Iga Ueno was the birthplace of Matsuo Basho, one of the most celebrated poets in Japanese history. Affectionately known simply as Basho, the poet left behind a legacy of great literary works, especially in the form of Haiku, a distinctive style of Japanese poetry.
Basho traveled widely in his lifetime, composing haiku as he made journeys across parts of the Kansai, Chubu, Kanto and Tohoku regions. His most famous work is Oku no Hosomichi, a travel diary infused with haiku and short stories from his journey to the Tohoku Region. Today, various attractions in Iga Ueno serve to document the life and commemorate the achievements of its most famous son.
The Basho Memorial Museum, an old, small museum located close to Ueno Castle within Ueno Park, exhibits scrolls of poems written by Basho and maps showing the routes that he took on his travels. Also at Ueno Park stands the Haiseiden Hall, an interesting building in the shape of a hat, which commemorates the 300th anniversary of Basho’s birth. The building houses a statue of Basho and is the venue of the annual Basho Festival held in October, where exemplary haiku written in the past year are commended.
A kilometer east of the museum stands Basho’s Birth House, Bashō-ō Seika, currently closed for renovations through March 2021). Situated in a residential district, the house is maintained in its original form. Visitors can enter it and have a glimpse of the living conditions of the poet during his younger years and of the study room where Basho penned his first haiku.
Walking 20 minutes south leads to the Minomushi-an, the only surviving one of five retreats in and around Iga Ueno that Basho used to frequent. The old house has a serene setting and a couple of simple tatami mat rooms surrounded by a small garden. Minomushi-an is named so because Basho wrote a poem depicting the sounds made by minomushi (bagworms) heard at the house.
Stone tablets with carvings of Basho’s works are placed across the city, serving to remind both residents and visitors of the haiku master that hailed from Iga Ueno.