The Narrow Road to the Interior by Matsuo Basho, the Japanese poet, describes the author’s dangerous and exciting journey through Japan in the spring of 1689. In his writing, Basho manages to portray pilgrimage as a way to feel the ephemeral essence of beauty and life, become inspired by nature and its unbelievable splendors, and also find a connection with the past and future generations. Therefore, especially now, when people are limited in travel, it is vital for everyone to get acquainted with Basho’s travel memoir and try to get as much inspiration as possible.
Ephemeral Essence of Beauty and Life
When reading The Narrow Road to the Interior, one may catch a rather melancholy thought about the transience of life and the fact that everyone’s existence in this world is ephemeral. The same may be said about the beauty of nature and life itself. As noticed by Basho (2006), “with every pilgrimage one encounters the temporality of life,” which means that people come to this world and leave it, and the period between these two events is not extended enough. At the same time, the author is not afraid of dying along the road and considers this his destiny. If he lives his life in a way that he wants and allows himself to enjoy the beauties of nature by traveling, this is worth dying.
Splendors of Nature
Like many people, Basho enjoys the beauty of nature and finds peace in observing its small but perfect details. For the author, the fact that his journey is colored by blooming irises and cherry blossoms is refreshing (Basho, 2006). “Budding green spring leaves in blazing sunlight” make him speechless, while waterfalls and mountains also amaze with their grandeur and splendor (Basho, 2006). It is hard not to notice that a major part of The Narrow Road to the Interior is dedicated to nature as the author sees every flower and enjoys every ray of sun. Furthermore, Basho (2006) not only admires what surrounds him but tries to find hidden parts of nature – like “blossoming chestnut under the eaves.”
Connection with the Past and Future Generations
Have you ever had such an experience when you, for example, looked at the moon or visited a historical building and then thought that your favorite writer once admired the same moon, and people of the past walked on the same floor? Do you often remind yourself that after your death, the world will not stop, and people will still look at the sky? Interestingly, these are the thoughts that come to Basho during his journey. The author mentions “transparent moonlight / just as it shone when Yugyo / carried sand to the shrine,” which means that, while people are born and die, the main elements of nature remain the same and interconnect generations (Basho, 2006).
Interesting Facts About the Travel Memoir
The Narrow Road to the Interior was first published in 1702 and is now believed to be one of the most significant and talented examples of haibun, which is a mixture of haiku and prose. It took the author one hundred fifty-six days to travel approximately 1500 miles, mostly on foot (Norcott-Mahany, 2016). When the journey was completed, Basho spent five more years preparing his writing for being published (Norcott-Mahany, 2016). Inspired by The Narrow Road to the Interior, many people still attempt to retrace the poet’s steps and actually see what is described by Basho.
To draw a conclusion, one may say that Basho’s travel memoir does not only have an objective of describing beautiful Japanese flowers and valleys. On the contrary, this writing’s partial significance is that it includes those insights and thoughts that came to Basho’s mind hundreds of years ago. Overall, people’s lives, just as almost everything in the world, are ephemeral and even fragile. Knowing that one will die sooner or later, they should not waste their time but dedicate it to finding and following their vocation. For centuries, different glorious and ordinary people walk the same valley and gaze at the same stars. Precisely this interconnection between generations is the main reason for traveling.
Basho, M. (2006). The Narrow Road to the Interior [eBook edition]. (S. Hamill, Trans.). Shambhala Publications, Web.
Norcott-Mahany, B. (2016). The Narrow Road to the Interior by Matsuo Basho (1644-1694). The Kansas City Public Library, Web.