Yosa Buson

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Yosa Buson, drawing by Matsumura Goshun
Xiao He chases Han Xin by Yosa Buson (Nomura Art Museum)
Yosa Buson, Crows and Falcon

Yosa Buson or Yosa no Buson (与謝 蕪村, 1716 – January 17, 1784[1]) was a Japanese poet and painter of the Edo period. Along with Matsuo Bashō and Kobayashi Issa, Buson is considered among the greatest poets of the Edo Period. He is also known for completing haiga as a style of art,[2] working with haibun prose, and experimenting with a mixed Chinese-Japanese style of poetry.[3]


Early life, training, and travels[edit]

Buson was born in the village of Kema in Settsu Province (present-day Kema, Miyakojima Ward, Osaka). His original family name was Taniguchi. Buson scarcely discussed his childhood, but it is commonly thought that he was the illegitimate son of the village head and a migrant worker from Yoza.[4] According to the Taniguchi family in Yosano, Kyoto, Buson was the son of a servant woman named Gen, who had come to work in Osaka and had a child with her master. A grave of Gen survives in Yosano. There is an oral tradition that the young Buson had been cared for at the Seyaku-ji temple in Yosano, and later, when Buson returned to Tango Province, he gave the temple a folding screen painting as a gift.[5]

Around the age of 20, Buson moved to Edo (present-day Tokyo). He learned poetry under the tutelage of the haikai master Hayano Hajin, who named the house he taught in Yahantei (Midnight Pavilion). After Hajin died, Buson moved to Shimōsa Province (present-day Ibaraki Prefecture). Following in the footsteps of his idol, Matsuo Bashō, Buson travelled through the wilds of northern Honshū that had been the inspiration for Bashō's famous travel diary, Oku no Hosomichi (The Narrow Road to the Interior). He published his notes from the trip in 1744, marking the first time he published under the name Buson.

After travelling through various parts of Japan, including Tango (the northern part of present-day Kyoto Prefecture) and Sanuki Province (present-day Kagawa Prefecture), Buson settled down in the city of Kyoto at the age of 42. Around this time, he began to write under the name of Yosa, which he took from his mother's birthplace (Yosa, Tango Province).[6]

Between 1754 and 1757, Buson worked on the collection of haiga-style picture scrolls, Buson yōkai emaki.[7]

Buson married at the age of 45 and had one daughter, Kuno. At the age of 51, he left his wife and children in Kyoto and went to Sanuki Province to work on many works.[8]

Later work and death[edit]

After returning to Kyoto again, he wrote and taught poetry at the Sumiya. As models for his pupils, he singled out four of Bashō's disciples: Kikaku, Kyorai, Ransetsu, and Sodō.[9] In 1770, he assumed the haigō (俳号, haiku pen name) of Yahantei II (夜半亭二世, "Midnight Studio"), which had been the pen name of his teacher Hajin.

Buson died at the age of 68 and was buried at Konpuku-ji temple in Kyoto.

The cause of death was previously diagnosed as severe diarrhea, but recent investigations indicate that it was myocardial infarction.[10]

His work is kept in many museums worldwide, including the Seattle Art Museum,[11] the Metropolitan Museum of Art,[12] the University of Michigan Museum of Art,[13] the Harvard Art Museums,[14] the Worcester Art Museum,[15] the Kimbell Art Museum,[16] and the British Museum.[17]

Sample poems[edit]

Sumizumi ni nokoru samusa ya ume no hana
In nooks and corners
Cold remains:
Flowers of the plum
(translated by RH Blyth)[18]

Peony Petals[edit]

Peony petals

fall, two or three

on each other[4]

Other Hokku

the morning glory—

in each flower, the color

of a deep pool[19]

spring drizzle

barely enough to moisten

seashells on the beach[19]


Buson believed that poems should be natural, without strict rules or guidelines. His training in Yahantei had promoted a light-hearted approach that stressed individual style, rather than replicating the work of a master. Because of Buson's lack of interest in the modern trends of his time in terms of poetry, his works were considered by some to be outdated.

Buson's paintings, on the other hand, were more widely accepted in his time. Painting was the main source of his income, so he could not afford to approach it as he did poetry.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Buson (Japanese artist and poet) - Britannica Online Encyclopedia". Britannica.com. Retrieved 2013-02-17.
  2. ^ 都島区役所総務課 (1996). 蕪村と都島 (in Japanese). Japan: 都島の歴史に関する調査研究委員会. p. 2.
  3. ^ a b An Edo anthology : literature from Japan's mega-city, 1750-1850. Shinji Nobuhiro, Kenji Watanabe, Sumie Jones, Howard Hibbett, 延広真治, 渡辺憲司. Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Press. 2013. ISBN 978-0-8248-3776-1. OCLC 859157616.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  4. ^ a b An Edo anthology : literature from Japan's mega-city, 1750-1850. Shinji Nobuhiro, Kenji Watanabe, Sumie Jones, Howard Hibbett, 延広真治, 渡辺憲司. Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Press. 2013. ISBN 978-0-8248-3776-1. OCLC 859157616.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  5. ^ "与謝野蕪村/遅咲きの文人 丹後の寄り道". The Nikkei, morning edition. October 6, 2019. pp. 9–11.
  6. ^ Henry Trubner, Tsugio Mikami, Idemitsu Bijutsukan. Treasures of Asian art from the Idemitsu Collection. Seattle Art Museum, 1981. ISBN 978-0-932216-06-9 p174
  7. ^ Zusetsu Yōkaiga no keifu. 京極夏彦, Hyōgo Kenritsu Rekishi Hakubutsukan, Kyōto Kokusai Manga Myūjiamu, 兵庫県立歴史博物館., 京都国際マンガミュージアム. (Shohan ed.). Tōkyō: Kawade Shobō Shinsha. 2009. ISBN 978-4-309-76125-1. OCLC 319499848.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  8. ^ Shin 'chi, Fujita (2012). 別冊太陽 与謝蕪村 画俳ふたつの道の達人 (in Japanese). Japan: 平凡社. p. 170. ISBN 978-4-582-92202-8.
  9. ^ S Addiss, The Art of Haiku (2012) p. 192
  10. ^ Sugiura, Morikuni (2008). 江戸期文化人の死因 (in Japanese). Japan: 思文閣出版. ISBN 978-4-7842-1422-8.
  11. ^ "Works – Yosa Buson – Artists – eMuseum". art.seattleartmuseum.org. Retrieved 2021-01-07.
  12. ^ "Travels through Mountains and Fields". www.metmuseum.org. Retrieved 2023-03-03.
  13. ^ "Exchange: Crows Flying Through Rain". exchange.umma.umich.edu. Retrieved 2021-01-07.
  14. ^ Harvard. "From the Harvard Art Museums' collections Crossing a Mountain Stream by a Bridge". harvardartmuseums.org. Retrieved 2021-01-07.
  15. ^ "Travelers on Horseback on a Mountain in Spring | Worcester Art Museum". www.worcesterart.org. Retrieved 2021-01-07.
  16. ^ "Landscape with a Solitary Traveler | Kimbell Art Museum". www.kimbellart.org. Retrieved 2021-01-07.
  17. ^ "hanging scroll; painting | British Museum". The British Museum. Retrieved 2021-01-07.
  18. ^ Blyth, R.H., (translator). Haiku: Spring. Volume 2 of Haiku, Hokuseido Press, 1981, ISBN 978-0-89346-159-1 p572
  19. ^ a b Ueda, Makoto (1998). The path of flowering thorn : the life and poetry of Yosa Buson. 蕪村(1716-1783) 谷口. Stanford, California. ISBN 0-8047-3042-3. OCLC 38112454.

External links[edit]