A Journey Through Japanese Haiku

Dressed Up for the Snow

Culture Environment Lifestyle

With a dash of humor, haiku poet Buson picks the right outfit for going snow viewing.

いざ雪見容す蓑と笠 蕪村

Iza yukimi / katachizukurisu / mino to kasa

Let’s get all dressed
up for snow viewing—
straw cape and hat

(Poem by Buson, written in 1773.)

In traditional Japanese poetry, the snow is a classic example of natural beauty to stand alongside the moon and cherry blossoms. Buson too is full of enthusiasm, saying that he wants to look his best in a mino (a cape or coat) and conical kasa hat, both made of straw.

One humorous aspect of the poem is the use of the word katachizukurisu, a term taken from the classical Chinese textbook Meng Qiu that typically describes a woman making herself appear more attractive. While the straw cape and hat are certainly appropriate to snow viewing, they are cheap and crudely made, so cannot be said to make up a particularly charming outfit. The incongruity of the exaggerated language raises a smile.

Another interesting point comes in the literary connections to haiku by Matsuo Bashō. One of these is his poem Iza yukan / yukimi ni korobu / tokoro made (Let’s go and / view the snow until / the place we fall down). Imagine Bashō dashing until he tumbles with a properly dressed up Buson behind him. This too is comical.

Buson’s poem also seems to reference a haiku by Bashō picturing the ninth-century poet Ono no Komachi in old age: Tōtosa ya / yuki furanu hi mo / mino to kasa (How priceless / even on a day without snow— / straw cape and hat). In the nō drama Sotoba Komachi, an aged Komachi, who was renowned for her beauty in her youth, makes a wretched figure wearing a torn straw cape and hat, but defeats a priest in a debate over Buddhism. The mino and kasa form a symbol of having left the everyday world behind, like Komachi has, so they can be considered a kind of finery for haiku poets who have fled this world in pursuit of elegance. It is only natural to emphasize this with a word like katachizukurisu. One also senses Buson’s respect for Bashō.

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

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