Matsuo Bashō Additional Biography


(World Poets and Poetry)

Centuries of warfare among the lords and samurai of Japan’s chief clans came to an end when Tokugawa Ieyasu established a military dictatorship, the Shogunate, about 1600. With a Tokugawa shogun established in the thriving merchant city of Edo (modern-day Tokyo) and a ceremonial imperial court in ancient Kyoto, Japan officially closed its doors to the outside world in 1638. Such was the setting in which Matsuo Bash was born as Matsuo Munefusa in 1644 at Ueno in Iga province, only thirty miles from the imperial palace in Kyoto and two hundred miles from the powerful shogun in Edo.

Bash was one of several children born to Matsuo Yozaemon, a minor samurai nominally in the service of the Td family that ruled the Ueno area. Bash’s father had limited means and probably provided for his family by farming and giving lessons in calligraphy. At about age twelve, perhaps the year his father died, Bash entered the service of the Td family as a study companion to one of the Td heirs, Yoshitada, a youth two years his senior with a bent toward poetry. A genuine friendship with Yoshitada encouraged young Bash in the study of poetry and gave him access to one of the leading teachers of the day, Kitamura Kigin (1624-1705). When Yoshitada died suddenly in 1666, Bash, only twenty-two years of age, lost both a friend and a patron. He apparently remained in the area of Ueno and Kyoto, devoting himself to poetry in the haikai style of the Teitoku school favored by his teacher Kigin. Pursuing a career as a poet, by 1672, he had published at his own expense Kai-i (seashell game), a collection of humorous verses by local poets that he matched and commented upon as poet-teacher. Some scholars believe that during this period, Bash entered a relationship with a woman later known by her religious...

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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Born Matsuo Munefusa into a warrior family in Iga Province in the year 1644, as a youth Matsuo Bash (maht-suh-oh bah-shoh)—also known as simply Bash—served in the house of Td Yoshikiyo, warden of Ueno Castle, east of the ancient capital of Nara, as the personal retainer of Yoshikiyo’s son Yoshitada. Yoshitada was himself interested in the haikai, was a disciple of the poet Kitamura Kigin, and had the pen name of Sengin. Apparently this poetic activity stirred Bash’s interest, for there are early poems of his which were evaluated and corrected by Kigin.

Yoshitada died in 1666, when Bash was twenty-two. This was a turning point in Bash’s life, for he abandoned further feudal service. He seems to have gone to Kyoto, and in 1672 he was in Edo (now Tokyo), where he found employment at the local water works. By this time he had acquired a number of disciples, and one of them offered him a small residence. From that time on he devoted his life to his art. Two schools of haikai poetry were prevalent in Edo at this time, the old Teitoku School and the newer, more liberal Danrin School headed by Nishiyama Sin. Bash preferred the latter, and he associated himself with the school’s members; eventually, however, he tired of their tendency to run to empty witticisms. Bash began to form his own school around 1677, gathering around him numerous disciples who admired his attempts to merge the humor and lightness traditionally associated with haikai with a...

(The entire section is 448 words.)


(Poetry for Students)

Little information exists about Basho’s early life. The son of a low-ranking samurai, Basho is generally believed to have been born in 1644...

(The entire section is 487 words.)