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

August 14, 2011

Haiku Stones: Minami-Mido, Osaka (Basho)

on a journey ailing
my dreams around withered fields
ramble and rove

tabi ni yande | yume wa kareno wo | kakemeguru
Basho died in 1694 while on a trip to the Kansai area. He had been to Iga-Ueno, his native place, then to Nara, and from there he arrived in Osaka on the ninth of the ninth month. He came to the commercial city to settle a dispute between his disciples Shado and Shido, and stayed first in the house of the one, then in that of the other.

[The haiku stone in Mido Temple. Photo Ad Blankestijn]

Basho's health had not been up to the journey and the 40 mile walk from Ueno had been a severe struggle. After arrival in Osaka, he developed a persistent fever, with a cold and a headache, but still had to attend receptions held by the rival factions of his school. His health seemed to recover partially after a few weeks. Basho went out on the 26th and wrote several haiku.

However, on the night of the 29th, he became quite ill again. On the fifth day of the tenth month, it was decided to move him to a quieter residence: a room rented from a florist in front of the Minami-Mido Temple (the florist catered to visitors of the graveyard belonging to this large Jodo Shin temple). Here many disciples from Kyoto, Shiga and Mie prefectures gathered around the dying master.

On the tenth, Basho dictated letters in which he distributed his few possessions such as books and manuscripts. He also wrote a short farewell note to his brother. Basho lay down quietly to await death. Around noon of the 12th, he briefly opened his eyes. Gruel was offered him, but he refused and only had his dry lips made wet. He died a few hours later and was buried in the grounds of Gichuji temple in Zeze (Otsu) at lake Biwa (in this temple also stands a stone bearing the present haiku inscription).

The above haiku was dictated by Basho to his disciple Shiko on the eight, four days before his death. It is a very suggestive poem: in his feverish dreams, Basho imagines he is walking around in circles on a bare plain... Or is it an image of his whole life, a life spent wandering, without a place to rest?

The haiku stone stands in the grounds of Minami-Mido, the temple close to the florist where Basho died. This is in central Osaka, on the Midosuji Boulevard. The temple is the Osaka establishment of the Higashi-Honganji temple from Kyoto, belonging to the Jodo Shin denomination. The stone was erected in 1843, at the occasion of the memorial of Basho's death 150 years earlier.

Access: 200 m. S from Exit 8 of Honmachi Station of the Midosuji Subway Line. Minami Mido Namba Betsuin.
Admission: One can freely enter the grounds. The temple is a modern, concrete structure, but was originally founded in 1598 by Kyonyo. The haiku stone stands to left of the main hall, in a small garden. In the middle of the Midosuji Avenue, opposite the temple, stands a stone stele commemorating Basho's death (presumably the flower shop once stood here).