Basho’s Rough Sea seen through the eyes of Koike Raseki



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This poem by Matsuo Basho came to my mind when I saw this painting for the first time. And it still does when I look at this scroll by Koike Raseki. He was from Nagoya and studied with Hayami Gyoshu (1894-1935) in Tokyo. Then he returned to Nagoya where he specialized in landscape paintings.

David Barnhill writes about Basho’s Stormy Sea poem:
Basho was standing on the western shores of Japan looking out upon the night sea. He was pausing on his long journey to the “deep north” of Japan, and he could hear the crashing of the waves. Miles beyond lay Sado Island. Sado was known as a place of riches, where gold was being mined. But even more it was known as a place where numerous people, including the emperor Juntoku, the Buddhist leader Nichiren, and the great medieval No dramatist Zeami, had endured the enforced solitude of exile. The poem begins with an exclamation of the violence and vastness of the water. Then our consciousness is brought to a focus on the melancholy island, small in the cold sweep of ocean. Then our consciousness is pulled up and out across the sky, as Heaven’s River (the Milky Way) reaches from horizon to horizon. As a metaphorical river, it flows in eternal tranquility above the storms of the sea and of human life, sparkling with a scattered brightness more pure gold. (David Barnhill’s Basho’s Haiku, p.1).

Koike Raseki (1898-1983)



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