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Basho's Journey: The Literary Prose of Matsuo Basho

7 pages
1661 words
George Washington University
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A journey is an expedition, which involves traveling from one place to another. It can incorporate a physical travel, a representative of a process, or any mission that entails a goal to determine an individuals identity. In literature, a trip can be metaphorical because it portrays a myriad of concepts. Bashos travel, for example, begins from Edo, a 17th Century Japanese city. In Chapter one of his book, Journal of Bleached Bones in a Field, Basho begins his journey. When Basho speaks of having bleached bones in his mind, and the wind pierces his body and the heart, it represents the concept of an expedition as both a process and an aspiration. As well, in chapter 6 of the book, Saga Diary, Saga Nikki, Basho sets out on a journey on the 18th day of the fourth month to Saga and Kyorais Villa of fallen persimmons. In the chapter, Basho affirms that he intends to stay on his journey a bit longer. Seemingly, his trip has metaphorical features in a way that during his extended stay, he plans to learn a couple of things. The two chapters involve talking the form of physical travel with the goal of determining Bashos identity. The paper incorporates an analysis of Bashos journey as both physical and metaphorical and the meaning of that trip to him.

In chapter one, Basho begins his line that I set out on a journey of a thousand leagues, packing no provisions (13). In that case, he places himself upon a physical journey. Immediately, such an opening draws the reader to a conclusion that the expedition has already begun. From a broader perspective, in Bashos journey, his quest has a direction, and it is a process of meditative wandering through metaphorical tensions. In the chapter, he talks about his surrounding as rainy and mists in the clouds (13). In the same paragraph, Basho states that as he prepares to leave his hut, the sound of the wind was strangely cold. Based on his statement of a cold and strange wind, the reader immediately gets a sense of turbulence. During the journey, he tags along Chiri, who according to him is his friend who cares for him (14). As he stops in every destination, it appears that they have a sentimental meaning to him. The journey, which Basho undertakes is metaphorical because it is both inherent and intertextual. When Basho writes about his journey, the expedition itself becomes part of his experience. Regarding the texts articulation, the cosmological language, which is evident as one continues to read the chapter, already infers that the physical journey is not the only one, which Basho will undertake. Beyond doubt, the first paragraph of the section makes the reader aware of the tension and the intensity that will come about when Basho pursues his travel. Throughout the journey, Basho speaks of it being a rainy season. In Japanese culture, the rainy season, also known as Tsuyu, is significant. Furthermore, because Basho embarked on a journey during the rainy season, it is imperative that questions can be raised regarding his decision. As he travels, it is apparent that the journey is a great opportunity to him.

The journey has an inner meaning to Basho in a way that he intends to acquire a spiritual path. A spiritual journey deepens an individuals insights towards life. In the chapter, when Basho walks along River Fuji with his friend, he comes across an abandoned child (14). In his mind, he begins to imagine whether the childs parents hated him. Nevertheless, on the other hand, he says to himself that it is not hatred, but the childs abandonment is simply from heaven since a person cannot grieve from his fate (14). It is believable that in some way, Basho set out on a spiritual journey because he is asking himself questions about life. Furthermore, on his journey, Basho states that he and Chiri visit the Taima Temple on Mount Futagami (16). As well, he avers that in the heart of Yoshino, the mountains were so deep with piles of clouds. In ancient Japanese beliefs, the mountain is considered as places where dangerous spirits dwell. When an individual travels, they may get a spiritual vision, which is accompanied by their mental discipline. More to the point, it appears that during his journey, he intends to gain a cultural depth to his experiences of nature. He visits the mountains, plains, temples, and the shrines to worship. In Buddhism, the objective is to live a life devoid of attachments. As it appears, Basho has had some shortcomings in life. He asserts that when he went to Atsuta to worship, the shrine drew his heart more than it had maintained (18). During the particular journey, Basho sends most of his time in the mountains to pray. It might appear apparent to a reader that he wanted to acquire an in-depth meaning of the quality of life. When he returns home, Basho avows that he rests in his hut due to the weariness of the journey. Based on his statement, he gives an impression that he has acquired his purpose in life.

In chapter six, Basho goes to a journey Saga and Kyorais Villa of Fallen Permissions. The Saga diary provides an account of what he did for seventeen days during the summer. Boncho accompanies him on his journey. They both began that journey on the 18th of the month. In the chapter, Basho affirms that he plans to stay a little longer (79). More so, in that particular travel, he carries supplies, which would sustain him along his journey. From a broader perspective, the chapter provides a distinctive inclusion of the theme of dream. On the 28th day, Basho affirms that he had a dream where he began to speak to Tokuku (87). He affirms,

My dreams certainly arent those of sages or true gentlemen. All day my spirit is scattered with delusions; at night my dreams are the same. Dreaming about Tokuku is a remembering dream. He was deeply devoted to me, and came seeking me all the way t my home village of Iga We shared the same bed at night, we comforted each other from the aches of our journeys, and for a hundred days he was my companion, steadfast as a shadow. At times we frolicked together; at times we grieved. His deep feeling penetrated to the bottom of my heart; I will never forget him. Waking from my dream, my sleeves are drenched with tears (87-88).

Based on his writing about his dream, Basho appears to reminisce about Tokuku, who is dear to him in his dreams. Often, people dream about people who have left a significant impact on their lives. At the end of his dream, Basho affirms that after he finishes his delusion, he wakes up to his sleeves filled with tears. Evidently, Tokuku created a noteworthy impact in Bashos life. It appears that he dreams about loneliness, which indeed, he felt lonely.

In Bashos perspective, the journey to Saga meant the transience of life. Even so, in the first paragraph of the chapter, Basho states that he intends to stay a little longer. Seemingly, during his trip, he wanted to discover the purpose of life. In the chapter, it appears as if Basho is lonely and seeks to overcome solitude during his journey. He affirms, nothing is lacking, and forgetting my poverty, I savor the leisurely tranquility (79). In essence, the Saga diary develops his aesthetic of loneliness. In the readers view, it seems that Basho is struggling to stop feeling lonely. On the real sense, he starts his journey because in some way, the loneliness is affecting his life. During the 20th day, he articulates that when he visits the Villa of Fallen Permissions, its desolate nature draws his heart more compared to when it was new. By reading that, the reader becomes fully aware that Basho has a feeling of pensive sadness, which he needs to overcome (80). The reason for his loneliness might be that he does not have stable friendships in his life. In the chapter, when Basho begins his journey, Boncho, who accompanies him, stays until the evening then returns to Kyoto. As well, when they visit the Villa, his friend Kyorai returns to the capital. On the 21st day, Basho affirms that he spends most of the day lying around and when evening comes, he is all alone (81). It is evident that in the chapter, Basho brings out a message that friends come and go at any point in life. His dream about Tokuku is an evident sign of loneliness. Even so, during the last day of his journey, he affirms that he leaves the Villa of Fallen Permissions with deep regret (89). Apparently, he was unable to find his purpose in life.

In summary, through his writing, Basho achieves a significant sense of creativity. In both chapter one and six of his prose, Basho presents exciting pieces, which would make a reader want to question his or her purpose in life. His artistic style of writing brings out the metaphorical nature of his travel. More so, it is apparent that his quality of writing has become widely known in most institutions. According to him, every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home. Evidently, in his quest, he takes a path through spiritual reality, life, nature, and time. As seen in the paper, in as much as Basho set out on a physical journey, they had a significant meaning to his life. He appears to have some uncertainties and difficulties in life. As well, Bashos sense of solitude has overcome him to the extent that he dreams and decides to go for prayers. Overall, individuals should emulate Bashos character in a way that when he or she travels, he or she should establish the purpose of their expedition.


Work Cited

Matsuo, Basho. Basho's Journey: The Literary Prose of Matsuo Basho. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press. 2005.


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