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Japanese Poetry: Basho And Haiku On Rain At Rakushisha In Sagano

Japanese Poetry: Basho And Haiku On Rain At Rakushisha In Sagano

Translated by MATCHA_En

Written by Atsuko Yagura

Kyoto 2014.06.27 Bookmark

The rainy season inspires everyone, and Basho, one of Japan's most celebrated haiku poets, took inspiration from the time while staying at Rakushisha in Sagano, a place located deep in the Arashiyama mountains of Kyoto. But what did he have to say?

Haiku are a short poem which consists of 17 sounds arranged in a pattern of 5-7-5. Since ancient times, haijin, or haiku poets, have written haiku poems that capture a moment of natural beauty or a scene that crossed their mind while their readers have been fascinated with the beautiful words and sounds of those poems.

When it comes to haiku, you can't forget to mention this poet known as a haisei (the saint of haiku). That poet's name is Matsuo Basho.

Basho traveled around Japan during the Edo period and composed numerous renowned haiku poems and travel journals such as "Oku-no-Hosomichi" and "Saga Nikki" (the Saga Diary). Although haiku already flourished as a hobby among the common people before Basho even began to write, he contributed so thoroughly to the evolution of artistry in haiku that he is known as a legend of the world of haiku to this day.

Today let's take a look at how Basho spoke of the rain. To find that out, I visited Rakushisha (The House of Fallen Persimmons), which was a cottage of a poet called Mukai Kyorai located in Sagano, an area deep in the Arashiyama mountains of Kyoto. Basho is said to have also visited Rakushisha and wrote part of the Saga Diary there.

Thatched Hut with Edo Atmosphere


If you walk from Arashiyama towards Sagano, in twenty minutes you will see more and more market gardens and bamboo forests and then Rakushisha subtly comes into sight. Since you might have your attention caught by a wheat field in front of you and the house stands so still and unobtrusive in the background, you might even find yourself walking right by it.

The moment you go through the gate, the atmosphere is so quaint that you could almost forget that you are living in the modern era. A straw raincoat and hat hanging next to the door are said to be a sign of the master's presence.

The interior is also lovely in terms of its traditional Edo style as well. I wonder if Basho stayed here all day to work on his haiku poems and travel journals? It is so serene that you will surely feel as though you are meditating just by taking a breath. I wish that I could stay here too.

How about sitting on the veranda to admire the garden? The sight is sure to make your forget the world around you and help you to clear your mind.

The World of Haiku in the Garden

There are many flowers and trees in the garden of Rakushisha, offering different views of the garden depending on which season you come to visit it in. The number of kigo (seasonal words) associated with each of these plants is over one hundred! This makes perfect sense for a haiku poets' garden.

There is a persimmon tree as the name Rakushisha indicates. This unusual name seems to have come from an episode where there were forty persimmon trees in the garden and almost all the persimmons fell from the trees in a single night.

Also in the gardens are numerous stone tablets inscribed with haiku poems composed here by famous poets like Basho and Mukai Kyorai who took the world by storm. Different haiku poems were written here by different haiku poets. I wonder what each of them saw and thought about here.

And here it is! A haiku poem on rain by Basho!

「五月雨や 色紙へぎたる 壁の跡」
(samidareya shikishi-hegitaru kabenoato)

"rainy season
poem card peeled off
leaving trace on the wall"

The Saga Diary ends with this haiku poem.

The most common interpretation of it is that, in a room filled with muggy air of the rainy season, Basho happened to find traces of a poetry card which he had pasted on the wall, but had since peeled off and fallen away. He was planning to leave Rakushisha the day after he wrote this haiku poem, so it is said that he also expressed his sadness of leaving such a comfortable place and the melancholy of the early summer rain at the same time.

By the way, for those who have been inspired to write your own haiku after visiting this hut, there is a haiku box where you can post your original poetry.

The poems posted in the box will be reviewed and those selected will be published in Rakushisha's seasonal magazines.


Address: Kyoto, Ukyo, Sagaogurayama, Hinomyojincho 20
Hours: 9:00-17:00 (10:00-16:00 in Jan and Feb)
Admission Fee: 250 yen
Closed: Dec. 31st-Jan. 1st
Wi-Fi: Not Available
Credit Card: Not Accepted
Language: Japanese
Nearest Station: JR Saga-Arashiyama Station
Access: 15 min walk from Saga-Arashiyama Station, or 10-minute walk from Saga-Shogakkomae bus stop (city bus)
Phone: 075-881-1953
Website: (Japanese)

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