Places: The Narrow Road to the Deep North

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: Oku no hosomichi, 1694 (English translation, 1933)

Type of work: Poetry

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*Fukagawa

*Fukagawa Narrow Road to the Deep North, The (foo-kah-gah-wah). Suburb on the outskirts of Tokyo, when it was known as Edo, that was the poet Matsuo Bashō’s home. After selling his home, he set out on a journey to the provinces of the far north of Honshū, the central and largest island of Japan. Several of his closest friends and students accompanied him a few miles up the Sumida River. There, they left him and he set out walking with one companion, Kawai Sora.


*Oshukaidō (oh-shew-ki-doh). Great north road that stretches up the eastern coastal plain of Honshū. Oshukaidō led to the remote province of Oshu, at the northeastern end of the island of Honshū. Bashō followed this road for six weeks.

*<i>Shirakawa</i> barrier

*Shirakawa barrier (shee-rah-kah-wah). Checkpoint along the north road where all travelers had to stop. The barrier marked the boundary between the cultured world dominated by Edo and the wild lands of the north.


*Ichinoseki (ee-chee-noh-seh-kee). Village in Oshu Province where Bashō turned inland to travel west into the rugged mountains and forests. In the mountains, he met the Yamabushi, hermit priests, and spent a week in their sanctuary.


*Hokurikudō (hoh-kew-ree-kew-doh). Highway along the western Japan Sea coast of Honshū. Bashō walked this road back toward the south for two and half months.


*Ogaki (oh-gah-kee). The town in Mino Province, in southern Honshū, where Bashō finished his journey in October, 1689.

BibliographyBashō, Matsuo. A Haiku Journey: Bashō’s Narrow Road to a Far Province. Translated by Dorothy Britton. New York: Kodansha International, 1974. The translator’s introduction provides valuable insights into the haiku and into Bashō’s artistry.Kato, Shūichi. A History of Japanese Literature. 2 vols. Translated by Don Sanderson. New York: Kodansha International, 1979. In addition to placing Bashō in the context of Japanese literature, this treatment discusses Bashō’s association with both the haiku and the poetic diary as a literary genre.Martins Janeira, Armando. Japanese and Western Literature: A Comparative Study. Rutland, Vt.: Charles E. Tuttle, 1970. Since the Western reader is not always familiar with the haiku, this work is insightful in gaining some understanding of the genre.Ueda, Makoto. Literary and Art Theories in Japan. Cleveland: Press of Western Reserve University, 1967. Although this volume treats literary theories of a number of writers, Bashō receives thorough discussion in the light of his contribution to the principles that govern the writing of haiku.Ueda, Makoto. Matsuo Bashō. New York: Twayne, 1970. One of the most valuable books on Bashō, this work provides substantive discussion of Bashō’s life and of his literary development, as well as critical commentary and an evaluation of his place in literature.
Categories: Places