Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Baseball to Basho

Following (sort of) in Matsuo Basho's footsteps (sort of) -
   Kaoiri Mizoguchi and I built this itinerary around several themes, one of which was the travel narrative written by Matsuo Basho describing his journey to the north of Japan.  He departed in May of 1689, took 150 days and traveled 1500 miles.  We're only interested in the part of the journey that covered from Tokyo to the north of Honshu where he turned west.  We'll continue on to Hokkaido for the last days of our trip.
    Japan has changed a bit since the Tokugawa Period, so we'll not be able to follow his route except when he stopped and wrote about some of the famous Basho places.  Basho is Japan's favorite poet, and also very popular in the United States, so we've got several Basho-followers in the group, and most of the group members have read a bit of his work, if not just the famous of his haikus, such as the "Frog Poem", or the "Cicada Poem" or the "Matsushima account." 
   Setting up an itinerary like this was inspired by Kaori bringing a group to our area who had read "Cannery Row."  We then took them Steinbeck-hopping.  We're now going "Basho-hopping" if you'll pardon the irreverence.

Basho's hut - our point of beginning
  The location of the hut where Basho began his journey is an unassuming little spot down a Tokyo sidestreet -- a place you have to know about to find it.  Kaori knew about it.

The group hovering around Basho's hallowed ground.

The group then walked a couple of blocks to one of many Basho
museums scattered around Japan.
Nikko   The following day we drove north to one of Japan's most popular sites, but our intent was more literary than historical.  We walked down the avenue of the trees -- 400 year old cedars, and then went on to the Nikko ground.  It is huge and wonderful and has a bazillion sets of stairs.
Basho spent some important days here
writing some famous poems.

The Avenue of the Cedars.


The lower temple complex at Yamadera.

The group preparing to hike the 1,000 steps to the top of the mountain just like Basho did.  For the life of me I don't know what Jack Stevens is doing in the lower left.  You should have seen them all when they got back.


Matsushima islands - the most spectacular islands that remind
of the Big Sur California coastline.  Stunning.

We also visited the Sendai and Ishnomaki 2011 tsunami sites today.  More to come.
Everyone's fine and eating more than they should.