Oseko's Complete Translations of Bashō Haiku; also Reichhold's

Matsuo Bashō
Oseko's translations
* Oseko's annotated translations.
* Comparison of Oseko and Reichhold translations.

Other info on Matsuo Bashō: * Haiku. * Haibun. * Renga. * Time Line.

Oseko's Annotated Translations

Toshiharu Oseko has published two remarkable volumes of Basho's Haiku: Literal Translations for Those Who Wish To Read the Original Japanese Text, with Grammatical Analysis and Explanatory Notes.

The first volume appeared in 1990 and the second in 1996, published in Tokyo: Maruzen. The first (1990) volume of Oseko's translations is available in the West. The second can be seen in some university libraries.

The pair together are one of the best books read in 2016.

Main features of the Oseko:

My only criticism of Oseko's translations is that they contain considerably more punctuation than a native English speaker would use.

Reichhold's Annotated Translations

Jane Reichhold published her volume of Basho: The Complete Haiku.

Main features of the Reichhold:

Comparison of Oseko and Reichhold translations

Because of the richness of Oseko's annotations and the generosity of his translations, I recommend him strongly over Reichhold for someone wanting to study all of Bashō's haiku in a deep context of Japanese culture.

Unfortunately Oseko's first (1990) volume is rare and expensive in the West. The second can be even harder to find. Both can be seen in some university libraries.

Jane Reichhold's Basho: The Complete Haiku (2008) is widely available and a fairly good second best to Oseko. She augments her translation with an introduction, biography, and notes. She lists the poems sequentially in seven chapters totaling 214 pages:

  1. Early Poems 1662-74.
  2. Bashō the Professional Poet 1675-79.
  3. A Retreat to Nature — A Religious Life 1680-83.
  4. Bashō's Journeys in the Way of the Poet 1684-88.
  5. Bashō's Journey to the Interior 1689.
  6. At the Peak and Still Traveling 1690-91.
  7. Bashō Finds the Secret of Greatness in Poetry and Life 1692-94.

After the translations are:

In parallel with reading Oseko, I checked every one of Reichhold's corresponding translations. Sometimes Reichhold's are better poetry. But sometimes she takes liberties that seem to limit or redirect the meaning.

Oseko, a modern native Japanese, probably takes the reader closer to what Bashō intended.

While Oseko is my preference, if you cannot get hold of the Oseko volumes, the Reichhold can serve.

If you are looking for most poetic translations of Bashō, you probably want the (limited number of) translations by a third translator — Barnhill.

Links and Books.

Links and Books.

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