Names in this site follow the Japanese custom of family name first.

June 19, 2012

Basho Museum, Tokyo (Museums)

In 1680, the haiku poet Basho moved from Nihonbashi - right in the bustling center of Edo - to a small country house in Fukagawa. Here he started new haikai activities. Away from the city with its endless rounds of linked verse (renga) sessions where he acted as referee (which brought a reasonable income), now he was free to concentrate on his art and bring it to new heights. Most famous haiku date from this period.

The same holds true for the poetical name that finally stuck with him: he named himself Basho after the plantain (some call it a banana plant) that disciples had planted in the garden of the cottage. The Koto City Basho Museum was built on what is believed to have been a place very close to Basho's hut.

Basho Museum, Tokyo
[Basho Museum, Tokyo]

The original hut did not survive (in fact, there were three different 'Basho huts,' because fire once took its toll and another time Basho himself moved out on the faraway journey to northern Japan); the area was included in a samurai estate. When in 1917, after a tsunami hit a stone frog was found here that people believed to have been in Basho's possession (I do not know why, except the fact that he wrote a famous frog haiku! The frog stone can be seen in the museum), it was decided that this must have been the location of Basho's hut. Now a small Inari shrine occupies the spot just south of the museum. Opposite the shrine is a small rooftop park with a statue of Basho.

Roof top display near Basho Museum, Tokyo
[Rooftop display near Basho Museum, Tokyo]

The museum's exhibits include calligraphies of Basho's haiku (amongst others by Buson); portraits of the poet; and an example of the clothes he may have worn when traveling, as well as an ingenious small writing brush with ink pot for use on the road. In the garden stand a few haiku stones as well as a miniature copy of Basho's hut. To remain wholly in style, the museum also has plantains growing against its walls.
Address: 1-6-3 Tokiwa, Koto-ku, Tokyo Tel. 03-3631-1448
Access: 7 min. from Morishita Station on the Shinjuku Subway line; 25 min. from Monzen-nakamachi on the Tozai Subway line; 20 min. from Ryogoku Station on the JR Sobu line.
Admission: 10:00-17:00; Cl. Monday, year-end and New Year period.
Facilities: Counter selling pamphlets (all J); meeting rooms and library; garden; separate roof garden with Basho statue.