Friends with the Moon ~ Haiku of Japan

Many of you have commented asking about the poets when I do these haiku posts, so I'm going to start including a brief bio at the end of the post. Anyway, on with the show. On an autumn about 250 years ago, Buson wrote the following.

nakanaka ni hitori areba zo tsuki o tomo

especially because
I'm all alone
the moon is my friend


(trans. David LaSpina[1])

Full Moon at Nihonbashi bridge by Kobayashi Kiyochika

Buson is not talking about loneliness here, as you might at first think. To him being alone is not a negative thing; rather, it is because he is alone that he's able to become so intimate and familiar with the moon. This is an idea that has been revisited many times in haiku and elsewhere. A hundred fifty years after Buson, half way around the world, Henry David Thoreau would be expressing the same ideas in Walden, writing:

I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.

Words I'm sure Buson would have agreed with, even if he wasn't quite as anti-social as Thoreau. .

The season word (kigo) here is tsuki, moon. The moon in general is always an autumn kigo. When used by itself it usually refers to the full moon. From ancient times in Japan, moon viewing was a special event, especially so for poets and those who were poets-at-heart.

Buson was the second great master of haiku. He was born to a wealthy family but chose to give it up to pursue art. He became a professional painter and used that to pay the bills as he developed his haiku skill. He considered haiku to have been on the decline since Bashō had died and he was always striving to restore the art form to the the former glory. In his life he wrote some 3000 haiku.

  1. That is, me! If you like this translation, feel free to use it. Just credit me. Also link here if you can.


Oh, I love reading haiku and trying to interpret it. I thought at first that Buson was lonely, introvert and had something unpleasant happen to him as he was just looking at the moon. I think moon symbolizes spiritual energy and wild desire.