Friday, February 10, 2017

Carpe Diem #1150 Matsushima

Dear Haijin, visitors and travelers,

First my apologies for being late with posting. I hadn't time, because of very busy days at work and at home.

Today I love to guide you to one of the most famous and wonderful spots of Japan. Even Basho praised this spot for its beauty. Today we will visit Matsushima.

Matsushima is a bay in Miyagi prefecture - 25 km from the prefectural capital, Sendai - that is famous for its view of over 260 tiny pine-clad islands - "matsu-shima" meaning "pine islands." It is considered one of Japan's Three Great Sights (Nihon Sankei), and its beauty was immortalized in one of wandering haiku-master Basho's most famous poems.

In 1689, Haiku poet Matsuo Basho visited Matsushima on the trip recorded in Narrow Road to the Deep North. A well-known poem often attributed to Basho claims to record his reaction, signifying that nothing more could be said:
Matsushima ah!
A-ah, Matsushima, ah!
Matsushima, ah!
© Matsuo Basho
This very rural area, with a local population of less than 20,000, is also famous for the delicious oysters farmed in the bay, and for its colorful Obon lantern festival in August.

In Basho's "Oku no Hosomichi", "The Small Road Into The Deep North", he describes in a very detailed way how Matsushima looks.

[...] "Much praise has already been lavished on the wonders of the islands of Matsushima. Yet if further praise is possible, I would like to say that here is the most beautiful spot in the whole country of Japan, and that the beauty of these islands is not in the least inferior to the beauty of Lake Dotei or Lake Seiko in China. The islands are situated in a bay about three miles wide in every direction and open to the sea through a narrow mouth on the south-east side. Just as the River Sekko in China is made full at each swell of the tide, so is this bay filled with the brimming water of the ocean and the innumerable islands are scattered over it from one end to the other. Tall islands point to the sky and level ones prostrate themselves before the surges of water. Islands are piled above islands, and islands are joined to islands, so that they look exactly like parents caressing their children or walking with them arm in arm. The pines are of the freshest green and their branches are curved in exquisite lines, bent by the wind constantly blowing through them. Indeed, the beauty of the entire scene can only be compared to the most divinely endowed of feminine countenances, for who else could have created such beauty but the great god of nature himself? My pen strove in vain to equal this superb creation of divine artifice." [...] (Source: Oku No Hosomichi)

I found also a nice haiku by Sora, Basho's travel companion, about Matsushima:

at Matsushima
borrow your plumes from the crane
O nightingales!
© Sora (Tr. Donald Keene)
This episode is NOW OPEN for your submissions and will remain open until February15th at noon (CET). I hope to be on time tomorrow.

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