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

August 15, 2013

Basho’s haiku in Toyama (Haiku Stones): Ariso no Umi

It is on the the last leg of his Narrow Road travels that Basho enters Toyama from Niigata.

Fresh rice plants in Hokuriku.
[Fresh rice plants. Photo Ad Blankestijn]

fragrance of rice
wading into it
on my right the Rough Sea

wase no ka ya | wakeiru migi wa | Ariso Umi

This is the only haiku Basho wrote in Toyama. Ariso no Umi, the Rough Sea, is is an utamakura ('pillow word') for the area around Fukishi harbor near the present city of Takaoka (home to the great Zuiryuji Temple). From here one has the famous view of the Tateyama mountains over Toyama Bay: a long row of white peaks above, the waves of the sea below, and only a haze in between.

Basho does not write about this scenery. He had a very tough day, crossing "forty-eight streams and countless rivers" as he writes in Oku no Hosomichi. That morning, August 27 (July 13 on our calendar) he had left Ichiburi. The streams he had to cross were the Kurobe River and its tributaries, all swollen by long rains. At such places he and Sora had to hire porters to carry them across. Next day he traveled on to Nako no Ura.

Hojozu Hachiman Shrine in Shin-Minato, Takaoka
[Hojozu Hachiman Shrine in Shin-Minato, Takaoka. Photo Ad Blankestijn]

Basho's haiku is a eulogy on the new country he is entering: the domain of Kaga. This was one of the most affluent parts of Japan and the daimyo family, the Maeda, had an income of over one million koku (or 5 million bushels) of rice. So it is fitting that Basho writes about the wase, the fresh young rice standing in endless fields, as far as the eye can see. The fragrance of the new rice greets him when he enters Kaga and while he wades through the rich fields, on his right side he sees the famous Nako no Ura, Bay of Nako and the Araiso, the Rough Sea. Thus he pays his respects to the genie of the country he is entering.
Stone: The haiku stone stands in the grounds of the Hojozu Hachiman Shrine in Shin-Minato. There is also a kahi, a tanka stone, by Otomo no Iemochi, a Manyoshi poet who lived for 4 years in this area and left many poems (from 746 CE). The shrine is pleasant, but Shin-Minato is rather ugly. Some say the kuhi should have been placed in Fushiki, on the other side of the bay.
Access: 25 min. by the Manyo Line of the Kaetsuno Tetsudo to Naka-Shin-minato, then a 15-min. walk.