Haibun Road : a haibun weekly challenge

Basho’s Road: Haibun-writing invitation


A haibun is a short prose paragraph followed by a haiku/senryu.  The paragraph can be one’s thoughts, a travel journal, a diary entry, an essay or even a short story.  Basho, a monk in Japan, wrote the first haibun in 1690.  I liken it to impressionism: it’s something you capture in the moment through writing, fleeting as the moment changes, imperfect but authentic.
I’m inviting you to write a short paragraph and a haiku inspired by the following first few lines from Basho in Oku no Hosomichi (translated most often as Narrow Road to the North or Narrow Road to the Interior).   It’s been translated various ways so below are four translations.  Choose the one you like for your inspiration for your paragraph and haiku.
The inspiration may be a word, a phrase, a sentence or the whole paragraph. One person might take “Moon and sun are passing figures of countless generations” and write a paragraph on astrology.
Another person may take “some who perished along the road” and write about their favorite musician who has passed. Another person may take the word “wanderlust” to describe their most recent travel. Go with whatever inspires you.

“The moon and sun are eternal travelers. Even the years wander on. A lifetime adrift in a boat or in old age leading a tired horse into the years, every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home. From the earliest times there have always been some who perished along the road. Still I have always been drawn by windblown clouds into dreams of a lifetime of wandering.”  (translator : Sam Hamill)

“Days and months are travellers of eternity. So are the years that pass by. Those who steer a boat across the sea, or drive a horse over the earth till they succumb to the weight of years, spend every minute of their lives travelling. There are a great number of ancients, too, who died on the road. I myself have been tempted for a long time by the cloud-moving wind — filled with a strong desire to wander.” (translator : Nobuyuki Yuasa)

“Moon and sun are passing figures of countless generations, and years coming or going wanderers too. Drifting life away on a boat or meeting age leading a horse by the mouth, each day is a journey and the journey itself home. Amongst those of old were many that perished upon the journey. So — when was it — I, drawn like blown cloud, couldn’t stop dreaming of roaming…” (translator : Cid Corman and Kamaike Susumu)

“The passing days and months are eternal travellers in time. The years that come and go are travellers too. Life itself is a journey; and as for those who spend their days upon the waters in ships and those who grow old leading horses, their very home is the open road. And some poets of old there were who died while travelling. There came a day when the clouds drifting along with the wind aroused a wanderlust in me…” (translator : Dorothy Britton)

Challenge parameters

There is no right or wrong although there are a couple rules.

  • One paragraph followed by one haiku/senryu.
  • Paragraphs can be short or long (but please don’t make one paragraph book length!)
  • Haiku/senryu should be 5/7/5 syllables or pretty close.   3, 5 and 7 are numbers with special meaning in Japanese culture so that’s probably how the form arose.
  • To share what you’ve written, add a pingback or paste your link in the comments and tag your post “haibun road”.It’s moderated due to spam and to avoid people’s contribution ending up in the spam folder so your link won’t show up right away but should show up within 24 hours.  I will check regularly for them but I have a real life too so be patient please.

I hope next week to do a round up of everyone’s contributions. I also hope to do this weekly, posting it on Saturdays (late Saturdays, not early! so look for it in the evenings Arizona time between 11pm and midnight. I am not a morning person. ).  I’ll write a haibun for this challenge too tomorrow. I hope you will join me and look forward to your writing:


Narrow Road to the Interior: And Other Writings by Matsuo Basho, translated by Sam Hamill

Matsuo Bashô: Oku no Hosomichi (Nine Translations of the Opening Paragraph),  Bureau of Public Secrets

The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Other Travel Sketches (Penguin Classics) by Matsuo Basho, (translator : Nobuyuki Yuasa)

Back Roads to Far Towns: Basho’s Oku-No-Hosomichi by Matsuo Basho (translator : Cid Corman and Kamaike Susumu)

A Haiku Journey: Bashos Narrow Road to a Far Province (Illustrated Japanese Classics) by Matsuo Basho (translator : Dorothy Britton. Note: some people don’t like her translation because she makes the first and third lines rhyme in a lot of the haiku. Other people like it because she often preserves the syllable count which many translators don’t.)

Links are to the books on Amazon (I’m an affiliate but it’s also easy to find book titles there).  I just bought the one translated by Sam Hamill as I’d like to start writing haibun more often and thought reading Basho, the creator of the form, would be good.  I hope to find other used translations at the local bookstore. I figure why write haibun alone?  It’s always more fun to share a journey with companions.

You can use the Amazon search bar to do any search at Amazon

As an Amazon affiliate, I may earn a fee if you click on the above links and buy something. This does not affect your price which remains the same. Amazon disclosure: “We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.”