Take an enlightening journey into the history of haiku in Iga City.

Take an enlightening journey into the history of haiku in Iga City.

Haiku is a distinctive style of Japanese poetry that is known for its simple structure and the beautiful imagery it can evoke. One of the revered masters of haiku was Matsuo Basho, who was born in what is now Iga City in Mie Prefecture. Visitors who are interested in the origin of haiku can spend an enlightening day in Iga City visiting spots that celebrate this traditional form of poetry and the man who brought it to prominence in the 1600s. Iga City is only about 2 hours from Kyoto by train, making it possible to enjoy a day trip and immerse yourself in the history and culture of haiku.

Written by Nathan Raymond
About the Author:
I am originally from New York, but I now live in Gifu with my family. Life in Japan provides me with never-ending opportunities to learn and experience the unique culture of this country. To understand modern Japan, I think it is important to know about its past.

Basho Memorial Museum 

The first spot on my haiku tour of Iga City was the Basho Memorial Museum, which exhibits a large collection of scrolls written by Matsuo Basho. Because Basho did much of his writing while traveling around Japan, there are also many maps on display that show the routes he took on his journeys.

Caption: The collection shows the connection between Basho’s writing and his travels. 

The museum was incredible and it was amazing to see so much of one man’s important work in one place. I could try to imagine his travels and how he was inspired by what he saw to write so beautifully. It was clear to me why Basho and his writings are a national treasure and a source of pride for Iga City.

Caption: The exquisite scrolls and art on display were also informative.

When I was a junior high school student in America, I had learned about haiku in school and even tried my hand at writing them. It was very interesting to me to see the origins of this poetry form. The museum’s collection gave me a deeper appreciation of haiku as an artform by showing me the life and works of Basho and his method of seeking out inspiration as he explored his country.

Caption: The tales of old are the tales told.

After viewing all of the museum displays, I felt like I had a much better idea of why the haiku form holds a special place in Japanese culture. As a traveler myself, I could also appreciate the wonder Basho felt when seeing new places and having new experiences. With my newfound knowledge, I was ready to visit some more spots around Iga City that would give me more insight into the life of Matsuo Basho.


Caption: The design of Haiseiden Hall is very unique.

The second stop on my haiku history tour was Haiseiden Hall, which is a building in the shape of Basho wearing a hat while travelling.It was built to commemorate the 300th anniversary of Basho’s birth and it represents the reverence that the people of Iga City have for one of their favorite sons.

Caption: The interior of the hall is cool in temperature and has a calm atmosphere.

When I entered the hall, I was surprised by how cool it was thanks to the stone used in its construction. It felt like I had entered a religious building and it was obvious that Basho was almost a divine figure in Japanese history.

It was a beautiful tribute to Basho and I was glad that I had visited after learning so much about his life and writing beforehand. The building has a very unique design and it was also fun to inspect the different parts of the round structure to appreciate the skilled craftsmanship of the builders.

Caption: The attention to detail was amazing to see.

There was also some intricate woodwork inside the hall that was stunning. The details and design reminded me of other historical buildings I had visited that were connected to the royal family in Japan. 

The high esteem that is placed on artists and writers in Japanese culture is something that I think contributes to the strong shared values of the country. To see a poet enshrined in a manner fitting a god confirmed how important the arts have always been to the Japanese people throughout history. 


Caption: The tranquil garden at Minomushian is very nice.

After leaving Haiseiden Hall I walked to Minomushian, the next point of interest on my haiku tour. It only took around 25 minutes to walk from Haiseiden to Minomushian and it was a nice stroll through Iga City.

Minomushian was one of Basho’s writing retreats in the city and it is the only one that is still standing. The simple house is tucked away on a quiet street and it has been well preserved as a monument to the writer. The retreat is named Minomushian because Basho wrote a poem that described the sounds made by “minomushi” (bagworms) in the house. It was very cool to see one of the houses that was actually used by Basho.

Caption: The traditional house is well preserved and surrounded by nature.

I entered the gate and walked down a lovely stone footpath that led to the small house. The garden around the building was green and lush, creating a serene atmosphere. I always enjoy walking in Japanese gardens and seeing the great care that goes into the landscaping and design of the space.

Caption: Inside the house there is a beautiful indoor garden, which is common in some traditional houses.

Inside the house, everything has been preserved to present an honest glimpse into the past when Basho would have been writing his haiku there. I was really enjoying the opportunity to walk on the same path and see what Basho would have seen in the 1600s. I could understand how this simple and calm location would be inspiring to a writer who appreciated the natural beauty of Japan.

Caption: This hut was another amazing spot to sit and bask in the essence of the area.

Minomushian is a place where visitors can listen to birds singing and the wind rustling the leaves on the trees. It is also a wonderful spot for taking photos that show the light and shadow playing with each other in the garden. I had so much fun exploring the grounds of the retreat and taking photos from different angles and perspectives. 

Caption: The stone footpaths also help to protect the land from visitors’ steps.

The use of stones in the garden is amazing and they add so much to the aesthetic of the green space that surrounds the buildings. The combination of different elements such as stone, trees and wooden buildings creates a world within a world that helps to soothe your soul.

Caption: Minomushian is a great place to refresh and reflect.

It was an amazing visit to Minomushian and I was able to completely relax and let the calm atmosphere wash over me. I felt a connection to Basho after spending some time in one of his inspirational writing spots. I was ready to move on to the final spot on my haiku tour of Iga City and see a statue of Matsuo Basho himself.

The statue of Matsuo Basho

I finished my day of learning about Basho and his connection to Iga City by walking back to the train station. On the way, I had time to reflect on everything I had seen and learned as I came to understand more about the man and even experience some of the same spots that he frequented in his life.

Caption: The statue of Basho at the train station shows how revered he is in Iga City.

As I approached the train station, a statue of Basho gazed upon Iga City from atop a concrete pillar. It had been an enlightening and enjoyable day of expanding my appreciation for haiku and learning about one of Japan’s most beloved writers. 

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