Basho’s stay in Kisakata, Akita (Part 1)

On August 26, I visited 象潟(Kisakata), 秋田(Akita) and took some pictures of the spots referred to in『奥の細道』(Oku no Hosomichi), ‘The Narrow Road to Oku’ .

I also wrote some haiku there. I’d like to post some pictures and haiku.

松尾芭蕉( Matsuo Basho )(1644-1694) arrived at Kisakata on the evening of August 1, 1689, when a misty rain started to fall, obscuring Chokai Mountain.

The next morning the weather cleared beautifully. When the morning sun rose in all its splendor, Basho and his party took a boat out on the lagoon on Kisakata. They put in first 能因島 (Nohin jima), Nohin Island, where they called at the remains of the hut in which 能因(Nohin)(988-?), a waka poet, lived in seclusion for three years.


Here is a photo of Nohin Island.


能因島・鳥海・象潟(H21) 047








My haiku is this:



(Nohin jima  nebu no hana yuki  roh shoh ju)

Nohin Island 

mimosa blossoms gone

old pine trees


After that, Basho and his party left for the opposite shore, where they landed from their boat, and they saw the cherry tree that stands as a memento of 西行法師(Saigyo hoshi)(1118-1190), Saigyo, who wrote of it in 1174:



Kisakata no sakura wa nami ni uzumorete hana no ue kogu ama no tsuribune

At Kisakata

A cherry tree is covered

At times by the waves;

Fishermen must row their boats

Above the cherry blossoms.


                                                                                    Translated by Donald Keene


 Then they called at the temple standing nearby. In those days it was called the Ebb-and-Flow-Pearls Temple(干満珠寺)(Kanman ju ji), which is now called 虫甘満寺(Kanman ji), the Kanman-Temple.

Seated within the priests’ quarters of the temple, Basho rolled up the bamboo blinds and took in all at once the whole spectacle of Kisakata. To the south loomed Mount Chokai, supporting the heavens; its image was reflected in the water.

Now there is the stone for tying the boat with a rope (舟つなぎの石)(fune tsunagi no ishi) found behind the temple, where Basho and his party landed, tying their boat.

And we can see Mt. Chokai from there.


Here is a photo of the boat-tying stone and Mt. Chokai.


能因島・鳥海・象潟(H21) 039



(fune tsunagu  ishi no tamoto no  aota kana)


Green paddy field

neighboring on

the boat-tying stone


By the way, I’d like to show you a photo of Mt. Chokai, taken at the countryside of Kisakata.


能因島・鳥海・象潟(H21) 011


There I wrote the following haiku:



(haku un no  Chokaisan ni  tonbo tobu)

Mt. Chokai 

rising in white clouds

dragonflies below


Here I’d like to tell you about the origin of the name ‘Mt. Chokai’.

Kanji characters, 鳥(tori), bird ,  海(umi), sea , and 山(yama), mountain, are used for that name in Japanese. This means that the mountain was filled with birds and had a wonderful view of the sea.


 Here  is a photo of the sea taken from the slope in Kisakata, which leads to the foot of Mt. Chokai.


能因島・鳥海・象潟(H21) 022


There I also wrote the following haiku:



(hatsu obana  umi no kanata ni  shima hitotsu)


Fresh pampas grasses

facing the horizon

lonely island


                                  ― Hidenori Hiruta


7 thoughts on “Basho’s stay in Kisakata, Akita (Part 1)

  1. John McDonald san
    thank you for your nice comment always.
    Hidenori Hiruta

  2. Dear Dr. Gabi Greve san

    Hosomichi,the narrow road, has become wider and wider recently. It’s a nice phenomenon. Not only the Sake no Hosomichi but also the Soba no Hosomichi have been constructed in Japan. Maybe Basho might have welcomed such wide roads as these.
    By the way, I’d like to refer to what Basho and his party could have enjoyed eating in Kisakata in the following part of this title on the September 12th publishment. Would you please look forward to my next article? Thank you. Hidenori Hiruta

  3. Mt. Chokai
    rising in white clouds
    dragonflies below

    This is a beautiful haiku, Hiruta-san! The contrast between the massive mountain and its stillness and the dragonflies darting about creates a truly beautiful image.

    ~ josh

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