season.  It could be a subtle reference (such as spiders signifying summer), but it was often overt.

By the way, for timeline bearings, Basho would have lived starting about fifty years after the fictional Blackthorne shipwrecked onto Japan in the novel, Shogun.  In Basho’s day there were still roaming Samurai-for-hire called Ronin, and also members of the Samurai class were beginning to move into other elite positions in the state bureaucracy besides that of the warrior.

Just for fun, I’ve combined some of my favorite Basho Haiku into one poem (see below).  I’d love to be made aware of other Basho poems that I should know, or other outstanding Haiku in general.


Hammering Shield’s Basho Bash-Up:

First day of Spring

I keep thinking about

the end of Autumn.

More than ever I want to see

In these blossoms at dawn

God’s face


Wrapping the rice cakes,

with one hand

she fingers back her hair.

A bee

staggers out

of the peony


Spring going—

birds weeping, tears

in the eyes of fish.

A village without bells—

how do they live?

Spring dusk


Summer grass—

all that’s left

of warriors’ dreams.

How admirable!

To see lightning and not think

Life is fleeting


Autumn moonlight—

a worm digs silently

into the chestnut.

You could turn this way,

I’m also lonely

this Autumn evening


Winter solitude—

in a world of one color

the sound of wind.

Weathered bones

on my mind,

a wind-pierced body


Sick on a journey,

my dreams wander

the withered fields.

The peasant’s child,

husking rice, stops

and gazes at the moon.


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