Bashō's Journey

The Literary Prose of Matsuo Bashō

By Matsuo Bashō
Translated by David Landis Barnhill
Introduction by David Landis Barnhill

Subjects: Zen Buddhism, Literature, Buddhism, Asian Literature, Autobiography, Biography And Memoir
Paperback : 9780791464144, 210 pages, April 2005
Hardcover : 9780791464137, 210 pages, April 2005

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Table of contents


Selected Chronology of the Life of Matsuo Basho


Introduction: Basho's Journey

1. Journey of Bleached Bones in a Field

2. Kashima Journal (Kashima kiko)

3. Knapsack Notebook (Oi no kobumi)

4. Sarashina Journal (Sarachina kiko)

5. The Narrow Road to the Deep North (Oku no hosomichi)

6. Saga Diary (Saga nikki)

Selected Haibun





Offers the most comprehensive collection of Basho's prose available, beautifully translated into English.


In Bashō's Journey, David Landis Barnhill provides the definitive translation of Matsuo Bashō's literary prose, as well as a companion piece to his previous translation, Bashō's Haiku. One of the world's greatest nature writers, Bashō (1644–1694) is well known for his subtle sensitivity to the natural world, and his writings have influenced contemporary American environmental writers such as Gretel Ehrlich, John Elder, and Gary Snyder. This volume concentrates on Bashō's travel journal, literary diary (Saga Diary), and haibun. The premiere form of literary prose in medieval Japan, the travel journal described the uncertainty and occasional humor of traveling, appreciations of nature, and encounters with areas rich in cultural history. Haiku poetry often accompanied the prose. The literary diary also had a long history, with a format similar to the travel journal but with a focus on the place where the poet was living. Bashō was the first master of haibun, short poetic prose sketches that usually included haiku.

As he did in Bashō's Haiku, Barnhill arranges the work chronologically in order to show Bashō's development as a writer. These accessible translations capture the spirit of the original Japanese prose, permitting the nature images to hint at the deeper meaning in the work. Barnhill's introduction presents an overview of Bashō's prose and discusses the significance of nature in this literary form, while also noting Bashō's significance to contemporary American literature and environmental thought. Excellent notes clearly annotate the translations.

David Landis Barnhill is Director of Environmental Studies and Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh. He is the translator of Bashō's Haiku: Selected Poems of Matsuo Bashō and the coeditor (with Roger S. Gottlieb) of Deep Ecology and World Religions: New Essays on Sacred Ground, both also published by SUNY Press.


"Barnhill's approach to translation is straightforward and unfussy, aiming to be as accurate as possible, making his two volumes a highly serviceable compilation. They will be of great value to readers. " — The Japan Times

"Read cover to cover, the volume presents the breadth of Basho's prose. If you open it randomly, on almost every page you encounter haunting images of the landscape, village life, and literary culture of Japan. This book inspires us to stop and pay attention to the poetry of the world around us. " — Buddhadharma

"…Barnhill reveals the importance of narrative and social contexts in reading Basho. Barnhill's careful translations and notes reveal a poet both independent and pious … Above all, Basho's experience of 'cultured nature' emerges unforgettably. " — The Providence Sunday Journal on Basho's Journey and Basho's Haiku

"Barnhill's translations maintain the Japanese originals' direct sparseness, and retain their dramatic sequence, which all too many translations unfortunately and unnecessarily sacrifice. " — Taigen Dan Leighton, cotranslator of Dogen's Pure Standards for the Zen Community: A Translation of Eihei Shingi