For All Eternity: Basho’s Poetics


Here is the opening part of his most popular travel prose, “Oku no Hosomichi (The Back-country Trails)”. Aesthetic sensitivity here is a little different from other conventional Japanese attitude toward life and beauty.



The Months and days. They’re on a journey for all eternity. The years that come and go. They’re also wayfarers. Transporters grow old making a living on ships or leading workhorses. They are travelers for ever. They find their homes wherever their travels take them.


The common attitude toward the fact that life is too short is to regretfully lament over and find sentimental beauty in its frailty or to focus on the present and be determined to make the best of what you have now. Basho, however, jumps into the gushing current of life. He tries to ride the life’s mane, not knowing where the journey takes him.


The Stillness: Basho’s Poetics


Matsuo Basho, a haiku master in the 17th century, is famous for his travel journal, Oku no Hosomichi (The Back-country Trails). He is arguably the greatest master of all haiku literature. What makes him stand out is his focus on the creation of a unity of perception and expression, though he sometimes revised his poems over and over again. To be genuine you need to share in the life of an object.One of the most popular haiku is one he wrote when visiting a rustic temple at the top of the rugged mountain and finding himself in its serene and ethereal atmosphere.

閑かさや shizukasaya
岩にしみ入る iwa ni shimiiru
蝉の声 semi no koe

The stillness
Permeating the rocks
cicadas’ trill

The ideal of Basho’s poetics is to achieve “不易流行(Hueki Ryuko)”: standing the test of time while moving with the times. Seemingly contradicting but ideally integrated, his poetics has survived for ages. At the age of 37, he decided to retreat from snobbish salon society and to search for a way to incorporate poetry into everyday life, then he went on a journey to lend himself to soul-searching. After the journey he gradually added to his austere poetry some humor and a more down-to-earth, laid-back tone. Basho, as a spiritual seeker at the expense of urban, social, efficient life style, knew very well that life is compared to a journey and he lived out his principle.




Une rencontre

四字熟語(Locutions japonaises)「一期一会」フランス語訳(Traduction fraçaise)

Quand vous parlez des belles personnes que vous avez eu la chance de rencontrer dans votre vie ou des moments magiques que vous avez vécus, vous peut-être entendez vos meilleurs amis dire…

Une rencontre, c’est l’occasion précieuse à ne pas gaspiller. Tirez le meilleur parti de chaque rencontre avec provenance.

donna deai mo ichigoichie dakara. sono deaiwo taisetsuni shinaitone

「一期一会」 itchigo itchie
期:périod, occasion
会:rencontre, réunion

En signifiant à l’origine un comportement souhaitable à une cérémonie du thé, ce indique la nécessité de se donner beaucoup de peine pour servir du thé à ses invités, et de croire que on ne se verra jamais ou il n’y aura jamais d’autre cérémonie que aujourd’hui. Prenez chaque rencontre à la chance de sa vie.


フランス語で四字熟語(Locutions japonaises)
「一生懸命」フランス語訳(Traduction fraçaise)
「器用貧乏」フランス語訳(Traduction fraçaise)
「以心伝心」フランス語訳(Traduction fraçaise)
「大器晩成」フランス語訳(Traduction fraçaise)
「一期一会」フランス語訳(Traduction fraçaise)


Let Life Flow


With its variability and frailty, what do you compare life to? Let’s look into the opening of “Diary from a Cabin” by Kamo no Tchomay, which is one of the most famous prose in Japanese literature.



Rivers never cease to flow and never stay the same. Even where the water looks stagnant, the bubbles rise, form and disappear with no exception. Nothing stays the same even in human society – man and his home… One is to die in the morning. Another is to be born in the evening. Everything is in an ever-changing flow of birth and death.
– Kamo no Tchomay Diary from a Cabin


{Read more…} “Let Life Flow


Full moon, Full bloom


Why is it that your heart throbs to see the clouds covering the moon, the withered flowers on the ground?花は盛りに、月は隈なきをのみ見るものかは。雨にむかひて月を恋ひ、垂れこめて春の行方知らぬも、なほあはれに情け深し。咲きぬべきほどの梢、散りしをれたる庭などこそ見どころ多けれ。

Who says we should appreciate cherry blossoms only when they are in full bloom, the moon only when it glows without covering clouds? There is something more touching in wishing to see the moon behind the dark, rainy skies or doing nothing but imagine how spring passes us by behind the closed shades. Truly remarkable are bursting buds on the treetops, gardens dotted with faded flowers.
– Kenko Ramblings


One of the striking characteristic features of Japanese traditional sensitivity is sensing something that is not around – loss, distance, lack, something hidden or out of sight, or incompleteness. It’s about the moon behind the clouds. It’s about failing to see something enjoyable.

In appreciating beauty, imagination still plays a significant role. The image you get with the naked eye is what is passively received; what cannot be seen stirs up imagery in mind. Sometimes regrets or disappointments over failing to see blossoms can evoke aesthetically deeper feelings than joy and pleasure you get by seeing blossoms in full bloom.

Another factor is suggestion. Suggestion comes into play when something is about to happen and something is gone. Beauty resides in the process or transition from the beginning – through the middle – to the end, just as stories can not be told without any of these three stages. The beginning suggests promise; the end reminiscences. Buds suggest their coming prime; fallen, faded flowers their past. This attitude allows you to see things the way they are, to be aware of a rich story behind what can be seen and to find that beauty abounds.

Beauty cannot be appreciated only when something is in the prime or in each stage of its transition. See beauty in its whole transition just as incompleteness suggests past effort and future growth. Take things as a whole, in their transition. Then you can take on the universe.