Sample Essay

Despite his status as a celebrated poet in his lifetime, Bashō felt increasingly disenchanted with his surroundings, taking up Zen meditation and solitary travels in his pursuit of peace.  It is these travels that markedly influenced the orientation of his haiku poetry, and enabled him to pen down his travel diaries.  In 1684, aged 40, he undertook his first travel from Edo (modern-day Tokyo) to Kyoto, passing through Mount Fuji and Ueno in the process.  In the subsequent year, he published his travel diary under the title of Nozarashi kikō (Journal of Bleached Bones in a Field).  Two smaller excursions followed in the years 1687 and 1688, resulting in Kashima Kiko (A Visit to the Kashima Shrine), Sarashina Kiko (A Visit to Sarashina Village) and Oi no Kobumi (Journal of a Travel-worn Satchel).

In 1689, Bashō embarked on his most prolific journey with fellow poet Sora, traveling mostly on foot from Sugamo to Ogaki, visiting almost 40-odd different places in the 150-day long journey.  He spent the next three years patiently editing and re-editing his travelogue, which signifies the importance that he attached to it, publishing it in 1694 as Oku no Hosomichi (The Narrow Road to the Interior, also referred to as The Narrow Road to the Deep North).  It remains his most celebrated work till date with Miyazawa Kenji having once commented that it is as if the very soul of Japan had written it.

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