Japan, urban, walking

The Basho walk: starting

June 23, 2024

In late 2023 Suzanne and I spent 3-4 weeks in Japan during their autumn. Autumn is an inbetween time: summer is over and winter near. We had time in Tokyo, Morioka and Osaka as well as doing 2 walks: a Basho walk from Sendai to Yamadera and the Kumano Kodo pilgrim walk from Yuasa to Shingu. The Bashō walking tour,which started in Sendai, took place after we’d spent 5 days in Shinjuku, Tokyo and 3 days in Morioka.

The Bashō walking tour followed part of Matsuo Bashō’s third major journey to the north of Honshu. He sold his house in Fukagawa, Edo (now Tokyo) before he started travelling in 1689 with Kawai Sora, his travel companion for the most part, who also wrote a diary. Bashō and Sora travelled on foot about ten miles a day for about 5 months. The journey was approximately 720 miles and there were some 40 stations and stops on the journey through northern and central Honshu. Bashō returned to Edo in the winter of 1681 to a new house that was built for him. His travel sketch of that journey, The Narrow Road to the Deep North, is a blend of prose and haiku.

Rolleiflex SL66
Sendai, Honshu

Bashō and Sora entered the Tōhoku region of northern Honshu after walking 200 miles and they entered the city of Sendai in May 1689. This was Station 18. They stayed for several days before going to the scenic pine covered Matsushima islands via the town of Shiogama. Whilst in Sendai they were taken on a sightseeing tour of the area by a wood block artist and owner of a bookstore whom Basho identifies as Kaemon.Whereas Basho saw fields of bush clover, hills covered in blooming white rhododendrons, and dark pine woods I saw a large industrial city, the biggest in the Tōhoku region.

It was an overnight stay in Sendai as we arrived in the late afternoon and left the following morning for Matsushima. As my time for any exploratory urban photography was in the late afternoon before the tour briefing and dinner and early in the morning before breakfast I was limited to walking around the area near the hotel.

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