Art of Japan and poetry: Above the withered fields a bat flits

Art of Japan and poetry: Above the withered fields a bat flits

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The poetic skills of Yosa Buson (1716-1784) are extremely legendary inside Japan despite the passages of time. Indeed, despite some notable art pieces by Buson, it is his words belonging to the world of haiku that stand out. Hence, for individuals who adore Japanese high culture then Buson is among the elite when it comes to poetry and his overall legacy.

Buson was born in the province of Settsu that now equates to a region that includes the modern cities of Kobe and Osaka. In other words, he belongs to a part of Japan that is in easy reach of Koyasan, Kyoto, Nara, Negoro-Ji, and many other important places. Therefore, the essence of culture shone brightly before he would move to Edo (Tokyo) when he was at a very impressionable age.


A bat flits
in moonlight
above the plum blossoms.

In time, after several decades of learning and travel, Buson would eventually settle down in the environs of Kyoto. Yet, before settling down the haiku of Buson had blossomed because of meeting several haiku masters. Hence, the spirit of Hayano Hajin (Haijin) and others remained in his heart.

Buson deeply admired the high culture of China (the Middle Kingdom) despite Japan being mainly isolated during the Edo Period. Thus, Chinese and Japanese classics enriched Buson greatly.

Buson wrote:

Not quite dark yet
and the stars shining
above the withered fields.

Matsuo Bashō also inspired Buson to the point that he idolized him. Therefore, the knowledge of Chinese and Japanese classics – and individuals including Bashō and Hajin – enabled his haiku to flow so elegantly. Overall, the legacy of Buson remains potent in modern Japan based on his haiku and belonging to an exclusive cultural circle that will continue to survive the passages of time. by Robert Hass by Robert Hass


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