A Journey Through Japanese Haiku

An Invitation in the Snow

Culture Environment Lifestyle

A haiku by Bashō conjures up a snowy winter scene.

きみ火をたけよき物見せん雪まるげ 芭蕉

Kimi hi o take / yoki mono misen / yukimaruge

You start the fire, and
I’ll show you something good—
a great snowball

(Poem by Bashō, perhaps written in 1686.)

In this haiku, Matsuo Bashō addresses his disciple Sora as kimi, “you.” Well known as Bashō’s companion during the journey recorded in The Narrow Road Through the Hinterlands, Sora was five years younger and a rōnin samurai.

Another record says that Sora lived nearby, and he would come and go in mornings and evenings, lighting the fire for meals and paying visits on nights when Bashō made tea. Sora’s preference for a reclusive lifestyle and his unselfishness led to greater closeness with Bashō.

One night, Sora came through falling snow to Bashō’s hermitage; this is the background to the above haiku. According to its preface, Bashō told Sora to put on the fire to boil tea so that they could appreciate the snowy landscape together.

Bashō’s promised “something good” is a large snowball he has rolled into shape as a welcome to Sora. While the poem describes an open-hearted exchange of feelings, there is a gentle humor in the contrast between the fire and the snowball it would melt.

(Originally published in Japanese. Banner photo © Pixta.)

literature Japanese haiku Matsuo Bashō Japanese language and literature