October 1, 2023

An Ancient Pond by Basho

Matsuo Basho (1644-1694) is undoubtedly the most famous of the classical haiku poets. His mastery of haiku and his wanderings around Japan are attested by the many monuments with his poems.  His most famous collection of poems and writings is called, "Oku no Hosomichi."  It was written while on a long journey in Edo Japan in the spring of 1689.  Today many people trace his footsteps for themselves. 


An ancient pond / a frog jumps in / the sound of water

Old pond / A frog jumps in / Splash! / Silence again.

Surely this is Basho's most well-known poem. The poet wanted to emphasize the stillness of the air before and after the frog's splash. Hence the “silence again."

  • 古池(ふるいけ) old pond [This sets the tranquil, timeless scene]
  • や a particle indicating exclamation or emphasis [commonly used in poetry and classical texts]
  • (かわず) frog [かわず is an archaic reading for “frog”. In modern Japanese, “frog” is かえる]
  • ()びこむ to jump in; to leap into [This is the act that disrupts the tranquility; it is made of 飛ぶ (to fly; to jump) and こむ (into; to go into)]
  • (みず) water [part of the setting]
  • の modifying particle [links the water to its sound; it isn’t just any “sound” but the “sound of water”]
  • (おと) sound [The sound created by the frog's action]

Memorize this haiku; it's short and familiar to all Japanese people. Incorporating well-known references from Japanese haiku, literature, and popular culture into your conversations is not only a fun way to enhance your communication skills but also a great method to endear yourself to your Japanese friends.

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Japanese Vocabulary Quiz

What does "古池" mean in English?

old pond

Which Japanese word means "sound"?

Would you like more haiku breakdowns? Makoto+ Shogun and Lifetime members have access to over a hundred haiku lessons all with sound and vocabulary breakdowns.

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