Monday, May 17, 2004

Spirit of Travel

May 16 is Tourism Day, in honor of the famous Edo era's haiku poet, Basho. He started his trip, "Okuno Hosomichi" (A Haiku Journey: Narrow Road to a Far Province) in 1689 this day. His opening haiku of this trip is:
「月日は百代の過客にして、行きかふ年もまた旅人なり」
(The passing days and months are eternal travelers in time. The years that come and go are travelers too.)
He walked a total of 2,500km from Edo to Ogaki for 5 months, and made quite a number of famous haiku, most of which the Japanese know well.
As you've probably experienced, travel forces you into unusual situations and conditions and can literally be a trip to the extraordinary. Something primitive in you comes to the surface. Basho kept making haiku as they came to him, and following his instincts his talent was freed. Surprisingly, most of those sites that he visited and made haiku at still and have been preserved as they were. Needless to say, many people visit sites and follow his trail.
At one point, Basho quotes a monk, Kobo Daishi,
「古人の跡を求めず、古人の求めたる所を求めよ」
(Not seeking ancients' trace, seek where ancients' sought).
In this quote he discovered the truth that it is important to follow the spirit of the inherited wisdom of ancient times, not to just imitate it. As we promote tourism in Japan, I hope more people will come visit Japan to discover the spirit that this haiku saint found on his trek.