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Yosa Buson Biography | Poet

Photo of Yosa Buson

Yosa Buson is one of the most important historical poets of Japan. He was born in 1716 and died in 1784. He is the Japanese poet who more or less epitomized the Edo period. Yosa Buson helped perfect many of the most quintessential forms of Japanese poetry, many of which are still in use today. His notes from his Honshū trip still have literary and historical significance.

The Education of Yosa Buson

Yosa Buson is from a time period in which few people had formal education of any kind, even people who were relatively well-off financially. Many people learned what they needed to learn or wanted to learn using an apprentice and master setup. Yosa Buson was an apprentice to the master of haikai poetry, Hayano Hajin. Yosa Buson was deeply inspired by his master. He was also inspired by the poet Matsuo Bashō, and went to northern Honshū after being inspired by Matsuo Bashō's travelogue Oku no Hosomichi (The Narrow Road to the Interior).

The Life and Family of Yosa Buson

Yosa Buson was very devoted to learning the craft of poetry early in life. He began his apprenticeship at the age of twenty. Yosa Buson went on to become very well-traveled for the time. Traveling was very difficult back then, and even dangerous in many cases. However, Yosa Buson was deeply inspired by the popular poets of the day, who had all incorporated natural insights into their work and who had seen a great deal of the Japanese nation.

Yosa Buson did not even write under the name of Yosa until his was 42, which is also when he finally settled down in Kyoto. By the standards of the day, he managed to establish himself fairly late in life. He got married at the age of 45 as well, which was very unusual for a man of his age. He and his wife had one daughter, but no other children. Yosa Buson managed to live until the age of 68, and kept on writing all throughout his life.

The Accomplishments of Yosa Buson

Yosa Buson belongs to an era before major poetry awards, before formal poetry education, and even before it was common for poets to release lots of different formal collections of poetry, although there were exceptions. Many of his poems survive today, but they are famous in a much more general sense. His overall contribution to Japanese poetry made him more famous than any individual poems that he might have written.

The Legacy of Yosa Buson

The famous Japanese haiku would not be what it is today without the work of Yosa Buson. He was able to help perfect related forms of Japanese poetry, helping to create the minimalist yet beautifully suggestive poetry that has come to epitomize Japanese verse. Sadly, many of these poems do not translate especially well into English, which is not a language that lends itself very well to these forms of poetry. English is a good language for rhyming couplets and a bad one for haiku and haikai poetry. However, Yosa Buson's unique style helped cement the modern Japanese style. 

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