Matsuo Basho | Shinobu poem
In late spring of 1689 Matsuo Basho and his traveling companion Kawai Sora left Tokyo (then Edo) for an epic and dangerous journey on foot. They left for a region known as the Deep North (Jap.: Oku). The text Basho wrote about this journey - Oku no Hosomichi - is conisdered one of the major texts of Japanese literature of the Edo period. The text is a prose and verse travel diary of which several variants exist. The text and poem on this scroll refers to Station 13 - Shinobu - and talks about an interesting piece of stone:
The rubbing stone (called Shinobu-zuri no ishi*) was located ~4 km (ca. 2.5 miles) east of Fukushima. The local people say that they didn't like that travelers picked wheat grasses and rubbed them on the stone just for fun. So they kicked the stone down in this valley. The stone now faces down buried in the ground, so we cannot see how it looked originally. It is sad to see it like this because it would have been standing elegantly in ancient times."
The busy hands
Of rice-planting girls,
Of the old dyeing technique.
*Shinobu mojizuri refers to an ancient dyeing process in which shinobu, a kind of fern, was rubbed onto cloth, creating a confusing pattern.
Matsuo Basho (1644-1694)
Ink on paper
29.9 x 31.9 cm (9 3/4 x 12 1/2 in.)
Mounting 111 x 44.5 cm (43 3/4 x 17 1/2 in.)