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The Narrow Road to Oku (Illustrated Japanese Classics) [Paperback]

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Item description for The Narrow Road to Oku (Illustrated Japanese Classics) by Basho Matsuo, Donald Keene, Masayuki Miyata, Matsuo Basho & Masayuki Miyata...

In the account which he named The Narrow Road to Oku, Basho makes a journey lasting 150 days, in which he travels, on foot, a distance of 600 ri.
This was three hundred years ago, when the average distance covered by travelers was apparently 9 ri per day, so it is clear that Basho, who was forty years old at the time, possessed a remarkably sturdy pair of walking legs. Nowadays with the development of all sorts of means of transportation, travel is guaranteed to be pleasant and convenient in every respect, so it's almost impossible for us to imagine the kind of journey Basho undertook, "drifting with the clouds and streams," and "lodging under trees and on bare rocks."
During my countless re-readings of The Narrow Road to Oku, I would bear that in mind, and the short text, which takes up less than 50 pages even in the pocket-book edition, would strike me as much longer than that, and I would feel truly awed by Basho's 2,450-kilometer journey.
I chose The Narrow Road to Oku as the theme of the exhibition marking the thirtieth anniversary of my career as an artist. As somebody who has been illustrating works from Japanese literature for many years, the subject naturally attracted and interested me. But once I'd embarked on the project, it wasn't long before I realized I'd chosen a more difficult and delicate task than I ever imagined, and I wanted to reprove myself for my naivete.
Last year, to mark the centenary of Tanizaki Jun'ichiro's birth, I produced a set of 54 pictures for his translation of The Tale of Genji. This was a formidable undertaking, as I had to grapple with the achievement of a literary genius whom I had personally known. But if producing a single picture to represent each chapter in The Tale of Genji was a matter of selecting a particular "face," or "plane" to represent the whole, producing a picture to represent each haiku in The Narrow Road to Oku was without a doubt a matter of having to select one tiny "point"-a mere "dot." One misjudgment in my reading, and the picture would lose touch with the spirit of Basho's work, and end up simply as an illustration that happened to be accompanied by a haiku. I had to meticulously consider every word in those brief 17-syllable poems. Then, if I was fortunate, from the vast gaps and the densely packed phrases a numinous power would gather and inspire me: at times I felt as if I was experiencing what ancient people called the "kotadama," the miraculous power residing in words.
A self-styled "beggar of winds and madness," Basho originated and refined a unique genre of fictional travel literature, which used poetry that enabled one to render, empty-handedly, all of creation. But Basho also left us the following poem:
Journeying is the flower of elegance
Elegance, the spirit of travelers long gone:
The places seen and recorded
by Saigyo and Sogi -
All those are the heart of haikai.
I believe that I could ask for no greater favor from my painter's brush than that I too be able to glean the merest fragment of what the saint of haiku Basho saw, and be able to reproduce it in my work.
Miyata Masayuki

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Item Specifications...

Pages   187
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.75" Width: 5.75" Height: 9"
Weight:   0.95 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Apr 15, 1997
Publisher   Kodansha International
ISBN  4770020287  
ISBN13  9784770020284  

Availability  0 units.

More About Basho Matsuo, Donald Keene, Masayuki Miyata, Matsuo Basho & Masayuki Miyata

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Basho Matsuo was born in 1644 and died in 1694.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General
2Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > Poetry > General
3Books > Subjects > Reference > Foreign Languages > General
4Books > Subjects > Travel > Asia > Japan > General

Reviews - What do customers think about The Narrow Road to Oku (Illustrated Japanese Classics)?

A True Work of Art  Nov 3, 2006
While a translation can always be disputed, it is the illustrations that make this book worth the having. The incredible images are supposedly cut from paper and layered into a collage, yet some could pass for silk screen prints with their intricate detail.
Simply beautiful  Apr 30, 2006
"The Narrow Road to Oku" is about as close to perfection as one can get. First you have Matsuo Basho, Japan's greatest poet, chronicling his hundred and fifty day journey into Oku to visit the grave of his mother, who had died the previous year. Translating this masterpiece is Donald Keene, possibly the greatest modern interpreter and translator of the Japanese mind. If this wasn't enough, Miyata Masayuki has taken Basho's poetry and created stunning works of Kiri-e, torn paper art, that provides a visual to match the written imagery.

"The Narrow Road to Oku" was the last of Basho's five travelogues, and he finally attained the essential balance between observation and inspiration, between prose and poetry. Along the narrow road he and his traveling companion, student Kawai Sora, experienced the highs and lows of ancient Japan. The Tokugawa Shrine at Nikko, the famed Bridge of Heaven at Matsushima and the ancient Ise Shrine were all stops on this fantastic voyage. As well as these wonders, he encountered poor prostitutes and fishermen, giving them equal time to his poetic genius.

Miyata Masayuki, as he has with other books in this series such as "The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter" and "Love Songs from the Man'Yoshu," has created delightful and whimsical artwork that enhances rather than distracts from Basho's musings. There is a hint of Ukiyo-e in his style, but not enough to consider it redundant. The art is fresh and lively. sometimes powerful and bittersweet.

The original Japanese text is preserved alongside Keene's translation, which I think is essential of a work of this type. "The Narrow Road to Oku" is 100% authentic, and 100% beautiful. Definitely a treasure in my library.
"The Narrow Road To Oku"  Dec 24, 1999
This book is a must have for any fan of Kiri-E, or Masayuki Miyata. His illustrations are is easy to see why he has become one of Japans modern masters of this traditional artform. Great Stuff!
...lovely...  Mar 29, 1999
If anyone adores the simple beauty and truth of haiku, this is the text to own. Not only are the Japanese characters printed alongside the inquisitive English translations, but the accompanying collages are breathtaking interpretations of the works. The entire book is a work of art.

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