In May 2019, Ryoko and I wandered around Japan on a shinkonryoko (honeymoon) with the aims of riding various trains, visiting some folks, sampling accommodation types and visiting small museums along the way.
In Shinano, Nagano, we visited my old pal Steve – a former Minnesota US Navy man who has lived in mountain high Nagano mostly on, but sometimes off, for better part of 40 years. With him, we checked out the Issa Memorial Museum dedicated to the haiku poet Kobayashi Issa (who was usually referred to mononymously) and is regarded as 1 of the 4 GREAT classical haiku poets (along with Basho, Shiki and Buson).
Anyhow, not sure if we just got lucky with timing or Issa isn’t a big pilgrimage for others but this was a stop i looked forward to and enjoyed very much. The place was so calm because very few patrons (mid-day, mid-week in May).
Many rooms of scrolls, artifacts from his wanders, and scale models of towns and places. Most everything was only in Japanese so if you don’t read Nihongo, you are kinda outta luck but still worth viewing all the artifacts and figuring bits and pieces out as you see it.
Simply observing the book binding craft, scroll creations and map-making techniques is highly enjoyable.
Especially enjoyed seeing his travelling clothes, pipes, book bundles , maps and journals as these are the items i have with me whilst traveling (obviously).
There was an adjunct exhibit with other writers (including Natsume Soseki iirc) with visual haiku (for lack of better description) which is what i’ve undertook with projects such as January in the Hot Springs poetry cycle with sketches.
I hadn’t seen anything like these before so i suppose i am onto a lineage of some kind.
Also, there was a house with all sorts of period equipment and tools and transportation items and what not – not entirely related to Issa but nevertheless… all very tidy and interesting.
Then outside, was Issa’s grave! (along with others) and statue. Oh to have lived such a life to warrant this noble grove and affection!
Plus a little shrine which had papers to write your own haiku message. Oh there were stamp stations around the museum (i love stamps) and a few items for purchase at the front desk.
I wrote a haiku in dedication to Steve Sensei who made friends with the museum fella who had come to lock up the shrine.
All in all, a great place to visit to learn about this fascinating character. A true hero for me and i feel privileged to see his world and pay respects to his grave.
Plus Issa Kobayashi statue in Yamanochi, Shimotakai, Nagano (Gmap)
One of poetry’s finest reminds us of our place in the natural world, Roger Pulvers in Japan Times, 2008