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RELATED TOPIC:
BASHÔ'S NARROW ROAD TO THE DEEP NORTH

RELATED TOPIC:
CHIKAMATSU MONZAEMON (1653-1725)

RELATED TOPIC:
SAIKAKU (1642-1693)

RELATED TOPIC:
TOKUGAWA JAPAN

 
BASHÔ, MASTER OF THE HAIKAI
AND HAIKU FORMS

Haikai in Tokugawa Society
Basho Video Clip

Haruo Shirane :: Matsuo Bashô was a haikai master. "Haikai" means popular linked verse.

Linked verse was this great socio-cultural activity that the Japanese engaged in from the medieval period onward. It's different in Bashô's period. Bashô is late seventeenth century, the beginning of the Tokugawa period. It's a whole new society, an urban society, with the development of capitalism, urban townsmen, and mercantilism, so we have a whole new commoner populace that is now participating. It's not just the aristocrats or the elite samurai.

What's interesting about the seventeenth century that marks it off from the others is that it's the first time we have mass education; this is the first time we have printing. Until this point everything was very carefully duplicated by hand. This is the first time you had books, you had libraries, you had schools. Everyone is trying to learn. And haikai — comic linked verse — was kind of a way to learning, a way of learning. It was in linked verse that you would allude to the Tale of Genji, to Ise, the Kokinshû, but you could also talk about your daily life, the things that happen in your kitchen, talk about your dog. [The Tale of Genji, Tales of Ise, and the Kokinshû are famous works of literature and poetry from Japan's classical period (6th-12th centuries).]

[Haiku by Bashô]

susuhaki wa
ono ga tana tsuru
daiku kana

housecleaning day —
hanging a shelf at his own home
a carpenter

Haiku from Makoto Ueda, Bashô and His Interpreters: Selected Hokku with Commentary, p. 374.