Narrow Road to the Interior

(Nonfiction and poetry; 1702; repr., Shambhala, 1991)


One of the greatest poets of medieval Japan, Matsuo Bashō was a man who continually wandered. He wandered from his native castle town of Ueno to the gridded center of Kyoto, and then he wandered to Edo. He wandered through different occupations: he was a servant to a feudal lord’s relative, then a worker for the waterworks department, and, finally, a poet. And in 1684, after his mother died and his little grass hut burned down, he wandered the coastlines and inland roads of Japan, eventually walking for thousands of miles, making studies of nature, people, and human spirituality. In the spring and summer of 1689, Bashō set out on one of his final journeys, and he chronicled his travels and meditations in a mixed-genre work of prose and haiku.

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