Matsuo Basho Haiku


taichimai uetetachisaru yanagikana

a paddy field planted

i too left from

under the willow tree

Basho (1644-94): Translated by Isamu Hashimoto

Selector’s Comments: There are three ways of reading this original Japanese text. One is the way I translated it myself. The next interpretation is that a peasant left the field after he placed young plants there. The third is that the one who planted the field was the spirit of the willow. The reason why we can interpret the haiku in such different ways lies in the subjective omissions in the Japanese language. As we can easily form connotations, the Japanese language allows us to omit subjects rather freely in its daily use. Furthermore, it is said that haiku is the battlefield of word minimalization — as the “small is beautiful and more realistic” theory goes.

Courtesy of Mainichi Daily News

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