Ichinaka wa – Downtown
One of the more famous examples of Bashō’s haikai, this
sequence was composed in 1690 with Mukai Kyorai and Nozawa Bonchō, then two of
Bashō’s closest disciples. At this time Bashō’s was resting in the
Genjū’an (Phantom-Dwelling Hermitage) on the shores of Lake Biwa
shortly after his journey to Oku, “the deep north.”
Downtown the smells of things… summer
“It’s hot! It’s hot!”– voices gate to gate
weeding not even finished and the rice is in ear
He taps the ashes off a dried herring
Along this route silver’s
unknown– what a bother!
Simply too long for him that short sword
Scared by a frog in a
tussock… evening twilight
Out hunting butterburs, her lantern shakes out
I realized the Way when the
blossoms were in bud
At Nanao in Noto harsh winter living
am sucking the bones of a fish, pondering old
key that let in the awaited one
girls lean too close, toppling the folding
Bamboo duckboards a very spartan bath
storm blows down the fennel’s seeds
The priest, getting
colder, returns to the temple, I see
A monkey trainer travels
life with a monkey autumn moon
Annually taxed one bushel of rice
or six logs freshly cut soak in a
He soils his tabi
on the black-dirt path
off his master’s swift horse sword
apprentice spills his water jug
Doors and shōji
covered with straw mats mansion for sale
Nobody’s looking pepper pods turn red
Quietly weaving straw sandals in
Up to shake out the fleas she wakes to autumn
The box-trap has
fallen but no mouse
The lid is warped and doesn’t fit the chest
little while in a grass hut then he knocks it
Glad to be
alive: news of an anthology
Many ways there are and many kinds there are to love
This floating life’s
end: we’re all Komachi
it? even sipping porridge the tears
master is away how wide these floors seem!
lets a louse crawl in his palm blossom
Motionless, the spring haze noontime sleepiness
point out the lack of the traditional salutations in the first &
second verses. It is possible that the phrase 'summer moon' could
be a compliment to the host, Bashō, but I suppose not, considering
Bashō's response, which would have had to be a return greeting.
first verse (hokku) could also be translated as: A street market: the smells of things... summer moon
 From the city to the countryside.
The city of Nanao lies on the Noto Peninsula and was
the capital of the ancient province of Noto (the northern
part of modern-day Ishikawa Prefecture).
 This and the
preceding verse suggest the elderly gatekeeper mentioned in the
Suetsumuhana (Safflower, 6th) chapter in the Tale of Genji.
 A very low quantity for the yearly rice tax.
 Tabi - the formal socks of Japanese costume, cloven at the big toe, to be worn with sandals.
 Shōji - the sliding paper door and windows in Japanese architecture.
The wandering poet’s work has been chosen for an imperial anthology.
This and the preceding verse suggest, perhaps, the monk Saigyō (1118-1190).
Ono-no-Komachi (c. 850), a poetess and famous beauty, was in legend
said to have spent her final years as an impoverished, old hag.
The original text: