Bashō monuments in the Tsuru area

From Tahara Waterfalls down towards Tsuru Station
Adapted from Mount Fuji Guide from Tsuru University (2020) with original Japanese article by Professor Katō Kōji.


Tsuru University
Surrounded by mountains, it is not easy to view Mount Fuji from the immediate area around the university Nagoya Mizuho / Public domain

1. Tsuru and Bashō

Basho consulting with two farmers
Matsuo Bashō, consulting with farmers: Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839 – 1892) / Public domain

In the second year of Tenna (1682), at the age of 39, Matsuo Bashō, who was later to become sacred to Japan as its greatest haiku genius, lost his house in Fukagawa, Edo (present-day Tokyo), in one of the frequent great fires of that period.


One of the frequent great fires of Edo
 One of the frequent great fires of the Edo Period田代幸春 / Public domain

One of his students, who lived in this area and wrote under the haiku pseudonym “Biji,” was a prominent figure in the ruling Akimoto family’s organization. Biji invited the master Bashō to stay on his property in the old Yamura domain (part of present-day Tsuru, with which you will soon be familiar). Bashō actually remained there for five months. Two years later, in the first year of Jōkyō (1684), Bashō once again visited Biji in Yamura, on his way home from the epic journey that formed the basis for his haiku masterpiece we know as “The Narrow Road to the Deep North.” These historical facts go some way to explaining the importance of the great poet to the people of this area and the presence of Bashō-related artifacts in the vicinity.

Various lines of Bashō’s haiku, including those he exchanged with Biji, can be seen engraved on a number of monuments in the Tsuru area, particularly around Yamura. Here we offer a gentle downhill guide to those monuments that can be comfortably followed without too much exertion, either physical or mental. The tour involves a short train journey but may be accomplished entirely on foot with a little extra effort.