26 November 2021

the bumbling tourist discovers Basho the invisible

It's an awful photo of Basho, the famous and iconic figure of Japanese literature, but I love the MacDonald's empty cup. I snapped it in the brutal morning light whilst running to catch a train. 

On my first trip to Japan I was in Kyoto for about five days staying in a small suburb a few metro stops away from the city center by JapanRail. Before going into the city I used to go for a coffee in a small tea shop in a nondescript plaza next to the station. In the small plaza was this statue which I had noticed and walked by each day but didn't pay much heed until the very last one when I was leaving to go south. I casually wondered over to look at it more closely and to my surprise, I saw that it was Basho, the great haiku poet! There was a small plaque next it explaining that he had lived in this very Kyoto suburb back in the 17th century.

I have always venerated Basho and read every Haiku he wrote several times over. I have lived with his tattered books, slept with them, and taken them from continent to continent, dog-eared and falling apart, and so the irony of stumbling upon this statue on the very last day is rich. But being a die-hard fan of his, did not keep me from being a blind bumbling tourist.

                In Kyoto 
             hearing the Cuckoo
              I long for Kyoto  

translated by Jane Hirshfield

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