by Darcy Jay Gagnon

From Fall 2017

Whiskey, ice, Robbie Basho’s Visions of the Country, side B, track 1, “Orphan’s Lament,” one of Basho’s few piano pieces, opening on a jaunty introduction of pentatonic chords that could be Asian or American or who really knows and, after a heavy cadence, transitions into his familiar Indian raga style, where notes are scattered across scales of arpeggios without any noticeable pattern and to an invisible tempo that would shatter any metronome in confusion. Meanwhile, Basho’s vocals—which have a timbre placed somewhere between an operatic baritone and an orca whale—soar over the chaotic trickle of keys and are both intensely voluminous and serene.  It is somewhat hard not to imagine Basho singing with lips like a bird.  

Robbie Basho was born in 1940 in Baltimore, MD, but was soon orphaned. He was given the name Daniel R. Robinson Jr. by his adopted father, but it would not stay his name forever.  His middle-class upbringing was typical and, in 1958, he enrolled in the University of Maryland, where he began playing guitar music inspired by the nylon string picking style of flamenco. After dropping out of university, he honed his style and began writing classical compositions. Being in Maryland and being a classical guitarist, it was only a matter of time until Daniel R. Robinson Jr. met the prominent bluesman John Fahey, but they were not friends, even though Robinson was signed to Fahey’s Takoma label throughout the 60s, which at the time was reintroducing Appalachian and plantation blues into mainstream culture. Of Robinson, Fahey said, “Very hard to get along with…I never hung out with [him] personally much. Nobody did.  You couldn’t.” Nonetheless, it’s Fahey who produced the story of how Daniel R. Robinson Jr, after “spending a night on a mountaintop and ingesting a great deal of peyote,” announced the next morning that he was the reincarnation of the 17th century Japanese poet, Matsuo Bashō.  

So he became Robbie Basho, which is how I will refer to Daniel R. Robinson Jr., an orphan with someone else’s name, for the rest of this essay.  

Basho got interested in blues. Then he got interested in Chinese folk songs. Then he got interested in Ravi Shankar, the famous Indian sitarist, and started composing ragas for guitar and manifestos on “Zen-Buddhist-Cowboy songs.” In the liner notes to his albums, he attributed themes and colors to various complex chords using his Esoteric Doctrine of Color and Mood for 12&6 string Guitar, where an open G chord represents dark-blue or purple-pink and sets a mood of mountain snows; or C-minor, which he refers to as The Grail Chord; or the D modal frog minor chord, which has a color of grey-black green and represents anguish, death, or “full sweetness.”  

Basho’s name is often seen in the same sentence as John Fahey’s, and it is easy to lump these two guitarists together; they were both composing at a time of folk music revival and fusion, and, in their own ways, they revolutionized how the world sees the guitar as an instrument. Fahey grounded himself in the folk blues of America, but Basho was like a cloud, drifting between influences, never really settling in one particular style. However, he consistently composed with a goal of high emotion, or rasa, a Sanskrit word that could mean “flavor,” “sap,” or “essence.”  

Basho experimented further with instrumental reincarnations of chants from American Indians and medieval era monks. In his liner notes, his descriptions of his songs are as elaborate as “A musical statement portraying the Love Tryst between Man, Nature, and the Almighty,” to the simpler “A short country piece,” to, my personal favorite, “A good night song for all those who heard a day in the life of North America.”

In spite of Basho’s eccentricities, it is difficult to understand why he adopted a stage name after the great haiku poet, or what in himself he felt particularly reincarnated of the notable aesthetic. Matsuo Bashō is one of the few ancient masters of poetry well known outside of Japan and, particularly with the beat generation Robbie Basho was born into, was popular among many American artists. However, as I thumb through Visions of the Country and my other Robbie Basho records, I cannot find a single track that blatantly evokes 17th century Japan, and even the few lyrics that can be forcibly compared to Matsuo Bashō’s verse seem no more influenced by him than Ravi Shankar or Pope St. Gregory the Great or Sitting Bull or whoever else Robbie may have been reading or listening to or learning about at the conception of these songs. What is transparent in Basho’s tracks though is his attention to various cultures of the world, a theme that seems to exist beyond the LP and into the very fascinations of the man. Therefore, in order to understand why Basho said he was the reincarnation of Bashō, if he even said that at all, we must go back further than Bashō himself, to the environment and culture that surrounded the poet in his Japanese homeland.  

* * *

This is the story of how Japan was created.  

The islands of Japan were formed when drops of land fell from a spear pulled from the ocean. The spear belonged to two Shinto Kami, or nature gods, named Inzanagi and Inzanami. When Inzanami died giving birth to the spirit of fire, Inzanagi mourned and went to the land of death to retrieve her, only to find she had become zombie-like and grotesque and covered in maggots. So Inzanagi left her and returned to the land of the living, where he tried to wash off the stench of the land of death by bathing in a river in the southern Japanese island, Kyushu. His wardrobe, jewelry, and fragments of flesh fell into the water and transformed into various Kami themselves, such as the Moon Kami and, most importantly, the Sun Kami, named Amaterasu, who was given the islands of Japan by Inzanagi. She is the direct ancestor of the first Emperor of Japan in 660 BC, Emperor Jimmu, and of every Japanese Emperor up until 1946 AD. Emperor Jimmu, the first Emperor, decided that the royal throne should be in the center of Japan, not in the southwest island of Kyushu (where his ancestors were born and/or washed from Inzanagi’s flesh), so they fought their way to the area of Yamato. Who were they fighting? We don’t know, but we do know that Amaterasu (Jimmu’s great-great-great-great-great grandmother) sent one crow and a murder of some type of “tailed-creatures” (not dragons) to help win the battle, which apparently worked. Jimmu’s victory marks the start of the age of men, and during his 75 years on the throne (he lives to be 127), the first Emperor of Japan began appointing families to run his kingdom in Yamato.  

Flash forward to 552 AD. This time, it was Emperor Kimmei on the throne, and Korea (only a mere 150 kilometers away) needed some help with a civil war they were having. So, they sent a statue of Buddha (the biggest craze at the time in mainland Asia) to the Yamato government, ostensibly as a gift, but really as a way to ask the Japanese to help them with their own civil war. Ultimately, Emperor Kimmei and the Imperial elites of the Yamato government decided not to help the Koreans, but they did like the statue. So they decided to try out Buddhism for a bit, mostly due to the coercion of the Soga family, who believed they could profit off the new religion. However, this upset the Shinto Kami gods, and they created plague and drought to punish the Japanese. An angry mob of commoners burnt the new Buddhist temple to the ground and threw the statue into the river.  And that was the end of Buddhism in Japan. 

Or at least until 577, when Korea, in another civil war, came with another request for aid, another statue—to a different emperor, this time Emperor Bidatsu. So once more, with the coercion of the Soga family, Japan tried out this whole Buddhism thing, and again the Shinto Kami got angry and gave everyone smallpox. Temple burns. Statue tossed in river. After a few more dead emperors and a lot more dead Japanese, human existence became kind of a burden, and those who were left just started wondering what the point of it all was. Eventually it was Prince Shotoku in 593, who decided “Buddhism, the fruit of principles, arose when the human intellect matured. It explains the last stage of man.” So, finally, after half a century of consistent plague, drought, and smallpox, Shotoku gave Buddhism some meaning to human existence, and the religion finally stuck, which was great for the government, but was even greater for art and literature. To this day, both Shinto and Buddhism dominate Japanese religion.   

It’s not hard to see what was so desirable about Buddhism after a half century of sorrow. Buddhist belief states that, even though life is suffering, that suffering is caused by desire in all forms. Not all that uplifting, but here’s the good part: the only way to escape the endless pain of living is freedom from all desire! This also includes the desire to be free from desire. That’s desire too. In the end, Buddhism strives at a spiritual level to become wholly and internally at peace, from both pain and passion.  

* * *

Along the Tachi Pass and the Monkey Racetrack of Forty-eight Turnings, the treacherous Hanging Bridge, and the Site of Awakening, Bashō has journeyed toward Sarashina for, what else, but to witness the harvest moon over Mount Obasute. Now, at Zenkoji Temple, Bashō is unable to write a line because of this chatty monk, who wholly believes he is offering some comfort to the travel-worn poet with marvels of Amida Buddha. Even in his distraction, the light of the moon now shines through the windows and lacquers the temple walls, lifting Bashō from his Autumn Sorrow. Tsuki no tomo, he writes. Moon as my companion.

* * *

This is the story of how Japan was created.  

The islands of Japan were formed when drops of land fell from a spear pulled from the ocean. This, of course, is not true, because, somewhere around 40,000 BC, the island of Japan was not an island at all, and humans first travelled across the land bridge connecting it to the Asian continent. Then, around 12,000 BC, the world experienced a heat wave that caused some glaciers to melt, and the land bridges between Japan and Alaska, among others, were flooded. The people left on the now-island maintained relatively isolated lives by scavenging off of the local fauna that emerged with the raised temperatures, until 500 BC, when the Chinese, now in the Bronze Age, introduced rice farming to the Japanese islanders. With a new, reliable source of food production, land became a commodity, which caused the beginning of rice farms within rice kingdoms, the most important of these kingdoms being in Yamato, which was ruled by the Emperor, or “Heavenly Superperson” as translated from the Kojiki, one of the earliest texts on Japanese creation.  

It stayed this way for some time until 604 AD, when the country reluctantly received Buddhism under the rule of Prince Shotaku. In 804 a man named Kukai (not the Emperor, just a rich person) visited China and discovered a new kind of spiritual Buddhism called Shingon Buddhism, and when he returned, he created a new alphabet which would open new frontiers in Japanese art and literature. Under his influence, the Royal Palace in Kyoto became something of a medieval bohemia as it concerned itself solely with art and literature and little with governing. With no security from the distracted government, anyone with money and land took to hiring samurai to defend their properties, and eventually the samurai organized and created their own government in Edo called the Shogunate, which competed with the Emperor for control of Japan over several centuries. In 1333 the Emperor overtook the Shogunate government, and in 1336 the Shogunate overtook the Emperor’s court. However, the Shogunate government (now located in Kyoto) allowed the Emperor to keep on being the Emperor, being a heavenly superperson and all, but one who mostly just acted as a heavenly figurehead.  

At the end of the 15th century, there was some confusion about who would succeed the head Shogun currently leading the country who was, for a period, childless. You can see where the conflict arose.  As a result, many Shogun leaders rose and fell, and all the while, various battles terrorized the country over local territory. Finally, a warrior named Nobunaga took control of the capital in 1568, eliminating the placeholder leaders over the former government and finally bringing some unity to Japan after 200 years. Then he died, and so did his assassin, and Nobunaga’s assassin’s assassin took control of the country. In 1598 he died and was succeeded by his 5 year old son, but not really, because one of his advisors, Tokugawa Ieyasa, started a new government in Edo in 1603. The Emperor stayed in Kyoto, still serving as a heavenly whatever, as he would for the next two and half centuries.  

In Edo, Tokugawa enacted a very strict government and closed off the country to everyone except for the Dutch. Despite the ominous vocabulary of his rule, Japan experienced peace, or something like it, for the first time since humans walked to the island. No one could leave, no one could enter, but there were no internal battles, the population increased, literacy improved, and art flourished once again. This is the period that Bashō was born into, the Tokugawa period, and it is one of immense contradiction.  

* * *

Very little is known about Matsuo Bashō’s early life. No more can be said of his upbringing or that of his parents, who were probably of a respectable class. What we do know is that, in his early adulthood, Bashō was a low-ranking samurai who served in the Iga region for a young feudal lord named Yoshitada, with whom he shared his passion for poetry, and the two composed several renku, or collaborative poems of linked verse. After Yoshitada’s untimely death, Bashō left Iga for Kyoto and gave up life as a samurai. This was not uncommon, as many left the soldiering life to become monks or merchants. However, Bashō did neither, and instead spent his time in Kyoto studying poetry and philosophy, especially of the 12th century Japanese poet Saigyō. All the while, he wrote, and after some time, his poetry gained him a small following. Around 1680, Bashō had already gathered a modest number of students, and they built him a hut in rural Edo. In front of the hut, his students planted a banana tree, or Bashō tree, giving both the hut and its master their names, respectively, Bashō-an and Matsuo Bashō.  

At this point, it is roughly 50 years into the Tokugawa period, a time when a fierce military dictatorship has closed Japan off to the world in favor of peace, and it is around this time that the Buddhist term ukiyo, which up until 1680 meant “sorrowful world,” began being interpreted as “floating world,” uki being a homonym for both adjectives. As Japanese scholar Ryusaku Tsunoda describes it, the term probably gained traction because “it gave so vivid a picture of the unstable volatile society which had been succeeded by the medieval world of sorrow and gloom.” This can be seen in the famous Genroku painting of crashing waves to symbolize chaos and ever-changingness of the early Tokugawa period. At the same time, however, the new philosophical theme of giri, which can be translated to “duty” or “moral obligation” presented itself as a humanized contradiction to the floating world: The ever changingness of ukiyo and the lawfulness of giri. Perhaps the 17th century dramatist Chikamatsu Monzaemon best elaborates on the implications of giri in art and literature in his preface to the kabuki play Naniwa Miyage:

I take pathos to be entirely a matter of restraint. Since it is moving when all parts of the art are controlled by restraint, the stronger and firmer the melody and words are, the sadder will be the impression created. For this reason, when one says of something which is sad that it is sad, one loses the implication, and in the end, even the impression of sadness if slight.  

This unpretentiousness is perhaps what most influenced the evolution of the haikai poetry as a form for the common man, whereas previous poetry had been primarily aristocratic. At last, none exhibited all of the philosophies of the unpretentiousness and relatability of giri better than Bashō, ushering in a new style of Japanese poetry. 

Bashō insisted that his school seek to embody both change and permanence, which doesn’t really make any sense. Additionally, he claimed that in poetry there are no predecessors, which slightly contradicts his last point, but he goes on to clarify by saying, “Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the men of old; seek what they sought!” Ironically, this Bashō quote was stolen from Shoryoshu’s Kobo Daishi Zenshu III, written in 427 AD.  

So, like the period he was born into and the aesthetics it bore, Bashō was a creature of contradictions. He compared himself to a bat, “neither priest nor layman, bird nor rat, but something in between.” However, Bashō was consistent in his craft, in which no topic was too controversial or too plain. Some of Bashō’s best poems are ones that depict commonplace scenery, most notably, the “Frog Poem,” the seventeen syllables of which have been translated into English over thirty different ways, almost as a joke at this point. Or there is this poem, which depicts an evening during which Bashō shared an inn at the same time as two travelling prostitutes: 

Prostitutes and priest

Slept under a roof lent a beauty

By bush clover and moon.

His decision to place the courtesans before the priest is deliberate, especially in a period with a heavy caste system. Yet Bashō’s mind always wanders to the natural world, as he parallels his company that night to the moon, one of the first and most notable Kami in Shinto scripture, and the commonality of clover, still not undeserving enough of praise to be so removed from Bashō’s limited allotment of syllables. In describing this scene, he has not directly commented on anything, but allowed his reader to reflect on humanity, religion, class and the underrated splendors of the natural world in philosophy, similar to William Carlos Williams’s “no ideas but in things.” As Tsunoda states, “Each [topic] became in his poetry a microcosm which suggested the macrocosm, a perception of universal truth from one essential detail.” Even still, Bashō’s best feature is his honesty. There is no pretention or snobbery in his work, only the humble musing of a man who is interested in far too much. 

* * *

The following is an entry from one of Bashō’s disciples, Kyorai, who recalls Bashō’s advice to him regarding one of his poems:

…Master told me, “I doubt anyone will appreciate this verse now. You’ll have to wait a year or two.” Later, he wrote me on his journey with Tokoku to Yoshino, “My mind has been so dominated now by one poem about the cherry blossoms of Yoshino and now by another, each of which so completely describes the scene, that I myself have not written a single verse at Yoshino. All I do every day as I go along is to recite your ‘The day before yesterday I crossed the mountain over there.’” The poem was acclaimed when I later read it to other people. How did the Master know that it would be popular in a year or two? I for one never dreamt it.

* * *

In his new home of Bashō-an, Bashō spent the next four years gaining significant celebrity through his publications of haiku poetry and his collection of devoted students. But it was here that he became restless. As if he were beckoned by the wanderer spirit Dosōjin, he came to admire the wayward life of a travelling monk who, he claimed in one of his letters, “wanders about with only a begging bowl in his hand.” While Bashō’s hut was being rebuilt after it was demolished in an accidental fire, he set out to Edo from Kyoto, the first of his many long journeys to come. At age 40, Bashō was already an old man for the time and, at this point, he did not expect to survive the journey. Recognizing this, he titled his travel diary The Journey of a Weather Beaten Skeleton. But he did not die, and returned to a rebuilt Bashō-an for two years, only to depart for another travel, this time to Sarashina, to witness the harvest moon and visit the well-known Shinto shrine. Next, he made trips to Mount Yoshino, and Akashi, and his former hometown of Ueno, and before long, Bashō was a well-traveled poet, often invited to stay with his admirers and always returning home with more parting gifts than he could manage. He rarely travelled alone, often assisted by one of his pupils with whom he would record poetry within his travel journals. These travel diaries became a genre unto themselves, creating a style called haibun, which used short poetic prose together with haiku, the poetry and prose co-existing within the same entry but never directly referencing each other. Take for instance, this entry about visiting an abandoned temple, which ends with a sentiment that is not isolated to this particular scene:

In Yamagata Province, the ancient temple founded by Jikaku Daishi in 860, Ryushaku Temple, is stone quiet, perfectly tidy. Everyone told us to see it. It meant a few miles extra, doubling back toward Obanazawa to find shelter. Monks at the foot of the mountain offered us rooms, then we climbed the ridge to the temple, scrambling up through ancient gnarled pine and oak, gray smooth stones and moss. The temple doors, built on rocks, were bolted. I crawled among boulders to make my bows at shrines. The silence was profound. I sat, feeling my heart begin to open.

Lonely stillness—

a single cicada’s cry

sinking into stone

It was only a matter of time before Bashō set his sights north, to the extremely rural and alien center of Honshu, where there would be fewer roads and fewer acquaintances to offer him shelter from the brutal mountain conditions. Despite the danger, the 45-year-old planned his most arduous trip yet, and in 1689, he left from Edo to the northern interior in a trip that would take him one-hundred-fifty-six days and across fifteen hundred miles. He travelled with his student and friend Sora, who shaved his head and dressed as a monk, as the two knew that they were less likely to be robbed by bandits along the road with such a disguise. Along the way, he visited a powerful samurai in Kurobane, the Tosho Shrine at Nikko, Gongen Shrine on Mount Haguro, a hot spa, Iizuka castle, and the broken islands of Matsushima, the last of which impressed upon Bashō new levels of inspiration: “It must have been the mountain god Oyamazumi who made this place. And whose words or brush could adequately describe a world so divinely inspired?”

He then headed west to the sea, and followed the coast south to Ogaki. During the journey, Bashō composed one of his most celebrated travel diaries, Narrow Road to the Interior, which would also be his last of the genre. It is in this diary that Bashō is not only at his poetic best, but also resonates a way of life that exhibits the egoless, spiritual serenity that, for him, can only be achieved by truly immersing himself in nature.  

He returned to his home an old man. Perhaps it was all those days on the road, or perhaps it was his consistent celebrity, but back at Bashō-an, among his peers, he felt truly less serene and became kind of a dick. Or, as Bashō’s chief biographer, Makoto Ueda, more eloquently describes his time back at Bashō-an, “[He] gradually became somewhat nihilistic. He had become a poet in order to transcend worldly involvements, but now he found himself deeply involved in worldly affairs precisely because of his poetic fame.” Perhaps Bashō’s annoyance toward his stationary life is best shown in this haibun he wrote in 1693, three years after Narrow Road:

Whenever people come, there is useless talk. Whenever I go and visit, I have the unpleasant feeling of interfering with other men’s business. Now I can do nothing better than follow the examples of Sun Ching and Tu Wu-lang, who confined themselves within locked doors. Friendlessness will become my friend, and poverty my wealth. A stubborn man at fifty years of age, I thus write to discipline myself.

The morning-glory—

In the daytime, a bolt is fastened

On the frontyard gate.

In this haibun, Bashō compares himself to Sun Ching, a recluse from the three kingdoms era of China who read all night with a noose around his neck to keep himself from drifting off to sleep.   

Bashō attempted the hermit life, living for short spurts away from society in places such as The Unreal Hut at the southernmost tip of Lake Biwa and the House of Fallen Persimmons in Saga, but after about six months or so, he always returned to civilization in order to continue sharing and writing poetry with his students. As much as he enjoyed the solitary life, Bashō could not be separated from the lifestyle of his craft, even as his health deteriorated. In 1694, Bashō’s poems carried an awareness of his waning mortality as he became more and more haunted by his verse. On his deathbed, he acknowledges that he should be praying and freeing his mind from desire, yet he cannot, and calls his obsession a “sinful attachment.” Always the creature of contradictions, Bashō died plagued by his passions, just as he was in life, and never found peace from his desires no matter how much he pursued Buddhist asceticism through his poetry. His final poem reads:

Stricken on a journey

my dreams through withered fields

go wandering still. 

* * *

This exploration might suggest that I discovered Matsuo Bashō’s writing through my fascination with the musician Robbie Basho, but, in fact, the opposite is true. I began studying Matsuo Bashō as a paper topic for an undergraduate class on prose poetry, particularly analyzing Narrow Road to the Interior, which remains one of my favorite and most read books of poetic prose. No, it was some years later, when I was sitting with a glass of whiskey in the home of an Appalachian acquaintance some time after last call; “You’ll probably dig this,” he said and threw on Visions of the Country.

  I immediately recognized the namesake, but it was only a few seconds into the experience that I told myself, “oh this has nothing to do at all with Matsuo Bashō.” It’s because, despite all of Basho’s exotic influences and fascinations, even with Bashō himself, his music is always rooted in his home continent. Included within Visions of the Country is a short essay titled “A day in the life of North America,”where Basho paints a portrait of his continent as a young woman, “untamed, untrammeled upon and unashamed,” ending the piece with “love and peace” repeated three times followed by an Abenaki Indian greeting:

One can still hear her singing in the high countries of the heart and in the vast canyons of constant memory where the life of a single being is not forgotten nor forsworn and somewhere a child is born, and no where is the blanket torn between thee and me and shining sea and God knows

Earth calls

Rain falls

Corn grows

loloma, loloma, loloma      kwai kwai 

However, as I listen to “Orphan’s Lament” these days, I am amazed at how Basho is not just able to echo the landscapes of the American West, but also the southern Japanese Island of Kyushu, or maybe the plains of Northern Ireland, or the foot of the Himalayas, or someplace else I have never been but it still seems real, or real enough, to give me a sense of nostalgia for a place I cannot define and have never known.  

The song is dedicated “to all the little orphans of the rainbow; and may they find the gentle hand of the Creator.”

* * *

The invisible tempo slows towards the final verse (“All my life I’ve been forced to roam / Never had a place to call my own / Will you wait, will you wait for me?”) and the piece ends on several descending chords, each stuttering across two key strikes like the ping of a plucked steel echoing through the vast desert canyons. I want so badly to attach some biography to Basho’s music. Sure, he was orphaned at a young age, but seemed to live a healthy adopted life. Sure, Basho, too, was plagued by his passions, with twelve records showing his choice to never go contemporary even though he could, but personal strife seemed to be one of the few things he was not interested in. He felt his duty was to introduce a higher sense of spirituality to a nation increasingly more invested in the material world. He was interested in the journey of the soul, and rather than figure out why, sometimes it’s better to sift the ice in your whiskey and let him take you there because God knows

Earth calls

Rain falls

Corn grows.  

Anyways, loloma, loloma, etc.  


Page 1

Robbie Basho was born in 1940:  Robbie Basho’s biography information was collected from Blue Moment Arts’s Basho archives page at

Of Robinson, Fahey said:  Found in “Blood on the Frets” from the August 1998 issue #174 of the British music magazine The Wire.

it’s Fahey who produced the story:  Fahey wrote in 2000 for the liner notes of Bashovia

Page 2

In the liner notes to his albums, he included: published in the album notes of the first “The Seal of the Blue Lotus” issue

or rasa, a Sanskrit word:  From the Richard Osborn’s “Robbie Basho – Clear Out Of Time,” published in the e-book Portrait of Basho as a Young Dragoon from Grass Top Recording

his descriptions of his songs:  These examples all come from Basho’s 1978 record Visions of the Country, reissued in 2013 through Gnome Life Records.

Page 3

This is the story of how Japan was created:  A majority of this mythological background comes from two sources: Sources of Japanese Tradition, compiled by Tsunada, de Bary, and Keene; and the podcast “A Short History of Japan” found here:  Some of the names and inconsistencies were cross-referenced with Basil Hall Chamberlain’s 1919 translation of The Kojiki, which can be found here:

Page 4

So, they sent a statue of Buddha:  the message from the Koreans said of the statue, “Imagine a treasure capable of satisfying all desires in proportion as it is use.” 

Page 5

To this day, both Shinto and Buddhism:  This is according to “The Short History of Japan” podcast, which states that, today, most Japanese will identify as both Shinto and Buddhist.  

Page 6

Along the Tachi Pass:  This dramatization is based off of Bashō’s Sarashina Travelogue, using two translations: Sam Hamill’s 1998 translation published in Narrow Road to the Interior; and David Landis Barnhill’s 2005 translation in Bashō’s Journey.

This is the story of how Japan was created:  Much of the historical information was gathered from Sources of Japanese Tradition, compiled by Tsunada et al and adopts a tone of brevity from Bill Wurtz’s YouTube video “History of Japan.”

Page 7

It stayed this way for some time until 604AD:  This date is deliberately inconsistent with the earlier information on Prince Shotaku to show the inconsistencies in dating this ancient information.  

Page 8

everyone except for the Dutch:  There is various speculation on why the Dutch were the exception.  The common theory is that the Dutch were more interested in trade than colonialism, and, recognizing that, the Tokugawa Shogunate allowed them to continue.  This is only one theory, of course, but that topic is best left for a different essay.  

and it is one of immense contradiction:  To elaborate on this idea, a quote from Tsunada et al: “The student of Tokugawa Japan is everywhere faces with seeming contradictions.  He finds first of all a military dictatorship which rules the country for more than two hundred and fifty years virtually without warfare, and which sacrificed the chance of an overseas empire in favor of peace.” (p 443)

Very little is known about Matsuo Bashō’s early life:  Most of Bashō’s biographic information was retrieved chiefly from Makoto Ueda’s Matsuo Bashō, also relying heavily on analysis and translations from Tsunada et al, Hamill, Barnhill, Yuasa, and Corman & Susumu.

Page 9

it is around this time that the Buddhist term:  Analysis of giri and ukiyo  retrieved from Tsunada et al., pages 443-444

Perhaps the 17th century dramatist Chikamatsu Monzaemon:  Translated by Tsunada et al. page 446.

Page 10

Page 11

a similar quote by Shoryoshu in his Kobo Daishi Zenshu III:  As noted in Hamill’s introduction to Narrow Road

have been translated into English in over thirty different ways:  Just Google “Bashō Frog Poem.”

which depicts an evening during:  Translated by  Earl Miner in Japanese Poetic Diaries, 1976.

Page 12

Kyorai, who recalls Bashō’s advice to him regarding one of his poems:  From Kyorai’s conversations with Bashō, compiled in Tsunada et al.  

Page 13

As if he were beckoned by the wanderer spirit Dosōjin:  Bashō references Dosojin in his first haibun of Narrow Road, stating, “at wits’ end, beckoned by Dosojin, hardly able to keep my hand to any thing…” Translation by Cid Corman in Back Roads to Far Towns, 1968.  

In Yamagata Province, the ancient temple:  From Narrow Road, translated by Hammil.

Page 14

one-hundred-fifty-six days and across fifteen hundred miles:  According to Ueda

Page 15

Whenever people come, there is useless talk:  From Ueda, translator unknown.  Ueda also makes the reference to Sun Ching in his endnotes.  

Page 18

He felt his duty was to introduce:  “It is clear in Interviews that he gave that Robbie himself viewed part of his mission as musician to be to bring to the West an experience of higher and more spiritualized feelings that he thought had been lost or neglected in the crush of popular culture and a materialized approach to life.”  From Richard Osborn in Portrait of Basho as a Young Dragoon.  


Bashō, Matsuo.  Back Roads to Far Towns: Bashō’s oku-no-hosomichi.  Trans.  Cid Corman and Kamaike Susumu.  Hopewell, New Jersey: Ecco Press, 1996.  Print

—.  Bashō’s Journey: The Literary Prose of Matsuo Bashō.  Trans. David Landis Barhill.  New York, New York: State University of New York Press, 2005.  Print

—.  Narrow Road to the Deep North and Other Travel Sketches.  Trans. Nobuyuki Yuasa.  London, Endland: Penguin Books, 1966.  Print.

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